Is Brooklyn in the House?
As usual, there was a crop of good baseall books released in 2004. In case anyone is doing some last-minute holiday shopping, consider: “The Numbers Game,” by Alan Schwarz, “Brushbacks and Knockdowns,” by Allen Barra, “Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution, ” by Neil Lanctot, “Saving the Pitcher,” by Will Carroll, “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty,” by Buster Olney, and one of my favorites, “Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Lineups.” I know it wasn’t released this year, but “A Legend in the the Making: the New York Yankees in 1939,” by Richard Tofel is essential reading for any self-respecting Yankee fan. You can find these books in stores or on the Internet, but in case you want to hunt for a wider selection of baseball literature, check out R. Plapinger Baseball Books (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson, authors of “Red Sox Century,” and “Yankee Century” released another fine team history this season, “The Dodgers: 120 Years of Dodgers Baseball.” All three books are a must for any baseball library. Thanks to Glenn Stout, I am going to run excerpts from from all three books in the coming week. First up is Chapter Ten from the Dodger book, which is about the teams’ final days in New York.
LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN
By Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson
The party didnít stop for hours. As soon as the ball settled into Gil Hodgesí glove, Johnny Podres leapt in the air, arms spread wide like a huge V for victory. Before his feet touched the ground again thousands joined him, maybe millions, as every Brooklyn fan in the universe leapt in the air too. And the Dodgers started leaping and running and Campy grabbed Podres and Jackie Robinson, the tired man with the bad heel who didnít play in the biggest game the Brooklyn Dodgers ever played, was first out of the dugout and out-raced every other Dodger on the bench to the big knot on the field where, as Red Smith noted, Podres was soon “lost from sight in a howling, leaping, pummeling pack that thumped him and thwacked him and tossed him around, hugged him and mauled him and heaved him . . .”
And from there it spread, all the howling and thumping and hugging, downtown and across the bridge to Brooklyn, where it exploded. For once, Brooklyn rose higher than Manhattan and in seconds there were people on the streets and cars honking and people dancing in their houses and swilling Schaefer beer just like the Dodgers in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse, pouring it over each other in delight.
Impromptu motorcades formed on the streets and cars paraded down Fulton Avenue, dressed in shaving cream like newlyweds on the way to the honeymoon – “World Champs” “Bums no more” and “The Yanks is Dead.” Around Borough Hall businessmen tore up newspapersBrooklyn ticker tapeand tossed it from office windows. Stores emptied and their owners stood on the streets, closed early, and took it all in, but also watching out, a little afraid of what the crowds might do. But mostly people did nothing but smile and look for other faces smiling and watch the cars and listen to the horns as every cop with a Brooklyn beat was called on to keep the streets clear and make sure nothing bad happened. But for now next year had come and that was enough and no one really knew what to do but breathe in it in and feel something wonderful they had never felt before.
It changed toward nightfall as the liquor flowed and block parties broke out and joy was splashed with a little out and out frenzy and the bars filled and the business of Brooklyn shut down early. The Dodgers had a party that night at the Hotel Bossert and thousands of fans gathered around outside, cheering the Dodgers as they entered the hotel and danced throughout night.
And it wasnít a dream. Best of all, it wasnít a dream. It was there, later that evening and the next day, in all the papers, “Brooks World Champs” in the World Telegram, “Dodgers Win First World Championship” in the Herald Tribune, “Dodgers Capture 1st World Series” in the Times, and the best of all in the Daily News, “Whoís a Bum!” and “This IS Next Year.”
The writers had to struggle with words to describe it, for as Red Smith noted accurately “One has to pause for a moment and consider before the utter implausibility of the thing can be appreciated.” But not in Brooklyn. In the Daily News Joe Trimble wrote “They wonít make October 4 a red-letter day in Brooklyn. Theyíll print it in letters of gold from now on because itís only the greatest date in the history of the batty borough.” John Drebinger of the Times added simply “Brooklynís long cherished dream has come true,” and Harold Rosenthal of the Herald Tribune couldnít help but observe, “The Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series and if that reads a trifle peculiarly, it should. Itís never been written before because it never happened before. But it happened yesterday . . .”
The party was terrific, glorious, everything Brooklyn had asked for and waited for and hoped for and more, a party that would be replayed and talked about like the game that just took place, the shared stories of “Where were you?” and “Who were you with? and “What did you do?” the chain of happiness wrapping itís wide arms around every Brooklyn fan everywhere, so much so that fifty years later the mere mention of the Dodger world championship makes old fans young again.
But the hangover that would soon follow would prove to be more than sobering. For it would do two things – embolden OíMalley in his quest for a new ballpark and make the Dodgers even more desirable to suitors. They werenít a team that was the clear second choice in the city of their birth, like the lowly Boston Braves to the Red Sox, the recently fallen Philadelphia Athletics to the more potent Phillies or historically pathetic St. Louis Browns to the proud Cardinals. The Dodgers were number one in Brooklyn, a place of three million people, and world champions, for now, second to no one, not even the Yankees.
And in only two short years those two things would combine and conspire to take the Dodgers away, to sever the Dodgers from Brooklyn forever.
Only a few weeks after the World Series win, OíMalley decided to go on a public relations campaign to tout Fullerís design for a domed stadium. There was far more interest in the Dodger team than his plans for the franchise, and as OíMalley tried to explain the concept of Fullerís geodesic dome design, eyes glazed over, reporters stopped writing in their notebooks and readers turned the page. His pipe dream cost OíMalley what little credibility he had, both with the press and with the political figures he was destined to deal with.
His argument in regard to the Milwaukee Braves also fall flat. OíMalley kept citing the Braves financial success as a harbinger of their success on then field, warning that the Braves were on the cusp of outspending everyone for talent and intimated that the Dodger farm system couldnít compete. “I must make money,” he said. How many kids can the Dodgers sign up when the Braves scouts can say: “Look, Iíll get you four times as much.”
But reality did not match that perceptionat least not yet. The Dodgers were reigning world champions – Brooklyn had finished 13