They Bled Blue: Fernandomania, Strike-Season Mayhem, and the Weirdest Championship Baseball Had Ever Seen: The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers

Jason Turbow. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-328-71553-1

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)