By MICHAEL SHAPIRO
When you grow up in the Brooklyn I knew, which was pretty much the worst possible time – just missing the Dodgers and years before it got so cool – your memories of the place are almost always flat, dull and gray.
My Brooklyn, circa 1952 to 1974, (from birth to graduation from Brooklyn College) was a place you were supposed to leave, for college, Staten Island, Nassau County, Jersey or if you were exceedingly lucky and unusually ambitious, “the city.” And yet, years later, there was still a sense that it all could have been so much better. Brooklyn did not have to be the place where there never seemed much of anything to do except to talk about all the good things that waited to be done when you finally bade the place goodbye.
The Dodgers had a lot to do with that, especially if, like me, you’d never been to Ebbets Field and so could only imagine a time when the little ballpark was always crowded and the days always sunny and the Dodgers, the sainted Bums, always beloved. We who arrived too late had no splendid not sure of this word. Splendid? Ironic, but not quite sure….memories of hot dogs turning green as they boiled their way through the second game of an August doubleheader, or the acrid smell from the Ebbets Field bathrooms.
As it happens, some years ago, I set about trying to live those happy years vicariously by doing what writers do and recreating that time through other peoples’ stories. I learned, not surprisingly, the reality was not what we'd come to remember.
To begin, we have come to assume that the faithful adored always, despite all the many years when the team, the bums, the “daffiness boys” languished in the second division and attendance was limited to those without gainful employment. Actually, their departure was more painful because, while the Dodgers had spent much of their long history being quite bad, from 1946-1956 they were were surely the best team in the National League and the second best in baseball. Yes, they lost to the Yankees four times in the World Series, but they had five trips to the series in ten years. And one, there-is-a-God world championship, in 1955.
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