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Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977–78 Dodgers

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The 1977–78 Los Angeles Dodgers came close. Their tough lineup of young and ambitious players squared off with the New York Yankees in consecutive World Series. The Dodgers’ run was a long time in the making after years of struggle and featured many homegrown players who went on to noteworthy or Hall of Fame careers, including Don Sutton, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, and Ste The 1977–78 Los Angeles Dodgers came close. Their tough lineup of young and ambitious players squared off with the New York Yankees in consecutive World Series. The Dodgers’ run was a long time in the making after years of struggle and featured many homegrown players who went on to noteworthy or Hall of Fame careers, including Don Sutton, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, and Steve Yeager. Dodgerland is the story of those memorable teams as Chavez Ravine began to change, baseball was about to enter a new era, and American culture experienced a shift to the “me” era. Part journalism, part social history, and part straight sportswriting, Dodgerland is told through the lives of four men, each representing different aspects of this L.A. story. Tom Lasorda, the vocal manager of the Dodgers, gives an up-close view of the team’s struggles and triumphs; Tom Fallon, a suburban small-business owner, witnesses the Dodgers’ season and the changes to California's landscape—physical, social, political, and economic; Tom Wolfe, a chronicler of California’s ever-changing culture, views the events of 1977–78 from his Manhattan writer’s loft; and Tom Bradley, Los Angeles’s mayor and the region’s most dominant political figure of the time, gives a glimpse of the wider political, demographic, and economic forces that affected the state at the time. The boys in blue drew baseball’s focus in those two seasons, but the intertwining narratives tell a larger story about California, late 1970s America, and great promise unrealized.  


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The 1977–78 Los Angeles Dodgers came close. Their tough lineup of young and ambitious players squared off with the New York Yankees in consecutive World Series. The Dodgers’ run was a long time in the making after years of struggle and featured many homegrown players who went on to noteworthy or Hall of Fame careers, including Don Sutton, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, and Ste The 1977–78 Los Angeles Dodgers came close. Their tough lineup of young and ambitious players squared off with the New York Yankees in consecutive World Series. The Dodgers’ run was a long time in the making after years of struggle and featured many homegrown players who went on to noteworthy or Hall of Fame careers, including Don Sutton, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, and Steve Yeager. Dodgerland is the story of those memorable teams as Chavez Ravine began to change, baseball was about to enter a new era, and American culture experienced a shift to the “me” era. Part journalism, part social history, and part straight sportswriting, Dodgerland is told through the lives of four men, each representing different aspects of this L.A. story. Tom Lasorda, the vocal manager of the Dodgers, gives an up-close view of the team’s struggles and triumphs; Tom Fallon, a suburban small-business owner, witnesses the Dodgers’ season and the changes to California's landscape—physical, social, political, and economic; Tom Wolfe, a chronicler of California’s ever-changing culture, views the events of 1977–78 from his Manhattan writer’s loft; and Tom Bradley, Los Angeles’s mayor and the region’s most dominant political figure of the time, gives a glimpse of the wider political, demographic, and economic forces that affected the state at the time. The boys in blue drew baseball’s focus in those two seasons, but the intertwining narratives tell a larger story about California, late 1970s America, and great promise unrealized.  

30 review for Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977–78 Dodgers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lance

