When I was home for my 50th high school reunion, I went to Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets, to enjoy one of their final games of the regular season.
Then two weeks ago on TV, I watched the New York Mets edge the Los Angeles Dodgers for the divisional championship and the opportunity to face off against the Chicago Cubs for the National League title.
The results of the Dodger-Mets game were bittersweet for me. I grew up a Dodger fan in suburban New York, but in 1957, just two years after their World Series win against the Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers headed for the West Coast. “Baseball and Hollywood just don’t go together,” I remember my father saying.
So would I remain a Dodger rooter, or was their move the ultimate betrayal of all their long-term fans who never gave up on “da Bums,” a term of true endearment, with an edge of understandable frustration at their failure to win a World Series?
As a general rule, sports fans remain faithful to a team, not to the players, which is why Colts fans remained loyal even after Peyton went off to Denver. But when a whole team deserts your city, well, that’s a different story. Ask the former Baltimore Colts fans.
As a reporter 10 years ago, on the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers beating the Yankees in the 1955 World Series, I called Carl Erskine, the Dodgers hurler and Anderson resident, who once struck out 15 Yankees in one game. I wished him a happy anniversary and assumed rightly so that he had remained loyal to the Dodgers. He’s a bigger man than I am. I have not been as forgiving.
When the Mets came to New York in 1962, the purpose of the new franchise was to replace the two departing national league teams (the Giants also split to California), but there was something about the Mets that made them clearly the new Dodgers.
The Mets struggled in the early years, somewhat hapless and probably more bum-like than the Brooklyn Dodgers, who in reality had fared quite well during regular season play. It was the LA Dodgers who were now really bums (in a bad way) and needed a new name — maybe the Hollywood Hobos. Even the biggest Dodger fans were now Mets fans.
As I write this, the Mets are playing the Cubs in the National League Championship. And as you read this, that series might already be over. The games seemed to me like the old Dodger-Cubs competition back when we argued who was the best infielder in the National League, Ernie Banks or Pee Wee Reese?
If you are not a baseball fan or are too young to remember much of this, I conclude by saying I’m happy the Mets beat the Dodgers. But as far as the World Series goes, I also have a special place in my heart for the Cubs, who like the old Brooklyn gang sure could use the big win on the team résumé. I love underdogs.
So who was I rooting for in the Cubs-Mets series? Let’s just say that no matter who the victor, I won’t be totally bummed out.