Of course everyone knows and remembers Jackie Robinson--as well they should--as the trailblazer who opened up the big leagues for people of color. I am no exception but, upon seeing these exhibition photos, I could not help but reflect on the most-intense rivalry in all of sports: Dodgers-Giants.
How heated was this hate-fest back in the day? Well, rather than play for the reviled Manhattanites, Robinson retired from baseball when Brooklyn traded him to New York after the 1956 season.
Yet, it was the conclusion of the 1951 campaign--the Miracle of Coogan's Bluff, that iconic moment when Bobby Thomson's bottom-of-the-ninth, three-run homer gave the Giants the pennant and broke Brooklyn hearts everywhere--that (to me at least) defined Robinson as a player. With the Polo Grounds in absolute bedlam--who hasn't heard Russ Hodges' famous call of the Shot Heard 'Round the World?--one man remained a study in concentration; Robinson's laser-beam glare was trained on Thomson's feet, as the Dodgers second baseman was making sure that Gotham's newest hero indeed touched all four bases as he triumphantly circled the diamond.
Eleven years later, with these 19th-century rivals transplanted to the West Coast, the now-San Francisco Giants again raised the National League banner in dramatic fashion, staging yet another ninth-inning rally--this time at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles--to once more win the third and deciding game of a three-game playoff after the two clubs finished deadlocked atop the regular-season standings.
I admittedly relish recounting these two seasons with glee. While both of my grandfathers rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers, I have been a devoted Giants fan since age seven. Although I was conceived in Brooklyn during the teams' final season on the East Coast, and was born in the famed borough of Dem Bums a few months before the clubs' 1958 West Coast debut, my DNA somehow jumped ship... and I had to wait nearly a half-century for my (Giants) ship (pun intended) to come in.
I became a Giants fan in 1965. They did not win the World Series on my watch until 2010--and then shocked the baseball world...