The author: Ira Berkow
The vital stats: Triumph Books, 254 pages, $14.95
The pitch: How, when and why did Seaver lose his overcoat?
We honestly have no compelling reason to find out more about the Dodger Stadium look-alike that was flushed away in Flushing, N.Y. (1964-2009).
Except when you have a Pulitzer Prize winner from the New York Times who has put 50 years of columns together that involved this stadium that somehow never got clipped by an airplane landing at LaGuardia, there’s some interest in spending some quality time with the product — again, as the Dodgers make their annual visit to New York to stir up memories again of the 1988 season and their time in Brooklyn.
The column that drew our attention most was on, of course, Jackie Robinson and his connection to Mets third baseman Ed Charles, who at 36 was the oldest member of the team’s 1969 championship roster.
Berkow admits his memory is still “haunted” of him days after Robinson’s death in 1972.
Charles was a 13-year-old in Florida who “came through my hometown with the Dodgers in 1947. … it was the biggest day of my life. … I realized then I could pay in the major leagues … We chased the Dodger train as far as we could with Robinson waving to us from the back … We were exhausted but never so happy.”
Remember that scene in the new movie “42″? Kinda played out that way — including Robinson tossing a ball to Charles. That’s Hollywood for you.
Skip around more and read about former Dodgers’ Cy Young Award winning reliever Mike Marshall’s attempt at a comeback with the Mets in 1981 at age 38, a 1985 tribute to Sandy Koufax and don’t bypass the column called “From Three Angles: The Greats and Smartest Play Ever Made” from a 2001 piece, where Berkow remembers the 42-year-old Willie Mays, in his final year with the Mets, scoring from second base on a single in an otherwise ordinary game in July ’73 and taking the legs out from under Braves catcher Johnny Oates. “It’s the smartest play I’ve ever seen,” said Oates. “And an embarrassing one for me.”
The best may be saved for (second to) last: Berkow’s 1969 suggestion that Major League Baseball needs “Marxist leadership.” As in Groucho Marx. With the baseball commissioner-ship open (and later taken by Bowie Kuhn), Berkow’s argument ended with the inevitable: “Of course, they cannot ask him to take the post. He would accept only if it were refused him. ‘I would never join a club,’ Groucho has said, ‘that would want me for a member.’”
Turns out, we never did find out the story about Seaver and the overcoat. We were too busy reading the other columns in the book and forgot all about the title, recalling the only time we visited Shea on Labor Day, 1989, and had to spend a couple of innings under an awning waiting for it to stop raining.
Oh, Berkow’s final colum: “Rain Check.” As in, we’ll take a rain check on any other books written about Shea Stadium.