Friday, April 22, 2011

Bring Back the Lost Boys of Brooklyn

For a sport relentlessly haunted by the hormonally-imbalanced ghosts of its past, enter a team of ghosts who could actually do some good. I refer of course to Dem Bums of Flatbush Avenue, who, like Tolkien's Dead Men of Dunharrow, are cursed to restless disquiet. The dazzling play of Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and Duke Snider are confined now to the memories of antediluvian Brooklynites who watched their team dominate the National League in the 1940s and 50s, often – save for one spectacular October in 1955 -- to end up losing the World Series to the Yankees.

The ghost of Gil Hodges has seen better days.

Walter O'Malley moved the team to Los Angeles in 1958, seeking a new stadium and new revenues in a growing market. John Sexton wrote a piece in the Huffington Post in 2009 in which he called that moment "The Birth of Distrust":

The unraveling of our civilization can be traced to that point -- all of our country's sorrow and defeats and all of our self-doubt and mistrust, became inevitable then. Political assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, the collapse of confidence in our leaders (first public, then ecclesiastical, and finally everywhere) -- it all became possible. If the blessed and beloved Dodgers could leave Brooklyn three years after the great miracle occurred, what theory, what tale, what conjecture was too outrageous to be believed?

With Major League Baseball taking over day-to-day operations of the Dodgers this week and the team's ownership status in a state of flux, now seems as good a time as any to seek a resolution that would return the venerable franchise to its rightful home. Move the Brooklyn Dodgers Back to Brooklyn, writes Tom Van Riper in a piece for yesterday. He notes that the timing is right: "Fifty-four years after the Dodgers headed west, the cities' rolls have reversed. Los Angeles, with its smog, bum economy, suffocating state debt and off the charts traffic, is the past. Brooklyn, with its hipsters, gentrification, revitalized brownstone neighborhoods, reformed Coney Island waterfront and soon-to-open Barclay's Center, is the future."

Yous weisenheimers wanna go get a pizza pie after Dem Bums win?

What a story it would be. Midcentury baseball in New York is the stuff of legend. I know the Golden Age of Three Big New York Clubs through books and films, among which I and many include Mickey Mantle and Phil Pepe's My Favorite Summer, 1956 and, Ken Burns' definitive and sublime Baseball. What it must have been like, to be a baseball fan in New York during that time. Could it be like that again? If the Nets, of all franchises, can draw fans and make money in Brooklyn, surely the borough's much-missed avatars can do the same. It's hard to imagine anything more electrifying and just for the New York Game.