A Stop at Willoughby


While waiting for the next Dodgers game amongst the din of 24/7 sports channels on cable TV and hundreds of Web Sites, whose editors are imploring their writers to “push!, push!, push!” to file their stories and bring eyeballs to their screens, I got off the train at Willoughby.

The quiet was deafening as my feet alighted on the wooden planks of the station. The Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, that had been my constant companion, was missing from my pocket. At the side of the depot building, there was a curious booth, made of glass, with a double-hinged, glass door.   Inside, was an antique telephone with a fixed mouthpiece and separate handset, the type that I remember seeing once in a Humphrey Bogart film noir movie.

Across the street, the business district started with a row of shops.  On the other side of the F. W. Woolworth Company and Rexall stores, was an Allied Radio shop with some noise coming from a speaker mounted in the ceiling of its vestibule. As I got closer, I recognized the voice of Red Barber, that I had heard once in the Ken Burns “Baseball” documentary: “…and Vic Raschi, coming back for his second start.  And now for the Dodgers, the batting order, again, goes with Captain and shortstop Pee Wee Reese, leading off. With a right-hander going for New York, manager Shotton goes with his left hand hitters, which means, third baseman Johnny Jorgensen is hitting number two. Jorgensen at third, batting second. Snider in center field, batting third. Robinson, at second base, hitting fourth. Batting fifth, and in right field is Gene Hermanski – Carl Furillo is still out with that injured right groin, he just can’t go.  Hodges at first base, is hitting sixth. Marvin Rackley, who came out of the second game of the World Series… with a pulled muscle in his back, as you can recall, is the surprise nomination… Manager Shotton, at noon… talked it over, and thought that (Luis) Olmo would be his starting left fielder, but Rackley apparently told him he was all right, and Manager Shotton has changed, and is going with Rackley in left field.  Roy Campanella is catching… and Rex Barney is the pitcher.”

What in the heck was going on?  Where were all the foreign cars?   Why was there a 12″ Muntz TV in the window of a store which,  along with its neighbors,  closed years ago?   Why did that sign at the train depot say “Willoughby”,  and why was I compelled to exit the train there?  Most of all,  why was Red Barber reading off a list of Dodgers that had died years ago?

I vaguely remembered reading somewhere, maybe baseball-reference.com, that those players started in a World Series game decades ago.  As I pondered this,  a neatly dressed,  dark haired, young man,  wearing a business suit and smoking a cigarette,  opened the door,  and seeing my quizzical expression,  said “It is October 9th, 1949 Mr.  O’Connell.   Welcome to Willoughby… and the Twilight Zone.”

(Click on the above link to Red Barber to hear game 5 of the 1949 World Series.)


84 Responses to A Stop at Willoughby

  1. What a wonderful post! I love it!!!

  2. Shirley O'Connell says:

    That’s my son Brian, I am his greatest fan! His ability to write is exceptional, always leaving me in AWE! I hate to admit I am jealous of his talent, but so happy to be able to enjoy
    his love of entertaining us with his wit.

    • 32and53fan says:

      And your use of hyperbole and flattery leaves me feeling mildly embarrassed.

      Now that you have commented here, why not share with the readers here, your experience with Don Drysdale at a grocery store in Panorama City fifty years ago? Or with Sandy Koufax at the bank in Granada Hills?

  3. JhallWally says:

    Absolutely incredible…. I wish we could go back to a slower and gentler time….. Ahh, Willoughby….

  4. Dodger4life says:

    Very creative 32and53fan… Nice work!

  5. Memories of Yesteryear. Is that how they say it? The team I grew up with, the team I couldn’t desert. I love reading and hearing about these players that were with the team when I became a fan. It brings back all my childhood. I most likely began rooting for them because they represented Brooklyn, my home town but it must’ve became a habit because I kept rooting for them when they left for Los Angeles.
    It’s amazing, to this day, they’re still my favorite team.