    The Los Angeles Dodgers of the late 1970’s came close to winning two championships but fell in consecutive years to the New York Yankees in the World Series. They were a team that was comprised of mostly homegrown players who stuck together through some tough seasons before finding success in 1977 and 1978. They also epitomized the culture of their home city with many people looking for a carefree, easier life on the beach in the land of Hollywood. This connection between the city and its baseba The Los Angeles Dodgers of the late 1970’s came close to winning two championships but fell in consecutive years to the New York Yankees in the World Series. They were a team that was comprised of mostly homegrown players who stuck together through some tough seasons before finding success in 1977 and 1978. They also epitomized the culture of their home city with many people looking for a carefree, easier life on the beach in the land of Hollywood. This connection between the city and its baseball team is illustrated in this terrific book by Michael Fallon. While the bulk of the material is about the two seasons in which the Dodgers won the National League pennant, it does not read like a typical book about a team’s adventures during a season. The personal accounts of several players (Bob Welch, Glenn Burke, Steve Garvey and Rick Monday just to name a few) as well as the new manager of the team, Tommy Lasorda, give the reader an inside look at the team. The writing about the baseball itself is very entertaining. There are many comparisons between the baseball and some of the events that were going on in the city at that time. One example that I thought was particularly entertaining was Fallon’s description of the match-up for the 1977 World Series. Most of the buzz that year from Hollywood was for the movie “Star Wars.” Fallon compared the World Series participants to characters from the movie with the Dodgers playing the part of Obi Wan Kenobi (good) and the Yankees as Darth Vader (evil). That single line was just perfect for describing the mood of the time in both baseball and pop culture. Other issues affecting Los Angeles such as Mayor Bradley bidding for the 1984 Summer Olympics, the passage of tax-cutting Proposition 13 and the murders of the Hillside Strangler are also included as well as the culture of the times, such as the rise of the adult entertainment industry in the region. Interspersing these items into the writing about the Dodgers’ travails on and off the field makes for fascinating reading that illustrates that the team was a true reflection of its city. This book is recommended not only for baseball fans but also for readers who are interested in social history or who want to learn more about the culture of Los Angeles during that time. With excellent writing, interesting stories and terrific coverage of the 1977 and 1978 seasons for the Dodgers, the book is one that should be added to many readers’ libraries. I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. http://sportsbookguy.blogspot.com/201...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bob D'Angelo

