Yo, Boston: Brooklyn and I Have Been Waiting 102 Years For This Rematch
Major League Baseball and the Fox television network are celebrating harder than the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight about the upcoming World Series.
If you want sports fans to talk about baseball, which they have sadly been doing less and less in recent years, you prefer that your championship showcase not feature teams from less glamorous markets.
However splendid a team the Houston Astros have, however scrappy the Milwaukee Brewers became, neither offers the the potential ratings sizzle of the Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox.
So when things get under way Tuesday at Fenway Park, the sexiest and arguably the best stadium in baseball, America’s best game is taking its best shot at finishing the season with a win.
For some of us fans, however, by which I mean some of us Dodgers fans, this year’s Series shapes up as something else: a chance, at last, for revenge.
This franchise and the Red Sox have met before in the World Series, a hundred and two years ago. For us, it did not end well.
The franchise was not in Los Angeles then. It wasn’t the Dodgers, either. It was in Brooklyn, and this was the stretch when the team was called the Brooklyn Robins, after manager Wilbert Robinson.
Hey, why not? Before that, the team had been the Grays, the Atlantics, the Superbas, the Bridegrooms and the Trolley Dodgers, a local joke revived in shortened form in 1932. It’s been the Dodgers ever since.
When the team moved to L.A. in 1958, it took the name, leaving Brooklyn with an empty place that inspired the song “There Used To Be A Ball Park Here” and memories that are fading today only because those who hold those memories most dear are themselves fading away.
That does not take revenge off the table.
The Brooklyn Dodgers lost five World Series to the New York Yankees before beating the Yankees in 1955. I was 6 in 1955. I didn’t know what baseball was. When I found out, at the age of 7, that victory became a highlight of my life. It remains a highlight of my life.
The Sandy Amoros catch. The last Johnny Podres pitch to Elston Howard, a changeup that Howard grounds to Pee Wee Reese. Sixty-three autumns later, I close my eyes, summon the vision and for one moment all is right with the world.
The 1916 Series was a different story.
In 1916, as in 2018, the Red Sox entered the Series as comfortable favorites.
While the Sox had dumped Tris Speaker because he refused to take a pay cut and had let Smokey Joe Wood sit out the year for the same reason, the team still had Harry Hooper and Duffy Lewis in the outfield and a pitching staff with Ernie Shore, Carl Mays and Babe Ruth. .
Brooklyn had a 25-game winner in Jeff Pfeffer and two fine hitters in Zack Wheat and Jake Daubert. Beyond that it had a lot of retreads, and had barely beaten the Phillies for the National League pennant, its first of the 20th century.
This being baseball and baseball not always going where you think it will go, Brooklyn could have had a Cinderella moment. But before midnight, the prince turned into a pumpkin. Or was it a frog. Whatever. There was no glass slipper.
In the first game, Shore was given a 6–1 lead and held on for a 6–5 win.
Ruth started the second game and the third Brooklyn batter in the first inning, Hy Myers, hit an inside-the-park home run. Ruth then shut out the Dodgers for the next 13 1/3 innings, allowing only five hits.
In the third inning, Ruth knocked in the tying run with a groundout to second. In the bottom of the 14th, Boston scored its second and winning run off Brooklyn’s Sherry Smith, who also went the distance.
Brooklyn won the third game, 4–3, then dropped the next two, 6–2 and 4–1.
It was a beatdown, even if it wasn’t a surprise. The only Brooklyn player who stood out was ight fielder Casey Stengel, who hit .364. Stengel would later manage those 1950s Yankee teams that would further extend the Brooklyn World Series losing streak that began in 1916.
For the record, no special factor haunted the Brooklyn franchise in the wake of the 1916 loss. No Curse of the Bambino. Zack Wheat cast no hex or spell because he only hit .211.
So 2018’s potential revenge isn’t focused on erasing some flashpoint scar. It’s more like just a bit of unfinished business.
Brooklyn, you must remember, had a legendary World Series drought well before it became an obsessive thing with the Red Sox. Or the Cubs. We were 55 years into the 20th century before Brooklyn won a World Series, and had it not been for Amoros and Podres, one of baseball’s most famous franchises would have gone 0-for-Brooklyn.
The L.A. Dodgers are now 30 years into their own drought. So winning this year would be a welcome surprise, and if on paper it looks no more likely than winning in 1916, it’s worth remembering that we had no business beating Oakland in 1988, either.
Winning in 2018 would mean tidying up a loose end. And when you think about it, really, what else is revenge?