By Meredith Kennedy
The Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles over 50 years ago, but their presence lives on through team memorabilia and old photographs in Sport Prospect sporting good store on 7th Avenue in Park Slope. For one-time Brooklyn fans, watching the New York Yankees in the 105th World Series evokes memories that are not so sweet.
This may be one New York sports constituency that doesn’t exult the Bronx Bombers 40th trip to the Fall Classic.
Owner Carl Manco, 57, stocks Sport Prospect with original Brooklyn wear, including graphic t-shirts and classic zip-ups that line the walls of the small neighborhood store. At the checkout counter, there is a bin of small Brooklyn Dodger squeezable baseballs with the 1955 World Series Champions insignia on sale for $2.
“It’s a store like no other because we control our own inventory. I like to keep it simple,” Manco said during a recent weekday evening at his store. “Everyone comes in here and wants to take away something that says Brooklyn.”
As the Yankees take on the Philadelphia Phillies this week, Manco may be in the minority, but he is not alone. Many former Dodger fans aren’t cheering on the city’s premiere sport franchise. “The die-hard Dodgers fans are gone, but there are still a lot of people who hate the Yankees,” baseball historian John Thorn said in a telephone interview from his home in upstate Saugerties.
That was not the case at Wednesday’s rainy day pep-rally hosted by Mayor Bloomberg in Times Square for a large crowd of Yankee fans. Bloomberg encouraged fans to wear Yankee gear to school and work to show support for the city’s team. “We’ve got the best city in the world and the best team in the world,” Bloomberg said. Still, many Brooklyn Dodger fans would disagree.
Thorn, 62, author and editor of several baseball related books, was born in a displaced persons camp in occupied Germany before coming to New York with his parents, both Holocaust survivors, in 1949. “I caught on at young age to the fact that baseball was the true visa to America,” Thorn recalled. Though he grew up in the Bronx, Thorn was an avid Dodgers fan, and had a keen interest in the sport since childhood.
When the Dodgers were relocated to Los Angeles in 1957 after building a fortune on community allegiance, Thorn, like many, was heartbroken. “It was the equivalent of your parents divorcing,” Thorn said, “if not worse.” Even after the news of the uprooting was made official, fans remained in denial and at a loss for what team to root for in the future.
At the time, the Yankees were the only other New York alternative. Thorn continued to root for the Dodgers from the East Coast, until becoming a Mets fan when they joined the league in 1962. To root for the Yankees during that time would have meant rooting for the upper class.
Even with the Mets’ disappointing, injury-plagued season, Thorn will not turn to the Yankees, still enjoying success in an expensive new stadium completed this year. “Yankee fans deserve sympathy because they are lesser people. They need victory,” Thorn said jokingly. As a Mets fan, he is used to enduring long, fallow periods. “This testifies to character.”
Today, the Yankees may be the center of the city’s attention and have the support of Mayor Bloomberg, but the Bombers will have to win without Thorn’s support. “Constitutionally, I am incapable of rooting for them.”