Sportswriter Turbow (Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic, The Baseball Codes) turns his attention in this riveting history to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ improbable 1981 championship season. The team was known for its edgy and eclectic cast of characters: Steve Garvey, aka Mr. Clean, the first baseman with Popeye-size forearms; base-stealing second baseman Davey Lopes; third baseman and World Series MVP Ron “The Penguin” Cey; the swift, Midwest-born shortstop, Bill Russell; mercurial manager Tommy Lasorda, whose mantra was “you gotta believe”; and the teenage left-handed pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, who created a fervor among fans known as Fernandomania. With a heady mix of reportage, biography, and classic play-by-play coverage, Turbow meticulously traces the arc of the team’s rise from the late 1970s postseason failures to the fateful, strike-filled season where the team defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series. Turbow’s reports of behind-the-scenes shenanigans show the cracks in Garvey’s squeaky-clean image and reveal Lasorda’s obsession with celebrities and Steve Howe’s cocaine addiction. But, as Turbow writes, “Whatever those Dodgers did before taking the field was strictly ancillary. It was what they did with cleats that mattered.” Fluidly written and expertly paced, this exciting look at a turbulent team will thrill baseball enthusiasts of all stripes . (June)
"The names are larger than life, the games are some of the greatest in Major League history. But what makes 'They Bled Blue' a fantastic baseball book is the passion. Love the Dodgers or hate the Dodgers, this return trip to 1981 will leave you pining for Fernandomania and and wishing you were a kid again, sitting in front of your TV with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Ron Cey at the plate and Goose Gossage throwing smoke. Bravo, Jason Turbow. This is epic."—Jeff Pearlman, New York Times best-selling author "1981 was a special but strange year. The baseball strike in the middle of the season, my first All-Star appearance and a championship…They Bled Blue captures the season extraordinarily well. A thoroughly engaging look at a truly wild ride." —Dusty Baker, former MLB player for the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers and current Special Advisor to the CEO for the San Francisco Giants"They Bled Blue was eye-opening, thought-provoking, and hands down the most accurate portrayal of events and personalities of the 1981 Dodgers that I've seen. I enjoyed every minute reading it, and no doubt will page through it again to relive the best baseball year of my life."—Jerry Reuss, former MLB player for the Los Angeles Dodgers “The spirited tale of a unique Major League Baseball championship team . . . The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers produced enough fireworks to deserve significant attention, and Turbow delivers the goods . . . A skillful mixture of biographies, on-field action, and behind-the-scenes baseball politics in a story with a happy ending for Dodger fans.”—Kirkus Reviews "Riveting . . . With a heady mix of reportage, biography, and classic play-by-play coverage, Turbow meticulously traces the arc of the team’srise . . . Fluidly written and expertly paced, this exciting look at a turbulent team will thrill baseball enthusiasts of all stripes."—Publishers Weekly, *starred* review “Veteran journalist Turbow drives the tale of the ’81 Dodgers through careful examination of the personalities on the team and in the front office. It’s a story made all the more compelling when viewed through the lens of societal upheaval.”—Booklist “An entertaining work for all reading baseball fans.”—Library Journal "Jason Turbow has created the best possible summer confection with this story of the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers. Everything about 'They Bled Blue' is completely delightful: The story’s delightful. The writing’s delightful. The footnotes are a total treat. But Turbow’s book isn’t just for Dodgers fans — it’s for fans of the game, the underdog and just plain good writing. It’s hard not to love every page about Tommy Lasorda, for example, because Turbow has captured him as the larger-than-life character he’s always been. And that’s what makes this book pool-worthy reading this summer: These are true characters who also happen to be Major League Baseball players. Turbow’s wrangled them in all their 'Bad-News-Bears'-meets-'Field-of-Dreams' glory and recorded them with the most finger-lickin’ good sports writing I’ve read in a while."—Deseret News
The year 1981 was unusual for Major League Baseball. A 50-day-long midsummer players strike dampened the spirits of fans around the country. Game attendance and TV ratings suffered as fans dismissed players as greedy and arrogant. Despite this, the Los Angeles Dodgers stood out as the most exciting team in the game, thanks mainly to rookie pitching sensation Fernando Valenzuela. In his newest book, Turbow (Dynastic, Bombastic Fantastic) takes readers back to this abbreviated but unforgettable season. The challenge of writing about a team like the 1981 Dodgers is that, despite ending up as World Champions, they were still a team in transition. Turbow proves more than up to the challenge, providing insight on personalities such as Valenzuela, first baseman Steve Garvey and legendary manager Tommy Lasorda without readers getting lost in a number of tangential narratives. The larger arc of the players strike is threaded throughout without being overbearing. VERDICT Despite an over-fondness for footnotes, which can be distracting, this work successfully tells the story of a unique team that won it all in the strangest way. An entertaining work for all reading baseball fans.—Brett Rohlwing, Milwaukee P.L.
The spirited tale of a unique Major League Baseball championship team.
While less vaunted than the 1927 or 1961 New York Yankees, the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers produced enough fireworks to deserve significant attention, and Turbow (Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley's Swingin' A's, 2017) delivers the goods. He begins with the frustrating 1970s, when the Dodgers continued to win without winning the World Series. He claims that the painful 1978 loss—four defeats after winning the first two games—so demoralized the team that it sunk below .500 in 1979, finishing third in the division. The 1980 season also ended badly when the Dodgers tied for first place only to lose a one-game playoff to the Houston Astros. Many fans remember the 1981 strike, which was inspired by the owners' distress at free agency. The author's detailed, blow-by-blow account tells readers perhaps more than they want to know. Far more entertaining were the games themselves, beginning opening day. With starters either injured or unavailable, for the first time in baseball history, a rookie became opening-day pitcher: Fernando Valenzuela, who threw a shutout, proceeded to win his first eight games, launched "Fernandomania," and became the first pitcher to win rookie of the year and the Cy Young award. With superb pitching and celebrated infielders Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey in the last of their many years together, they led their division when play halted in June. Play resumed in August following controversial rules under which the Dodgers, having won the division in the first round, were guaranteed a playoff position. Perhaps as a result, they played poorly, finishing fourth. Turbow devotes nearly half the book to the postseason, which featured as much grit and luck as heroism but ended well when the Dodgers lost two World Series games to the Yankees but then won four straight.
A skillful mixture of biographies, on-field action, and behind-the-scenes baseball politics in a story with a happy ending for Dodgers fans.