It’s 212 miles from Coney Island, Brooklyn to Cooperstown, N.Y., but this Sunday, July 27, that distance is not enough. This Sunday, Walter O’Malley, who took the Dodgers from Bedford Avenue to Los Angeles, will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and it’s important for the health of Brooklyn baseball fans to stay as far as possible from the atrocity being committed upstate.
When O’Malley took the Dodgers to California following the 1957 season, the Dodger magnate seemed to assure himself of permanent induction into baseball’s Hall of Shame, and induction into the Hall of Fame seemed as remote a possibility as pigs alighting from their pens.
Yet, incredulous as it sounds, this week marks the debut of porcine aviation.
And as O’Malley flies into Cooperstown, his polar opposite, Gil Hodges, remains grounded, his flight into the Hall still awaiting take-off.
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk that O’Malley was not to blame for the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn, that city planner Robert Moses was really at fault for refusing to accommodate O’Malley’s dream of a new stadium for the Dodgers near where Bruce Ratner is hoping to build his Atlantic Yards basketball arena.
This argument has some truth, but O’Malley was the principal owner of the ball club, and had he wanted to stay in Brooklyn, he could have found a way.
How much money is enough? Already wealthy, and assured of making fistfuls of dollars no matter where the Dodgers played, O’Malley saw he could make more money in Los Angeles, feasting at the trough called Chavez Ravine.
Supporters of O’Malley cite his foresight at bringing major league baseball to the West Coast.
What foresight? Anyone alive could see that the rampart population growth of the Los Angeles area meant that La La Land could support a major league team.
The memory of the Dodgers desertion of Brooklyn is still vivid for the many former Brooklyn Dodger fans in the stands at Keyspan Park.
They remember those Boys of Summer in the Hall – Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese.
And they remember one who isn’t — Gil Hodges.
Save Snider, no National League player in the 1950’s had more homers (310) and more RBI (1,001) than Hodges. Thus, in a pre-steroid era, he averaged 31 homers and 100 RBI per season for a decade.
He was an eight-time All-Star at first base, and was a superb fielder, winning three Gold Glove Awards, the first at age 33 in the first year that the award was given. It’s reasonable to assume he would have won the fielding award numerous other times had it been offered earlier in his career.
As the manager of the Miracle Mets of 1969, Hodges did the unthinkable. He took home all the marbles with a young team from a franchise that had never won. With O’Malley faraway on the West Coast, Hodges won the World Series while still living in his Bedford Avenue home.
His tragic death from a heart attack at age 47 cut short the career of a man respected by all.
Hall of Fame rules specify that a potential inductee is to be judged on the totality of his career, and thus Hodges playing and managerial success counts as a package.
But apparently, that has not been enough. Hodges was not eligible to be elected this season, but will be eligible to be chosen by the Veterans’ Committee again next season.
O’Malley in and Hodges out?
The only consolation to this whole Hall of Fame business is that each of us carries a Hall of Fame in our hearts.
Whom would you like your child or grandchild to emulate, O’Malley or Hodges?
Channeling the Bard
Each week, Ed Shakespeare, the Bard of Brooklyn baseball, employs the iambic pentameter of his famous forebear and blesses us all with a little Elizabethan verse. This week’s contribution is called, “Irony”:
When children ask, “What means this irony?”
The dictionary gives the standard things.
But life provides a way the child can see.
From baseball votes, a definition springs.
For “irony,” the word can clearly shout,
“Just think, O’Malley’s in and Hodges’s out!”