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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Split Season: 1981

Split Season: 1981

Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball

Jeff Katz

Thomas Dunne Books

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The never-before-told story of the momentous season torn in half by the bitter players strike.

1981 was a watershed moment in American sports, when players turned an oligarchy of owners into a game where they had a real voice. Midway through the season, a game-changing strike ripped baseball apart, the first time a season had ever been stopped in the middle because of a strike. Marvin Miller and the MLB Players Association squared off against Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and the owners in a fight to protect players rights to free agency and defend America's pastime.

Though a time bomb was ticking as the 1981 season began, the game rose to impressive---and now legendary---heights. Pete Rose chased Stan Musial's National League hit record and rookie Fernando Valenzuela was creating a sensation as the best pitcher in the majors when the stadiums went dark and the players went on strike.

For the first time in modern history, there were first- and second-half champions; the two teams with the overall best records in the National League were not awarded play-off berths. When the season resumed after an absence of 712 games, Rose's resumption of his pursuit, the resurgence of Reggie Jackson, the rise of the Montreal Expos, and a Nolan Ryan no-hitter became notable events. The Dodgers bested their longtime rivals in a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, the last classic matchup of those storied opponents.

Sourcing incredible and extensive interviews with almost all of the major participant… More…

The never-before-told story of the momentous season torn in half by the bitter players strike.

1981 was a watershed moment in American sports, when players turned an oligarchy of owners into a game where they had a real voice. Midway through the season, a game-changing strike ripped baseball apart, the first time a season had ever been stopped in the middle because of a strike. Marvin Miller and the MLB Players Association squared off against Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and the owners in a fight to protect players rights to free agency and defend America's pastime.

Though a time bomb was ticking as the 1981 season began, the game rose to impressive---and now legendary---heights. Pete Rose chased Stan Musial's National League hit record and rookie Fernando Valenzuela was creating a sensation as the best pitcher in the majors when the stadiums went dark and the players went on strike.

For the first time in modern history, there were first- and second-half champions; the two teams with the overall best records in the National League were not awarded play-off berths. When the season resumed after an absence of 712 games, Rose's resumption of his pursuit, the resurgence of Reggie Jackson, the rise of the Montreal Expos, and a Nolan Ryan no-hitter became notable events. The Dodgers bested their longtime rivals in a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, the last classic matchup of those storied opponents.

Sourcing incredible and extensive interviews with almost all of the major participants in the strike, Split Season: 1981 returns us to the on- and off-field drama of an unforgettable baseball year.

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Praise for Split Season: 1981

“[A] delightful, opinionated history… Katz brilliantly describes the bitter, fruitless, yearlong negotiations aimed at determining a team's compensation for the loss of a free agent player… A superior addition to the venerable genre of baseball season accounts.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In 1981, major league baseball suffered through its first-ever mid-season strike, and for a time, player union rep Marvin Miller and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn became more important to the game than any slugger or hurler. As they fought, a nation deprived of its pastime prayed for the return of greats like Reggie Jackson, Fernando Valenzuela, Pete Rose, and Nolan Ryan. Here a gifted writer, who just happens to be the mayor of the baseball mecca of Cooperstown, N.Y., tells the inside story of that split season when baseball ceased to be a kingdom ruled by royal owners and players won recognition for their central role in the grand old game. This is a ‘must read' tale for anyone who ever sat in the bleachers or flipped through the sports page.” —Michael D'Antonio, author of Forever Blue, The True Story of Walter O'Malley and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles

“In 1981 I had just turned 21 and had saved up enough money to buy a Greyhound bus ticket across the country. My goal was to see as many new cities, catch as many cool gigs and most certainly see as much baseball as possible. I succeeded at the first two but that summer's strike kept me from seeing… More…

“[A] delightful, opinionated history… Katz brilliantly describes the bitter, fruitless, yearlong negotiations aimed at determining a team's compensation for the loss of a free agent player… A superior addition to the venerable genre of baseball season accounts.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“In 1981, major league baseball suffered through its first-ever mid-season strike, and for a time, player union rep Marvin Miller and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn became more important to the game than any slugger or hurler. As they fought, a nation deprived of its pastime prayed for the return of greats like Reggie Jackson, Fernando Valenzuela, Pete Rose, and Nolan Ryan. Here a gifted writer, who just happens to be the mayor of the baseball mecca of Cooperstown, N.Y., tells the inside story of that split season when baseball ceased to be a kingdom ruled by royal owners and players won recognition for their central role in the grand old game. This is a ‘must read' tale for anyone who ever sat in the bleachers or flipped through the sports page.” —Michael D'Antonio, author of Forever Blue, The True Story of Walter O'Malley and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles

“In 1981 I had just turned 21 and had saved up enough money to buy a Greyhound bus ticket across the country. My goal was to see as many new cities, catch as many cool gigs and most certainly see as much baseball as possible. I succeeded at the first two but that summer's strike kept me from seeing even a single game on my 3 week trip. Jeff Katz's fascinating and gripping book lets me know who was to blame and how it all went down with humor, attention to detail and an almost a horror film's inevitability. I knew what was going to happen, I knew how it was going to end but Katz kept me captive and turning pages until that frustrating year was over.” —Steve Wynn, musician ,The Baseball Project and The Dream Syndicate

“With charm and affection, Jeff Katz has documented one of the wildest and most important baseball seasons in recent history. Split Season is a wonderful look back at a fascinating moment in the evolution of baseball.” —Jonathan Eig, author of The Birth of the Pill, Opening Day, Luckiest Man and Get Capone

“For most baseball fans, the summer of 1981 is a void, an absence, a black hole. Jeff Katz has finally illuminated that dark space, showing us what we going on behind the scenes of the sports world's most prolonged labor action.” —Paul Lukas, ESPN.com and Uniwatch

“By going behind the scenes to reveal the game-changing labor negotiations of 1981, and also bringing to life the thrills on the field--the unforgettable Fernando Valenzuela, and the last Yankees-Dodgers World Series among them--Jeff Katz has delivered a worthy book about a crucial season. Three cheers.” —Kostya Kennedy

“In Split Season Jeff Katz makes the business of baseball as fascinating as the game afield, as the contentious 1981 season and the stunning changes it brought to Major League Baseball come to life all these years later… at its heart Split Season is about American history and its prime movers, capitalism and the battle for wealth. When the last pitch of 1981 is thrown, and the wrappers and beer cups swept up and the game changed forever, you will be far wiser than you were before. And not just about baseball.” —Rick Telander, Senior Sports Columnist, Chicago Sun-Times

Split Season is my favorite kind of book: informative, historical, retelling the story of one of the most pivotal baseball seasons over the last half-century on and off the field, but also funny. In an age of endless statistics, it reminds us the game is played by human beings whose feats and antics are far more interesting than on-base percentage stats. Writing such a book sounds easy. Jeff Katz has made it look easy. But trust me, it isn't.” —Howard Bryant, author of The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron

“In Split Season Jeff Katz has brought life to the events of 1981 when 713 Major League baseball games were cancelled because of a player's strike. The great strength of this fast-moving narrative is Katz's ability to bring the same tension and insight to both fields of play--the one at the ballpark and the other at the bargaining table.” —Paul Dickson

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Reviews from Goodreads

Jeff Katz

JEFF KATZ is the Mayor of Cooperstown, the "Birthplace of Baseball" and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He is the author of The Kansas City A's & The Wrong Half of the Yankees. He was a featured speaker during a "New York baseball" program put on by The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY. He is a member of The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

Thomas Dunne Books

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