Baseball fans, including those who love the Field of Dreams, always like to look back on their baseball lives. That can run from Little League, pickup games, vacant lots, and trips to the ballpark, also collecting baseball cards and maybe a ball from a player that they caught in the stands. And in the modern world, they can learn a lot online.
Just out is a new book, yes a book, titled “Stars and Strikes,” all about just one year, Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ‘76.” The author, Dan Epstein, takes you through the entire “America, 1976 — Colorful, Complex and Combustible.”
It was the time of the nonstop nationwide celebration of the USA’s 200th birthday, the movie “Rocky,” disco and punk rock, and the Met’s slugger Dave “Kong” Kingman . And, hard to believe, the final games of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Billy Williams, also when ballplayers finally won their long struggle against the baseballs reserve clause, bringing in free agency.
You want more of happenings in 1976? Just read every page. I didn’t think there was such a wide array of baseball lore and characters. Elvis had become fat, and I think I might have been moving in that direction.
So many baseball accomplishments and strange players and situations. Take Detroit, for example, and the arrival of a gangly 21-year-old Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. He got the nickname “bird” because he acted like Big Bird on Sesame Street, jumping around and even talking to the ball after each pitch.
Well-known baseball owner Ted Turner did a wide array of activities to lure in more fans, including promotions by Bob Hope. “I want this team to be like McDonald’s,” he said.
Author Dan Epstein warns readers that he soon realized that this was a very unique year “all set against the star-spangled backdrop and the Bicentennial” and deserved more than an article — rather a thick book almost 400 pages long. It may be long, but this is the kind of book you just cannot put down — unless you need the very latest in baseball scores, rumors and developments.
Finkler, a frequent visitor to Dyersville, relocated to Medford, Wis., in 2008 after previously living in Barrow, Alaska.