    Interviewed during Super Bowl III in January 1969, Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan told a New York Times reporter that “the games of every culture hold up a mirror to the culture.” Since then, in many variations, we’ve been conditioned to believe that sports — and baseball in particular — mirrors our society and culture. Certainly, that’s true — but explaining why it does can be a difficult task. That’s what makes Michael Fallon’s look at Los Angeles and the Dodgers of the late 1970s so refr Interviewed during Super Bowl III in January 1969, Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan told a New York Times reporter that “the games of every culture hold up a mirror to the culture.” Since then, in many variations, we’ve been conditioned to believe that sports — and baseball in particular — mirrors our society and culture. Certainly, that’s true — but explaining why it does can be a difficult task. That’s what makes Michael Fallon’s look at Los Angeles and the Dodgers of the late 1970s so refreshing. In Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977-78 Dodgers (University of Nebraska Press; hardback; $34.95; 454 pages), Fallon uses the 1977-78 Dodgers as the main focus of his narrative, but also gives the reader a view of Los Angeles through political, social, cultural and economic lenses. Is Dodgerland a west coast version of The Bronx Is Burning? In an April 2016 blog interview with longtime L.A. sportswriter Tom Hoffarth, Fallon said he wanted to mimic the narrative structure of the 2007 ESPN mini-series that was adapted from Jonathan Mahler's best-selling book “without in any way copying it.” The inspiration is a good one, since the New York Yankees were the team that defeated the Dodgers in back-to-back World Series in 1977 and ’78. Picture With a book cover that owes more than a passing nod to the 1976 album front of the Eagles’ Hotel California, Fallon, who has written about art and culture and has one other book to his credit — 2014’s Creating the Future: Art and Los Angeles in the 1970s — achieves that goal in Dodgerland, weaving his stories around four men named Tom. It was a conscious decision, and the first three choices are not surprising: Tom Lasorda, the garrulous manager of the Dodgers who took over the team from taciturn Walter Alston for the final four games of the 1976 season; Tom Bradley, the first black mayor of Los Angeles who weathered a tax revolt, rising crime, and had a vision for his city that included hosting the 1984 Olympics; and Tom Wolfe, the author who brought the story of America’s first astronauts into sharp focus with his 1979 book, The Right Stuff. The fourth is Tom Fallon, the author’s grandfather. At first blush, this choice seems a bit self-indulgent. But as the narrative progresses, it turns out that Tom Fallon was the perfect choice — a diehard Dodgers fan in New York who moved his family west, settling in the Los Angeles suburbs and working to achieve the California dream through his hardware store. Fallon the author tells his grandfather’s story straight without sentimentality, demonstrating how the economics of the 1970s affected the small businessmen in California. Following the Fallon family journey is similar to tracing a once-calm Los Angeles that turned raucous in the mid- to late 1970s. The comparisons Fallon draws from all four Toms makes for a bouncy, vibrant storyline. Hardcore baseball fans may not find much new material in Fallon’s writing, but there are some surprises and a much greater attention to detail than previous works about the era. Michael Fallon’s family moved to California when he was 3, and he spent much of his youth growing passionate about the Dodgers, a trait that had been passed down from his father and grandfather. The heart of Dodgerland revolves around the Dodgers, who would win the National League pennant in Lasorda’s first two full seasons as manager. Lasorda replaced Alston, who had been the Dodgers’ manager since 1954, when the franchise was still in Brooklyn. Alston won seven pennants and three World Series during his tenure and was known as the “Quiet Man.” Most of the time, anyway. Los Angeles sportswriter Melvin Durslag once wrote that Alston, incensed when he caught pitchers Sandy Koufax and Larry Sherry breaking curfew during spring training, chased them to their room. When the pitchers locked the door, Alston smashed it in, breaking his World Series ring in the process. But by the mid-1970s, Alston was still respected but viewed as aloof, quiet and possibly even out of touch. Lasorda, Alston’s third base coach, brought a more electric, rejuvenating vibe to the Dodgers. In the most eye-opening section of the book, Fallon reveals the apparent dislike between Alston and Lasorda, which had its roots in the early 1950s when Alston managed Lasorda in the Dodgers’ minor-league system. Lasorda was part of a group that tried to pull a prank on their manager, and Alston was not amused. Afterward, Fallon writes, Alston “had nothing but stern, disapproving looks for Lasorda.” When both made it to the majors—Alston as the Dodgers’ manager and Lasorda as a left-handed pitcher — Alston hardly used him. “That guy Alston never gave me a chance, and I never forgot it,” Lasorda said. With that in mind, Lasorda set out to grow a new culture in Los Angeles. “It’s simple, really. I show you the loyalty of a father, you show me the loyalty of a son,” he said. “You show me loyalty, I will watch your back forever.” That demand for loyalty and an insatiable desire to show he was just as good as his predecessor drove Lasorda in that first season, and despite some bumps in the road, that tactic put the Dodgers into the World Series against the Yankees, their ancient rivals. The two teams would meet again in 1978, with the same result: a Series victory for New York. Fallon sprinkles the day-to-day grind of the season with stories about players. Anecdotes about players like Reggie Smith are instructive. The outfielder was known for a great arm, strong work ethic and was respected for his leadership. “Reggie’s a foxhole dude,” teammate Dusty Baker said. “If it was war or a baseball game, there wouldn’t be another person I want next to me.” Smith also could play seven different instruments and was called “The Professor” by his teammates because of his intelligence. Fallon also writes about Glenn Burke, a promising player with a dark secret — he was the first baseball player to reveal he was gay, and believed he was traded by the Dodgers for an older player (Bill North) because of his lifestyle. Future Hall of Famer Don Sutton was a fierce competitor who always seemed to challenge Lasorda’s leadership, while first baseman Steve Garvey cultivated a squeaky-clean image that seemed phony to his teammates. Garvey’s much-publicized fight with Sutton in 1978 reveals Lasorda’s genius in manipulating a potentially bad situation into a positive motivational tool. What also distinguishes Dodgerland is Fallon’s look at the pop culture of the decade. He references television shows like Three’s Company and Charlie’s Angels, and movies like Star Wars. Frank Zappa, Hugh Hefner, Roman Polanski, John Wayne and Bob Marley also come under Fallon’s microscope. Even the comeback of pitcher-turned-author Jim Bouton is given good treatment. The only glitches in the book were minor fact errors. Fallon notes that the between 1941 and 1963, the Dodgers and Yankees had met eight times, with the Yankees winning seven of them. That number should have been six, as the Dodgers won in 1955 and 1963. He later writes that between 1949 and 1963, the Yankees appeared in all but two World Series (true) and won 10 World Series titles (they actually won nine). In the end, Los Angeles mayor Bradley weathers the Proposition 13 controversy and stares down the IOC to get the 1984 Olympics (mostly) on his terms. Wolfe kicks his writing into gear and completes The Right Stuff, and Tom Fallon comes to grips with the grim economic realities of Southern California as society becomes more of a freewheeling, disposable society. Lasorda, meanwhile, has two pennants in his pocket but two disappointing World Series defeats to the Yankees that will gnaw at him until 1981, when the Dodgers exacted their revenge against New York in the World Series that ended a bizarre, strike-ridden split season. Michael Fallon combines baseball, culture, politics, and social issues into a neat package in Dodgerland. The mid-1970s saw the beginnings of a big shift in maj0r-league baseball because of free agency, and California struggled to emerge from the “Me Decade” that was coined so cleverly by Wolfe in a cover story that appeared in New York magazine on August 23, 1976. Fallon shows that the games of the 1970s culture were a perfect mirror for American culture overall. It's worth reflecting upon.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Blaine DeSantis

