So I know I promised a non-sports post today, but ... well, I didn't exactly plan on seeing "The Ghosts of Flatbush" on HBO tonight. I just happened upon it while flipping through the channels, and, even though I'm 45 minutes late into it and I've only seen 15 minutes so far, but ... I'm impressed.
One of the reasons this documentary on the Brooklyn Dodgers is so striking is that they used on-camera commentary from Lester Rodney, sports editor of The Daily Worker. Yes, that would be the communist party newspaper The Daily Worker. If that weren't intriguing enough, the documentary was examining the dichotomy between the team that brought Jackie Robinson in to break the color barrier and the Yankees, who were slow to integrate. And Rodney relayed this epitaph:
"George Weiss was the general manager of the Yankees, and they had a player named Vic Power in Kansas City, who was hitting like .350, and a marvelous first baseman, and he said 'That nigger don't belong in pinstripes.'"
Of course, the movie covers a lot of territory that's a beaten path. The story of the 1951 season is one of the most well-known in baseball, with the Dodgers collapse climaxing with Bobby Thompson's home run and the epic call of "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" There's even a M*A*S*H episode about it. But you can't avoid retelling it.
The Dodgers 1955 World Series title is another classic tale, but "Ghosts" adds a gem from an Game 7 winner Johnny Podres, who spoke on camera about his routine in the top half of each inning:
"I'd go down and have a cigarette and said 'Let me know when there's two outs. When there's two outs I butted my cigarette and went up and went out to the mound again."
Who says anachronism isn't fun?!
With enough accents to distinguish a difference between borough argots, communist journalists, and frank, uncensored commentary uninterrupted by commercials, it's worthy of two hours of your time, particularly on a slow night. Whatever the rest of the film is like, it's a shame it wasn't promoted nearly as well as a certain other documentary about New York baseball, ESPN's "The Bronx is Burning," which you've not heard about only if you have a complete aversion to sports (and you're reading this?! I should buy you dinner!) or have been hiding in Cheney's bunker.
This affirms the money spent on my HBO subscription this month. Which is good, since Bill Maher doesn't come off of hiatus until August.