Sports

‘Dem Bums’ Memories Live On for Brooklyn Priest

The Brooklyn Dodgers celebrate after winning the 1955 World Series. (Photo: Public Domain)
The Brooklyn Dodgers celebrate after winning the 1955 World Series. (Photo: Public Domain)

A routine grounder to short sealed the deal.

It’s Tuesday, Oct. 4, 1955. An 11-year-old James Devlin has just finished up his school day at St. Catherine of Alexandria, Boro Park, and he can sense the excitement in the Brooklyn air.

That’s because that routine grounder off the bat of Elston Howard was gobbled up by Pee Wee Reese for the final out of the 1955 World Series, in which the Brooklyn Dodgers defeated the mighty New York Yankees in seven games to be crowned world champions.

Finally, the Dodgers came through in the World Series. There was no more “Wait ‘til next year.” As the following day’s Daily News cover read, “This is next year!”

Devlin, now Father James Devlin, pastor emeritus of Good Shepherd parish, Marine Park, can still recall his memories – and even the starting lineups – of that series and what it meant to the borough.

Growing up in Boro Park, baseball became a way of life for Father Devlin from an early age. He was an outfielder for the Catholic Youth Organization teams at St. Catherine’s and was lucky enough to attend a few Dodgers games at Ebbets Field in Crown Heights.

“Everybody in the Devlin family was a Dodger fan,” he said. “You didn’t have any choice. Everybody in Brooklyn…except for a few idiots…was a Dodgers fan.”

What a time it was to be a baseball fan in Brooklyn. Following the likes of Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella Don Newcombe, Duke Snider and Carl Furillo had to have been such a thrill for young Father Devlin.

But when it came to the World Series, it was always “Wait ‘til next year!” The heartbreaking moments piled up for Dodgers fans through the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In September 1955 with the Dodgers maintaining a comfortable lead for the National League pennant, Devlin’s older sister Sheila, also a huge Dodgers fan, entered the convent as a religious nun. Devlin’s mother, Dolly, always told him that when he entered a new church – as he did to see his sister profess her final vows – he could make a wish.

The 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers (Photo: Public Domain)
The 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers (Photo: Public Domain)

“The wish that I had was that the Dodgers would win the World Series,” Father Devlin said. “So I was probably the hidden reason why the Dodgers won.”

That wish seemed like a long shot after the Yankees won the first two games of the best-of-seven series at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Most Dodgers fans thought the series was already over, but hope was not entirely lost as the series shifted to Brooklyn for the next three games.

In Game 3, Dodgers lefty Johnny Podres pitched a complete-game for the victory. A 14-hit outburst, including home runs by Campanella, Hodges and Snider, gave Brooklyn a win in Game 4. The Dodgers then hung on for a close win in Game 5.

Behind a complete-game effort from ace Whitey Ford, the Yankees won Game 6 to force a decisive Game 7 at Yankee Stadium. One game would decide if “Dem Bums” would once again have to “Wait ‘til next year.”

By the sixth inning, Brooklyn hero Hodges had driven in two runs to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. In the bottom of the inning, the Yankees had a rally going. A deep fly ball off the bat of Yogi Berra seemed destined for the left field corner, but Dodgers left fielder Sandy Amorós made a miraculous catch and doubled-off the runner at first base to save the game.

Podres again turned in a masterful performance, a complete-game shutout to clinch the World Series title. For his efforts, he was named World Series M.V.P. – the first year the award was ever given.

“I distinctly remember when the Dodgers won, it was a day game, and that night, all of Brooklyn went crazy…cars with people yelling and screaming and banners and fireworks,” Father Devlin said. “People were really ecstatic that the Dodgers won. It really brought Brooklyn together.”

It was this World Series that piqued Father Devlin’s interest in baseball, which has devoutly continued to this day.

“I was a Dodger fan my whole life from the time I was a little boy,” he said. “It certainly wiped away every time they had lost to the Yankees in the past because it gave you some bragging rights that the Dodgers finally won one. They finally won the World Series. It made up for a lot of past hurts.”

Now a New York Mets fan, Father Devlin’s time rooting for the Dodgers has prepared him well for the heartbreak associated with following the Amazins’ – especially the past few seasons.

But at least he’ll always have those boyhood memories of when “next year” became “this year” for the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers.


Contact Jim Mancari via email at jmmanc@gmail.com.

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