Keidel: Yankees-Dodgers World Series Would Bring Back Memories Of Baseball's Glory Days

Jason Keidel
July 10, 2019 - 11:43 am
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As you peek at the baseball standings during the Midsummer Classic, it's hard not to notice who could play in the Fall Classic. 

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The Yankees (57-31) and Dodgers (60-32) have the two best records in baseball - a statement once made with refreshing regularity. You probably don't know too many people who recall the Bronx Bombers and Brooklyn Dodgers fighting for baseball eminence in the 1940s or ‘50s (though it would have been surreal to see). If you are a certain age, however, you do recall the three times the two teams played between 1977 and 1981 (after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles). Our parents or grandparents schooled us on the yearly, biblical battles heard on radio or watched on static-lathered TV, games called by Red Barber or Mel Allen or Vin Scully. Then some of us caught the back-end of the old Big Apple feud 20 years later. 

Before the Mets became the second half of the Subway Series, played over the first few months of the season, the Yankees and Dodgers were almost regular October foes, facing each other seven times before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. If you include the New York Giants, a New York baseball team played in 11 of the 12 World Series between 1947 and 1958, and won ten of them. The Yanks won the majority (8), but that doesn't stain the rivalry that defined the sport and our city for much of the 20th century. 

In one of the biggest blunders in Big Apple history, the Giants and Dodgers fled for the shores of California, leaving our town bereft of two iconic clubs. But the Dodgers and Yankees managed to play (if not loathe) each other a few more times, the games that more of us actually remember. My first baseball memory was of Reggie Jackson belting three homers off three pitches thrown by three pitchers in the 1977 World Series. Then the Yanks won the next year, again beating the Dodgers, giving the Bombers an 8-1 record against the Dodgers in the Fall Classic. 

Then 1981 happened, with the Yanks lunging out to a 2-0 World Series lead - behind the stellar play of third baseman Graig Nettles - only to blow the next four to Tommy Lasorda and the L.A. Dodgers. And then the rivalry went dormant, and hasn't been revived in the intervening 38 years. 

But if you were alive and lucid for any of those battles, you have your own heartwarming recollections. Whether you lived in Brooklyn next to many of the Dodgers, before baseball players became millionaires, or played stickball in Manhattan in the '70s, on ground freckled with red wrappers from "Reggie" candy bars, the series between those two teams carried a lingering spirit, like a wave of warm memories crashing upon our shores in October.  

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None of today's Yankees or Dodgers players were alive for any of that. But there are still enough of us who caught the back-end of those glory years to make us feel like kids again. And there are plenty of blossoming stars on both squads, such as Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge, to kickstart a new iteration of an old feud.  

Even as baseball players are clubbing home runs at a comical pace, with the specter of 7,000 total round-trippers not so silly in the next year or two; even as players forget the fundamentals, don't learn to bunt, can't swat a ball past an infield shift; even as each game is laughably long with bullpens forming conga lines to the mound; the Dodgers and Yankees still stand on the halcyon years, when the game was as close to perfect as possible. Yankees fans wish they sat for one game at Ebbets Field, the original baseball carnival, with Hilda Chester, the most vocal of Brooklyn fans, barking at friends and foes alike. 

More than any sport, baseball is tethered to numbers and legends. No sport sprinkles faerie dust on its past like our pastime. It reaches over a century-deep into history and frames games and feuds like Greek mythology, with the game's monoliths - from Babe Ruth to Joe DiMaggio to Jackie Robinson - doubling as titans, clenching a bat on some dusty field stomped dry by 77 games, in threadbare ballparks weathered by six months of baseball, beer, and cigar smoke.  

So even if you aren't old enough to remember Duke Snider or Mickey Mantle or Thurman Munson, there's enough old-world fondness to fit in the new world. As the Red Sox, White Sox, and Cubs broke nearly 300 years of droughts and curses, there's one World Series that can still summon the ghosts of baseball's retro royalty - the Yankees and Dodgers squaring off this October. 

Follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel