Book Review: High Fives, Pennant Drives, and Fernandomania

Recent history has not been kind to the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, in Paul Haddad’s new book, High Fives, Pennant Drives, and Fernandomania: A Fan’s History of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Glory Years 1977-1981, the author gets the reader so immersed in what happened between these years, that it makes the reader remember what a great franchise the Dodgers have been over time.

As the Dodgers work to reclaim their glory, Haddad looks to remind fans about a different time in the city of Los Angeles when dreams were about nothing but a World Series championship on a yearly basis. Haddad depicts the Dodgers teams of these years from the fan’s perspective which one doesn’t have to be a Dodger fan to understand. All teams have had their highs and their lows and something as simple as turning on sports talk radio in any city across the country will remind one of how tied fans can become to the good times.

The book comes out at an appropriate time when the Dodgers are frequently in the news for news stories that are happening off of the field. Haddad does a great job of reminding Dodger fans of the great times that have occurred and what they have ahead of them if they stay around.

The author adds an extremely unique touch to this book that he explains very early on. While many youngsters grow up idolizing players and wanting to grow up to hit the game winning home run, Haddad grew up wanting to call the game winning home run. Throughout the author’s youth, all he ever wanted to do was to become the next Vin Scully. Not that that’s a tall order or anything.

Due to Haddad’s drive to become the next Scully, his youth was filled with times when he would emulate the Hall of Fame broadcaster and actually record himself doing so. Like many fans, Haddad kept the memories from his childhood dreams around and has them quoted multiple times in this book. While some books have quotes from well-known players or managers at the beginning of chapters, Haddad actually quotes himself from times when he was recording his amateur play by play calls.

The book is a quick read mostly because the author does a good job of splitting it up and giving the reader different topics about the Dodgers to focus on throughout each chapter. One of the tidbits that appears quite frequently throughout the book is entitled the “Fernando Watch.” This typically page long excerpt gives a snapshot of phenom Fernando Valenzuela at different parts of the seasons that are the focus of this book. Valenzuela was somewhat of a cultural phenomenon when he grew of age with the Dodgers and helped bring them a World Series championship. While many athletes become polarizing for brief periods of time in this current era of baseball, during the late 1970s it was rare that a player would garner the public attention that Fernandomania did.

This book is unlike any this reviewer has ever read due to the fact that Haddad is not scared of professing his fandom throughout the pages. While many sports writers who have published books no doubt become fans of the teams they cover for years, they attempt to stay objective in their books, which should be expected if they are reporting news. Haddad makes no ifs, ands, or buts about it in this book as his fandom for the Dodgers drips from nearly every word written in this book.

It’s somewhat refreshing to hear an educated diehard fans perspective throughout these pages. Even though it is clear that Haddad is a huge fan of the team, readers should not be turned off with the potential that they might be reading statements in line with those that they hear called into their local sports radio station.

Even if your team is not the Dodgers, this book presents itself as the perfect primer for the upcoming season. All fans will be able to relate to Haddad’s thoughts, actions and words throughout the book and most can probably even imagine themselves doing many of the same things the author does.

Rating: 3.5/5

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