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Monday, June 18, 2012

Bob's Books - Bums No More by Stewart Wolpin

Bums No More, by Stewart Wolpin, is about THAT season. In the first forty World Series’, the Brooklyn Dodgers were 0-2.  And they were bad for a lot of those seasons, usually finishing in the second division. Larry MacPhail moved into the front office and righted the ship, with the team losing the 1941 World Series. A fellow named Jackie Robinson joined the team in 1947 and the Glory Years of Brooklyn baseball were underway. Between 1947 and 1956, the Dodgers appeared in six World Series. All were against the cross-town Yankees, and all were losses. Except for one. As the beloved once-Bums annually came up short in the Fall Classic, Brooklynites cried out, “Wait ‘til next year!” 1955 was finally Next Year.

Johnny Podres won 136 games for Brooklyn and Los
Angeles, including game two on his birthday. But none
were bigger than his complete game outing in the finale.
Subtitled The Championship Season of 1955, this book recounts the year that Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Johnny Podres, Robinson and the other Boys of Summer won that elusive World Series. The first chapter gives a primer on the Dodgers. The stage is set for spring training in Vero Beach and the magical season is under way. First and foremost, this relatively slim book (130 pages, counting the index) is jam packed with photographs. The surfeit of pictures alone makes this book worthwhile for the Brooklyn Dodgers fan.

Ebbets Field, Jackie Robinson watching the Giants celebration of Bobby Thomson’s ‘Shot Heard Round the World’ as Ralph Branca walks away, head hanging, Duke Snider leaping in center field, lots of clubhouse shots, Sandy Amaros’ catch, fans in line for tickets, parades, celebrations: there are over 100 illustrations (all black and white, of course). It is a treasure trove of Brooklyn and the Dodgers in their lone season as World Series champs. If you believe in the magical aura of baseball in the ‘old days’ before overpriced superstars, and you have a feeling for the bond between fans and their home town teams back then, the picture of Ebbets Field on Pee Wee Reese night will give you goose bumps.

After a LONG run, Sandy Amoros grabs what might be the most important
catch in World Series history. Manager Walter Alston had just inserted
Amoros into the game as a defensive replacement that inning.

The writing does not come up short, either. You get a look at Walter Alston’s relationship with the team (he and Jackie Robinson were not friends). And you sense the looming storm as the Dodgers receive permission to play seven games in Jersey City. Only two seasons after Johnny Podres records the last out in game seven, the team would be the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The book contains many comments and remembrances from Brooklyn fans, most notably, Larry King. You get a sense of what the Dodgers meant to community and how Brooklyn lived and died with ‘Dem Bums.’ It ends with borough president John Cashmore talking about a new stadium and saying, “The Dodgers must never leave Brooklyn.” Well, they did.
As a fan of Dodgers history, I really liked this look at the 1955 season.  It’s an easy read and doesn’t take very long. But it captures the relationship between Brooklyn and the Dodgers and gives a look at the year the heartbreak ended: For a little while, at least. And you absolutely cannot beat the photo library.

Here’s a link to the New York Times story on game seven. The first sentence sums it up well.

Quite possibly, there has never been a more joyous
moment on the baseball field

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