The Dodgers left Brooklyn more than three years before I was born, but I’ve always felt an emotional connection to the Boys of Summer. Maybe it’s because I’m a lifelong New York National League fan. Maybe it’s in my genes as my mom grew up in Brooklyn. Or maybe I’m just nostalgic for an era when there was a ballpark in your neighborhood and the players were your neighbors.
Duke Snider’s death on Sunday at the age of 84 meant the passing of the last great Brooklyn Dodger. I have many pieces in my memorabilia collection dedicated to the Bums — a framed front page of the Daily Mirror from October 5, 1955; Jackie Robinson’s Topps cards from ’53-’56; a sliding, hatless action figure of Jackie; a ’53 Topps Pee Wee Reese; an authentic replica Dodgers cap; a ’55 Topps Sandy Koufax rookie card. But my favorite is a ball autographed by the Duke that I keep on a shelf adjacent to a replica of Ebbets Field. I can look down into my miniature bandbox of a ballpark and imagine Duke hitting one over the GEM sign in right field on a glorious afternoon in September. I can picture myself, in another life, sitting in the upper deck in center, a Schaeffer in hand, looking down on the Duke as he snares a long drive off the bat of Musial.
Maybe I should have been born 10 or 15 years earlier. I’d have authentic memories of the Duke, Jackie, Pee Weese, Hodges, and the real Ebbets Field. I probably still would have ended up a Mets fan, but I’d always have Flatbush. Sounds a lot better than Flushing.