October 4, 2017 marks the 62nd anniversary of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ only World Series Championship in the 75 years that they played in Brooklyn. On October 4, 1955, the Dodgers defeated the Yankees 4 games to 3, after numerous losses to the Yankees in 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953.
It’s easy for me to remember this day in baseball history because my birthday is one day later. Since my parents lived in Illinois I wasn’t given a catchy name like Duke (Snider), Pee Wee (Reese), or Ebbets (Field).
This trivia is all fresh in my mind because a few weeks ago, I finished reading Roger Kahn’s baseball classic, The Boys of Summer (1971). Surprisingly, the book is more than just an account of the Brooklyn team’s glory years. Born in 1928, Kahn grew up near Ebbets Field with dreams of playing for his heroes, but settled for covering them as a sports beat writer for The New York Herald Tribune. Although the Dodgers of that era are best known for breaking the color barrier in 1947 with Jackie Robinson, they added other African-American players to their roster such as Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Junior Gilliam, and Joe Black (first black pitcher to win a World Series game in 1952). Kahn does not tiptoe around the racial issues in the Brooklyn locker room, and a significant part of the book is devoted revisiting those players years later and asking them to reflect on those golden yet turbulent times. The controversy surrounding race and sports has not seemed to have dissipated much since then.
Heading into the 2017 postseason, I cannot recall so many fine baseball clubs that have a chance to win the World Series: The New York Yankees (again), the Boston Red Sox, the Houston Astros, and the Cleveland Indians. The latter two won 100 games in the American League as did the Los Angeles Dodgers, who also freaked themselves out by going 47-7 in one stretch of the season and 1 -16 in another. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who swept L.A. twice late in the season are formidable with their relatively unknown MVP-worthy Paul Goldschmidt. Rounding out the list of teams vying for the National League pennant are the Washington Nationals and the reigning World Champion Chicago Cubs.
As a lifelong Cubs fan, I still have not grown accustomed to their World Series win last year but it is a relief to have that 108-year burden removed. I still follow the team with the same kind of daily fervor that Kahn writes about in The Boys of Summer. I think of this as I share the experience with the newest member of the Cub family, my little grandson Myrick who was born last month. Whether the Cubs repeat or not, I am already celebrating.