Allen Remembers Brooklyn Dodgers of Yesteryear
Over the years, they became more than a champion; they became a legend.
When ‘next year’ finally happened and the Brooklyn Dodgers vanquished the Yankees in 1955, the borough felt it was like a member of the family winning.
“The relationship between the Brooklyn Dodgers and their fans was the tightest, most emotional for any team in history,” Brooklynite Maury Allen, the author of “ Brooklyn Remembered: The 1955 Days of the Dodgers ” [Sports Publishing, LLC, $24.95, 216 pp] told NY Sports Day. “All that the player all live within 10-20 minutes of Ebbets Field. They would have rented homes, rented apartments in Bay Ridge, Flatbush, Coney Island and East New York.
“In Brooklyn, there was nothing to see and nothing to care about except the Dodgers.”
So it stands to reason that 50 years later many of the current and former residents of King County would look back fondly on the days of ’Oisk,’ ’Jackie,’ ’Pee-Wee,’ and ‘the Duke.’ But it wasn’t just because of the close relationship the Dodgers had with the fans, in 1955, the team was coming to the end of its era.
“Most of the stars were past their prime,” Allen recalled. “[PeeWee] Reese certainly, [Jackie] Robinson and [Carl] Furrillo. The only guy who was still in their prime was Duke Snider. But the key people during the season were the pitchers. That would be [Don] Newcombe, [Carl] Erskine and Billy Loes. They were also very solid defensively and they went a long way for them to win a bunch of close games.
The dominance on the mound is what Allen feels helped propel ’Dem Bums’ over the hump.
“I think the difference was Johnny Podres winning two games,” he explained. “He was one a lefthander that could master that great Yankee lineup, because he had the best changeup in maybe baseball history and guys like [Mickey] Mantle and Yogi [Berra] struggled to hit the ball hard.”
That helped the ’Boys of Summer’ beat the Yankees in their sixth attempt. Allen explained that one reason the Yankees were so dominate was location.
“Brooklyn Dodger vs. New York Yankee World Series came down to ballparks,” Allen said. “The Dodgers were made for Ebbets field and were a right-handed hitting team except for Duke Snider. They knew how to play the short fences of Ebbets Field. When they got to Yankee Stadium, balls they were hitting that were normally home runs at Ebbets Field were caught in the outfield. That had a tremendous effect of playing the game from the standpoint of emotional disappointment.
“The Dodger players never felt they would be completely appreciated until they beat the Yankees in the World Series. Podres said in my book that it would never have been an emotional victory, if the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Browns or Cleveland Indians for their first World Series.”
The Dodgers never had that problem with New York’s other team.
“The Dodger-Giant rivalry was the most intense because they played 18 games a year against each other, it was very bitter and the personalities got to hate each other,” Allen recalled. “There was a lot of antagonism and a lot of hatred. With Brooklyn winning most of the time from the early 1940s on through 1955, the Giants were jealous and angry with the Dodgers. When they won in 1951, with the Bobby Thompson home run, that capitalized the intensity.”
Even though, Brooklyn was able to make it back to the Series the next season, the players knew that 1955 may have been the last chance Robinson and Reese could win in their illustrious careers.
“The Dodgers wanted to win the ‘55 World Series for Jackie and PeeWee since they felt they wouldn’t have another chance to win,” he said. “Jackie Robinson in 1955 was not a significant player in terms of his play, but he was significant with his standing with the ball club; how much the players respected him and how much they expected from him.”
As it turned out, it was one of the last chances the Borough of Brooklyn had as well, since the team left after the 1957 season. It was a heart-crushing event for the people of King County.
“It was like losing a family relative,” Allen said. “It was about as depressing as an emotional experience you could have in those day, which I think it lasted to this day. It was slightly remedied with the Mets in 1962, but to most people in that era, it was the Brooklyn Dodgers and that team in Los Angeles has nothing to do with them.”
So Allen, who was serving in the Army while the streets were celebrating from Bensonhurst to Bushwick, wrote his first Dodger book - and 36th overall - about that championship season.
“I went back and spoke with every one of those living players and I really did describe the connection of the players to the Borough of Brooklyn,” the author said. “When you look back at something 50 years later, you get to see how important it was to you life, baseball history and all the things you experienced. I think that’s what I tried to capture.”
And that’s when champions become legends.