Hairs vs. Squares: The Mustache Gang, the Big Red Machine, and the Tumultuous Summer of '72

Hairs vs. Squares: The Mustache Gang, the Big Red Machine, and the Tumultuous Summer of '72

Hairs vs. Squares: The Mustache Gang, the Big Red Machine, and the Tumultuous Summer of '72

Hairs vs. Squares: The Mustache Gang, the Big Red Machine, and the Tumultuous Summer of '72


Hairs vs. Squares is an ode to an unforgettable season that began with the first major players' strike in the history of North American sports and ended with a record-setting World Series played by two of the game's greatest and most colorful dynasties. In a sign of the times it was Hippies vs. Hardhats, a clash of cultures with the hirsute, mod Mustache Gang colliding with the clean-cut, conservative Big Red Machine on the game's grandest stage.

When the Oakland A's met the Cincinnati Reds in the 1972 Fall Classic, more than a championship was at stake. The more than two dozen interviews bring to life a time when controversy was commonplace, both inside and outside the national pastime. In baseball, Willie Mays was traded, Hank Aaron was chasing down Babe Ruth's home run record, and Dick Allen was helping to save the Chicago White Sox franchise while winning the American League's Most Valuable Player award. Outside the American pastime the war in Vietnam was raging, campus protests spread throughout the country, and Watergate and the Munich Olympics headlined the tumultuous year.

The 1972 Major League Baseball season was marked by the rapid rise of rookies and young stars, the fall of established teams and veterans, courageous comebacks, and personal redemptions. Along with the many unforgettable and outrageous characters inside baseball, Hairs vs. Squares emphasizes the dramatic changes that took place on and off the field in the 1970s. Owners' lockouts, on-field fights, maverick managers, controversial trades, artificial fields, the first full five-game League Championship Series, and the closest, most competitive World Series ever, combined to make the 1972 season as complex as the social and political unrest that marked the era.


Reginald Martinez Jackson loved to hit a baseball. in the spring of 1972 the star right fielder for the reigning American League Western Division champion Oakland Athletics lived to hit. He was twenty-five years old, stood six feet tall, and weighed 204 pounds. Heavily muscled—he had been a running back at Arizona State—he boasted seventeen-inch biceps and twenty-seven-inch thighs.

There was no one in baseball, Jackson believed, who could do as many things as well as he could. He had only a fair batting average, but he hit with great power and ran with surprising speed for a big man. Baseball Digest would feature Reggie on the cover of its June issue, along with Pete Rose and Willie Mays, and declare the ’72 season to be the start of baseball’s Jacksonian Era. “This Will Be His Year!” the magazine proclaimed.

Prior to a 2009 World Series game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Yankee Stadium, Reggie held court on the field with a group of writers. He talked about hitting, about hitting in the clutch, about how he had loved to hit the ball—“that little white sum-bitch,” he used to call it. in July 1971 Jackson smashed one of the longest home runs in history when he connected with a pitch thrown by Pittsburgh’s Dock Ellis in the All-Star Game. the ball was still rising when it struck one of the light standards on the roof of Tiger Stadium, 520 feet from home plate.

Nbc Radio color commentator Sandy Koufax was impressed by what he had witnessed: “It looked like Dock got the breaking ball up just a little bit to Reggie Jackson and, I mean, he hit it hard. I don’t know when I’ve seen a ball hit as hard as that one. That would have gone out at the airport.”

In his first weekend in the majors late in 1967, Jackson blasted five balls . . .

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