The baseball season has begun and—even though it’s only three games young—everyone in Detroit is already depressed. The Tigers have not only started the season 0-3 but they have managed to do it against the Royals at home, no less. To make matters worse, the greatest offense in the universe scored a grand total of five runs against one of the worst staffs in the league. To make matters even worse than that, Miguel Cabrera is out with a pulled quadriceps to go along with Curtis Granderson’s broken finger. This is where I remind you that the baseball season is 162 games-long and the Tigers have one of the easiest second-half schedules in the league. But still, the Royals?
Thankfully, my mind is stuck in 1973. The folks at Sourcebooks were nice enough to send me a copy of John Rosengren’s latest book titled, Hammerin’ Hank, George Almighty & The Say Hey Kid. The story chronicles the 1973 MLB season which had more sub-plots than an episode of Lost. In the face of death threats that literally made him fear living long enough to play the next season, Hank Aaron was slowly chasing down Babe Ruth as the All-Time Home Run King. George Steinbrenner purchased a reeling Yankees franchise that hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1964—and he purchased it for $10 million! The World Series ushered out one of the greatest players of all-time (Willie Mays) and welcomed a new superstar named Reggie Jackson. Mr. October took the league by storm in ’73 winning both the AL MVP and the World Series MVP.
Rosengren provides a fantastic look into one of the greatest seasons—and time periods—in MLB history. It’s a virtual encyclopedia of all things baseball from the early 70’s including insight into the tumulteous race relations in MLB, Gaylord Perry’s transgressions with his “spitball”, the AL’s controversial decision to introduce the DH, and Orlando Cepeda’s love for Mary Jane. With brilliant baseball websites like baseball-reference.com, it doesn’t take much to look up statistics from 1973. But, you’ll have to look pretty damn hard to find something that adequately portrays the drama--and there was a lot of it--that encapsulated the sport in ’73 as much as Hammerin' Hank. My only complaint is that he hasn't written a book like this for every season.