- Dodgerland: Decadent Los Angeles and the 1977–78 Dodgers by Michael Fallon, and: The Last Innocents: The Collision of the Turbulent Sixties and the Los Angeles Dodgers by Michael Leahy
These are two books by suburban Los Angeles boys, fans when young of the Dodgers in different dynastic decades. Michael Leahy, a veteran reporter for The Washington Post, writes about his Dodgers of the 1960s. Michael Fallon, an arts manager and writer in Minnesota, devotes his book to the team of the next decade.
And there the similarities end.
Leahy's book is rooted in the players' stories. He had extensive interviews with eight Dodger players, especially Maury Wills and Wes Parker, and shorter discussions with dozens of other Dodger players, opponents, fans and executives. The strength of the book is the players' willingness to delve into their emotions. They reveal the constant balancing between fear of failure and pride in achievement. They return again and again to the desire to be paid for those achievements and their struggles to get what they felt they deserved from ownership.
There are constant reminders of just what a grind the 162-game season can be. The players talk of their growing fatigue—of their desire for the season to end. Their resentment when bundled off to a 1966 postseason tour to Japan is palpable.
Wills and Koufax are pictured dealing with injuries that less driven people would take to the disabled list. The drive for excellence leads them to painkillers and stretching the rules. It's even conceded that Koufax once deliberately threw at somebody (Lou Brock). But only once. While Koufax wasn't one of those interviewed, his teammates refer to him constantly as a linchpin of the team and his experiences are a major theme.
Michael Fallon, on the other hand, really loves Tom Wolfe. That's the journalist, not the novelist. The Dodgers of the late 1970s are the frame around which Fallon weaves his own tale, but, like his hero Wolfe, he's striving for the meta-story, the overarching tale lingering under a seemingly mundane narrative. That overarching tale is failure, the decline of "decadent" Los Angeles, a term that appears in the title but Fallon never defines, much less substantiates, in the book. It's clearly a meta-story that resonates with him personally.
There is no indication in the text or notes that Fallon interviewed anybody for this book. He clearly has made an extensive search of newspaper and magazine [End Page 245] articles about the team, and books by or about members published subsequently, but the voice is very much Fallon's.
Fallon does provide extensive footnotes to these sources and an index. Leahy, unfortunately, has neither footnotes nor an index, but the interviews pretty much speak for themselves.
When each book turns to its promise to connect its team to the society around it, the different approaches show.
Leahy's players talk about the racial tensions of the 1960s, the birth of the players' union, where they were when John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King were shot. They recall driving home amid the flames of the Watts Rebellion and of worrying about relatives and friends in Vietnam. There are some nice contrasts. There's Wills, a child of the projects who had to fight his way through nine minor league seasons to be called to the Dodgers only in desperation, Yet, he forged a fourteen-year career which, in Leahy's opinion, merits that Hall of Fame. And then there's Parker, a scion of money, private schools and parents who demeaned him constantly. His rise to the majors was rapid, although his hitting came around years after his superb glove. Wills and the other players jumped on the Marvin Miller bandwagon. Parker, despite being the player rep, keeps his distance, a product of a belief system inculcated in...