There are slow sports days and then there is the day after the All Star game. Unless you count the WNBA as a sport (and I don’t) there are no games to watch. With my girlfriend out of the house I had the TV all to my self, but nothing to watch. Oh the horror. Luckily HBO came though.
Their documentary The Brooklyn Dodgers:The Ghosts of Flatbush followed the history of “Da Bums” from the “The Boys of Summer” glory days to their move to Los Angeles. As a kid who grew up in Baltimore I didn’t take the time to learn the history of the classic New York teams. As far as I was concerned the only legends were the ones who wore orange and black. I knew the names, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Carl Erskine couldn’t compare to the Brooks Robinsons and Jim Palmers of the world.
HBO may run crappy movies into the ground, but they know how to product a sports documentary. Throw in a lot of classic footage of the team, weave together interviews with former players (in this case Johnny Podres, Carl Erskine and others) random famous people who followed the team as kids (Larry King and Lou Gosset, Jr.) and you have an enjoyable two hours of TV.
The Dodgers make for a great subject. From the integration of Jackie Robinson to the year after year of heartbreak at the hands of Yankees and the move to California there was more than enough drama to fill the two hours. Even those that don’t know the history of baseball may gleam some understanding as to why fans developed such an attachment to the teams of that era.
It was nice that they had a built in villain in Walter O’Malley the owner of the Dodgers who traded an aging Robinson to the rival New York Giants and is forever remembered as the man who moved the Dodgers out of Brooklyn.
Some random items I found interesting:
Johnny Podres, “I’d go have a cigarette. Let me know when there are two outs and I’d butt my cigarette and go out there”.
Branch Rickey – signed Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente.
Liev Schrieber should narrate any and all sports documentaries from now until eternity.
Podres – 9-10 starter wins the biggest game in the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He shut down the Yankees 2-0 in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series to give the Dodgers their first Series title after 65 years of heartbreak.
How much have times changed? No one likes the Yankees and the owner was a son of a bitch.
Lou Gosset’s quote, “Until him (Robinson) all of my heroes were white comic book characters”.
O’Malley seemed to be a villain from central casting. Slicked back hair, fancy suits, tiny glasses and cigar and to top it off he was a layer. I half expected him to cackle and fly away like the Penguin.
If the Rays ever leave the TBA I doubt there will be much lamenting. They won’t find any old men lamenting their dearly departed heroes. Chances are it would be hard to find anyone who remembered the team was here.
Perhaps the best thing about these films is that they bring back the nostalgia of the glory days of baseball. One of the random people that they interviewed mentioned that you “could walk down the street and not miss a pitch” because of all of the radios out on the porches.
While the game today may have the greatest athletes that have ever played the special connection between the players and the fans has been lost. The Dodgers more than any other team of the era epitomize the “one of us” familiarity that the fans had for the players. It’s nice when a film like this comes along to remind us of those days.