A Stop at Willoughby

March 24, 2014

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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.)

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Before 32 and 53…

November 4, 2011

…there was 14.

One of my first memories of the Dodgers was listening to the 1959 World Series with my brother.  Larry Sherry generated a lot of excitement because of his excellent performances coming out of the bullpen which contributed greatly to the Dodgers winning the World Championship.  For position players however, my favorite was Gil Hodges, who proudly wore uniform number 14.  I enjoyed reading the yearbooks that touted his Brooklyn background both on the field and at home.  Along with Duke Snider, Hodges provided much of the power during the 1950’s and his 1001 RBIs were the most for any player in that decade apart from Snider.   He hit 30 or more home runs every season from 1950 to 1954 and over 100 RBIs every year from 1949 to 1955.  He won three Gold Gloves as the Dodger’s first baseman.  On October 10, 1961, I was sad when the New York Mets selected Hodges in the National League Expansion Draft.  He was warmly received as a hometown favorite upon his return to New York.

Here is some news out of Cooperstown, NY as reported by ESPN.com:

Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Ron Santo and Luis Tiant are among 10 candidates for the baseball Hall of Fame who will be on the Veterans Committee ballot next month.

Former players Ken Boyer, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Allie Reynolds as well as former Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi and former Athletics owner Charlie Finley also will be on the Golden Era ballot, which will be voted on by the 16-member committee on Dec. 5 at the winter meetings in Dallas.

This year’s committee will consider candidates from the so-called “Golden Era,” from 1947-72.

An eight-time All-Star, Hodges helped the Dodgers win seven pennants and two World Series, then managed the New York Mets to their first World Series title in 1969. His 63.4 percent vote on his final BBWAA ballot in 1983 is the highest percentage for a player who didn’t enter the Hall in a later year.

Those voting on their Hall of Fame chances include Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tom Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Don Sutton and Billy Williams, executives Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gene Michael and Al Rosen (retired) and veteran reporters Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell and Dave Van Dyck.

Candidates must receive votes on 75 percent of the ballot to be elected. Those elected will be inducted on July 22 along with any players voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Jan. 9.

The last few years have seen an up-swell in support for Hodges to be voted into the Hall of Fame.  Hopefully the veterans committee will do what the BBWAA failed to accomplish and honor this great Dodger.


Looking through blue colored glasses

October 22, 2011

Until the last couple of years due to the McCourt meltdown, we Dodger fans have always tended to look at our team as one of the premiere teams in MLB history.  Despite the fact that a Dodger almost never appeared on one of the daily recap shows depicting the best plays of the day, we seemed to think our players were somehow more gifted than those of other teams.  And overall, there may have been some merit to that type of thinking.  But in the past few years, we looked at our young core as something really special.  This year, it turns out that Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw actually delivered on that promise.  But the others really have not risen above the rest of the MLB pack.

That brings me to the concern that Oldbrooklynfan has about the St. Louis Cardinals winning the World Series.  A few years back, I remember Vin Scully remarking that over the entire history of both teams, they were actually tied in wins against each other.  I don’t know how much that has changed since and I am not anal enough to spend the time to look it up.  The point is, as Mr. Pierre has pointed out, is that both the Cards and Dodgers have won 22 pennants but the Cardinals have won 10 championships to the Dodgers 6.

Our heroes include Zack Wheat, Dazzy Vance,  Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton and many others.  Currently, Kemp and Kershaw are star players for LA.

If we bled Cardinal red instead of Dodger blue, we could point out that history has not ignored the St. Louis team with players such as
Rogers Hornsby, Jim Bottomley, Dizzy Dean, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Bruce Sutter, Ozzie Smith, among others.  Now days, they have Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman providing the power.

Both of these teams have a long and glorious history in the National League.  As Dodger fans, we look to the farm teams and hope that our prospects will pan out.  But in many years, our minor leagues have only provided a few pitchers.  I can’t remember that last power hitter other than Kemp that has made a big splash.  We Dodger fans like to think with our heart and not our head.  Looking around the league, many teams have brought up premiere hitters who are now performing well in the MLB and are featured on the web gems on a regular basis.

Maybe thinking with our hearts is not a bad thing.  Like Danny Kaye sang, “They may be bums but they’re my bums.”


Down to the Wire

September 28, 2011

In another of one of those “there is no excuse for that” kind of games, the Dodgers took us on a roller coaster of emotions ride last night, losing in ten innings 7-6 after leading 6-1 going into the bottom of the 10th with two outs and the bases empty.  It was one of those losses where I am completely fed up, want to shut off the laptop, and put some mindless drivel on the DVR.  Alas, there are deadlines to meet and another OTD post must be published.

Prince Fielder decided to have his first three home run game yesterday, tying Matt Kemp for the league lead.  Hopefully, Kemp will reciprocate and come up with a couple of his own today.  Accomplishing that difficult, but not impossible feat, would put Kemp in the elusive 40/40 club and make him number two behind Tommy Davis for the most RBIs in a season by a Los Angeles Dodger.

Ted Lilly is on the mound tonight for the last game of the season.

This Day in Dodgers History

September 28, 1997 – With his 40th home runs, catcher Mike Piazza sets a single season Los Angeles Dodger record. Duke Snider holds the franchise record slugging 43 round-trippers for Brooklyn in 1956.