Friday, March 4, 2011

"The Duke of Flatbush" is gone

I will always remember the summers between 1951 and 1957 as the times when I sat in front of my small black-and-white television set to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers play. Every Brooklyn kid was a fan and each had his or her favorite: Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, or Sandy Koufax.  My favorite was the center fielder Duke Snider.

 Soon after the news of Duke Snider’s death on February 27th   was announced, the  tributes started for one of the "last boys of summer.”

When the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the hated New York Yankees in the seventh game of the 1955 World Series there was pandemonium all over Brooklyn. Only two years later that same exultation gave way to sadness and anger when the team left Ebbets Field to move to Los Angeles. Some say Brooklyn hasn’t been the same since then.

Ebbets Field was part of our neighborhood. The first time I saw a game there, I remember my surprise and delight at seeing the actual green playing field. I remember having supper at the diner on Church Avenue and watching the door because  it was rumored some of the players often ate there. And I recall that Mary Maher, one of my classmates, was a babysitter for Pee Wee Reese’s children. I remember walking with my friend Margie to find Gil Hodges’ house. He was just a regular neighborhood guy. No mansion, just a simple home like all the others on the block.

Later on in college I heard the story of how a couple of guys from one of the Brooklyn College fraternities once slipped into Ebbets Field after hours and stole first base.

I lost interest in baseball in 1957. But I still have one baseball card from those days - with Duke Snider’s picture on it.