Baseball & the Bicentennial; A-Fro-tastic Ride with Dan Epstein
Baseball can't get here soon enough. Because that means the wind chill won't feel like a room occupied by Jim Irsay during a Colts losing streak.
As Spring Training begins, this - if you are a baseball fan or if you just remember what life was like in the 1970's - will get you in the mood. Dan Epstein, magnificent writer for Rolling Stone and others (spoiler: we delve into Lemmy talk at the beginning of the interview - go read Dan's piece he wrote after the Motorhead frontman died last month), has released the softcover version of his marvelous book "Stars & Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Year of '76." Well, technically his publisher - St. Martin's Press - released it; don't want the publisher on our booties.
Dan and I spoke on the program when the book was initially released. I was 4 for much of the '76 season, so I don't remember much of it. But I do remember the Monday Night Baseball game on ABC where a shaggy haired weirdo who, for one glorious year, could locate a baseball better than any pitcher in the game, became a star. Years later, a rag-arm junkball high school pitcher named Ray Steele would rip off Mark Fidrych's act - with moderate success. It didn't get me past high school - acting like a fool to distract opponents only goes so far when you barely hit 70 on the radar gun, even with the occasional illegal pitch thrown in.
This time around, Dan and I talk about a man who was the polar opposite of The Bird - Dick Allen. He is one of the best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame - Dan and I agree he should have been a long time ago, though we delve into why that may never be the case.
Also, ponder this question that I pose to Dan; if you were a player in '76, who'd you rather have as your owner, Bill Veech of the White Sox or Ted Turner of the Braves?
Check out Dan's other book about baseball in the Astroturf world of the '70's, Big Hair and Plastic Grass. The afros will probably never come back, but the memories do.
I talked to Dan for the first time when Stars & Strikes was first published in 2014. Now, in time for the 40th anniversary of the Bicentennial, Stars & Strikes is available in softcover. Great stories that could never, ever happen in today's game