Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977-78 Dodgers. By Michael Fallon. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2016. Pp. xii + 454, prologue afterword, notes, bibliography, index.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been the IBM of Major League Baseball (MLB). A tradition-bound franchise, the Dodgers reputation for organizational excellence is burnished by multiple world championships, a national following by fans, and a sense of progressivism evidenced by their signing of the first African-American player, Jackie Robinson. Michael Fallon, an arts and culture writer with an affinity for Los Angeles, juxtaposes the mystique of the Dodgers against a time of turbulent societal change in his book Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977-78 Dodgers. The premise of Fallon's well-researched work is that the Dodgers played for more than World Series titles in back-to-back seasons. The team played to enhance the magical image of Los Angeles. An image the Dodgers came to embody over the previous twenty years.
The book is divided into two distinct sections. The first deals with the 1977 season and the Dodgers' return to the top of the National League. The second covers the 1978 season in which the Dodgers struggle to return to the World Series. Fallon focuses his narrative on the lives of four men named Tom: the author's grandfather Tom Fallon, the recently departed author/social critic Tom Wolfe, former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, and former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda. This method allows Fallon to successfully intersperse tales of the cultural Zeitgeist of greater Los Angles and America (Wolfe and Bradley) with tales of the Dodgers' exploits (Lasorda and Fallon the elder).
Wolfe gave rise to the perception that Los Angeles was the epicenter of hedonism and self-centeredness in his famous 1976 article "Me Decade" (287-289). As the headquarters of both Playboy and the dubious self-help system est, Los Angeles lost much of the perception of purity it enjoyed in the 1950s when Disney and MGM embodied the ideal of the wish fulfillment factory. Fallon's thorough reading of Wolfe's work helps to describe the national perception of the city which Tom Bradley sought to change during his mayoral tenure (1973-1993). Bradley inherited a high crime rate, economic troubles and a police department with a reputation for corruption and brutality. Fallon provides a litany of Bradley's accomplishments during the "Me Decade:" his reduction of the...