In this first episode, the viewer will be introduced to some key characters in the series: Larry MacPhail, the general manager who started the Dodger dynasty in the thirties. He was a man so driven he had taken it upon himself to try to capture the Kaiser during World War I. A hard drinker and gambler, he once traded away the entire Dodger team during a bender. Leo Durocher, shortstop and field manager, was indispensable to MacPhail, though MacPhail fired and rehired Durocher with a regularity that not even Steinbrenner and Martin could match. Durocher was a womanizer, a penny-ante con man, and a gambler who hit the jackpot with two youngsters named Pete Reiser and Pee Wee Reese.

Branch Rickey, who was hired to replace MacPhail. A god-fearing son of a Methodist minister from Ohio, Rickey was a man of legendary frugality. Player Harry Walker recalls, "For God's sake, plug up your ears when you talk to Rickey. He'll get you for nothing." Rickey changed the Dodgers and baseball forever when he integrated the team by signing Jackie Robinson. The visionary Walter O'Malley, Rickey's successor, who foresaw domed stadiums, astroturf, and cable TV and who would break the collective heart of a borough by taking the Dodgers out of Brooklyn. Robert Moses, who essentially ran New York for over 30 years, was also partially responsible for the Dodgers' leaving. He used his political office to change the face of New York. His story is told by author and consummate Dodger fan Robert Caro, whose biography of Moses, The Power Broker, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Actor and former Knothole Ganger Lou Gossett, actor Martin Landau, and talk show host Larry King, Brooklyn natives who, throughout the series, recall with humor and tenderness what the town and the team meant to them. Pee Wee Reese, the quiet kid from Kentucky who became "the Captain", the foundation on which the great Dodger dynasty of the forties and fifties was built. At the age of 18, Harold Henry Reese quit his job as a cable splicer with the telephone company to play in the minor leagues. When signed to the majors, he expected to play for Boston. "I didn't want to play there when I first found out I was sold to Brooklyn," he says. "But I'm tickled to death. I'm glad I could play in Brooklyn."

In this segment, Pee Wee goes back to Brooklyn 35 years after the team left for Los Angeles. With his old rival, Bobby Thomson, and Roger Kahn, he revisits the site of Ebbets Field, where the three men share memories of the noise and color that was Ebbets. He also visits the house where, as a young player, he lived with his wife and daughter. Pee Wee left his family in 1943 to serve in the South Pacific. The Communist press collected 10,000 signatures in a campaign to have Reese replaced by Negro Leaguer Willy Wells. Branch Rickey declined Wells, but while returning home from the war, Reese heard the news that Rickey had signed Jackie Robinson to a minor league contract. This was only one of the changes facing returning veterans. There were labor disputes, Soviet expansionism, spiraling inflation, and a housing shortage. A Brooklyn developer named William Levitt solved the housing dilemma and boosted the economy by introducing the nation to suburbia. Robert Moses began slicing through neighborhoods to build highways to serve the growing trend of suburban living.

When Rickey brought Robinson up from Montreal to play with the Dodgers, the fans were less than welcoming, and each trip to a different ball field became another ordeal to be faced. Reese quieted the fans and brought the team together by the simple gesture of walking over to second base and placing his hand on Robinson's shoulder. "That gesture spoke volumes," says Carl Erskine. "Jackie Robinson -- and more than that -- that the history of baseball had changed." America was changing, too. A strong economy led to increased materialism and optimism even as the Korean War and the Cold War led to increased pessimism and paranoia over Communism. The Dodgers' own historic battle -- with the Giants -- happened on October 3, 1951, the day that Bobby Thomson fired the shot heard round the world and ended the Dodgers' hopes for a league pennant and a shot at the World Series. The families whom we saw gathered around the radio listening to the 1941 Series were probably among those 10 million Americans who owned TV sets ten years later. The team came back to win it all in 1955. Pee Wee talks about his fear that this would be his last chance to be on a championship team and proudly shows his World Series ring. Despite the euphoria, a shadow hung over Brooklyn as neighborhoods declined, Ebbets was deteriorating, and fan attendance was falling. Walter O'Malley and Robert Moses began their negotiations. 1984. Pee Wee Reese is inducted into the Hall of Fame. Intercut with footage of the induction ceremony is Reese on camera, talking about what it means to him to be in such esteemed company. He pays tribute to his wife: "You were always number one in my heart." Roger Kahn, Carl Erskine, Ralph Branca, and Duke Snider testify to Pee Wee's importance in their lives and careers. His importance to Brooklyn is demonstrated by a never-before-heard, wistful recording sent to Pee Wee by his Brooklyn fan club in 1958, when Pee Wee and the Dodgers had gone forever.

ESPN's "The Original America's Team" schedule

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