The spirited tale of a unique Major League Baseball championship team.
While less vaunted than the 1927 or 1961 New York Yankees, the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers produced enough fireworks to deserve significant attention, and Turbow (Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, 2017) delivers the goods. He begins with the frustrating 1970s, when the Dodgers continued to win without winning the World Series. He claims that the painful 1978 loss—four defeats after winning the first two games—so demoralized the team that it sunk below .500 in 1979, finishing third in the division. The 1980 season also ended badly when the Dodgers tied for first place only to lose a one-game playoff to the Houston Astros. Many fans remember the 1981 strike, which was inspired by the owners’ distress at free agency. The author’s detailed, blow-by-blow account tells readers perhaps more than they want to know. Far more entertaining were the games themselves, beginning opening day. With starters either injured or unavailable, for the first time in baseball history, a rookie became opening-day pitcher: Fernando Valenzuela, who threw a shutout, proceeded to win his first eight games, launched “Fernandomania,” and became the first pitcher to win rookie of the year and the Cy Young award. With superb pitching and celebrated infielders Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey in the last of their many years together, they led their division when play halted in June. Play resumed in August following controversial rules under which the Dodgers, having won the division in the first round, were guaranteed a playoff position. Perhaps as a result, they played poorly, finishing fourth. Turbow devotes nearly half the book to the postseason, which featured as much grit and luck as heroism but ended well when the Dodgers lost two World Series games to the Yankees but then won four straight.
A skillful mixture of biographies, on-field action, and behind-the-scenes baseball politics in a story with a happy ending for Dodgers fans.