Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: In hindsight, Hynd’s reward for remembering the end of Ebbets Field is a salad bowl of information

last game ebbets
Gil Hodges approaches the plate in this May 30, 1955 game between the Dodgers and the Pirates at Ebbets Field. The Dodgers would win their only World Series in Brooklyn that year. Two season later, they moved to L.A. (John C. Wagner/National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

“The Final Game at Ebbets Field”

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The author:
Noel Hynd

The publishing info:
Red Cat Tales Publishing LLC/Los Angeles
241 pages
$14.95
Released June, 2019

The links:
At Amazon.com
At Powells.com
At Indiebound.org

The review in 90 feet or less

From what we’ve come to find out about Noel Hynd — piecing together bios of him on the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com), something called the FantasticFiction.com site, more from Amazon.com’s author info, a touch more from Encyclopedia.com, and another tale spun on GoodReads.com — we’ve got something of a good read on this prolific writer, born somewhere between 1947 and 1952, far more known in the world of fiction novels, New York born and now based in Culver City.

From what we really don’t know about the last game played at Ebbets Field – a Baseball Hall of Fame story notes the end “came quietly, with just 6,702 fans watching … the cheers, however, resound to this day” — added up to a 2-0 Dodgers win on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 1957, with someone named Danny McDevitt going the distance. The two-hour, three-minute exercise seemed to be a bit of a footnote to the history of the place.

It wasn’t the last games played by the Brooklyn Dodgers. They went to Philadelphia, lost two of their last three, and polished off a 84-70 season, 11 games behind NL champion Milwaukee.

With those two points on the map, the intersection of Hynd and Dodger history in these self-published pages is an odd burst of non-conformist confusion, inspiration and, when we’re done, splendid bliss.

It’s also award worthy.

Last April, SABR announced that “The Final Game at Ebbets Field” was selected as the winner of the Ron Gabriel Award in 2020. The recognition is for anyone who has done “the best research, published or unpublished, on the subject of the Brooklyn Dodgers.” We actually might have swung our support behind the book that got honorable mention — David Naze’s “Reclaiming 42: Public Memory and the Reframing of Jackie Robinson’s Radical Legacy,” which we favorably reviewed.

The actual essay-type piece about the Brooklyn Dodgers’ last dance is less than 30 pages, including a photocopy of a scorecard. It has interesting footnotes about how organist Gladys Gooding played “May The Good Lord Bless and Keep You” and “Auld Lang Syne,” and New York Journal-American writer Dave Anderson purposely let other sportswriters leave the building first so he could, as “my playful little secret,” that he was the last sportswriter to leave Ebbets Field.

Where would Hynd go from there?

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Hilda Chester displays the bracelet presented to her by the Brooklyn Dodgers as the best bleacher fan, on Aug. 7, 1943, in Brooklyn. From left: Mickey Owen, Chuck Dressen, clubhouse man John Griffin, Chester, and Max Macon. (AP)

Chapter 2 is about organized women’s baseball (specifically, Ida Schnall, who later moved to L.A. and tried to organize a team in Hollywood in 1928). It’s followed by more somewhat oral-history gathering of information about people like Ebbets Field public address announcer Tex Rickards (who started in 1924 and was still there at the end, but wasn’t invited to move to L.A. with the team, along with Hilda Chester, Happy Felton, Emmett Kelly “and the whole espirit d’Ebbets).

The key chapter may be Hynd talking about his own father, Alan, a crime writer who started in the 1920s who took material from his newspaper days. He relays a story about how his dad was able to get members of the famous Flying Tigers into an important Dodgers-Cardinals game at Ebbets Field during World War II.  It’s part of a collection of “Ebbets Field Reminiscence” collected that, scattered through the book, continue the theme.

71W5-o3stVLAnother remembrance is from New York Times writer George Vecsey — did you know he was born on the actual day of Lou Gehrig’s 1939 farewell speech on July 4? — who says Ebbets Field “stays with me, deep in my psyche …

I sometimes drive friends or long-suffering family members around the (current) apartments and point out where the players left the clubhouse and walked along Sullivan Place to the parking lot and kids asked for autographs … I can feel Ebbets Field wrapped around me, my field of dreams.

 

How it goes in the scorebook

IMG_0489It may frustrate some that this isn’t a scholarly look at the last game, or the way it launches into not just Ebbets Field history but also that of the sport’s existence in Brooklyn and beyond.

Perhaps that’s also the beauty of this. It’s a non-conforming, all-confirming effort of memory, fact-finding, discovery and personal tales that need to be captured somewhere, somehow, before they all disappear. Maybe someone with a more polished approach will take these to the next level someday — a Ken Burns documentation that needs pearls of happenstance to connect scenes and keep the tapestry sewn together.

For the last game at Ebbets Field – tickets went for $3 lower box, $2 for grandstand and 75 cents for the bleachers –Hynd notes that Walter Alston’s lineup had Gil Hodges starting at third base, Don Zimmer at shortstop over Pee Wee Reese. and there was no Duke Snider or Carl Furillo. Also absent: Walter O’Malley.

But Vin Scully, Al Helfer and Jerry Doggett were in the broadcast booth, and the mood was “like visiting a dying friend in the hospital… yet the grass still had that incredible greenness, as if Aunt Maureen had sent it over from Ireland.”

How do we really know the later part? We’ll pretend, as if Scully described it to us.

At a time when we need to use some more of our visual imaging to get us through some slow days, this is something that captures our baseball mind and can actually get us through a rough patch.

Might as well let you know about

51UnrbeIDjLThe 1995 book, “Murder at Ebbets Field” by Troy Soos, part of a “Mickey Rawlings Baseball Mystery” series comes with this blurb via Amazon.com:
It’s One. . .Two. . .Three Strikes You’re Dead
Mickey Rawlings will do whatever it takes to help his New York Giants get past the Brooklyn Dodgers and into the World Series. If that means playing a bit part in a movie starring screen goddess Florence Hampton, he’s game. What’s not in the lineup is Florence washing up on a beach bloated and dead following a glitzy night of champagne and paparazzi. Since Rawlings has a perfect batting average when it comes to solving murders, he can’t just walk away from the crime–especially when the killer has an agenda that could change more than a few lives forever–and puts the Series into perspective for Rawlings. While the boys of summer heat up for the final playoff stretch, every pitch, every swing heightens the tension on a mystery that might be too tough for Rawlings to deliver in the clutch this time.”

 

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