    • 32and53fan says:

      I’m glad the post brought back childhood memories for you Joe. The 1949 Dodgers must be as fresh in your mind as the 1962 Dodgers are in mine. Hearing Red Barber and Mel Allen call that game really did feel like we had been transported back in time 65 years. While we younger Dodgers fans are aware of the superstars like Reese, Hodges, Robinson, Campanella and Snider, they seemed like icons rather then real players. Black and white photos instead of motion pictures in living color.

      The broadcast reminded us that they were real by describing a Reese to Robinson to Hodges double play, or a circus catch by Snider leaping high up the wall to take away a certain extra base hit.

      I’m pretty sure that guys like Jorgensen, Hermanski, Rackley, Olmo and Barney are familiar to you, but this may have been the first time some of us here have heard of them. I, for one, have never heard Vin Scully mention Marv Rackley or Luis Olmo. Of course, this was a year before he joined the Dodgers broadcast team and maybe those guys were gone by 1950.

      It is interesting that while all the guys mentioned were exceptionally talented ballplayers, the former group have been immortalized and will live in the hearts of fans forever, the latter, though given a line or two in the record books, are really only remembered by those who saw, or heard them play.

      • I followed the team mostly on radio, We didn’t get a T.V. until that Christmas in 1949. I only went occasionally to Ebbets Field with my family, friends and with the PAL. In later years with my high school classmates. Yes, they’re wonderful memories. Like few others, I found, I could never favor another team and root against them.
        I tried my best to keep up with them after they left, which led to today. Incidentally that was a great post you made above, 32 and 53 fan.

  6. lbirken says:

    Funny how the memory takes us back to times we perceive as better than the present. Makes you wonder how the present will be perceived 50 years down the road.

  7. Dodger4life says:

    Well, I was incorrect in my early guesstimate that Guerrero would be the starting second baseman. He was just optioned to AAA, in order to add Crawford to the roster.
    I wonder where Arruebaruena will end up? Seems like having them in the same place could become a future benefit???

  8. grizzy says:

    This news about Kemp being activated scares me, frankly. I know the Dodgers keep saying they won’t rush him, but this seems a little fast to me.
    It’ll sure be interesting to see how the season will unfold for the Dodgers and Puig. Even the Cubans say he’s different and if he keeps screwing up on the base paths more than one person is going to be pissed off. To this point I get the impression they are treating him gently. What if Bowa and Kent were still here?

  9. 32and53fan says:

    Happy birthday Mr. Pierre. Your contributions to this blog make OTD a much more enjoyable place. I hope the Dodgers can help you celebrate your birthday until November.

  10. enchantedbeaver says:

    Surprising as bad as the Angels pitching staff is that they wouldn’t claim either Guerra or Rosin or both. I see they let Blanton go. Minnesota let Guerrier go a few days ago. Both great acquisitions by Ned. League and Wright will go down as great ones too. Why we’d keep them over Withrow is beyond me, especially League.

    You know, Ned’s made so many poor pitching acquisitions through signs, waivers or trades over his tenure that I defy anyone to come up with a comprehensive list without looking back at the rosters.

    • 32and53fan says:

      The radio guys keep saying that League still has great stuff. Maybe he needs a sports psychologist to fix his head so he can regain command. If he can’t do that, and soon, DFA his ass and write off the $14 million or so that is left on his idiotic contract. A guy that throws 95 but has no clue where the ball is going is about as useful as tits on a bull.

  11. trublu4ever says:

    Kersh is going to miss his start….back pain.

  12. colliethec says:

    Wut up folks? I hope everybody is well. Just checking in on all of you. Hoping to be able to chat on here a little more this year. I miss the old days of ITD and blogging with all of you. Work has been jamming me up for the last 2 years. Hoping it’s turned the corner now as a major project that has been the main source of this is coming to an end. Kersh being out really is a drag but it’s only a back muscle so it hopefully will be ok. Interesting that He, Gonzo, and Puig all had back issues around the time of this trip Down Under. I still say fire Conte!!!

  13. trublu4ever says:

    Happy Birthday Jhall and Oldbrooklyn fan…wish you both many, many more!!!

  14. Thanks for the birthday wishes on this my 76th birthday. Happy birthday to you, Jhall.

  15. lbirken says:

    Kershaw signs a big contract, does not look so sharp in Spring Training and then develops an injury. Kemp has a big year, signs a big contract, and follows that up with two injury riddled years. Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols sign big contracts and then have down years. Brandon League signs a big contract, looks good for a while but then fades away. Juan Uribe signs a big contract, looks awful for two seasons but has a decent enough season in the last year of that contract that awards him with another deal. A. Jones signs a big contract and never produces. I am sure we can all come up with dozens more just like this. Yes, some of these contracts looked bad at the time, at least financially but no one could have predicted the physical (or mental) issues that followed. Age probably is a factor in some cases and there is a big risk in signing any player to a multi year deal. But how can one not see a connection to big contracts and the problems that follow with so much information?

    • JhallWally says:

      I hear you Birk… That’s why the Cardinals have been so successful… They have a great farm system… Incidently, the old Dodger way… Geez!!!

  16. messagebear says:

    I hope it’s this kind of big contract outcome that breaks the Guggenheim baseball investment. I hate the Guggenheims, their overbidding for the franchise and their collusion with Frank McCourt. Feel the same way about big-mouth Magic Johnson. And how about that big cable deal? How many fans are deprived of watching their team on TV for the coming decade?

    • lbirken says:

      The Dodgers have sold over 3 million tickets before opening day. That means they have the money already as well as all the TV and other media money. I think it would take a lot to break Guggenheim.

  17. crzblue says:

    Great job Brian! Agree with your beautiful mom.
    Happy birthday OBF!! 🎉🎉🎈⚾️💙 have a Bluetiful day Mr. Pierre!!

  18. nellyjune says:

    Happy Birthday to Oldbrooklynfan and Jhall!! I hope you are both having a fabulous day!!

  19. JhallWally says:

    Thanks everyone for the Birthday greetings.

    It was a nice day…. Go Dodgers…

  20. 32and53fan says:

    I’m listening to the Dodgers warmup show on KLAC and waiting for the game to start.

    Selling 3 million tickets before opening day is remarkable. MLB and the Dodgers sure know how to make money. I was thinking of buying a yearbook since this year’s edition features Vin Scully and includes a 21 page article. On the team web site, it looked like you have to subscribe to their magazine for $40, which includes the yearbook. Additional copies of the yearbook are $20. It is not clear if one can just buy one without the subscription.

    I dedicate this series to Marv Rackley. I was surprised to learn that he is still alive and 92 years old, the same as my mother.

  21. enchantedbeaver says:

    Guerrero better learn 2B quickly. Be a long year with Turner and Gordon.

    • trublu4ever says:

      I agree.

    • JhallWally says:

      🙂 It is a mess at 2nd base….

      Of course the powers that be and Ned decided not to resign Mark Ellis… Pinching pennies there but blowing it on a useless reliever(League)… I am not sure they really are that baseball saavy….

  22. enchantedbeaver says:

    Crawford needs to go back on paternity leave.

    Seriously, when Kemp comes back, Crawford better be the one who’s sitting.

  23. enchantedbeaver says:

    Hey Tru! How have you been doing? Thought I was going to be talking to myself tonight.

    Not that I couldn’t or haven’t before.

    • trublu4ever says:

      I’m okay. A little allergy problem but, I’m finally getting over it. Has been a long, boring winter….so glad baseball is back.

  24. trublu4ever says:

    Hanley is ready! Two bombs tonight!

  25. enchantedbeaver says:

    Think Greinke ran out of gas. Angels have a pretty damn good hitting line-up. Sill can’t pitch worth a crap though. Dipoto has no more concept of how to build a winner than Ned does.

    Or is it Moreno?

    • enchantedbeaver says:

      Hey Sparks! How’s it going?

      Thought I’d better stop in tonight and get my spring training in before the real season starts.

