Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

OPENING DAY: A Beautiful Thing


Opening Day.

The phrase is so beautiful that they spell each word with a capital letter. It is such a distinct phrase, we know they’re not talking about football. There’s Election Day. Sadie Hawkins Day. And Canada and England have something called Boxing Day.

But baseball. Baseball has Opening Day. And many of us have come to anticipate it like Christmas morning.

I gave the best present to myself when, on the Opening Day of the 1956 season, I witnessed something that happened just once — and never will happen again.

On April 1st, in the middle of my 14th year, I watched them raise the only World Series flag in the history of Brooklyn, New York, USA.

And what a glorious day it was.

I don’t remember if the sun was out that day. I don’t remember what I had for breakfast or dinner that day. I don’t even remember the game very well. I do know what I had for lunch — a potato knish with mustard on top that I had bought at the Schmulker Bernstein Deli on 65th Street before I got on the subway; and of course, I had a Harry M. Stevens frank, also with Gulden’s on top, at the ballpark.

Oh, I do remember hanging around the Dodger dugout before the game, trying to get Sandy Koufax’ autograph. He was Jewish, and so was I (I still am); and I yelled out to him that I too had gone to Lafayette High. Oh, we were so proud

of him. He was terribly wild in those days, in the days before he was the real Sandy Koufax. But he was one of ours. We knew he’d make it to the Hall of Fame. (Not really.) But, he was from the neighborhood — Bensonhurst — and here he was, tossing the ball back and forth to Gino Cimoli, to Don Demeter, and to Johnny Podres. Podres. He was the guy who won the last game of the ’55 World Series, finally beating the hated Republican, pinstripe-suited Yankees. The Yanks were the bad guys and in those days, and the Dodgers were the People’s Team. “Da Peeples’ Choirce.”

Sandy never did give me his autograph. I don’t even think he acknowledged that he was from Lafayette. But it was a niggling trifle on that Opening Day.

I prepared for Opening Day 1956 like I’d never prepared before. On that magnificent fall day in October ’55, when the Dodgers and Podres beat the Yanks, I decided then and there, that I was going to go to Ebbets in April and watch them raise the World Series flag. After all, the Flock (that’s what the tabloids called ’em because it was shorter than Dodgers and fit into the headlines better) never before had won it.

So, I made up my mind to buy myself a good seat because this was going to be something about which I could tell my grand kids. Maybe something, almost a half-century later, about which I would write. I was going to buy a box seat


I had been going to Ebbets from 1951 through the ’55 seasons and not once had a sat in a box seat — legitimately. In those days, we would buy what we called “Elsie” tickets. You had to collect a dozen wrappers — or maybe it was the wooden sticks — from Elsie brand ice cream pops. That and 50 cents, or perhaps it was 75, would get you into the leftfield or centerfield bleachers. But after the third inning — when every one who was going to, had already come to the park — we’d hop the fence down the leftfield corner by the foul pole, and sneak down into the box seats behind third base. If it weren’t too crowded, sometimes we’d get lucky and cop a seat behind home plate or if we really got lucky, we’d get to sit behind the Dodger dugout.

Most times I’d find a good seat, because many times I’d go to Ebbets Field by myself. I’d catch the Sea Beach line at Bay Parkway. I’d ride the train for about 40 minutes until I’d get to Flatbush, where Ebbets could be seen — a temple of baseball — as I’d emerge from the station. I was scared riding the subway by myself, but nothing ever happened.

In fact, nothing but waves of well-being wafted over me when I went to a Dodger game. I loved riding the subway by myself, thinking as an 11- or 13-year-old, that I was a grown-up. I loved it even more when, after sneaking down into a box seat, I’d talk baseball with the older men in the seats beside me. I’d hold my own, too. I knew all the stats, I knew all the strategy. And I knew which players were good and which were mere poseurs. For instance, I knew that Chico Fernandez, Dale Mitchell (who later that year

would be Don Larsen’s last out, striking out to end Larsen’s perfect World Series game), and Rocky Nelson — guys who were actually on the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster in ’56 — would soon be gone after coming up for a cup of


Going to the ballpark by myself then, was how I emerged as an independent human being. And I owe it all to the Dodgers.

So, two or three months before Opening Day, I took the subway down to Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights (a good hour from Bensonhurst), where the Dodgers had their offices, and I plunked down three bucks or was it $3.50. A

goodly sum, but I had saved up.

My ticket (whose stub, on which now are the only discernible words, “Brooklyn Baseball Club,” I still possess) was for behind third base. But what I didn’t

realize, until I arrived at Ebbets that day — having played hooky from school — that I was sitting in the very first row. I could smell the greenest green grass I’d ever seen and I could hear Pee Wee Reese, at shortstop, calling across to Jackie Robinson at second during warm-ups before

the game. I’m not sure who was at third that Opening Day. The great gloveman Billy Cox was gone. May it was Don Zimmer, or could it have been Bob Aspromonte?

Anyway, Pee Wee and Jackie and the others, in their impeccably starched white uniforms with the azure blue lettering and the red front numeral, suddenly stopped. They turned to the 40-foot-high right field scoreboard with the “Abe Stark Clothing” sign, stood at attention, doffed their blue caps with the white “B” on it, put it over their hearts, and we all listened or sang the national anthem.

Then, and only then, did it happen. Slowly, up the flagpole in deepest center, above where Duke Snider stood, his temples beginning to gray, did they begin to raise the World Series flag. It was huge with a white background, trimmed in a wide dark blue edge and with blue letters reading, “World Series Champions, 1955.”

The goose bumps on the back of my neck and down my arms, had goose bumps. Tears filled my eyes. The old guy to the right of me, the one with the fat cigar jutting out the corner of his mouth, began to weep.

Opening Day, 1956.

In 2002? They’re playing it on a Sunday night. And in Anaheim, wherever the hell that is.

Opening night?

It’s not the same thing.



Mr. Goldfarb was born in Brooklyn and seemed to spend most of his childhood — 1951-57 — at Ebbets Field. He grew up to become a sportswriter for Newsday in New York, the San Francisco Examiner, and the Associated Press. He thinks the body of Walter O’Malley should be exhumed from wherever it lies, and be reburied at the new Brooklyn Cyclones’ park, so that fans — after all these 45 years — can stomp all over it.


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