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Jim Murray

True Blue and Knows History, Too

April 22, 1986|Jim Murray

He likes to think of himself not as a Dodger fan but the Dodger fan.

He can prove it. He was there when the Dodgers went into the ninth inning of the pennant playoff leading by one run and, with two on, a home run was hit into the left-field seats and they lost the pennant.

"Terrible," says Danny Kaye shaking his head. "I will never forgive Bobby Thomson."

Bobby Thomson? 1951? What about Jack Clark, 1985?

"Jack Clark was not a Giant," Kaye sniffs.

The Clark-Cardinals disaster of 1985 was not even the second-blackest day in Dodger history, in Kaye's view. That dubious honor goes to another playoff, the one in '62 against the Giants.

"Stan Williams walked in the National League pennant," he groans. "We walked the Giants into the World Series."

It's not that he discounts losing a playoff to the St. Louis Cardinals or puts it out of his mind. "I remember it well," he says. "It was in 1946."

No, Danny Kaye is not just a Dodger fan. Danny Kaye is not just an anything. Danny Kaye was never just a dancer, just a singer, or an entertainer, actor, chef or comedian. From the first time he walked on stage in a Broadway musical or in front of a camera on the Goldwyn lot, Danny Kaye wanted to be a one and only.

This was true whether he was flying an airplane, hitting a golf ball, cooking an omelet, touring for the United Nations children's fund or conducting a symphony. The kid from Brooklyn was never content to be part of a cast.

He feels as if he owns the Dodgers. He did own a major league baseball team a few years ago--the Seattle Mariners. It wasn't the same thing.

Danny found it so hard to get interested in his own property that he used to call up Dodger owner Peter O'Malley and say: "How did we do today?"

And O'Malley, perplexed, would say: "Just a minute, I'll get the standings and see what Seattle did," and Kaye would say: "No, no! Not them! How did we do? The Dodgers!"

He couldn't handle the American League.

"The American League was just something that came to town at World Series time," he says. "I thought it consisted entirely of the New York Yankees."

The best damn fan in Brooklyn became the BDF in L.A., too. His rubbery face and merry, inquisitive eyes, which give him the look of a perpetually surprised blueberry tart, and the long lanky frame that always gives the impression he is dancing even when he is just walking across a room became as familiar a sight in the Dodger locker room as the manager's clam linguine.

Other of Manager Tom Lasorda's cronies were pictures on the wall. Danny Kaye, though, was making a personal appearance. A benefit, if you will, since he always wants to give the Dodgers the benefit of his long expertise in the grand old game. Like every fan who ever lived, he thinks he knows more about the game than the people who run it.

The commissioner's edict banning non-official personnel from the locker room and manager's quarters before a game has worked a hardship on Danny. It has worked an even worse one on the Dodgers, though, since they cannot avail themselves of Kaye's pregame advice.

But Good Fan Kaye would not dream of breaking a commissioner's order. After all, Kaye points out, the commissioner is the commissioner of all baseball and the fan is an integral part of baseball.

Kaye may be the only Dodger fan in history to become a member of the French Legion of Honor. Membership in that society, founded 180 years ago by Napoleon, is the highest honor France can award, and Danny may be the first guy to get it who understood the hit and run.

It's a nice honor but well short of Cooperstown. Besides, Kaye really thirsts for recognition as the ultimate all-time Dodger fan.

Is there anything about the Dodgers, he doesn't know?

"Try me," Danny Kaye suggests.

OK, who was the young thrower who was so wild they almost gave up on him until he finally put it all together and became a Hall of Fame pitcher noted for his blazing fastball and strikeouts?

"Easy," Kaye says. "Dazzy Vance. The first pitcher my father ever took me to see."

How about a towering right-hander who seemed to pitch out of a glowering rage and would knock you off the plate with his fireball if you crowded it?

"Van Lingle Mungo!" Kaye shouts. "Or do you mean Sal Maglie?"

What about the guy who put the stolen base back in the Dodger arsenal, running wild on the base paths?

"Easy!" Kaye says. "Max Carey!"

Anyone can tell you of the Dodgers of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Maury Wills. Danny can go back to the days when they were so bad the Giant manager, Bill Terry, wondered out loud, "Is Brooklyn still in the league?"

Brooklyn isn't, but Danny Kaye is. And he won't panic at the hitless beginning.

"If you think things are bad today, you should have seen what Burleigh Grimes had to put up with!"

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