50 Years in Los Angeles

The folks in Los Angeles are celebrating 50 years of Dodgers baseball in California. That's one way to look at it. The other way, of course, is that it was 50 years - a half a century - that the Dodgers left Brooklyn and the Big Apple.

While some celebrate, there are others who continue to mourn. We are on the cusp  on this one, as in 1957, we were turning 18, had just graduated from high school, and were to leave home that September just about the time the Brooklyn Dodgers left home. Neither of us - this writer and the Dodgers - would ever be back except for brief visits.  

The Dodgers left, and we did too.  

Baseball historians say it was for the money. And for a while it was. But the Mets got a new ballpark and truth be known have done quite well financially in the Big Apple.  

While Robert Moses gets the heat for not agreeing with Walter O'Malley's desires (Moses wanted the Dodgers on Long Island where the Mets are and O'Malley wanted to stay in Brooklyn), the move was more than that. St. Louis was then the far western frontier of baseball then.  

The country was growing and most of the growth would be in the west, the southwest and the south. Mr. O'Malley was accused of many things, but never being dumb. He was to be baseball's Moses - the biblical one, not the New York building czar.  Walter O'Malley led his team out of bondage and into the promised land.  

He also knew travel was being born into new forms. Telecommunications too. Cities as well. Old cities were changing and center cities were to become the home of immigrants, minorities and folks who were not then (and maybe not now) known for spending their excess income (if they had any) on ballpark stuff at the then much less current prices of enjoying the game that Abner Doubleday and Tommy Lasorda invented.   

Mr. O'Malley knew that he had to take the product where the spending  people were going to be and he, like any smart businessman, wanted to get their first and with the most.  

The world was changing and if you follow the Walter O'Malley doctrine, you didn't have to wait for an obscure writer named Alvin Toffler to write books on the future decades later.   

Still in all, we have missed the "old" Brooklyn Dodgers, their style, their history, the earthiness of it all. The old Brooklyn Dodgers had all the personality of the city.  

Whenever we hear George Gerschwin's Rhapsody in Blue, the genuine bible of the cacaphony of America, we can easily and spontaneously visualize the Brooklyn Dodgers - the sounds of horns and railroad traffic, the din of congestion, the soaring and also the plaintive sounds.   

LA has its good points to be sure. But it ain't Brooklyn. You can hardly call the Dodgers "dem bums" anymore in coiffured, suntanned LA. When you think of the LA Dodgers you think of Hollywood. Bundling up for a ballgame means taking a sweater not a muffler. You never see earmuffs at a home Dodgers game.   

We wrote an affectionate piece on Steve Sax when he was traded to the Yankees entitled "Good Luck, Ya Bum," and California born and bred Saxie got mightily incensed, enough so we thought it might turn violent. Sax did not know that being called a bum in New Yorkese was a term of endearment.  

He thought we were "dissing" him. (Going on 15 years - or is it 20? - Sax himself is forgotten by many and we're still writing, and still offending folks, sometimes unintentionally and occasionally with purpose.)   

Nobody made the transition better than Vince Scully who was eloquent both before and after the move. And like Tommy Lasorda and us old writers, still at it.   

In the move, Californians Duke Snider and Don Drysdale were going home. Sandy Koufax would have been good anyplace, but he absolutely raced to the Hall of Fame in the pitcher friendly fields out west.   

There would be no raucous Hilda Chester, no cigar chewing Doc Griffin, no Brooklyn symphony, no outfield fence advertising out west. And, perhaps most sadly of all, the West Coast fans were never to get to see Roy Campanella, maybe the greatest catcher of them all - after an accident on an icey road shockingly paralyzed him in the winter of the move.  

Celebrate all you want, you West Coast fans. You are entitled. But you will never know what you missed.