It was the third or fourth time that the Brooklyn Dodgers lost the World Series to the New York Yankees. My friends and I made an effigy of Yankee manager Casey Stengel, a former Dodger. While my buddy Phil Clark shimmied up a lamppost on Midwood Avenue, a police officer walked around the corner, but we were so busy that we didn’t realize it until he said, “What are you boys up to?”
Ordinarily, we would have started running in various directions, but we couldn’t abandon Phil who was toward the top of the post. Almost in unison, we said, “We’re hanging Casey Stengel.” The cop replied, “Good lads,” and then he continued along his beat. That’s just the way it was at that time and in that place. If you lived in Brooklyn, you bled Dodger Blue.
Years later, Roger Kahn would dub the players “The Boys of Summer” in a book about the days that he covered the team for the Herald Tribune. It was a time before “free agency” when player salaries shot through the ceiling and one never knew from year to year who might be on the home team. During the time that I’m writing about, we knew Gil Hodges would always be at first base, Pee Wee Reese would be at shortstop, and Duke Snider would be defending centerfield.
It was also a time before the American League introduced the concept of a designated hitter, which essentially took the pitcher out of the batting lineup. The Dodgers had a pitcher named Preacher Roe who apparently didn’t know how to swing a bat. But one day, the Preacher connected and put one in the outfield stands. Some Dodger players pretended to faint in front of the dugout. Others grabbed a bunch of red towels and laid them out like a carpet for Roe as he crossed home plate. In other words, it was a time when baseball was still fun, not a business (as far as we fans were concerned, anyway). It was also a time when the country would witness the end to racial segregation in “the national sport.”...