Injustice and 55 Years of Hurt. How Brooklyn Regained Its Sporting Pride

Article excerpt


ONE of the greatest scandals in the history of American sport finally reached a kind of closure on Monday night.

The NBA's New York Knicks travelled 'across the bridge' to play the Brooklyn Nets and a city rivalry that was torn apart 55 years ago resumed at last.

What a night it was, too. A night that showed sport at its best, a raucous, emotional night in a magnificent new arena.

A night when Brooklyn stopped being synonymous with a notorious sporting injustice and rejoiced in its rebirth.

A night when local pride swelled, a night when two fine teams fought each other to a standstill, a night when sport came home to Brooklyn in style.

It was not Brooklyn's official return to the sporting mainstream - that happened three weeks ago - but this was the match that brought it all alive.

It has been a long wait. It was 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers won baseball's World Series and finally emerged from the shadow of the New York Yankees.

Known as the Dodgers because Brooklynites were supposed to be adept at darting between the trolley s e aty buses in their borough, they were embedded deep in American culture.

They had broken the colour barrier in 1947 to sign Jackie Robinson and make him the first black player in the Major Leagues.

They played at a beautiful old stadium at Ebbets Field in the heart of the borough and were known affectionately as Dem Bums because of their near misses.

With the Yankees and the New York Giants, who played at the Polo Grounds, they formed a great triumvirate of New York teams.

So Sammy Davis Jr sang about the city's baseball wealth in New York's My Home.

"It's a city where a man can fulfil his dreams," the lyrics went, "the only town that's left that's got three baseball teams."

When the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in that 1955 series, it was a victory for perseverance and for the underdog.

They were immortalised as the Boys of Summer. And then, two years later they were gone.

Ebbets Field was decaying and the Dodgers' owner, Walter O'Malley, moved the team 3,000 miles away to Los Angeles.

Think of the controversy generated, still, over Wimbledon being appropriated by Milton Keynes Dons. Then multiply it by about one million.

In a 2007 documentary about the Dodgers called The Ghosts of Flatbush, fans who had seen their team ripped away remembered the animosity towards O'Malley.

If a Dodgers fan had a gun with only two bullets in it, a joke went at the time, and he was in a room with Hitler, Stalin and O'Malley, who would he shoot? The answer: O'Malley, twice.

The pain of that betrayal lingered for decades until, a little over three weeks ago, Brooklyn got a Major League team back. …