What a delicious appetizer for the World Series!
To have the franchises that gave us the Duke of Flatbush and the Say Hey Kid, Newk and Johnny Antonelli, Jackie and Buddy Kerr, Pee Wee and Bill Terry, Dazzy Vance and King Carl and the Shot Heard 'Round the World ... to have the current editions of the Giants and Dodgers go at it with a place in the World Series at stake would be more than stirring for folks who hold dear an era when the tabloid headline writers in New York referred to them as the Jints (as in pints) and Bums (as in 'Dem Bums).
Yes, it was a more colorful time. Better nicknames, better execution and, dare I say, better baseball. The best baseball, I believe, was played after World War II and before the second expansion following the 1968 season. Those are assessments for another discussion at another time, but the phrase "The Golden Age of Baseball" refers to a period when the Giants, Dodgers and that other New York team dominated the game, a period when the rivalry of the Giants and Dodgers peaked.
It was during that time, Snider once said, when he and his Dodgers colleagues developed an aversion to Halloween only because spooks and goblins often were attired in the colors of the hated Giants.
My late friend Fred Brash, a "stileboy" at Ebbets Field in the 1950s -- he worked the turnstiles -- told HBO in 1995 that his dislike for the Giants was deeper than center field in the Polo Grounds on 155th Street in Manhattan, the final home of the New York Giants, where the wall was 484 feet from home plate.
"When [Bobby] Thomson hit the home run," he said, "it tore out my heart. I mean it. We wore black in my family. We did. But what galls me to this day is that all my guys are gone -- Pee Wee, Jackie, Campy, Gil. And not one of those damn Giants is dead yet."
Fred didn't wish any particular player dead, he merely wanted what he considered fair treatment for his guys. That's how it was then. A Dodgers-Giants series in May was beyond what we have come to expect from a Cardinals-Cubs series or a Yankees-Red Sox showdown. And, in those days, teams played each other 22 times a year. Familiarity bred contempt.
Moreover, the constituencies of the Giants and Dodgers shared a city and an area code, the mighty 212. Their allegiances were as strong as Furillo's arm. And the ballparks were separated by a distance roughly equivalent to three home runs by Ott, five by Willie, four by Duke, three by Hodges and one throw by Scoonj. Passionate fans shared subways, buses ... and opinions. The conditions were ideal for a heated rivalry, one that made the move to California following the 1957 season.
The Dodgers and Giants continued playing each other -- they have been in the same league or division forever. And the summers separating their departures from Flatbush and Coogan's Bluff and the days of Kershaw and Bumgarner have produced enough moments to keep the rivalry at a simmer.
The Dodgers swept a three-game series in San Francisco to knock the Giants out of first place in the final two weeks of the 1959 season; the Giants defeated the Dodgers in a three-game playoff to determine the 1962 NL pennant; Juan Marichal, the Giants' future Hall of Fame pitcher, attacked Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with a bat in 1965. Etc. Etc.
And Joe Morgan, in his second season with the Giants, hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning of the season's final game to beat the Dodgers and deny them a tie for first place in the the NL West in 1982. That home run picked at scabs that had formed when the teams were less than neighborly New York City neighbors.
And so it went. Now, if the Giants and Dodgers survive their current series, one will deny the other a World Series berth. It could be Mattingly vs. Bochy, not Dressen vs. Durocher, in the best of seven. It could be Kemp and Kershaw vs. Posey and Peavy. And, if it is, we'll recall Thomson and Branca, Koufax and Marichal. And we'll revel in what it is -- and what it was.