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yankoholics anonymous
03-28-00, 07:49 AM
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New York, New York Was a Helluva Town
In good old days, winning World Series was an annual rite for Big Apple fans

By BILL MADDEN
Daily News Sports Writer

http://www.nydailynews.com/images/article/dropcaps/I_dc.gif t was the time of Ike and innocence, when all of our idle time was spent in debate over who was better, Willie, Mickey or the Duke; Scooter or Pee Wee; Yogi or Campy.

Whether you grew up in the teeming streets of Brooklyn, Queens or Manhattan or the tree-lined suburbs of Jersey, Westchester or Connecticut, baseball was the center of your universe.

The term "Subway Series" wasn't used all that much back then, if only because, during the season, it was an every-three-weeks occurrence between the Dodgers and the Giants and, come October, we considered it our divine right to host the Fall Classic. Every game.
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http://www.nydailynews.com/2000-03-28/Metro_Sports/Baseball/yogi_larsen_perfect.jpg
Yogi Berra (8) charges into Don Larsen's arms after the Yankee pitcher tossed a perfect game in the '56 World Series.
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From 1949 through 1958, New York was in each World Series — the only city in it in '51, '52, '53, '55 and '56. There was no talk of big market-small market competitive imbalance back then, although someone did suggest that rooting for the Yankees was like "rooting for U.S. Steel."

We paid scant notice to the NBA, which was 90% white, or to the NHL, which consisted of only six teams. Both were mere bridges over the winter to our baseball.

Transistor radio sales achieved record numbers in New York every October. So much of a hold did baseball have on all of us, our teachers would ignore the wires coming out of our ears during afternoon classes. <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>"As long as you're listening to the game and not me, Mr. Madden, would you at least mind giving me your attention long enough to fill us all in on the score?"<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>Throughout the summers, between our stickball and Wiffleball games, in which we played out our fantasies as Yankees, Dodgers or Giants, we hung out at the corner confectionary store waiting for the green-paneled truck to make its biweekly delivery of the latest series of baseball cards. In 1952, many of us waited in vain for that final series, which, we would later learn, contained most of our most coveted local heroes: Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Bobby Thomson, the most celebrated of them all that year after his homer — the "shot heard round the world" — broke every heart in Brooklyn on Oct. 3, 1951.

For whatever reason, the Topps Company got backlogged in '52, and by the time it got around to distributing the last of its four series, it was already September and we were back in school. Most of us never saw those cards until a couple of decades later. Today, you can't touch a '52 Topps Mantle for less than $4,000.

Even with the cards, we had little interest in any of the players who weren't Yankees, Dodgers or Giants — for good reason. They weren't relevant. As far as we were concerned, they were all Washington Generals to our Harlem Globetrotters.

Oh, we paid our respects to the Cardinals' Stan Musial, who owned Ebbets Field, and Robin Roberts of the Phillies, who always pitched with such heart against the Dodgers and Giants, and we appreciated the speed and pizazz of Minnie Minoso, the Chicago White Sox' "Cuban Comet." We also hated Ted Williams almost as much as his hometown Red Sox fans did. (I was there in Fenway Park that overcast afternoon against the Yankees in 1957 when Williams greeted the booing Boston fans by spitting at them.) And we always respected the Indians, especially after 1954.

In the final analysis, though, they were all merely the visiting entertainment, men who toiled — however valiantly — on teams we knew would be home fishing in October. Casey Stengel had a theory that pretty much guided the Yankees' fortunes through the '50s: Play .500 ball against the Indians, Red Sox and White Sox and beat the hell out out of the American League dregs, the Athletics, Senators, Browns and Tigers.
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http://www.nydailynews.com/2000-03-28/Metro_Sports/Baseball/robinsonj_peewee.jpg
The Dodgers' Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese
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Over in the National League, the Dodgers followed the same formula, but got derailed in both 1951 and '54 by the Giants. Otherwise, they would have equaled the Yankees' mark of five straight pennants.

I always wondered about my father's true ambitions for me. Nightly, he would chastise me for paying little attention to my schoolwork, and yet I'll never forget that morning on Oct. 8, 1956, when he told me I didn't have to go to school that day because he had two tickets for Game 5 of the Yankees-Dodgers World Series. It just so happened, my first Series game was Don Larsen's perfect game.

As my father and I trekked across the McCombs Dam Bridge to our car, which was parked on the streets of Harlem alongside the Polo Grounds, he exclaimed, "We're all going to be famous!" Two years earlier, the Giants' sweep of the Indians not only upheld New York's baseball honor, it assured the world championship remaining here for the sixth straight year. It also provided a national stage for Mays, the greatest all-around ballplayer I ever saw. His Game 1 over-the-head catch of a Vic Wertz drive, nearly 500 feet from home in the Polo Grounds' vast center field, came to define his career.

"I always felt if Mays doesn't make that catch, the Indians could have just as easily swept us," said Giants outfielder Monte Irvin. "The funny thing about it was when we were winning the fourth game in Cleveland, our owner, Horace Stoneham, was sitting there very impassively with (renowned saloonkeeper) Toots Shor. Horace didn't want us to sweep, because he wanted to get another full house back at the Polo Grounds. When Toots began to scold him, Horace finally said, ‘Ah what the hell, it's only money.'"

Before the Series, that '54 season had been especially painful, if only because the Indians simply did not lose all summer long. How utterly unthinkable it was for the Yankees not to be in the World Series. They won 103 games that year, the most in any one season Stengel managed the club, and still they fell eight short of the record-setting Indians.

But over in the National League, Mays was having his breakthrough season and manager Leo Durocher cajoled the rest of the Giants to simply ride the Say Hey Kid's flapping shirttails, unbounding skill and elan. They avenged the Indians' insolent conquest of the Yankees with the sweep of the vaunted Tribe pitching aces, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia.

So cold, methodical and businesslike were the Bombers in their domination of baseball, with eight world championships from 1947-58, that we took their enduring excellence largely for granted. After drawing over 2 million fans five straight seasons from 1946-50, the Yankees did not surpass that mark again until 1975.

But if the Yankees were our ho-hum pride, the Dodgers were our passionate and often-tortured soul, beginning with their signing of Robinson in 1946 and the introduction of players of color in the major leagues. After Robinson, came Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe and Joe Black, while the Giants quickly followed suit by acquiring a talented black third baseman, Hank Thompson, from the St. Louis Browns and signing Mays and Irvin out of the Negro Leagues.

This was, of course, well before the era of free agency

reg
03-28-00, 07:49 AM

Yanks-Past and Present
03-28-00, 04:44 PM
Great article Y.A.! Thanks for it http://www.Bronx-Bombers.com/ubb/smile.gif

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FormerlyOfficial Historian-A39 Fan Club

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seahorse
03-28-00, 07:06 PM
What a great article Y.A. Thanks! Must have been great to be a baseball fan in NY at that time. I was born in 1956, but I wonder if I might have been a Giant fan if they hadn't relocated. My father, who is from the Bronx, told me he was a Giant fan (I can't understand that) and from my house the Polo Grounds would have been just a little closer than Yankee Stadium. I still try to "see" the Polo Grounds everytime I drive by there. Come to think of it, with Leo Durocher at the helm, I still would have been a Yankee fan.

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Best GoYanks!