If you're itching for some baseball during this season's All-Star break, and hate the Yankees too much to endure a rebroadcast of last night's premiere of The Bronx is Burning, The New York Sun recommends an HBO documentary on the Brooklyn Dodgers that will premiere tomorrow night. "Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush" chronicles a decade of seasons (plus one) for the team and the borough it belonged to, from 1947 to 1957.
The crosstown rivalry between the Dodgers and the Yankees in that decade was both epic and tragic for Brooklynites. The Dodgers won an incredible 1,029 games in eleven seasons and went to the World Series six times. It would have been seven, if not for Bobby Thompson's walk-off three run homer in 1951 for the New York Giants that became known as "The Shot Heard 'Round the World." In all but one of those World Series appearances, the Dodgers would lose to one hated team: the New York Yankees, and the Brooklyn team acquired the nickname, "da Bums." The Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in seven games in 1955. The Yanks would reverse the situation the next year, but it seemed as if a curse had been broken.
The Sun's review says that the documentary focuses as much on the borough of Brooklyn as it does on the Dodgers. What was happening on the field was merely a microcosm of the city as a whole:
The writers of "The Ghosts of Flatbush" are right to imply that no sports franchise before or since has so faithfully embodied a city (or a borough) as did Robinson and the Dodgers of the 1950s. At the time, Brooklyn was the nearest thing the nation had to the melting pot Americans spoke so proudly about. It was a borough of immigrants ("Even the blacks were immigrants," Brooklynite Andy Mele says, "because they were from the South."), many still licking the wounds of past lives and wary of those across the borders of their close-knit neighborhoods. But the Dodgers belonged to everyone, and each time they took the field, the stands looked like a summit at the United Nations. As any Dodger would tell you, the scene was surely not the same up at palatial Yankee Stadium, where there were few minorities in the seats and none on the field.
The Museum of the City of New York is also chronicling that period in a special exhibition, "Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957." Either the Yankees, Dodgers, or Giants played in the World Series every year except 1948 during that period, and obviously it was the Yankees and Dodgers in many of those contests. "Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush" premieres tomorrow on HBO at 8 pm.
Image of Ebbets Field from the Museum of the City of New York