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Anyone want to teach me a Brooklyn accent?
Seriously, I'm tawking the truth. The real heirs to the Boys of Summer do not reside in Los Angeles. It's too glitzy and commercial--the very qualities that legendary Dodger owner Branch Rickey found unseemly. Raul Mondesi? Gary Sheffield? Please. Mike Piazza the 63rd-round pick becoming a superstar was a story straight out of an old-time Hollywood movie. Piazza departing his old team for megabucks is a product of today's schlock.
No, the real heirs to the Brooklyn Dodgers were found at Fenway this year, exuding the same agreeable mix of delight and frustration as their Flatbush predecessors.
Before the season began, they were "De Bums," having lost most valuable person Mo Vaughn and replaced him with Jose Offerman.
But now, with Nomar Garciaparra blasting grand slams against Seattle and Pedro Martinez striking out Mark McGwire en route to All-Star MVP honors, they metamorphosed into the Boys of Summer. Now that their season has sadly concluded prematurely, like the Dodger cry of old, they must once again promise, "Wait 'til next year."
And the ones leaving us on the doorstep are the Yankees.
As Yogi Berra, a man who frustrated plenty of Dodger and Red Sox teams, once said, it's deja vu all over again. Imagine the events which transpired fifty-eight years ago, before America experienced the horror of World War II, when a nation still transfixed by Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams' .406 average turned its ears to the Fall Classic.
The Yankees, of course, were the AL representative. Challenging them was a scrappy collection of Brooklyn players that other teams had rejected. This unit had finished third in 1939, second in 1940, and finally first in 1941. Their reward was a cross-town Series against the best team in baseball.
Suddenly, though, weird things started happening. A line drive on the final out of the seventh by New York's Marius Russo shattered the kneecap of Fat Freddie Fitzsimmons, who had shut out the Yankees in Game Three. New York scored the deciding run via four straight singles off luckless reliever Hugh Casey in the eighth.
The Dodgers seemed poised to avenge this loss in Game Four after taking a 4-3 lead into the ninth. But Casey's apparent game-ending third strike on Tommy Henrich eluded luckless catcher Mickey Owen, and the Yankees rallied once more, for a 7-4 win. New York subsequently took Game Five to clinch a deflating Series for the Dodgers.
This year, success eluded a similarly-likeable ballclub against the Yankees, although the original Boys of Summer didn't have TV announcers thoughtfully brandishing Babe Ruth graphics, or considerately bringing up the Curse of the Bambino.
Two blown calls deflated Red Sox rallies. Troy O'Leary and Jason Varitek missed home runs by decimal points. History repeats itself, 58 years later.
Yet I compare the Red Sox to the Dodgers in a positive sense. The link between teams placed half a century apart is that both succeeded in rekindling a small light of hope that is too often extinguished.
Much like Tiffany's to Holly Golightly in Hepburn's greatest movie, baseball can offer a haven of peace in a world of turmoil. The promise of renewal held in baseball--for there is always another game and, as the Red Sox and Dodgers would remind us, another season--offers a sense of security and continuity.
And when a Dodger team consistently consigned to last place finished first, or a Red Sox crew in which everyone knew their role and surpassed it, it reminded us of our remarkable capability to defy our doubters and briefly illuminate the world with the inner light that drives us.
This belief is far more important than winning a World Series--although, continuing the Brooklyn-Boston parallel, it should be mentioned that the Dodgers eventually won it all in '55.
Perhaps history could repeat itself in similar fashion...next year.
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