Rewriting history, with Dodgers still in New York
NEW YORK -- An elderly man with a B -- for Brooklyn -- in his bonnet called early Tuesday morning. The Dodgers were in town; he was excited. Fifty-seven years later, this otherwise logical and lucid octogenarian still hopes the devil has reserved a particularly hot spot for Walter O'Malley, the man who kidnapped his passion.
The Mets, he says, are an almost suitable substitute for his long-lost Dodgers. "They're not O'Malley's Dodgers," he says. But, all these years later, the Dodgers remain his team.
Never mind that they've played hundreds more games in Chavez Ravine that they ever played in Flatbush, some connections persist. His connection with Dem Bums lives on. "Will after I'm gone," he says.
Now the reason for his early AM call: "If Sandy's there tonight, I want you to ask him a question for me." His wasn't a reference to Alderson, Duncan, Dennis or Alomar. There's only one Sandy he recognizes. "I wanna know if he ever thinks what it would have been like if the Dodgers had stayed."
The only Sandy he recognizes was indeed at Citi Field Tuesday; there as guest of his old buddy Fred Wilpon. He was in Don Mattingly's office at 4:30, kibitzing. And when he emerged, the question was asked.
"No," Sandy Koufax said. "I've never thought about it, and if I dreamed it, I don't remember."
The early caller had a second thought: "Imagine what it would have been like if the Dodgers stayed," he said. "You know, keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn, and let the Mets be the team in L.A."
Not that anything like that could have happened, but for the sake of nostalgia and long-time fantasy of devout Dodgers fan, imagine a trade of team histories. Brooklyn's own Sandy pitching his entire career in his home town. Fresno's Seaver earning most of his 311 victories for the "home" team in L.A. Strawberry starting his career only miles from home and the positive influence of his beloved mother Ruby. Tommy Davis driving in 153 runs in a Brooklyn uniform. Would the skeptical New York media have seen through Lasorda? Would Casey have been the hit he was here if he were out there? How would Fernando-mania have played in the five boroughs? Would L.A. have embraced The Doctor or left the park before he completed his shutouts?
And could the "other" city have embraced Scully or the Kiner and Murph tag team?
If O'Malley had accepted the plan of uncompromising Robert Moses, left Ebbets Field and moved only to Queens and not the West Coast, then what? The old man's team might have had an entirely different identity. Long before Arte Moreno devised the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, New York could have been home to the Brooklyn Dodgers of Flushing.
Bird is the word
Vance Lovelace, a teenage chum of Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield, Floyd Youmans and other members of the talented Tampa high school teams of the '70s and early '80s passed through the Dodgers clubhouse before Tuesday's game. Lovelace is the Dodgers' vice president of player personnel. He is 6-foot-5 and strapping, and he still looks quite athletic.
A clubhouse visitor momentarily mistook Lovelace for a different member of the Dodgers hierarchy, one Magic Johnson. Mattingly immediately corrected the mistake, which led to some dialogue involving the Dodgers manager, a native of Indiana and fan of one Larry Bird.
"Yeah, we've had some conversations," Mattingly said about his highest-profile boss, acknowledging he doesn't try to maintain any sort of neutrality in his thoughts about his hero and his boss. "They're friends, and Magic knows where I come from."
The Dodgers manager said he saw Bird play twice, in his sophomore and senior years when his Evansville team played Bird's Springs Valley High School. "He scored, like, 35 points each time," Mattingly said. "And it seemed like he never took a shot."
A run-on sentence
Had the Dodgers-Mets game Tuesday night lasted one more minute, it would have equaled the longest nine-inning games in Mets history -- four hours, nine minutes. But their 4:08 fell short of nine-inning games they had played in Los Angeles in 2000 and against the Brewers at Shea five years later.
The length of the 9-4 Mets loss on Tuesday night and the tenor of the game prompted memories of one of Stengel's enduring postgame comments. After his Mets team had lost a significantly longer game, Casey delivered this pearl: "It wasn't good, but at least it was long."
Quiet and lovely Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, will undergo a dramatic change on Thursday when President Barack Obama, an ardent White Sox rooter, is to visit and speak about tourism. His presence will mark the first time a sitting president will visit the Hall. It is also likely to mark the first time that lovely upstate burg will experience frozen zones, a Secret Service phenomenon quite familiar to New York City.
Chances are Cooperstown doesn't know it even has zones.
But it is quite familiar with freezing.