“The Dodgers beat the Cubs. We’re in the World Series,” the flight attendant repeated as she walked down the aisle of our United Airlines plane. Many of the passengers were Asian and didn’t speak English, but their confused looks did not deter the flight attendant for one moment. She had good news to share, and share it she did. There was a time when news of the Dodgers being in the World Series would have brought me untold joy, but that was then, and now is now.
I grew up in Teaneck, NJ, a suburb of New York City. Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, kids there worshipped one of three teams—the Yankees, the Giants, and my beloved Dodgers. (I am referring to the real Dodgers, the Brooklyn Dodgers, aka “dem Bums.”) I knew the batting average of every player and stayed up late to listen to night games with the radio hidden under my pillow when Dad came in to say “goodnight.”
My hero was Carl Furillo, the Dodger right fielder nicknamed the Reading Rifle because of his strong arm and his home town Reading, Penn. My brother Phil’s favorite player was the Dodger center fielder Duke Snider. We would argue ad infinitum about who was the better player. Duke was enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame, and Furillo became a security guard in Pennsylvania—so much for who won that argument.
My youth was colored by the constant agony of defeat. I am still haunted by the Dodgers blowing a 13-game lead over the Giants in 1951, and I tear up like it was yesterday just thinking about how Bobby Thompson’s ninth inning home run ended our pennant run. When we did win the pennant, the Yankees were always there to end all our hopes of a championship. Our mantra became, “Wait until next year.”
What almost nobody knows is that when we finally won our first World Series back in 1955, I had a lot to do with the Dodgers winning that historic game. Johnny Podres pitched the ultimate victory, but I didn’t breathe between his pitches, thereby giving his pitches some extra something. There is no doubt in my mind that my holding my breath had as much to do with winning as anything. At the end of the game I was too winded to join the celebration.
Just as I was getting accustomed to rooting for a winner, the Dodgers picked up and left Ebbets Field to play in a new home somewhere in a place called California. It was a sad day for me and all those like me who grew up as loyal fans. Loyalty is not always a two-way street.
All this brings me to my moving to Malibu almost six years ago. I went to a Dodger/Yankee game when I first moved here and could not believe I actually saw palm trees blowing in the breeze. This was not Brooklyn. I can tell you that!
I was sitting in the nosebleed section. I had become a Yankee fan in the absence of my Dodgers, so when Derek Jeter came to bat, I yelled, “Get a hit Derek.” Thousands of disapproving faces looked up in my direction. The nerve of those people. I stood up and shouted for all to hear, “I was a Dodger fan before you were born. The Dodgers deserted me. They broke my heart. I will cheer for any team I want.” Much to my surprise, everybody laughed and the game continued.
The World Series is now upon us, and the Dodgers are once again in it. I am faced with a mighty conundrum. (How I love that word.) Do I once again root for the team of my youth, the team I loved beyond words, the team which, by some curious twist of fate, is now my home team, or do I root for the opposing club? Like a person who has been cheated on, do I give my lover a second chance, or do I never return to what was and keep hate in my heart?
It has now been literally 50 years since the Dodgers left me bereft. I guess it is time for me to forgive them (but never will I forget). So all I can say is, “Let’s Go Dodgers!”