By 1966, what had once been the Brooklyn Dodgers had been in four World Series since Walter O’Malley had told the city of New York to kiss off and moved his team lock, stock and funny accents to Los Angeles, dragging the Giants along with him to some podunk town up north from La La Land.
The lovable Bums were wearing shades now and some of them were guests on genuine Hollywood television shows and stuff. The difference between Don Drysdale and Donna Reed was that she could pretend to be a modest every day homemaker and he would knock down his mother if she crowded the plate but there they were.
The Dodgers had immediate success in their new home . All kinds of Californians, some even born there, filled one of the weirdest ball parks ever, the Coliseum, to watch major league ball and, after a hiccup ,as they say in the board rooms these days, in 1958 they started winning lots of games. They did that in Brooklyn too but not so many people were present. In 1959, parity, a thing that many people say they like until it happens, struck big time baseball. Mediocrity ruled. The Dodgers caught the reigning National League Champion Milwaukee Braves and then passed them by winning the playoffs. That qualified them to advance to the World Series against—what? Not the Yankees?—the Chicago White Sox. Their season record was 88-68 after finishing off the Braves while the Chicago team, called the Go-Go Sox at the time, won the American League pennant by five games over Cleveland with Casey Stengel‘s Yanks 15 games out in third place. Those Yankees were aging but not as much as the Dodgers were. Carl Furillo (37) played 50 games. Gil Hodges was 35 but still clubbed 25 homers and drove in 80 runs. Duke Snider was still pretty good at 32 but this was clearly a team in transition. A 26 year old rookie named Maury Wills played 82 games at shortstop, stole 7 bases and provided a spark. Drysdale was 17-13, 1955 World Series MVP Johnny Podres was 14-9, and 23 year old Sandy Koufax was 8-6 with a 4.06 earned run average.
Then, in 1963, they really hit the big time. They won 99 games, swept the Yankees in the World Series, and enjoyed playing in their new yard, which was really meant for baseball although many of the displaced people of Chavez Ravine did not agree. Koufax was 25-5, Drysdale 19-17, and Willie and Tommy Davis were kicking ass. There was another hiccup in ’64, but then the ’65 team added Lou Johnson and Claude Osteen, scratched out a pennant over the Giants and beat the Twins in a seven game World Series. In Hollywood tradition, they performed a re-run in 1966, edging the Giants again with basically the same cast. But then….there appeared new darlings in baseball land, the Baltimore Orioles. Led by National League expatriate Frank Robinson and their own cast of tough pitchers named Dave McNally, Jim Palmer and Wally Bunker, Baltimore swept the Dodgers in the Series, But then…the Dodgers toured Japan after the season and Maury Wills left the team with what he said was an injury only to be found playing the banjo somewhere in Hawaii. In no time, Maury Wills was traded to Pittsburgh for two guys the Pirates didn’t need, Bob Bailey and Gene Michael. But then…the immortal Koufax, after his spectacular run of Cy Young seasons, suddenly announced his retirement. Just as suddenly, the Dodgers were ordinary again for quite a while.
Is this how it is going to be for all of us who are floundering here on Earth with this human killing virus that, unlike the troubles of a baseball team, is likely to endure for a very long time? Are there people that we know, friends and family, that we may never see again? That’s already true for many of us. Do things seem to be completely out of our control? Little things, like a walk to town to get the mail or a newspaper, are now difficult if not impossible. Are we safe? Do we know when this will end? Or if it will end? Some things might change for the better. Will we take our relationships with each other more seriously? Will we value things differently as it becomes more apparent what is really important? I don’t think that the superficial world of desire for material crap will survive this very well. Maybe that is what has the president and all of the quadruple chinned excuses for leaders in such a tizzy. And maybe folks kike me who get so wrapped up in things like baseball or whatever it is will gain some perspective. Here’s hoping.