2 November 2010 | bkoganbing
"The Greatest Baseball Town In The World"
Although in 1942 Brooklyn was only one of the five boroughs of Greater New York when it was a city by itself it had a ballclub in the National League that eventually became known as the Dodgers. That club helped Brooklyn keep its individuality and was what made Brooklyn as Lloyd Nolan put it, "the greatest baseball town in the world".
Although you can see a lot more of old Ebbetts Field in the Red Skelton film Whistling In Brooklyn, you get enough of it here in a film about the Dodgers and their run for the pennant. In fact It Happened In Flatbush celebrated what happened in real life, the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 21 years in 1941.
But they lost the World Series in five games to the Yankees, a pattern that would repeat itself until 1955. That series is best remembered for passed ball by Dodger catcher Mickey Owen in game four on what would have been the last out of the game and the Dodgers winning and evening the series up at two games to two. But the Yankee right fielder Tommy Henrich ran to first safely and then the Yankees opened up and won the game. The heart was cut out of the Dodgers with that play.
Something similar has happened to Lloyd Nolan in It Happened In Flatbush. He was a promising shortstop who made an error and cost the Dodgers the pennant back in the day. In fact he was tagged "Butterfingers" and literally run out of the Big Leagues. More modern fans would call this the Bill Buckner syndrome.
Anyway Dodger owner Sara Allgood hires Nolan as manager and then she promptly dies leaving the biggest share to her niece Carole Landis who is a Park Avenue débutante with not much interest in the game. General Manager William Frawley is in Nolan's corner however and to keep his job he puts the moves on Landis.
Let's say she develops an interest in her Brooklyn roots and in baseball and Nolan with the inevitable results.
Watching that I couldn't help thinking of the real Dodger manager at the time, one Leo Durocher who had an eye for the ladies and would soon take as a third wife, movie star Laraine Day. If Durocher had a pretty owner like Carole Landis to deal with instead of the mercurial Larry MacPhail at the time, he would have been in their pitching with Carole.
Baseball players all over organized baseball would have voted Lloyd Nolan an Oscar if they had a vote for punching out the character that Robert Armstrong plays. Armstrong is one of those grudge bearing sportswriters who will pick on a target of some athlete and just always tear him down for whatever the reason. Ted Williams had one such individual in Boston, a guy named Dave Egan and if the Splendid Splinter ever saw It Happened In Flatbush he would have stood and applauded Nolan for doing what he would like to have done. In real life that would probably get you banned, fortunately Armstrong and Nolan had no witnesses.
The misanthropic William Frawley who was in real life a very lonely alcoholic has an unusual number of baseball films in his film credits. That's because he was a huge fan and probably would have paid 20th Century Fox to be in It Happened In Flatbush.
It Happened In Flatbush celebrates the place of my birth and the unique place in American culture it has. Its fans made it the greatest baseball town in the world.