Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977-78 Dodgers

Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977-78 Dodgers

Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977-78 Dodgers

Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977-78 Dodgers


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.


[I would] change policy, bring back natural grass and nickel
beer. Baseball is the bellybutton of our society. Straighten
out baseball, and you straighten out the rest of the world.

—Bill Lee, Los Angeles Times, February 3, 1977

If people in the early 1970s were unaware that America was becoming something different from what it had been a generation earlier, then June 4, 1974, opened a lot of eyes. That evening in Cleveland, the hometown Indians baseball team held a special promotional event at Cleveland Municipal Stadium for its game against the Texas Rangers. Called 10 Cent Beer Night, the idea was this: sell beer so cheaply that young fans would return in droves to support the team. While many baseball fans have a general sense of the events of that notorious night, a deeper look at the Beer Night riot reveals the forces behind the drastic changes occurring in baseball and American society at the time.

There was no big mystery why the Cleveland team had failed to draw fans over the previous decade. in six of the previous seven years, the Indians had been a miserable franchise, finishing at or near the bottom of its division each year. Its lineups were a rogues’ gallery of middling talent (Duke Sims, John Lowenstein, Steve Mingori, Frank Duffy, Tom Timmerman, Jack Brohamer, Bill Gogolewski). and its managers were either uninspiring organization men (Johnny Lipon, Ken Aspromonte) or bitter former stars who had fallen from grace (like Al Dark, late of the San Francisco Giants). For the desperate Indians, the Beer Night promotion worked like a charm, at least . . .

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