    For me this was a wonderful book that covered the 1977 and 1978 baseball seasons of the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as exploring all the social history that went into being California. Probably the first reason I loved this book was that from 1975-78 I was in Law School in Los Angeles and these events were part of my experience in SoCal. Some might be put off by the social history in the book, but for me it was fascinating to read what people had written and thought about the California Dream. For me this was a wonderful book that covered the 1977 and 1978 baseball seasons of the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as exploring all the social history that went into being California. Probably the first reason I loved this book was that from 1975-78 I was in Law School in Los Angeles and these events were part of my experience in SoCal. Some might be put off by the social history in the book, but for me it was fascinating to read what people had written and thought about the California Dream. For me it was 3 absolutely great years, but it is interesting to see how many thought that the Dream has peaked anywhere from 1969 (Sharon Tate murders) to 1978 (Hillside Strangler). Whatever it was I loved California at that time period, and I hated the Dodgers! Much more a fan of the California Angels, maybe because they reminded me of my home state Philadelphia Phillies! Whatever, the reason I could never understand the mystique of the love of the Dodgers. I do admire the organization and it is fascinating to read how that group of players developed, as well as all the inside scoops about the players, manager, media, etc. The book reminded me why I hated Tommy Lasorda, who was the biggest self-promoter out there. He came off as bigger than the team and the organization. If you are interested in baseball as well as reading a good amount about California than this is the book for you. I also enjoyed that the author followed 4 Tom's and relates what was going on in their lives through these times. Tom Lasorda, the great author Tom Wolfe, Mayor Tom Bradley, and businessman Tom Fallon who lived in Cucamonga. Good stuff from beginning to end!

  4. 4 out of 5

    patrick Lorelli

    Dodgerland is a book about the 1977-78 Dodgers who made it the World Series both of those years only to be defeated by the Yankees both times. The author takes you back in time from before 1977 to the beginning of the 70’s with how the social climate, economical, and political happenings of the period. You see part of the transformation of the Inland Empire of how Rancho Cucamonga which was known for vineyards, and had more grapes being grown there that you could not see the town. I should know Dodgerland is a book about the 1977-78 Dodgers who made it the World Series both of those years only to be defeated by the Yankees both times. The author takes you back in time from before 1977 to the beginning of the 70’s with how the social climate, economical, and political happenings of the period. You see part of the transformation of the Inland Empire of how Rancho Cucamonga which was known for vineyards, and had more grapes being grown there that you could not see the town. I should know grew up in that area and now there are homes, a freeway, and many, many shopping centers in places that once I hiked around with my granddad. He takes you through the struggles of Los Angeles and how Tom Bradley felt that getting the 1984 Olympics would be the thing that bring us together, not knowing that his hiring of Chief Darryl Gates would have a much more lasting effect on not only L.A. but the whole state. Once you see these you are taken back to a time when Tommy Lasorda was being announce as the new manager of the Dodgers, and they were still owned by the O’Malley’s. That the infield of Gravey, Cey, Russell, and Lopes. I of course was and still am a Yankee fan, but growing up in Southern California I remember the games especially the ones the Dodgers played against the Reds. Those years they seemed to always battle. The author does a fine job of mixing all of the issues together to get a better understanding of what was going on at the time. When he talks about Jarvis and prop 13 I had forgotten that it was during this time. An excellent book about baseball and how everything changes. Also a good look at behind the scenes of what was going with the Dodgers during that time. I got this book from netgalley. I gave it 5 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

