To take the pulse of a city and penetrate its culture, a good place to start is with its pro sports teams. This can be especially true in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers are a southern California icon. In “Dodgerland,” author Michael Fallon uses the club to write both a sports and social history, chronicling America as the nation moved into the “me” era. During the two years Fallon places LA under the microscope, the Dodgers of Don Sutton, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, and Steve Yeager reached the World Series but lost both in 1977 and 1978 to the Yankees. Against this backdrop, Fallon tells a larger story through the lives of four men named Tom: Dodger manager Tom Lasorda, mayor Tom Bradley, writer and social critic Tom Wolfe, and a local hardware store owner, Tom Fallon, a longtime Dodger fan.
Here’s an excerpt from Dodgerland:
“The dog days of late July and early August can be a difficult stretch for baseball teams. After more than one hundred ball games, afflictions of all sorts – aches, nagging strains, general exhaustion, and frustration – are common, even as the deepest and steamiest heat of middle-American midsummer settles over the land. What’s more, as August progresses, and moods and bodies break down, players can see more and more, off in the distance just over the horizon, the promise of the looming off-season – a time when players get to join their families, take vacations, go on long hunting and fishing trips, and so on. It’s no wonder that July and August are very often the make-it-or-break-it point for so many borderline teams. As of late July in 1978, while the Dodgers felt the deep malaise of summer, it was clear that the season could go in any direction for [manager] Tom Lasorda’s boys.”