I root for two professional baseball teams:
The New York Mets and whoever is playing the New York Yankees!
I couldn’t imagine what I’d do if the Mets packed up and moved. Would I keep my allegiance to a team no longer in my home city, or would I root for a team I’ve hated since birth?
Thankfully, I don’t have to think about that. Yet I’m curious as to what the fanbases of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants did when both teams moved west following the 1957 season.
I’ve heard many stories about how Brooklyn Dodgers fans simply became Mets fans. The Mets though didn’t join the National League until 1962, so what did these fans do in the short term?
Some tried to follow the newly established Los Angeles Dodgers. Doing so was nothing like being a fan today. Relying on newspaper box scores the next day certainly does not sound too appealing – especially for a team that left with little remorse for the fans in the first place.
Of course, Dodger fans could never convert to the Yankees, because that would be a cardinal sin. These were true rivals, since even though they were in different leagues, they met so often in the World Series. From 1941 through 1956, the Yankees earned six titles over the Dodgers, while the Dodgers won just once in 1955.
However, there is a select group of Dodgers fans who made the switch to the “Evil Empire.”
Genevieve Decaminada, a Somers, N.Y. resident, spent the first 35 years of her life in Greenpoint/ Williamsburg split between Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Francis of Paola parishes. She grew up a Brooklyn Dodger fan who especially loved Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and Gil Hodges.
She lived through all those Yankee World Series titles and said she cried many times after those games. She thought that the Yankees were “good Church people” since they always won and the Dodgers were “Dem Bums.” She still remembers the elation the borough experienced following the ’55 Series.
“I remember it because we decorated the house. All the streets were decorated with flags. It was bedlam, it was wonderful, and we were all so excited,” said Decaminada, who had a change of heart just a short time later.
“I was so mad with rotten (Walter) O’Malley when he moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles, so I just gave up on them,” she said.
Meanwhile, Decaminada began dating a young man, Joe, who would later become her husband. Joe was from Wyoming and came to Brooklyn as a 4-year-old. His father and brothers were all huge Yankees fans, especially of the great Joe DiMaggio, so Decaminada made the switch to fit in.
She remains a passionate Yankee fan to this day, with a special affinity for longtime shortstop and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. Not only does she have a Jeter shrine in her home, but she has also shown her support for “The Captain” by donating to his Turn 2 Foundation.
Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, John Caffrey knew the Yankees and the Giants were the dominant teams among his friends. Still, even from a young age, he wanted to support the underdog, so he became a Brooklyn Dodger fan, with his favorite player being catching great Roy Campanella.
“Being a Dodger fan in the early 1950s was like being a Communist in Manhattan,” Caffrey said. “I used to go to the Yankee games, and they were perfect. They couldn’t do anything wrong. I said they don’t need me to root for them. The Dodgers though needed some help.”
Caffrey felt so betrayed when the Dodgers moved that he became indifferent toward baseball for several years. He and his young family settled in Jackson Heights, and they moved to Westchester while his children were still small. His kids became Yankee fans, though they probably would have been Mets fans if the family stayed in Queens.
“I couldn’t root against my kids,” Caffrey said. “How could I not root for the Yankees?”
For Mike Palmieri, originally of Dyker Heights, his Brooklyn Dodger fandom used to run deep. He lived just a few blocks from Ebbets Field and would stand outside to collect autographs from all his favorite players.
“We loved the Dodgers,” said Palmieri, formerly of St. Francis Xavier parish, Park Slope. “Not too long after they left, I started to give up on them be- cause they moved to Los Angeles.”
Palmieri started rooting for the Mets in the early days. However, he was very disappointed with the team’s poor performance year after year. While hesitant about it at first, he made the incredibly difficult decision to join the “Dark Side.”
“I hated the Yankees because they always won,” Palmieri said. “I got to the point though where I said, ‘If you can’t beat them, you gotta join them.’”
I’ll tell you one thing: There’s not a chance I would ever become a Yankees fan – no matter how many times they beat the Mets or even if the Mets moved away.
I do understand though that these three fans all put their passion for the sport of baseball ahead of their past allegiances.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.