You see, I am not much of a sports fan, I never have been. The truth is that baseball is probably at the bottom of the list of what sport I am willing to watch. My dad and my sister both loved baseball. Being from the northside of Chicago, their team of choice was (of course) the Cubs. Dad would take my sister and a couple of our cousins to a game at Wrigley every so often. They all loved it. I was already married so I got a reprieve! My sister was (and is) such a Cubs fan that she follows the stats even though she hasn't lived in Chicago for at least 20 years. She knows about 20 times as much about the sport as I do. And that's just fine with me!
My dad used to tell the story of the only time he ever took me to a baseball game. I was about 5, I think. I was really excited to be going. Daddy was going to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame!!" When we got there I wanted a hot dog, then a bag of peanuts, then a drink, maybe some cotton candy, and finally some popcorn. After I finished all of them, I was ready to go home. We'd only been there about 45 minutes!! It's funny but I can still remember hearing the vendors hawking their stuff, "Redhots! Getch'yur Redhots right chere!" But I don't remember a single thing about the game! Even then baseball was not my game. :)
The only other time that you could say I had a brush with baseball was that I lived in Vero Beach, FL when I was a little girl. If you are (or know someone who is) a true dyed-in-the-wool baseball fan, you will know that Vero Beach was the spring training camp for the Brooklyn Dodgers and later the Los Angeles Dodgers. When I was there however, it was back during the days of Walter O'Malley and Walter Alston and Branch Rickey; with players like Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Maury Wills, PeeWee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Don Drysdale, Gil Hodges. (It was a looooong time ago!) Even I had heard of them!
And all those baseball greats played on Holman Field at Dodgertown right there is my home town! We weren't so blase about seeing celebrities back then and the possibility of watching Snider or Reese, or Robinson play in person was the dream of nearly every boy in town. It was even the dream of a few of the girls and certainly about 90% of the Dads. In fact, I'm pretty sure that school was closed for the first game each year. They had to, hardly anyone was in school, they were out at the game!
The whole town looked forward to having the Dodgers Spring Training. The players pretty much stayed to themselves, at least that's the way it seemed to me. I don't recall actually seeing any of the players in town, but this was way before TV took over our lives, so I'm not sure I would have known a baseball player from a baseball bat!
I was reading about Dodgertown a while back and I found out something I never knew.
....And history was made here. And not just baseball history. Branch Rickey brought spring training to this abandoned naval air station in 1948 because the old barracks would be under the control of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and thus free of the local segregation ordinances that blocked the mingling of the races in hotels and restaurants throughout Florida until the 1960s. At Dodgertown, the Dodgers could be a team on and off the field. How much of the integrated team’s considerable on-field success during the 1950s may have been born of that? “It brought the team together, there’s no question about that,” said O’Malley of the Dodgertown intimacy, “and at the most important time of the year.”
~~ Charles Fountain, February 24, 2009
Well, that explains a lot! I only lived in Vero from age 7 to 13, I wouldn't have been too interested in the whys and wherefores, but I guess the players didn't come into town much, so maybe I didn't see any of them. God, what a horrible thing segregation was! I can say that with complete honesty and conviction, after all we were Northerners living in the South. Yankees who didn't support or even understand segregation. However, I can only say that from the prospective of a much older me! Back then I just didn't care about baseball or it's players. I was a girlie girl who played school, had dolls, and hated sports! I wouldn't get upset about segregation until I was a little older! I digress....
Nonetheless, it was kind of neat to have people recognize the name of the town just about every time I mentioned I had lived in Vero Beach. "That's the Dodgers' Spring Training camp, right??" Right!
Vero Beach and Dodgertown remained the host of Spring Training for the Dodgers from 1948 up until 2009....61 years! That's a lot of baseball. I don't know why the Dodgers left exactly and I don't know what's happening there now. Did another team move in? Has it just been abandoned? Is it being turned into condos?? I have no idea, but it sure is hard to think that the spirits of all those baseball greats no longer have occasion to mingle with the current players out there in Dodgertown.
And no more little kids and their Dads looking forward to Spring Training with the Brooklyn Dodgers right there in their town of Vero Beach. No more "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." No more Dodgertown. It's so sad....