  5. 5 out of 5

    Edwin Howard

    DODGERLAND by Michael Fallon is study of The Los Angeles Dodgers and the community around them in 1977-1978. Fallon uses writer Thomas Wolfe, small business owner Tom Fallon, Mayor Tom Bradley, and a plethora of other socially impactful people and events to paint the picture of struggle, rebellion, and malaise that was the late 1970's in Los Angeles. I am drawn to a good sports book that follows a team and really digs into who they are, how they do and don't work together, and how the outside wo DODGERLAND by Michael Fallon is study of The Los Angeles Dodgers and the community around them in 1977-1978. Fallon uses writer Thomas Wolfe, small business owner Tom Fallon, Mayor Tom Bradley, and a plethora of other socially impactful people and events to paint the picture of struggle, rebellion, and malaise that was the late 1970's in Los Angeles. I am drawn to a good sports book that follows a team and really digs into who they are, how they do and don't work together, and how the outside world of the time looks at them. Fallon has done all of that and very well; I learned so much about the Dodgers players and the Dodgers organization, with it's one of a kind history. However, Fallon goes so much farther into how events, big and small, created the true feelings of the LA society in 1977-1978 and how those feelings affected the Dodgers organizations. Fallon ties the events together and always brings the reader back to the Dodgers, but I really felt dropped into Los Angeles in 1977-1978 and I really saw how Los Angeles was still evolving and finding itself and wasn't just sunny Hollywood with surfers and celebrities everywhere. An epic recreation of the time and while the launching point of the whole book is the Dodgers, I think anyone wanting to read about the Dodgers, the 1970's. Los Angeles would enjoy this book. Thank you to University of Nebraska Press, Michael Fallon, and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    An in-depth and far ranging look at California and Los Angeles in the mid-70's through the lens of the '77-'78 Dodgers, but branching beyond baseball through an examination of four "Toms": Manager Tommy Lasorda, Mayor Tom Bradley, the author Tom Wolfe, and Tom Fallon, the grandfather of the author of Dodgerland, who opened a successful hardware business in 70's California. Dodgerland is a ranging but gripping read, commenting on disco music, Star Wars, the Los Angeles efforts to secure the '84 Ol An in-depth and far ranging look at California and Los Angeles in the mid-70's through the lens of the '77-'78 Dodgers, but branching beyond baseball through an examination of four "Toms": Manager Tommy Lasorda, Mayor Tom Bradley, the author Tom Wolfe, and Tom Fallon, the grandfather of the author of Dodgerland, who opened a successful hardware business in 70's California. Dodgerland is a ranging but gripping read, commenting on disco music, Star Wars, the Los Angeles efforts to secure the '84 Olympics, national politics, the plight of gay athletes and the 70's sexual revolution, while never losing the binding thread of Lasorda's Dodgers at the center of the narrative. It's a book that made a great companion read to the excellent The Last Innocents, and which is worthy of the sort of social histories that David Halberstam used to specialize in. Well worth the read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    As with America itself, baseball would repeat a cycle of decline, struggle, failure, redemption, and recovery over and over again, and the sport would prevail through it all. Wonderful, fantastic read. I started this almost six months ago, and I am embarrassed it had taken this long to finish such a captivating book. I loved how it threaded stories of the Los Angeles culture with the success and failure of the Dodgers. It serves as a reminder that sports and its players are complementary to the w As with America itself, baseball would repeat a cycle of decline, struggle, failure, redemption, and recovery over and over again, and the sport would prevail through it all. Wonderful, fantastic read. I started this almost six months ago, and I am embarrassed it had taken this long to finish such a captivating book. I loved how it threaded stories of the Los Angeles culture with the success and failure of the Dodgers. It serves as a reminder that sports and its players are complementary to the world at large. Loved it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Liked the baseball discussion - could have lived without all of the social commentary.

  9. 4 out of 5

    angrybobtrcst

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Raffetto

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Tracy

  12. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  13. 4 out of 5

    C.J.Sullivan

  14. 4 out of 5

    Claire Hall

  15. 5 out of 5

    John

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Obalek

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Ballingall

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joe Desmond

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ed

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steve Foster

  21. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paul Haddad

  23. 5 out of 5

    Patrick O'Connor

  24. 5 out of 5

    Timothy P Frotton

  25. 4 out of 5

    Edward H. Telfeyan

  26. 4 out of 5

    John

  27. 4 out of 5

    Silentjay

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ross Faith

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tim Glenn

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Brought back memories of the Dodger team when I first started following them.

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