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Friday, Aug. 15, 2014

Bicentennial Baseball

Dan Epstein on America’s pastime in the summer of ’76

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In America in 1976, Steve Jobs formed the Apple Computer Company, the two-dollar bill was reintroduced and Jimmy Carter defeated incumbent Gerald Ford to take the presidency. And baseball was alive in America. This was the year of the “Big Red Machine,” the year that the love-to-hate-’em Yankees faced off against the indomitable Reds in a four-game World Series and the year that Mr. October Reggie Jackson was signed by the Bronx bombers for $3.5 million.

In Dan Epstein’s Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76, a unique cultural portrait of America emerges, one that combines America’s favorite pastime with America’s bicentennial celebration. This engrossing narrative follows the 1976 baseball season month by month, highlighting the great accomplishments of young athletes throughout the league, while also weaving in the tumultuous happenings of the wider world. Examples of contemporary culture are woven deftly throughout the book. Each chapter features a popular song from that year and societal trends are recounted with wit, humor and well-researched detail. Packed with patriotism and politics as well as on-field antics and behind-the-scenes stories, Stars and Strikes is a lighthearted and riotous look at how baseball—and the world—changed in 1976.

Stars and Strikes is the follow-up to Epstein’s wildly successful look at baseball during an entire decade, Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s. Epstein is an accomplished journalist who has written for Rolling Stone, SPIN and dozens of other publications. He will appear at Boswell Book Company in conversation with WUWM’s Mitch Teich at 7 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 18.