In this first episode, the viewer will be introduced to some key
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
first found out I was sold to Brooklyn," he says. "But I'm tickled to
I'm glad I could play in Brooklyn."
In this segment, Pee Wee goes back to Brooklyn 35 years after the team
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
noise and color that was Ebbets. He also visits the house where, as a
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
the growing trend of suburban living.
When Rickey brought Robinson up from Montreal to play with the Dodgers,
fans were less than welcoming, and each trip to a different ball field
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
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
ended the Dodgers' hopes for a league pennant and a shot at the World
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
his fear that this would be his last chance to be on a championship team
proudly shows his World Series ring.
Despite the euphoria, a shadow hung over Brooklyn as neighborhoods
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
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