As a kid I heard the stories of the original Roy Campanella Night on May 7th, 1959 with Pee Wee Reese rolling Campy out to all the candles. Whenever I'd see some semblance of video or tribute to that night, I'd get choked up. For a long time Campy was a big part of the Dodgers and every time I saw him in that wheel chair I'd curse his bad luck. Eventually Campy passed away and many Dodger fans have never seen the live version of the wheelchair bound Campy and that is a shame as even from the wheelchair he emanated strength.
On Wednesday Night Vice President of Creative and Communications Mr. Steinberg gave an impassioned account of what was going to take place on Thursday Night so when I got home that night I cut a deal with my wife. We get to the game by 06:30 which means leaving around 05:15 and we can leave before the 7th inning stretch. She held up her end of the bargain and we got there in plenty of time to jump seat behind home plate at the loge level for the ceremonies honoring the 59 World Champions. No Kuofax, but Tommy Davis was there. No Duke, but Wally Moon was there. No Drysdale or Podres but Roger Craig was there. Most of the players who were introduced I never saw play as Dodgers. From the 1959 team the only ones who I actually saw play was Fairly, Howard, Wills, Roseboro, and Tommy Davis and by then they were all on other teams. Don Drysdale and Maury Wills might have been the only players from that team that I actually saw play as a Dodger but that didn't change my delight in seeing the remnants of the 59 World Championship team.
50 years later the 1959 championship still holds a special place in LA Dodgers history because it was the first. Charlie Neal and Larry Sherry were the stars of that 1st World Championship and I doubt that those who are still alive have forgotten anything about that series. As I was watching them pay tribute I told my wife that at six months old I'm sure I heard that World Series at my Grandmothers house as they listened to Vin Scully because there was never a bigger fan of Vinny's then my late grandmother. Who knows, maybe the screams of joy when Charlie Neal went deep curdled my young red blood blue.
The goal of the night was to get the 59 transistor radio and see how they handled the Campy celebration. They had Pee Wee Reese's son catch the ball from Campy's son using the glove that Pee Wee had worn when he escorted Campy to the mound in 1959. It wasn't a mushy moment but it was nice. It would have been better to have it done in front of a full crowd but pre - game ceremonies always are left lacking because they have to be done before much of the crowd has shown up. It always feels like some of these special moments are being conducted as the warm up band.
Gotta say the Radio is kind of cool. It has only one station and that is KABC .790 so it is always tuned to the Dodger station. It came with batteries and actually worked. My wife had it on just like she did when she first went to a game sometime in the late 60's. As we left the game we noticed that it had to be tilted toward Dodger stadium to get reception as though receiving it's airwaves from Big Daddy Blue. All in all it was a cool little radio and I expect to take it to a few games.
The fact we left early was a better benefit. My wife will attest when the score was 6 - 4 that I told we were going to lose so we might as well leave. Sometimes you can just feel how a game is going to go and this one had the trademarks of disaster written all over it. When I got home and turned on the game I thought maybe I'd been wrong that we might have one of those awesome comebacks but Blake isn't Marlon Anderson and the streak was over.
Even if we had had never signed Manny Ramirez the 2009 Dodger team was going to be a special team. Loney, Martin, Kemp, Ethier, Billingsley, Broxton, Kershaw, Wade, Kuo, Stults, and McDonald had already guaranteed that because nothing is cooler then seeing your team's core built upon the foundations of it's own. Watching home grown players grow into their roles is one part of the magic of baseball I never hope to get cynical about. Hudson/Furcal/Manny are cool but we never endured their hardships so their success just doesn't resonate like the success that Ethier and the boys are enjoying. That core may not be a championship team but it is a team you build a championship around.
I hope that team can coalesce into a championship team that can be celebrated like our 59, 63, 65, 81, and 88 teams. Those of you who have never known the joy of a World Championship feel cheated that you haven't had that opportunity yet, but it will come. This team when it is done will be as legendary as the 73-81 teams. Good times are already here, better times are just around the corner.