The late-1970s Los Angeles Dodgers are a not-so-distant window through which we can view American culture, then and now.
Fallon, who has published previously about the cultural scene in the City of Angels during the same epoch (Creating the Future: Art and Los Angeles in the 1970s, 2014), weaves several stories into his attractive tapestry: the story of his grandfather’s economic rise and fall, Mayor Tom Bradley’s ultimately successful bid to bring the 1984 Olympic Games to LA, the various struggles of writer Tom Wolfe (to understand the quickly changing culture, to write The Right Stuff) and, principally, the Dodgers’ 1977-1978 seasons, both of which resulted in World Series losses to the reviled Yankees. Within the Dodgers’ larger story, Fallon tells many smaller ones—e.g., the managing styles and troubles of new manager Tommy Lasorda, the contentious pitcher Don Sutton, the all-American (and, later, tainted) image of hitting star Steve Garvey (who ended up in a famous locker-room brawl with Sutton), the vicissitudes of outfielder Rick Monday. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson both shines and fades. The author continually takes us away from the ballpark, as well, to remind us of the popular movies (Star Wars and Jaws among them), music (Frank Zappa, the Bee Gees), and TV shows (Three’s Company). In this ambitious and thoroughly researched account, we learn about the economic woes of the era—the author examines Proposition 13—the political figures, including President Jimmy Carter, and so much more (Hugh Hefner). Although Fallon’s account races at times, especially during some Dodgers’ play-by-play sections, he sometimes allows his diction to slide into cliché—in one brief section, we get sea changes and watershed moments and writing on the wall.
Not a conventional championship-season kind of treatment but a thoughtful, comprehensive, and even deeply personal account of a boisterous era whose echoes remain loud, even painful.