Praying for Gil Hodges

Author: Thomas Oliphant

Release: July 1, 2005

Tagline: A Memoir of the 1955 World Series and One Family’s Love of the Brooklyn Dodgers

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Genre: History, Baseball, Memoir

ISBN-10: 0312317611
ISBN-13: 978-0312317614

Synopsis: A family history and a pitch-by-pitch retelling of the 1955 World Series.

Declassified by Agent Palmer: It’s Easy to Love the 1955 Dodgers When Reading Praying for Gil Hodges

Quotes and Lines

On the bridge that day, it occurred to me that at some point in my life I might try at last to puzzle through all this–to see if my memory of that day and that astonishing seventh game stood up to examination, to understand the mixed emotions it evoked, and to see if the personal might find space in the larger picture of the Brooklyn Dodgers and their unique history. I have come, years later, to the conclusion that the Dodgers are well worth it and that my wise-guy side can go to hell.

…Joel Oppenheimer, who grew up just above Manhattan in the tough town of Yonkers. He summarized most of it: “Dodger fans got beaten down so often that there was an essential humility and an understanding that Yankee fans never had. Yankee fans don’t understand that the world is not a very nice place to live, that more bad things happen to you than good things. When you understand this, you appreciate the good things that do happen, and you’re more apt to take it easy on the other guy who’s having a rough time of it.”

Many children work hard to please their parents, but what I truly longed for was good times that were about us, not me. That is the real hole the Dodgers filled in my life. Like any Dodger family, my father and mother filled me with the long, losing lore, taught me to keep a box score, and helped me find the smaller joys with which to battle annual disappointments–a metaphor I had no trouble grasping. So many of the genuine pleasures I saw them experience in those years involved the Dodgers, which only deepened the attraction.

This is partly why baseball and the Dodgers meant so much to me. When there was a game–and especially when there was a World Series–all the excitement and hope and concentration involved all three of us to the obliteration of our cares. We shared the Dodgers; they were a metaphor and an oasis.

It was not difficult to identify with a baseball team that had enormous talent and a famously adoring following nationwide that also struggled gamely through disappointment after disappointment. In fact, it was natural.

This mixture of possibility, bad breaks, perseverance, disappointment, the nobility of effort, was hardly unique, but it certainly fit my family history. The Dodgers were made for us, as they were for so many millions of working families in those days.

The 1955 season had begun amid nothing but questions. There was no way to know whether Newcombe’s arm would carry the team he hadn’t carried since 1951, no way to know how much an aging Jackie Robinson had left, no way to know if Campanella’s hands would recover, no way to know whether age was eroding Pee Wee Reese’s skills, no way to know if any of the growing list of young pitchers would join Carl Erskine to comprise a consistent staff.

…[Duke] Snider offered a compelling summary of what was going on the country while he was hitting yet another titanic home run in the clutch of a key game in a special World Series.

“The Yankees were admired but the Dodgers were loved. The Yankees were the ultimate professionals–they even wore pinstripes. We were the colorful, scrappy underdogs. Somebody said rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for General Motors, but the whole world had a great time rooting for the Dodgers. We sounded like an assortment of characters straight out of Daman Runyon and in many ways we were . . . The sports world has never again seen the likes of Brooklyn and its Dodgers in the 1940s and ‘50s.”