Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dem Bums

               Baseball may not be the “Sport of Kings,” or the rough and tumble of American football, or the athletic artistry of basketball, but it yet remains America’s Pastime. The definition for pastime is “something that serves to make time pass agreeably; a pleasant means of amusement, recreation, or sport.” That’s a fair description of baseball.

The All-Star Break is about to take place which is roughly the half-way point in the baseball season. The All-Star Game is also called the “Midsummer Classic.” It is held every year, giving the fans an opportunity to pick the best players by vote for both the National League and the American League. The first All-Star Game was held in 1933. The current record of wins for each league is 43 for the National League and 38 for the American League. There has been one tie, and once in 1945 the All-Star Game was cancelled because of WWII. For those of you more astute, you did the math and figured that this would be the 81st year, so how come there have been 81 games won between the two leagues, plus the tie and the missed game – something does not add up. What makes this whole thing cockeyed is that from 1959-62 they played two All-Star Games a year, and you can easily see how this really gets squirrely.

As a kid growing up just outside of New York City (Milford, Connecticut; Ridgewood, New Jersey; Mount Kisco, New York), I was a loyal Brooklyn Dodgers fan. The best part was that the Dodgers finally overcame their arch-enemy, the dreaded New York Yankees, winning the 1955 World Series Title.

The Dodgers acquired their name because of the congestion of street cars (trolleys) that traversed the borough of Brooklyn in the late 1800s. In fact, anyone from Brooklyn was called “a dodger.” The team first took the name the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers. The name was soon shortened to simply the Dodgers. Another nickname for this baseball team, or clubs as they were called in the early days of baseball, was “the Bums.” It’s not certain where this name came from, but English author, Charles Dickens had written a novel about a boy named Oliver who lived on the streets, and was befriended by a street-wise character known as the “Artful Dodger.” Such a person would have been thought of as a bum – thus, the Dodgers were lovingly called “dem bums.”

Branch Rickey
Dodgers GM
“For most of the first half of the 20th century, no Major League Baseball team employed a black player. A parallel system of Negro Leagues developed, but most of the Negro League players were denied a chance to prove their skill before a national audience. Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play Major League baseball in the 20th Century when he played his first major league game on April 15, 1947 as a member of the Dodgers. Robinson's entry into the league was mainly due to General Manager Branch Rickey's efforts. The deeply religious Rickey's motivation appears to have been primarily moral, although business considerations were also present. Rickey was a member of the Methodist Church, the antecedent denomination to the United Methodist Church of today, which was a strong advocate for social justice and active later in the Civil Rights Movement.”
Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey 1947
signing his contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers

The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants both decided to leave New York following the 1957 season. The Dodgers made their new home in Los Angeles, and the Giants made their new home in San Francisco.

I was 9 years old when this took place. I remember being stunned that the Dodgers, my team, was leaving for . . . California? We who lived back East in what is known as New England firmly believed that the Golden State was already so messed up that you all were going to disappear into the Pacific Ocean! We even had geological proof! It was predicted that in 1965 half the state of California would be sheared off by massive earthquake activity, making waterfront property available as far east as Nevada.

I couldn’t imagine my Dodgers leaving Brooklyn. I mean, it just wasn’t right. Distraught as I was, I remember asking my step father, “Can they really move to California?” His answer was hard to bear. “Yes, they can,” he said. I felt such a sense of betrayal! How could I support a team that was now going to be 3000 miles away?

That change affected my life in 1958, coupled with our family’s move to Paris, France in 1960, right in the middle of my best Little League season ever. I was undefeated as a pitcher. My claim to fame! I pitched a 2-hitter one evening which was announced over the local radio station.

Well, I quickly learned that they not only do not play baseball in France (and then Norway ’61-’63), but they didn’t even know what it was. My budding career in baseball came to a screeching halt.

Ah! What might have been. Alas and alack!