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By Frank DeSorbo
The monthly magazine I receive entitled ‘Reminisce’, the February Spotlight article on Ted Williams and the thought of having a special Patriot Flight event of an ‘Auction and Display of Sports and Military Memorabilia’ all collided into my recollections of baseball. Being only 70 miles away from the Baseball Hall of Fame in the beautiful village of Cooperstown, I am not the only person who does not frequent the Hall as often as we should. Again a nice Patriot Flight event may be a round of golf and a day or two at the Otesaga Hotel. I stayed at the hotel once and a lifelong wish “if only the walls could speak.”
Reminisce is a nice monthly magazine that does not go out of date. It has personal stories from the 40’s and 50’s about the time gone by and the memories come back. So I go back to 1955 when my lifelong team the Dodgers beat the Yankees. The Dodgers were now freed of the longstanding nickname “Bums.”
Many Veterans in our area are Yankee fans and so few are Dodger fans. Most of our Senior Citizen Veterans these days are Vietnam Veterans born in the 40’s. So looking at the 50’s is a time to reminisce. Some of our Veterans remember the 1954 Little League World Champions from Schenectady and memorialized in a book call ‘Destiny Darlings.’ My Dodgers made the 1955 sports headlines and that year make up so much of my own memorabilia.
My glorious Dodgers had great players. Names as Snider, Robinson, Reese, Hodges, Campanella, are familiar to most baseball fans. Many are in the Baseball Hall of Fame or should be and many served this country well in WW II. Hodges missed the Hall by one vote by the Veteran’s Committee.
Gil Hodges the great first baseman known for his power, runs batted in and is in the unique club of four home runs in a game. Hodges entered the Marine Corps in 1943. He was stationed in Pearl Harbor and then Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands where he played baseball with the 16th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion. From there he went to Tinian. In April 1945, Sergeant Hodges landed with the assault echelon at Okinawa and was assigned to his battalion’s operations and intelligence section. His Bronze Star citation states that he “was entrusted with the safeguarding and stenographic preparation of highly classified documents” through “extensive periods of enemy aerial alerts and extensive bombing attacks.” Hodges remained on Okinawa until October 1945 and says that he started smoking “to have something to do sitting in those foxholes.” Later he became a great manager and he had so much class that he would be number one in an ‘All Class Team.’
Duke Snider served as a fireman, third class on the submarine tender USS Sperry at Guam. Snider used to win bets against other sailors and servicemen by throwing a baseball the length of submarines that arrived at Guam, that’s about 300 feet. “I’d throw the ball the length of their sub, my crewmates would win $300 or so, and I’d pick up my guarantee – $50,” he recalls. “We played lots of baseball and basketball on Guam. Pee Wee Reese was stationed there, too, but I never bumped into him.” Snider moonlighted for the 2nd Marine Division team while on Guam as well as playing for the USS Sperry team.
Us Dodger fans in our area should never forget the winning pitcher of Game 7 of the 1955 World Series – Johnny Podres. He settled in Queensbury New York after his career.