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There is nothing quite so beautiful to the baseball fan as the sight of his favorite ball club doing everything right, getting the right hit at the right time, making the spectacular catch or throw just at the moment it's needed most, coming through with masterful pitching whenever masterful pitching is called for.
It's a wonderful feeling, very much akin to that experienced by the small boy at the Saturday movie, thrilled to the spine with unutterable delight at the brilliant, resourceful way his hero comes safely through one perilous situation after another. It's the way New York Giant fans felt last fall during the World Series when their heroes galloped with unerring skill through four straight wondrous victories over the formidable Cleveland Indians.
And it's the way Brooklyn fans felt last week as their old, fat, graying Dodgers, playing like a bunch of lively kids who just found out what fun baseball could be, stretched their season-opening winning streak to 10 fabulous games, more than any other team in modern major league history has ever won in succession at the start of a season. The record had been nine straight, set originally in 1918 by the (oh, how sweet some victories taste!) Giants and tied in 1940 by the Dodgers and again in 1944 by the St. Louis Browns.
But despite the magic of the streak and the vicarious satisfaction of victory after victory, it was not winning itself that meant so much to the Brooklyn fan as it was the way the victories were achieved—deftly, surely, smartly, dramatically. The Dodgers may not win the 1955 pennant. It is possible that they may not even be a serious contender for the pennant later on in the year. But for 10 days at the start of the 1955 season they were a dream team, the best in baseball, the smartest, the most resourceful, the most commanding, the most satisfying to watch. They won 10 straight games because they played better baseball than their opponents for 10 straight games. They played so well that anyone who has ever liked baseball had to like the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In the very first game of the year, played against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ebbets Field under a fog bank before a miserably small, chilled crowd of 6,999, the Dodgers were alive with ability and imagination. This was the game in which Jackie Robinson invented his double-play stopper that may send the Baseball Rules Committee into executive session any day now: he deliberately let a batted ball hit him for an automatic one-out to prevent the Pirates from making a very likely two (see drawing next page).
In that same game, with two out in the seventh, men on first and third and the score only 2-1 Dodgers, Robinson crossed up the Pirates with a perfect bunt past the mound for a base hit, driving in another run. Carl Furillo followed with a home run, and the Dodgers won 6-1 to start things off.
The next day in the Polo Grounds against the Giants, Gil Hodges made the fine cutoff play diagramed above; Duke Snider made a marvelous one-handed catch in deepest center field; and Roy Campanella hit a three-run home run off the man the Dodgers love to hate: the sinister Sal Maglie. These three gave the Dodgers the needed edge in the wild 10-8 victory.
The third day Billy Loes humiliated the Giants by picking Willie Mays off third base to crush a Giant rally (see drawing next page). Duke Snider hit a tremendous home run over the 460-foot marker in the farthest corner of right field in the vast Polo Grounds. And Loes spiked Leo Durocher's secret weapon—pinch hitters—by stopping five of them dead, including the legendary Dusty Rhodes. It was a 6-3 win and a delightful sweep of a Giant series for Brooklyn.
The fourth day the irritable Russ Meyer pitched a two-hit, 6-0 shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, aided by another implausible catch by Snider—this one made at top speed in deep center field, with his back to the plate—and by a variety of smart offensive plays, including a Robinson bunt hit and a Furillo extra base on a throw to the plate from the outfield.
The next day was Sunday in Pittsburgh, and the Dodgers won twice, 10-3, 3-2. A double victory over the Pirates (who barely avoided tying the National League record for losing most games in succession at the beginning of the season) is nothing particularly remarkable, but the impressive way the Dodgers did it is. Young John Podres pitched an efficient six-hitter in the first game, while his teammates demonstrated their hitting versatility with seven doubles, two base-hit bunts and two home runs. In the second game, with the score 3-2 in favor of the Dodgers, George Freese of Pittsburgh singled and Dale Long tried to sacrifice him to second. But First Baseman Hodges charged in, grabbed the bunt and threw to second to catch the front runner and ruin the sacrifice. It saved a run, because Jack Shepard singled later in the inning, a hit that would have tied the score if Hodges had not kept the potential run off second base. Instead, the Dodgers won, and it was six straight.