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.)