The Winds of History

It is about as easy to explain an addition error by an IBM machine as it is the Yankees' four game losing streak last week. IBM machines don't lose; somehow the Yankees did.

But perhaps this approach--why did the Yankees lose?--is wrong. More to the point is why did the Dodgers win. Why did a team that in the past has been well trained in the key fielding error, the choke, the "I lost the ball in the sun" routine suddenly turn respectable.

I think this was coming for a long time--ever since Walter O'Malley had decided his boys were too good for the low rent district of Brooklyn. At the time of the Great Desertion, of course, the Dodgers were no better than their neighborhood.

Bizarre Left Field Fence

But the effect of Hollywood with its professionalism, its smoothness, and its concern for the dollar gradually began to change O'Malley's marauders. As long as they were playing in a converted football field with a bizarre left field fence the Dodgers could not practice their new philosophy all the time, but this was only a temporary retreat.


Chaves Ravine is not built for fun and games; it is a serious business establishment erected for the purpose of winning baseball games. That is why the Angels have been so uncomfortable there, preferring to play in nightclubs than in Walt O'Malley's pastel colored palace.

Those Dodgers who could not make the necessary adjustments retired, or, like Duke Snider who will end his days as a Met, were traded. Men like Sandy Koufax, who came to the Dodgers wilder than Steamboat, reformed. The younger generation is significantly better than its predecessors--just more serious. Only Maury Wills has any idea of what Dodgers are traditionally supposed to do, and even he makes his base more often than not.

Last year the transformation from Flatbush to Hollywood was almost complete, but not quite. The Dodgers still were able to blow the big ones. By this season, though, O'Malley and Walt Alston (a pretty serious grind himself) succeeded. They didn't have quite as good a ball club but they didn't make the crucial mistakes either. Last month it was the Cardinals who folded, and what may be a new era for the National League began.

These historical facts explain the Dodger pennant and the high quality of baseball in the Series. Since the New Dodgers were playing the good ol' Yankees, though, the Yankee collapse is still mysterious.

It will not do to claim the Yankees were unprepared for the Dodgers by an easy summer in the American League. That has been the case for years. Nor will it be sufficient to say this was not one of your great Yankee teams. Yankees are good by definition; sometimes they are immortal. Less impressive Yankee teams have overcome better opponents in the Series before this. Take last year for example. The explanation of phychological disadvantage after Koufax's first game doesn't hold because a) Yankees are not supposed to be bothered by such things, and b) many of the same players had overcome similar handicaps.

Actually, when you really inspect the boxscores, the Yankees played about as well as their tormentors, but they didn't get the breaks. Why? As they say about most important questions in life, "The answer is blowing in the wind.