My dad was born in Brooklyn in May of 1936. He was the third of four boys born to Antonio and Theresa Lorenzo. They lived in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, an Italian neighborhood at the time. Brooklyn has always been a melting pot with immigrants from all over the globe settling in to start their new lives in America. With all the nationalities bringing their own traditions and customs to the borough the one uniting factor at the time was the Brooklyn Dodgers. Following America’s Pastime helped many acclimate to their new home. My dad and his family were no different.
When I was growing up my father would tell me stories about how he would cut school to attend Dodgers games in Ebbets Field. I wasn’t sure if I believed him until finding an old Brooklyn Dodgers scorecard in his dresser after he passed away in 2005. Following the Dodgers during the 1940’s and 50’s wasn’t for the faint of heart. The team was affectionately called Dem Bums after falling short of their goals. Despite winning seven National League pennants between 1941 and 1956 the Dodgers won only one World Series. The phrase “Wait Till Next Year” was synonymous with the team and its’ fans. Losing the World Series six times in 15 years was tough, but there was a lot to be proud of as a Dodgers fan. Jackie Robinson broke the color-barrier in Dodgers blue on April 15, 1947. Was it a coincidence he did so in Brooklyn; the home of diversity? I don’t know, but I do like to think it had something to do with it.
The Brooklyn Dodgers and their fans may not have had as many championships as their cross-town rival New York Yankees but so what, it’s easy to root for a team that always wins. The Dodgers won the World Series in 1955, the first in the franchise’s history which dates back to the Brooklyn Atlantics in 1884. The team they defeated? The New York Yankees. Unfortunately for Dodgers’ fans bragging rights only lasted a year as the Yankees won the 1956 World Series defeating Dem Bums in seven games. This would be the final World Series loss the Brooklyn Dodgers would endure as the franchise, led by that son of a bitch Walter O’Malley, relocated to Los Angeles California after the 1957 season. The borough and the Lorenzo family were in mourning.
Growing up in Brooklyn during the 1980s I remember my father following baseball but he did not identify as a fan of any particular team. My uncle Joey adopted the Mets, who in 1962, entered the National League as the replacement for the Dodgers and New York Giants who also left New York for California. I found the Mets on WWOR Channel 9 one night in 1988 and was hooked. The Mets were led by superstars Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry along with veterans Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. Baseball became a way my dad and I bonded; he took me to my first Mets game. It’s a day I will never forget.
I took my son Griffin to his first Mets game in 2015 a few weeks short of his fourth birthday. We had watched a few games on television and had attended an Orioles game with Rachel and Reaghan. He made it through the game with the help of a self made MLB mascot coloring book. It wasn’t until the Mets played the Dodgers in the 2015 National League Division Series (NLDS) that Griffin chose his allegiances. I am still not sure why Griffin chose the Dodgers, maybe it was an early sign of his ball breaking capabilities or maybe it was those beautiful Dodger uniforms but for some reason Griffin chose the Dodgers.
Griffin’s Dodger fandom grew despite the Mets winning the NLDS that season. He memorized the roster by number; we drive past the Chris Taylor #3 and Kike Hernandez #14 school buses most mornings and adopted Corey Seager as his favorite player (I hope that works out better than my choice of Jose Canseco back in 1988).
Living 3,000+ miles from Dodger Stadium made the normal ballpark day trip a tough one so we had to compromise and see the Dodgers on the road. The first place Dodgers were in Philadelphia wrapping up a four game series against the last place Phillies. Despite their place in the standings the Phillies were working on a four game sweep. Heading into the series I was hoping Griffin and I would see the Dodger clinch the division in person but the Dodgers were slumping and the Phillies were riding high after calling up rookies Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams and J.P. Crawford.
Like his grandfather 60 years earlier Griffin cut school to see the Dodgers, if you call filling out a form announcing why you are taking the day off cutting. We arrived at Citizens Bank Park before the gates opened, unfortunately since it was a day game after a night game the Dodgers were not taking batting practice. This was disappointing but expected so Griffin and I waited near the Dodgers dugout for autographs. Griffin is usually shy to go places without me but being six and four feet tall has its’ advantages in a crowd. By first pitch Griffin procured the signatures of reliever Brock Stewart, second baseman Logan Forysthe and outfield Curtis Granderson.
The Phillies jumped out to a 4-2 lead behind a Nick Williams home run and Rhys Hoskins 2 RBI double. I was worried Griffin and the many Dodger fans in attendance would go home unhappy but thanks to solo home runs by Curtis Granderson and Andre Ethier the Dodgers tied the game up at 4. The Dodger manufactured the go ahead run in the 7th. The Dodgers first basemen during the middle innings was former Phillies second basemen Chase Utley. Utley received standing ovations from the 18,735 in attendance before his at bats. With Utley’s career winding down it was a way to show appreciation for being the driving force behind the Phillies five consecutive National East titles and 2008 World Series. For Griffin and I Chase Utley will be remembered as the first player to ever throw us a ball, well he really didn’t throw us the ball as much as Chase Utley threw the ball to the Phillies fans who were riding Clayton Kershaw all game. Guilt is a strong feeling so when Griffin made eye contact with those thirty-year old Phillies fans the ball was his. The Dodgers held on to win 5-4. It was the end to a perfect day, one that brought me closer to my son and my dad. I am already looking forward to taking Griffin to see the Dodgers in Pittsburgh and DC this season, hopefully we can make more memories along the way.
- Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts pulled Kenta Maeda after three innings to prepare him for the playoffs.
- The Dodgers defensive flexibility was on display after starting third baseman Justin Turner left the game after a HBP. Cody Bellinger played first base-center field-first base while Chris Taylor’s defensive hopscotch went center field-shortstop-center field.
- The Dodgers used seven pitchers to complete the nine inning game. Rookie Walker Buehler was credited with his first win after a scoreless 6th inning.