What We Can Learn From Sports
This story is not about a single person, but a group of people, and in fact, the borough of Brooklyn.
In the 1940’s and 50’s, the Brooklyn Dodgers, aka “The Boys of Summer,” were a very good baseball team. But they were always the bridesmaid and never the bride.
With their only championship coming in 1890, this team, led by such players as Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Roy Campanella, and Don Newcombe, won five National League pennants between 1941 and 1953, giving their fans hope.
But all five times, they lost to the legendary New York Yankees in the World Series.
The phrase, “Wait ’til next year!” became the slogan of Dodger fans, beginning each year with great excitement, only to be followed by by disappointment throughout the majority of both decades. Their fans called their beloved team “bums” for disappointing them over and over again.
The most memorable disappointment came in 1951 when Brooklyn led their arch-rivals, the New York Giants, by 13.5 games in August, but the Giants won 37 of their last 44 games, while the Dodgers finished winning only 26 of their last 48. They tied the Dodgers for first place. This created a three-game playoff to see who would go on to the World Series that year.
New York and Brooklyn split the first two games and then in the final game, in the final inning, with a 4–2 lead, New York’s outfielder Bobby Thomson hit a three-run walk-off home run to win the NL Championship for the Giants. That home run is still known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World.”
Now this was truly the bottom for the team and their fans, but just as in life, you have to hit bottom before you can reach the heights of success.
The Dodgers rose up again in 1953, winning 105 games, their best ever record, to reach the World Series, only to fall to the New York Yankees again…five times to come so close to ultimate success, only to be denied five times.
And to top it all off, the scrappy next door neighbors of the Yankees kept losing to the big team from the big city to the north…
In the 1950’s, Brooklyn was the immigrant borough, the melting pot of hard-working, middle-class people, and the Dodgers fit that mold, while the Yankees of New York represented the fashionable, successful upper class. They had it all, and Brooklyn was always the runty little kid next door, literally underneath New York.
In ’54, the Dodgers took a step back, only managing to come in second place to the Giants again. This time there was no dramatic playoff game. The team and their fans just had to endure another cry of “Wait ’til next year!” and it seemed that the Dodgers were doomed to never win it all. Adding insult to injury, their hated rivals, the Giants, won the World Series that year.
In ’55 the Dodgers came back again to face the Yankees in the World Series for the fourth time in the last three years. After the Dodgers lost the first two games in Yankee Stadium, the Dodger faithful began getting that old feeling again. Even the staunchest of fans began to realize that it just wasn’t meant to be.
But the Dodgers won all three games in Brooklyn to take a 3-2 series lead. Game six was lost, setting up a deciding game seven in Yankee Stadium.
“Here we go again” ran through everyone’s mind, but while the rest of the team were mainly aging veterans, Johnny Podres, the 23-year old Brooklyn Dodger pitcher tasked with starting the final game, did not carry the burden of all those previous losses to the Yankees. He was a young, easy-going, brash, fun-loving kid who just threw caution to the wind and just had fun out there.
Pitching a marvelous game, the kid pitched a 2-0 shutout, and the long suffering Brooklyn Dodgers and their fans had finally succeeded. After sixty-five years of failure, the Dodgers were finally champions.
Fall down seven times, rise up eight. Who says you can’t learn anything about your own life from watching sports?
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