Baseball's Return to Brooklyn

Article excerpt

Baseball in Brooklyn has been only a cherished memory since Walter O'Malley carted up what remained of Roger Kahn's "Boys of Summer" and moved the Dodgers to L.A. after the 1957 season. But in the golden new year of 2000, baseball in Brooklyn will be an actuality - if not quite the way old-timers remember it.

The New York Mets announced last week that they have purchased the St. Catherines, Ontario, franchise in the Class A New York-Penn League and will move it to Flatbush next season, pending league approval. For which I give thanks to the Great Arbiter in the Sky. All we need now is a team, any team, in Washington.

No, I'm not a Brooklynite - not even close. I grew up rat cheer, as we pseudo Southerners say, rooting for the mediocre Senators in the '50s. But now I'm sort of a retroactive Dodgers fan. I love the story of how native Larry King and a childhood buddy decided one day in the late '50s to write down the names of the three most evil men in history. Their lists were identical: Hitler, Stalin, O'Malley.

Was there ever a team like "Dem Bums," who won six pennants (and lost two pennant playoffs) from 1946 to 1957? First and foremost, of course, was Jackie Robinson - the man who helped teach a nation about tolerance. Then came the Captain, recently deceased Pee Wee Reese; Campanella; Hodges; Cox; Furillo; Snider, Erskine, Newcombe. And the eternally damned (by Dodgers fans) Ralph Branca, who threw the most infamous pitch in baseball history to Bobby Thomson one afternoon in 1951 and later that night asked a priest, "Why me? Why me?"

The answer: "Because God knew you were strong enough to bear this burden."

How did I get to be a Dodgers fan? Simple. My daughter moved to Brooklyn three years ago after graduating from college, and suddenly I was, God forbid, sort of an emotional resident. Officially, the borough is part of New York City. Psychologically, nothing could be further from the truth for millions who grew up there, whether they loved baseball or not. …