I get nostalgic for baseball this time of year, when the playoffs begin the march to the World Series. I was hoping the Boston Red Sox would repeat as World Champions, but, alas, they lost to the Chicago White Sox who, interestingly, now have a chance to repeat the Boston miracle. The Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series since 1917; the White Sox haven’t since 1918. Chicago may experience the magic of such an epoch event that brings a whole city together in joy.
Both these teams have played in their hometowns since baseball began, and I love communities where sports break down the boundaries that separate people. Over the years, the pursuit of profitability has taken precedence over loyalty to community. I’m thinking about it because it was 50 years ago this week that the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first World Series. They beat their hated crosstown rivals, the New York Yankees, in seven games. I’m not from Brooklyn, nor was I ever a Dodger fan, but I always loved their fanaticism. My Brooklyn friends, to this day, have nothing but disdain for Walter O’Malley’s larceny for moving their beloved team (affectionately known to all as “Da Bums”) to Los Angeles three years later, for the money.
The Dodgers just celebrated the 50th anniversary of that achievement in Los Angeles, but you know it was just a revenue-raising gimmick. Carl Erskine (Brooklyn pitcher ’48-59) performed the national anthem on his harmonica, and Johnny Podres, the hero of the 1955 World Series, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. It may have been great, but the spirit of that Dodger victory was not felt in that stadium.
When the Brooklyn Dodgers won, it was a victory for everyone in Brooklyn, and felt by every resident across the borough. This accomplishment permeated every social strata and racial barrier: Hasidic Jews danced in the street with dreadlocked Rastafarians. Every Brooklynite who was alive on that day remembers that event as an indelible mark in history.
You can sell a city’s team, but you cannot steal its enduring spirit. I’m hoping Chicago goes all the way and brings to the Windy City what Boston brought to Beantown. We need to be coming together in community in ways other than responding to disasters, terror and fear.