... the BROOKLYN Dodgers live on in memory
Long ago, there were baseball fans as patient, loyal and passionate as Red sox fans. They were known as Brooklyn Dodger fans. And I was one of them. I never realized the depth of my feelings about the Dodgers until they played the Yankees in the 1955 World Series.
In the late 40's and early 50's, Brooklyn's Ebbets Field was my Fenway Park. Fenway Park became my Ebbets Fields when I moved to Melrose in 1965. The two ballparks were remarkably similar both in layout, size and fan intensity. Both were built before 1920 and seated about 34,000. Ebbets Field also had a Green Monster, only it was the right field wall. By 1955, the Dodgers had never won a World Series, the Red Sox one.
The Yankee rivalry was as intense as with the Red Sox. Manhattan's traditional scorn of the Borough of Brooklyn didn't help matters. The Dodgers were "Dem Bums" (a term of endearment in Brooklyn). Yankee Stadium was where innumerable Dodgers' hopes were too often dashed.
Arnold Jr. and Arnold Sr. at Fort Dix, New Jersey, just after Colgate and the draft, 1954.
A Brooklyn psychoanalyst once explained it by saying: "The intense love of the Dodger fan is like all great and enduring loves. It is born of suffering."
Brooklynites were not surprised when, on April 21, 1941, a former native sat in the electric chair at the Massachusetts State Prison and said to the guards: "One last thing. Did the Bums win against the Giants today"?
On April 12, 1947, I was seated behind 3rd base with my high school buddies when Jackie Robinson played his first game as a Dodger against the Yankees in an exhibition seen. He got his first major league hit and stole home. As Rookie of the Year, he hit .297, stole a league-high 29 bases and led the Dodgers to the pennant. Once again, they lost the World Series to the Yankees. They had three more World Series setbacks before the Dodger "miracle" of 1955.
That fall, I was a lowly Army draftee at Ft. Devens when the Dodgers tied the Yankees in the sixth game of the World Series. Johnny Podres was scheduled to pitch the next day and try for his second Series win.
I was determined not to miss what promised to be an historic event in Brooklyn's history. Somehow I discovered that, if the Army dentist removed your wisdom teeth, you could get a 24-hour pass. I was in his chair early the next morning. By noon I had my pass and was hitchhiking to NYC with my gums packed with cotton. The Taconic Parkway was the main route to NYC from Western Mass. in those days.
By the time I'd reach Manhattan, Johnny Podres had beaten the Yankees.
I headed directly for Brooklyn on the subway for the celebration. For Brooklynites it was a repeat of V-J Day. Late in the evening, as I entered a Dodger hangout on Flatbush Ave, I couldn't believe my luck. Johnny Podres was sitting in a back booth. An early bird edition of the N.Y. Daily Mirror was in front of him with the headline, "Podres Beats Yankees". The N.Y. Daily News headlined, "Who's A Bum?" Squeezing through the admirers, I managed to get Johnny's autograph.
Several hours later, I was, as they said, "two sheets to the wind", walking (or perhaps staggering) down 42nd St. heading to the West Side Highway to thumb back to Ft. Devens. I had lost my little Army cap, plus a shoulder insignia. Not surprisingly, a Military Police van pulled up and asked for my pass.
Unfortunately, I had never read the back of it. The MP did. It said, "This pass only valid for within 100 miles of Ft. Devens, Mass."
The MPs proceeded to take me to the basement of Grand Central station where they had a large room with some kind of all-night judicial hearing for soldiers who'd gone astray in the Big Apple.
When it was my turn to stand before the MP magistrate, I decided to tell the whole story and pray he wasn't a Yankee, or even a Giant, fan. I also realized that I needed a Big Finish. Reaching into my shirt pocket I took out the Johnny Podres' autograph saying, "And you see your Honor, I even got his autograph!"
I think I detected a smirk on his face, as the magistrate turned to an M.P. and said, "Officer, take this soldier to the West Side Highway and let him hitchhike back to Ft. Devens". Turning back to me, he added, "And I don't want to see you in New York City again!"
The next day on page 1 of the New York Times, John Drebinger wrote, "Far into the night rang shouts of revelry in Flatbush. Brooklyn at long last has won the World Series and now let someone try to suggest moving the Dodgers elsewhere."
In two years, they were in Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles and Brooklyn hasn't been the same since. Yet, while there are still the Red Sox and Fenway Park, an old transplanted Dodger fan can live vicariously.
Meanwhile, the N.Y. Mets are building a new stadium modeled after, you guessed it, Ebbets Field.
December 3, 1999