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Bill Plaschke

It's Cheap Shot Heard 'Round Dodger World

September 07, 2001|Bill Plaschke

So, during the final days of the pennant race, the San Francisco Giants want the Dodgers to participate in a nightlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of Bobby Thomson's home run.

Think they'll pass out telescopes so their fans can steal signs?

Actually, the Giants were hoping that for their Sept. 16 game at Pacific Bell Park, the Dodgers would join them in wearing 1951 uniforms while reliving the most heartbreaking moment in Dodger history.

No word yet on whether they also wanted them to stick Dusty Baker's toothpicks in their eyes.

The Dodgers have declined the request on account of , it being really stupid.

Would the Dodgers ask the Oakland Athletics to participate in a ceremony honoring Kirk Gibson's home run? Would the New York Mets celebrate their 1986 World Series championship by holding a reunion with Bill Buckner?

"It's crazy," said Dodger Chairman Bob Daly.

The Giants are going to do it anyway, wear the old uniforms, trot out the old video, twist the knife.

"There's no malice intended," claimed Jim Moorehead, the Giants' media relations manager. "This is about a great baseball moment, a great baseball rivalry. When else would we do it?"

This is the same organization that, earlier this season, stranded the Dodgers in the field for about 10 minutes in the eighth inning to celebrate Barry Bonds' 500th home run.

So, yeah, when else would they honor Bobby Thomson?

To which the Dodgers have replied with a "you-can-stick-it" heard 'round the world.

"I have no problem with the Giants celebrating their championship," Daly said. "But do they have to do it when we are in town?"

All of this could have been avoided, of course, if the Giants had instead used the game to honor the number of World Series titles won by the San Francisco franchise.

That way, everyone could have taken the day off.

Isn't this fun?

Just when you thought a pennant and home run chase couldn't get any better, add old wounds and bad manners and revisionist history.

And, oh, yes, Ralph Branca.

In planning the celebration, the Giants even went so far as to invite the Dodger pitcher who allowed the pennant-winning homer to Thomson.

Sadly, he'll be there. The Giants knew it was an offer he couldn't refuse.

"I hate the Giants, I've hated them for 50 years," Branca said Thursday from his home in New York. "But I've taken the high road all this time, and I can't stop now. If I don't come, everybody will think I'm a sore loser."

Better that than a cheater.

Clouding the upcoming ceremonies is the fallout from last winter's Wall Street Journal story that detailed baseball's oldest secret--that the Giants mounted their historic 1951 comeback only after successfully stealing opposing catcher's signs.

Here's guessing the Giants probably won't re-create Herman Franks spying on the Dodger catcher from the center-field clubhouse. Nor Franks sounding a buzzer to relay the type of pitch to Salvadore Yvars in the bullpen. Nor Yvars using body language to relay it to the batter.

While most of his living teammates acknowledged stealing signs, Thomson won't admit whether his home run came on a pitch he knew was coming.

But it doesn't matter. The pennant has been tainted, no matter how many times Russ Hodges says it.

"What I've known for years has finally been made public--they stole the pennant," Branca said.

"Any anger I have is not toward their players, but toward the organization for allowing it to happen."

But he'll be on the Pac-Bell field Sept. 16, and so will Thomson, the leaders of a bizarre parade in which the Dodgers refuse to participate.

Which, as trivial as it might sound, says something about the Dodgers.

After suffering through several years of an identity crisis, maybe they have finally rediscovered who they are.

"If anybody would walk into my office and tell me that wearing the 1951 uniforms was no big deal, I would say, 'Where were you when it happened?"' Daly said.

Daly remembers. He was in a Brooklyn high school classroom. The teacher let everyone listen to the game on the radio.

When the game ended and the radios were clicked off, the teacher, who had not listened to the final inning, said, "OK, the Dodgers won, now get back to work."

Daly said he and his classmates wailed.

"It was one of the lowest points of my childhood," Daly said. "We all screamed, 'No, the Dodgers lost! They lost!' It was so hard to accept."

Even to this day, leading Daly to turn down the Giants' request without a moment's thought.

"To relive one of the darkest days in this franchise's history ... it was like, 'Are you kidding?"' he said.

There have been times when Daly has seemed clearly in over his head in this job.

But those times are fewer and fewer.

And this time is not one of them.

From the hiring of old-school Jim Tracy to the embracing of former stars, Daly is slowly plugging the leak in Dodger tradition that, at least for now, does not include telescopes.

*

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plascke@latimes.com

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