      • Hey Beav!! Hope you’re doing great. Good to see you getting in your ST 🙂 I’m working on it too, but my stamina isn’t where it ought to be yet 🙂

        I’m recovering from a bout of pneumonia. But I had to get my Dodger fix. Thought I’d comment a bit, and then go back to my “nest” in front of the TV. A win tonight will go far in helping me to feel better.

        • enchantedbeaver says:

          Sorry to hear that – hope you get to feeling better soon!

          I was hoping I could work on some of my biting comments tonight, but so far I’ve played to contact and haven’t really had to stretch things out at all. I’ve got some work to do to round into shape.

          • I am absolutely certain it will not take you very long to be in mid-season shape. A few more innings like this top of the 7th and you’ll be right there.

          • enchantedbeaver says:

            Might if it counted, but I can’t get too worked up about a guy that’s headed down to the minors anyway.

            If it was League it’d be a different story though. 🙂

  26. enchantedbeaver says:

    Think Trout ever has a legitimate chance of hitting .400?

  27. enchantedbeaver says:

    Greinke did alright tonight. He ought to be good for a W in PetCo.

  28. The wheels are falling off Zach’s little blue wagon. Think I’m going to shut it down for now. See you all tomorrow!

  29. trublu4ever says:

    Game is getting ugly now!

  30. enchantedbeaver says:

    So glad we’re keeping Butera instead of FedEx.

    Did they really think he’d have trouble clearing waivers?

    • JhallWally says:

      Puig must be ruffling some feathers…. He really is a loose cannon. Dildon needs to put the brakes on him… There is no Puig in team…. He might be dynamic, but, it takes a team playing fundamentally sound to win a WS.

  31. kahliforni says:

    I’m thinking the Dodgers’ bench will be a bigger detriment to winning than Yasiel Puig. What the hell was Ned doing all winter?

  32. I had a good birthday,but struggled with MLB.TV, last night . I’m glad that the next two games are on regular (MLBN) television and the season starts on Sunday when I’ll be watching on MLB Extra innings the rest of the season.

  33. lbirken says:

    Time for baseball season to start (again) now that UCLA is out of the NCAA tourney. So Stan Kasten is frustrated at the situation with the SportsnetLA and pretty much wipes his hands of the problem by saying the Dodgers have no say in what happens. Perhaps, but please spare me the fake tears. The Dodgers and TWC had to know they would get a lot of resistance to the channel and probably believed that by this time all the other systems would be in tow. But all the Dodgers have now is a lot of unhappy fans.

    And if you are thinking Guerrero is a better choice at second base, he already hurt himself.

  34. grizzy says:

    What’s with the Dodger site? All talk about the good stuff, but no mention of errors and unearned runs. Leading to a loss.

  35. oldbrooklynfan says:

    I enjoyed last night’s game on MLB Network and am anxious to be watching most of the season on MLB Extra Innings which I purchase every year. Now all there’s left to enjoy is the Dodgers getting into the World Series and possibly winning it. I hope you people get all your problems straightened out with SportnetLA.

  36. enchantedbeaver says:

    So I’m watching the free game last night on MLB and at precisely 10:00 PM in the top of the ninth inning with Kenley pitching, poof, I’m all of a sudden unauthorized to get the game, presumably because I’m blacked out even though I’m 300 miles away from L.A. What the hell kind of crap is that?

  37. grizzy says:

    Kershaw going to the DL is a hell of a way to start the season. We all knew there would be injuries along the way,but I do not think anyone would have guessed this one. Well… we were going to need the back end of the rotation to step up for the season to be successful, and it might as well be now.

  38. grizzy says:

    Starting to resent the BS coming out of the Dodger site. If Haren’s pitching is crap, say so.

  39. oldbrooklynfan says:

    tt was lousy to find out that Kershaw was on the DL but somehow I think it’s best to have it happen now, if it had to happen. Then we can start it up again.

  40. Today’s game is supposed to be a free broadcast on ESPN; hope that my cable company doesn’t screw up and pre-empt it in any way.

  41. Nellyjune says:

    Happy Opening Day (Round 2) Dodger Fans! Happy Birthday Dodgereric!

    Let’s Go Dodgers, Let’s Go!

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