When Walter O'Malley died in August 1979, flags flew at half-staff at Dodger Stadium and at Los Angeles' City Hall, but not in Brooklyn, which hadn't forgiven him for moving the Dodgers to Los Angeles 21 seasons before.
You may remember that the L.A. Dodgers won the pennant the very next year, 1959. And thereby hangs this tale, which has to do with one of the noblest capers in the annals of American skulduggery—the valiant effort of an aggrieved press to avenge O'Malley's dastardly act of depriving Brooklyn of its beloved Bums.
It wasn't a happy time for the New York press. We had to report on the joy of the multitudes out West, a bitter blow for all right-thinking Easterners who felt that the borough of Brooklyn would never be the same without the Dodgers. (Sure enough, it hasn't been.)
For the middle games of the '59 World Series, press headquarters were at the Sheraton West Hotel in Los Angeles. Playing the White Sox, the Dodgers were en route to the second world championship in the club's history. Proof that they had won before was flaunted before us (I was covering the Series for Newsday) in a prominent spot at press headquarters. The Dodgers had chosen to decorate the banquet room with the 1955 Series flag itself, a huge banner that was all too graphic a reminder of the glory Brooklyn once knew.
The flag that had streamed so gallantly for the entire 1956 season over the ramparts of Ebbets Field—the right-center field flagpole atop the scoreboard—read in royal blue letters on a white background with a blue border:
That sacred cloth pinned to the drapes high above a row of buffet tables held a particular fascination for at least four of us at press headquarters following the fifth game of the '59 Series, the last one in Los Angeles. We were: Jack Mann, of News-day, Steve Weller, a columnist with the Buffalo Evening News; myself; and my friend Charles Sutton, a cityside reporter for the Long Beach (Calif.) Independent Telegram who had no great interest in baseball but who liked to come along on freeloads and certainly had no lack of feeling for Brooklyn, having lived there once.
The more we looked at the flag, the more we were angered by its presence in this outpost so far from the mother borough where it belonged.
Finally, and inevitably, one of us—I must confess it was I—said, "That pennant should be back home where it belongs."
Somebody else said, "Why don't we take it then?"