The premise sounded like so much fun — during the innocent phase, before the pain began: a matchup of all-time Dodgers versus Yankees!
Think greatest World Series ever. Imagine the possibilities. Imagine the matchups, the drama, the personalities, the history.
These are baseball's greatest World Series rivals. No two teams have met more often in the World Series. If it's not exactly Lakers-Celtics, it's close.
"These are two of the historically most significant teams in baseball history,'' says NBC sportscaster and baseball author Bob Costas. "They just have extremely rich and textured histories."
The Dodgers and Yankees have met in the World Series 11 times. The Yankees hold a commanding 8-3 lead, though they've split their last six meetings.
So if you're putting together their all-time teams, what could possibly go wrong?
It's all that history. Almost too much history.
Seriously, is there possibly a correct answer as to New York's starting center fielder?
Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle? Cleopatra or Helen of Troy?
Pee Wee Reese or Maury Wills? Tony Lazzeri or Joe Gordon? Carl Furillo or Tommy Davis? Babe Ruth or … OK, so they're not all tough calls.
But DiMaggio or Mantle? Two of baseball's greatest roaming the same position.
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre, and ex-Yankees manager, grew up in New York before playing 17 seasons in the major leagues.
"I didn't see a lot of Joe DiMaggio,'' Torre says. "But I remember my first spring training I caught, and Mickey Mantle stepped in the batter's box. I had goose bumps over my whole body.''
There is no way out of this but to cheat, or maybe just stretch things a certain way: It's an all-star team, right? And at the All-Star game sometimes outfielders move from one position to another. So Mantle moves to left.
That would leave the Yankees with an outfield of Mantle, DiMaggio and Ruth.
"That'll work," Costas says.
The Dodgers counter here with an outfield of Zack Wheat, Duke Snider and Furillo, all doing their damage in Brooklyn. Very nice, but hardly of the same caliber.
And that is something of a theme when examining the rosters. The Yankees' lineup is loaded with monstrous superstars almost throughout, the Dodgers only a handful.
In 1998, the Sporting News put together a list of baseball's greatest 100 players of all time. It included 10 Yankees and four Dodgers on the rosters here.
Since then, the Yankees have added Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera — and since this is an All-Star team and not a vote into the Hall of Fame, Alex Rodriguez. The Dodgers have added Eric Gagne.
"To me, offensively you have to give the nod to the Yankees,'' Torre says.
That's Torre the diplomat. Costas, who also grew up in New York, is more blunt.
"I mean, it's so clear the Yankees' everyday lineup is superior to the Dodgers' in this matchup — it's not even close — that the Dodgers' only chance is on the mound,'' he says.
Ah, yes, but the rotation swings dramatically the other way. Here the Dodgers have clear advantage. Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale remain the gold standard of pitching duos.
Then there is Dazzy Vance, Fernando Valenzuela, Don Sutton, Johnny Podres, Orel Hershiser, Don Newcombe, Claude Osteen. A veritable surplus of pitching greats.
The Yankees offer Whitey Ford and a bunch of very good starters.
But then comes the bullpen, where it swings back the Yankees' way.
"None of their bullpen guys were as good as the starters,'' Dave Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times, says of the Dodgers.
The Dodgers' bullpen is led by Ron Perranoski, Jim Brewer and Gagne. The Yankees counter with Rich Gossage, Dave Righetti and Rivera.
All these positions, of course, are ridiculously debatable. Players from different eras — really, what do you do with Wee Willie Keeler? — and players known from statistics versus those witnessed on television.
Costas likes Wills to edge Reese, Steve Garvey over Gil Hodges, Tommy Davis over Furillo, Allie Reynolds over Lefty Gomez. Anderson likes Gordon over Lazzeri, Newcombe over Valenzuela, Vic Raschi and Reynolds over Gomez and Andy Pettitte. Torre already likes Robinson Cano over Lazzeri.
Then, when our series moves to New York, we could always use a designated hitter. Still unaccounted for is Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson.
"Reggie's my DH,'' Anderson says. "Let's pick a DH, it'll give Reggie a job. That's a pretty tough outfield to break into.''
Anderson suggests Babe Herman as the DH for the Dodgers, Costas likes Garvey.
And how does it all play out? Could the Dodgers ride their rotation to squeak past a real Murderers' Row?
"Koufax may have to pitch a couple of these games on two days' rest,'' Costas says. "It has to be an old-style World Series, where Koufax pitches Games 1, 4 and 7.''
Says Torre: "When I played, Koufax and Drysdale were pitching every four days. That's two days off for the manager.''