You have read of dancing in the streets at times of great joy? It is an apt phrase, but one more often figurative than literal. Yet on the night of October 4 in the year 1955, there really was dancing in the streets of Brooklyn, and weeping for pure joy, too. For that was the day the Dodgers at long, long last brought the baseball championship of the world home to Flatbush. Hundreds crammed into the ancient Hotel Bossert on Montague Street to help the Dodgers celebrate. Thousands more milled around outside, cheering, yelling, dancing.
In the far-off Caribbean, where the Dodgers, first major league team to break the color line in baseball, were immensely popular, 5,000 people paraded for four hours through the city of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, carrying banners that said "At last—Brooklyn wins" and "Snider, Duke of Bedford Avenue." In Ciudad Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, where the Dodgers had trained in 1948, an enterprising reporter wrote that a brand-new baby had been named Podres Garcia, after Johnny Podres, Brooklyn pitching hero of the Series.
Oh, it was a day to burn into your memory. And it was a game to remember, too. You must realize that whenever baseball men gather for small talk, to cut up old touches and freshen yellowed memories, they always drag out ball games long since played and run them through the projector of reminiscence. They recall a fielding play from this one, the way a man ran bases in that one, the things a hitter did in still another.
Occasionally, they will recall the contest itself, the whole game, the entity, the things that went before it and the things that came after, and then it is a really special memory, because of all the thousands on thousands of ball games played since the beginning of time—which in baseball legend is reckoned as 1839—only a handful, perhaps a dozen or two, are accorded this honor.
Thus, when a game barely finished is at once added to this select few—instantly caught in memory, so to speak, like an insect perfectly preserved for all time in a piece of clear amber—it is a very rare game indeed.
Such was the seventh and deciding game of the first World Series ever won by the Brooklyn Dodgers. First of all, it was undeniably historic. Then, because it was the culmination of a tremendously spirited comeback by the Brooklyns who, two down after the first two games, won four of the next five to win the Series, it was splendidly dramatic. And, finally, since it marked the end of the curious domination the New York Yankees had held for so long over the Dodgers, and destroyed the latest myth of Yankee invincibility, it was properly epic.
The pitchers were lean, dark, hawk-faced Tommy Byrne, who had crowned his comeback from the minor leagues with a victory over the Dodgers in the second game; and blond, blue-eyed youthful Johnny Podres, whose masterful handling of New York in the third game had stopped a Yankee runaway.
The Dodgers, in the first three innings, managed to get just two men on base against Byrne, both by walks, and neither went past first. But the inexorable Yankees, in the last half of the third inning, moved to demolish Podres. With two out Rizzuto walked on four straight bad pitches, and Martin singled. The awkward, dangerous McDougald fenced with Podres, ball by strike, until the count reached the classic three-and-two and John Podres reached the near edge of destruction. As Podres and McDougald fought, the menacing Yogi Berra, waiting to bat next, slowly waved two bats back and forth, seeming bemused, watching Podres like a patient, hungry cat.
Podres, to his credit, put the three-and-two pitch over the plate, but McDougald tapped a heartbreaking little grounder toward third base that seemed sure to be a safe hit to load the bases, since the third baseman, Hoak, playing back, had no chance to get in 'to it in time. Rizzuto, hurrying down from second, slid into third...and incredibly the slowly moving ball bounced off his leg and ricocheted past the base. No one for a moment knew just what happened, but then it was clear: a batted ball had struck the base runner. Rizzuto was out. The inning was over. The Dodgers were safe. Berra had to put down his bats.
The Dodgers scored the first run of the game in the fourth inning when Gil Hodges, batting with two men out and a runner on third, doggedly stood up to Byrne, even after the left-hander had sent two good called strikes past him, and then broke the pitcher's heart by hitting a single into left field for the run. They scored again in the sixth, adding what is aptly called the insurance run. This is the one extra run that limits the enemy's maneuvering, alters his strategy and generally provides the team that has it with a pleasant added measure of comfort and confidence in times of stress like, say, the last three innings of the final game of a seven-game World Series.