Last night I tuned in to watch game 3 of the World Series. It’s not that I’m an avid Baseball fan. I’ not.
There wasn’t much on TV that interested me so I tuned in the game, made myself a cup of coffee and settled into my recliner in front of my 60 inch television. The Boston Red Sox in Los Angeles to face the Dodgers.
As a 14 year old kid back in Brooklyn I was an avid Dodger fan.
A time when New York had three baseball teams dominating the late 1940s and the middle ‘50s. A time when no one followed the NFL; a time when baseball ruled.
I was a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and my friends were too. I didn’t want a “friend” who was a Yankee fan or worst still a Giants fan. The Giants played at the Polo Grounds in northern Manhattan while Yankee Stadium was well, Yankee Stadium. It was the considered opinion of us kids that every Giants or Yankee fan should live elsewhere. Certainly not in Brooklyn. The Dodgers played at Ebbits Field, a “band Box” which held maybe 32,000. It was a subway ride away at a time when kids could afford to attend games.
I was 13 years old in 1955; the year the beloved bums finally beat the Yankees in the World Series for their first series victory. The Yankees had beaten the Dodgers in 1947, ‘49, ‘52 and ‘53. It was always “Wait till next year!” for the bums.
The bums lost the pennant to the Giants in ‘51 on Bobby Thompson’s home run in the 9th inning of the last game of the season. God! We felt like taking cyanide. The Giants lost to the Yankees. Who cared?
These were the days before any championship series, before night games in the series, before designated hitters. The days when the series was played in halcyon days of September or the first days of October. The days when the players lived in the neighborhoods. When they weren’t paid like the 1%, When kids went to the ball park on Saturday afternoons on the subway – by themselves.
During a “subway series”, which meant two New York teams in the World Series, there were no days off between games. The radio in school was on in the lunch room, broadcast from the Principal’s office over the speakers.
Kids took days off to watch the games on our little 12″ black and white televisions. Everyone did. Especially a 7th game. It was expected. They might as well have closed the schools.
After the ‘57 season the Dodgers moved to L.A. and the Giants to San Francisco. Both wanted new ball parks; the Dodgers were insistent that the park be in Brooklyn. Robert Moses, the “great builder” would have none of it. He wanted the teams to play in Flushing Meadows. The teams refused and California came calling.
I was heart-broken as were many kids. We learned that loyalty was an illusion when it came to big business.
I settled into my comfy chair to watch the pre-game ceremonies from Los Angeles. It was 8 P.M. As usual in LaLa land there were lots of celebs on hand and as the camera panned around and I daydreamed of my youth, I saw him.
Sandy Koufax; Dodger Hall of Famer and one of the greatest left handed pitchers of all time.
He is old now. Like me.
You see, Sandy Koufax went to my high school. Lafayette. He played lots of basketball then too. I saw him as a kid pitching in the Canarsie League. Sand lot ball.
I saw him join the ’55 Dodgers, playing in his home town. He and another rookie, Don Drysdale would leave us for the sunny climes of California and become one of the greatest one-two punches in baseball history.
Sandy and Don
The game I watched turned out to be an epic – beautiful and miserable to behold. It was 2 -2 at the end of regulation 9 innings and seemed like it would never end, the Dodgers desperate for a win and Boston throwing everything they had into the game going for the jugular.
Boston already led 2 games to none and going up three to none in a best of seven series would be a virtual death knell for L.A.
Sometimes there are baseball games that blur the line of amazing and awful, that stretch on interminably and somehow still pulsate with tension. A lead, a tie. An unlikely lead, an unlikelier tie. A World Series game in which the pitcher who allowed a walk-off home run is almost as much a hero — maybe even more of one — than the guy who hit it. “Honestly,” Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger said, “that was miserable. I thought there was a point where the game was never going to end.” His teammate, Kiké Hernández, said: “At the end of the day, as a baseball fan, it was a beautiful game.” And the weird thing was that both of them were right.
It turned out to be the longest game ever played. Eighteen innings. Two full games in one. Seven hours and 20 minutes. Friday and Saturday. It wasn’t over until 3:30 in the morning.
But I just couldn’t turn it off. The tension was palpable.
Prior to last night here had been only three extra inning walk-off games in World Series history. One was before I was born.
I have now seen two of the other three.
The other was game six of the 1956 World Series against the Yankees at Ebbits Field. Jackie Robinson delivered the winning hit in the tenth inning to give Brooklyn a 1- 0 walk-off victory, tying the Series at 3 games apiece. The Yankees would finish the Bums off the next day.
So of the three extra inning walk-off World Series games in my lifetime, I have seen two of them – 62 years apart. I was also a witness to Don Larsen’s perfect game in the ’56 World Series, the only one ever.
Yogi Berra leaps into the arms of Don Larsen after the perfect game.
I have seen the ancients play. Joe DiMaggio. Mickie Mantle. Willie Mays. Hank Aaron as a rookie. Roberto Clemente. Gil Hodges. Roy Campanella. Yogi Berra. Phil Rizzuto and Peewee Reese. White Ford. Johnny Antonelli. Don Newcombe. Ted Williams and Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter.
And so with Dewars in hand at two in the morning, I stuck with it – not knowing I was going to see an epic; not knowing I was going to see history. At 3:20 A.M it was finally over. Dodgers win!
In the end and for the ages it will only say Dodgers 3 Red Sox 2.
Both Sandy Koufax, 40,000 diehards and I were still there at the end.