First, forgive my absence from these pages for so long however Wendy and I did take a short cruise punctuated, sad to say, by some hospitalization for me. Thankfully, I am on the mend!
Today is true confessions day and there will be a lot of old friends rolling in their graves to learn what I have to say.
From the time I was a small child I was a Brooklyn Dodger fan, big time!
My first recollection was the Mickey Owen dropped 3rd strike in the 1941 World Series but my interest really was piqued in 1947 when Jackie Robinson was the first Black to play in the major leagues in the 20th century and played for “my team”.
It was both great and terrible to be a Dodger fan during the 40s and 50s. They had a marvellous team, dubbed the Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn, and they won several pennants with Jackie, Pee Wee, Gil, Billy, Campy, Carl, Gene and the Duke and some fine pitchers. Unhappily, they continually lost the World Series to the Yankees and that wasn’t remedied until 1955.
All through those years one of my great friends was Robin Heather, a golf pal, a beer drinking buddy, and a fellow history buff. Robin, or “Birdie” as we called him, was a devoted New York Giants fan.
Until he and I started to fight about baseball, I had never much thought about the Giants but concentrated on the Cards as the enemy. That all changed with Robin – and Willie Mays.
We did have in common a love of the Habs but that never quite took the place of the baseball feud.
Probably the worst moment in my life, sports wise, was 1951 when the Giants came back from 13 1/2 games to tie the Dodgers on the last day then beat them in a three game playoff. The Bums would have lost on the last game of the season had not Jackie hit a homer in the last of the 11th to beat the Phillies.
It was not, of course, just the loss of the playoffs but the way it happened. With the Dodgers leading by two runs in the bottom of the ninth, Bobby Thompson homered for the Giants and that was that. It would have been bad enough had I not been sitting in my car with Robin listening to the game on the radio.
It was murder and for the rest of his life I would hear about it every time we met! The only thing I had to counter this was that many years later he and I were fishing, and in landing a huge trout that I had hooked, Robin blew it and knocked the fish off the line and, I can say, he never heard the end of that.
In the late 50s both the Giants and the Dodgers moved to the West Coast, San Francisco and Los Angeles respectively. I managed to maintain my allegiance and was particularly delighted in 1962 when the Dodgers beat the Yankees in four straight.
Somehow, though, the rivalry with the Giants was just not the same. I no longer hated them and in fact would attend their games on visits to the City By The Bay.
As time passed further, I found that I was losing interest in my beloved Dodgers. No longer were they called “The Bums” and no longer were they a club that had any degree of romanticism about it. After Sandy and Junior left, they were just like any other ball club.
Last year I had it. The Dodgers had the best team in the National League. They beat San Francisco during the season like they owned them. My interest was restored as it looked to me as if I would, once more, see a Dodger’s World Series victory. When during mid season, I caught a game where Vin Scully was the announcer, it was like I had died and gone to heaven. The old days had magically been reincarnated.
Then they blew it. These multimillionaires with their flashy cars and flashier girlfriends simply could not do justice to the money that had been spent on them nor the fans who’d been so faithful. They choked and they didn’t seem to care. One could almost hear that high-pitched scream from Jackie in his grave.
The San Francisco Giants, of course, won the World Series and did it in the American League park with its idiotic designated hitter rule and did it coming back three games to two. It was a gutsy performance by a team that had no business being there.
It ate at me. This was the kind of team I have always loved. One that always tried; one that always cared, win or lose.
Here it comes.
Two weeks ago in San Francisco airport, I marched into a sports store and bought, are you ready for this, a San Francisco Giants baseball cap which I now regularly wear.
Birdie would chuckle but he would understand.
A final sports note. I think my really and truly worst sports experience was in 1967 when I was in Toronto and watched the hated Maple Leafs beat the Canadiens for the Stanley Cup. There is but one redeeming feature – I remain
one of the ever diminishing number of people who saw the Maple Leafs win their last Stanley Cup.
May it never happen again.