True Blue: The Dramatic History of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Told by the Men Who Lived It

True Blue: The Dramatic History of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Told by the Men Who Lived It

by Steve Delsohn


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In 1957 the Dodgers broke the hearts of blue-collar Brooklyn for the embrace of booming Los Angeles. Thus began a new era for the fabled Bums, whose exploits inside -- and outside -- the white lines have intrigued generations of baseball fans.

Based on scores of fresh and exuberant interviews, True Blue brings you into the dugout and the locker room, capturing the nearly half-century of clutch performances, World Series triumphs, blown pennant races, clubhouse brawls, contract disputes, stunning trades, and turbulent managerial changes -- all with a startling insider's perspective.

In their own candid and provocative words, a who's who of Dodger legends and stars such as Duke Snider, Maury Wills, John Roseboro, Don Sutton, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Reggie Smith, Tommy Lasorda, Bill Russell, Dusty Baker, Kirk Gibson, Steve Sax, and Eric Karros recall their years with the Dodgers. Also providing their unique commentary are a number of noted opponents, writers, and broadcasters, including Willie Mays, Sparky Anderson, Pete Hamill, Roger Kahn, Tim McCarver, and Bob Costas.

Their voices, woven into a rich and fast-paced narrative, bring to life the rise and shocking retirement of Sandy Koufax, Kirk Gibson's dramatic 1988 World Series home run, the controversial trade of Mike Piazza, and so much more. It is the vivid story of how the Dodgers became one of the great successes in major league history, winning nine National League pennants and five World Series championships.

A fascinating and colorful history of a team, an era, and baseball itself, True Blue is must reading for any baseball fan.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780380806157
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/05/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Steve Delsohn has written several acclaimed books about sports, including the New York Times bestseller Out of Bounds with NFL great Jim Brown. He is the author of two previous oral histories, The Fire Inside: Firefighters Talk About Their Lives and Talking Irish: The Oral History of Notre Dame Football. Delsohn is also a correspondent for ESPN television. A native of Chicago, he now lives in Thousand Oaks, California, with his wife and three daughters.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Walter O'Malley's
Radical Move West


Harry Rudolph turns 70 this September. Harry has nine children, plays golf about five times a week, and owns a cozy restaurant aptly named Harry's, located in La Jolla, California, the pretty coastal village just a few beaches north of San Diego.

And so as Harry puts it, "I don't have any complaints about California. I've been fortunate. But, yeah, there are still times I miss New York "

That's where he grew up. In fact, from 1945 to 1947, Harry had the greatest job in Brooklyn.

Harry Rudolph: It was better than that. It was probably the greatest job a kid could have in the world at that time. I was the bat boy for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In 1947 I got to see Jackie Robinson break the color line. I got to spend time around Pee Wee Reese. He was the captain of the team. He was a Southerner. And it's well documented that Reese befriended Jackie, and that helped Jackie break some barriers.

All those guys were magical to me. They were magical to everyone in Brooklyn. Ebbets Field was real small and the fans sat close to the field. And most of the players lived in Brooklyn then. There was a love affair. There was a bond.

Then one morning they were gone. They announced they were leaving. Walter O'Malley was going to L.A. and Horace Stoneham was going to San Francisco. As it turned out, O'Malley got the much better deal. O'Malley was a very smart Irishman.

But nobody in Brooklyn ever forgave him. People were too brokenhearted. There was a void and a shock. Then I remember when they demolished Ebbets Field.They had the big balls ready, and they tore it down.

That was a big loss, a very sad time. Maybe there were some kids it didn't matter to. It mattered like hell to me.

Pete Hamill is a legendary New York newspaperman and the author of many books, including the bestselling novel Snow in August and the powerful memoir A Drinking Life. Hamill was born and raised in the borough of the Dodgers.

Pete Hamill: The Dodgers were such a natural part of childhood. They were part of the dailiness of life, including the off-season, when the Brooklyn Eagle would carry a column they called the "Hot Stove League," which told you about what all the players were doing when there was no baseball season.

It was part of living, in a way. And I'm talking about the world before television, in which you experience something like baseball, and particularly the Dodgers, through newspapers and the radio. I mean, it wasn't until I was maybe 11 that I was able to actually go to games. So we imagined these games, and we imagined the players before we ever saw them.

The most important thing was Robinson. Here he comes in 1947, and what was so great to me was not that Robinson integrated baseball. He integrated those stands at Ebbets Field.

I was 12 in 1947. And Robinson quickly became as close to a role model as anybody that people my age had, black or white. Because we identified with him. I mean, Brooklyn itself was on the margin of New York. It was the butt of jokes in all those radio shows and war movies. There was always some dumb guy in the platoon who was from Brooklyn. And people would make fun of the way he talked.

When Robinson came along, everyone in the stands could identify with him. The blacks, the Jews, the children of immigrants could identify with him. He was on the edge of the goddamned thing. And into the bargain, he was a great baseball player. I mean, if he had been a .210 hitter, it wouldn't have been the same thing.

George Vecsey, the terrific sports columnist for the New York Times, was a die-hard Dodger fan who grew up in Queens.

George Vecsey: Have you ever been to the Brooklyn Museum? It's a wonderful museum on Eastern Parkway. You can stand in the botanical gardens, which is right behind the museum, and look out at where Ebbets Field used to be. Except now there is housing.

My wife and I went out to the museum the day after Thanksgiving a year ago. I'm in this beautiful garden on a beautiful November afternoon and there's a lump in my throat. That's my childhood over there I'm looking at.

So, yes, I hated O'Malley when they left Brooklyn. Then I hated him even more in '62 -- the first time I went to Dodger Stadium. Here was this gorgeous stadium up on a hill. You could drop a hamburger on the floor and pick it up and eat it.

And I hated and resented that this had happened. I felt: "They took my team. O'Malley took my team. Then he put it up on this hill."

Vecsey was hardly alone. For uprooting the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles, Walter O'Malley is despised by a number of New Yorkers to this day.

But did O'Malley truly abandon Brooklyn, or was he pushed into a corner by New York politics? Was he a devious traitor? Or was he a bold pioneer, which is how generations of Southern Californians see him?

From Brooklyn's point of view, the first glimpse of betrayal came in the glorious summer of 1955. With the Dodgers en route to their first World Series victory, O'Malley shocked the borough with this announcement: In 1956 his team would play seven "home games" at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City.

O'Malley had no interest in moving to New Jersey. In fact, he was sending a message to New York politicians. Ebbets Field, then in its 43rd season, all but reeked of history and tradition, but the stadium had grown old and badly outmoded.

True Blue. Copyright © by Steve Delsohn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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