Time for closure for Dodgers fans

Time for closure for Dodgers fans

Fifty years ago today, and 14 years before Don McLean would put the words to song, the music died in Brooklyn.

The coda was simple, and painful. The Pirates' Dee Fondy sent a roller to shortstop Don Zimmer, whose throw to first baseman Gil Hodges wrapped up Danny McDevitt's five-hit shutout.

And, like that, two hours and three minutes after it began, the Dodgers' farewell game at Ebbets Field was over.

So were the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Broken-bat singles were replaced by broken hearts. Memories swam in a sea of tears. The Bums jumped jet airplanes, not trolleys. Flatbush flatlined.

While fans stormed out of the seats and onto the field for keepsakes -- there was little competition among them, only 6,702 having attended the game -- McDevitt and his teammates walked slowly in the opposite direction.

As McDevitt, then a 24-year-old rookie, recalled a few years ago, "You don't know what it means until later, until now. But I don't remember anyone making a big deal after the game."

Perhaps because the players, like many of their fans, simply refused to believe that the Dodgers really would depart their crib. "That Walter O'Malley ... he brought hammers to negotiations." But there would surely be an accord with city leaders about where and how to build a new home for the Dodgers.

"I never thought it was going be," McDevitt, a New York native, had said about a rumored move to Los Angeles. "You know, how could you work your butt off to get to Brooklyn, and end up somewhere else?"

The same way you could make an emotional investment in a baseball team, feeling you have 25 soul brothers who bind a community, giving it a reason to crawl out of bed in the morning and do an honest, grueling day's work.

Of course, I wasn't anywhere near Brooklyn that day in 1957 -- truth be told, I was a tyke living in Rome, Italy, going to my third-grade class in the cutest little uniform. But I was in Forbes Field's right-field stands a few years later, an isolated little kid, watching how a drive down the left-field line prompted cheering people to rise in waves along its path, and thinking, "Anything that can bring people together like that must be a wonderful instrument."

That's what the Brooklyn Dodgers were, an instrument of unity.

And I was at Shea Stadium on July 30, 1964, when, as an adventurous teenager from Pittsburgh, I rode the subway to Flushing. It happened to be Casey Stengel's 74th birthday, but what I remember most isn't the cake wheeled out behind home plate, but the hysterics of the other 40,961 fans.

The Dodgers were in the house to play the Mets. For the fans, it was like watching an ex-spouse, who'd left you, but who you still loved, neck with someone else.

Willie Davis laced a seventh-inning triple into left-center to score Junior Gilliam, and harnessing the electricity in those seats would've illuminated Manhattan for a week.

The atmosphere reflected the feelings of a man, a teenage Brooklyn resident when the Dodgers departed, who later said with a shrug that he roots for "the Brooklyn Dodgers, who happen to be playing in Los Angeles."

And another estranged fan, who used to see the Dodgers through the eyes of his father in which he later only saw pain, asked, "What subway line do you take from Bedford Avenue to Los Angeles?"

The separation hurt. The tears were real, and the cut was deep.

But -- and this is only a recent phenomenon, even though the wound is so old -- it's time for closure.

Consider this:

The Dodgers played in Ebbets Field from 1913-1957, for 45 seasons.

The Dodgers this week are concluding their 46th season in Dodger Stadium, which opened in 1962.

They truly belong to Los Angeles, and even the most ardent Brooklynites, who have surprised themselves to learn how long one can sustain animosity toward O'Malley, are giving up the ghost.

There are hundreds like the gentleman who signed into the chat room as "Ebbets Field Guy" to report on his first visit to Los Angeles and Dodger Stadium:

"Though I'll always miss Ebbets Field and Flatbush, this trip provided a form of closure to nearly 50 years of pining for my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers."

But "Ebbets Field Guy" won't let go of his memories, or his unfulfilled dreams of a reconciliation. Nor should he. Those are the thoughts that warm you in those peaceful moments between wakefulness and sleep, and that keeps you younger than the face that greets you in the mirror.

In the soul, the music never has to die:

Oh, follow the Dodgers.
Follow the Dodgers around.
The infield, the outfield,
The catcher and that fellow on the mound.

Oh, the fans will come a running,
When the Dodgers go a gunning,
For the pennant we're fighting for today.

The Dodgers keep swinging,
And the fans will keep singing,
Follow the Dodgers, hooray!

There's a ballclub in Brooklyn,
The team they call "Dem Bums."
But keep your eyes right on them
And watch for hits and runs.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.