25 August 2007 | judgemanva
This One's for Everybody
This is a documentary about a baseball team -- and "Titanic" was about a boat ride. "Brooklyn Dodges: The Ghosts of Flatbush" is a great story, wonderfully told. If you live in the United States, or ever have, you will think this a wonderful investment of two hours. It doesn't matter whether you like (or even understand) baseball, or ever set foot in Brooklyn, or whether you were alive in 1957, when the Brooklyn Dodgers suddenly disappeared, and major league baseball came to California.
To be sure, this is the story of a baseball club and the community in which it lived. Told not just through beautiful use of film, still photographs, and sound clips, but also through riveting comments from a lot of people who aren't kids any more, but who seem transported back to another era by recalling when life and the Dodgers were pretty much indistinguishable from each other, a time when the priest at Sunday mass would tell the congregants that there would be no sermon on that hot summer day -- and that everyone should go home and pray for Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges to get out of his hitting slump (which he did). The viewer sees and hears present indignation and horror in the voice and the face of a 70+-year-old at the fact that his 5th grade teacher to allow the class to listen to the final game of the World Series.
But it is also the story of America, and particularly post-WWII America -- the era of "the boys of summer" that began in 1947, the year that Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play major league ball (and the NL's Rookie of the Year), and President Truman spoke out against discrimination based on race and color and began the first federal study of civil rights. (Robinson played the lead role. The president followed, at a distance.) Adeptly and entertainingly (though yes, a nearby box of tissues may be necessary), the movie's makers show us effects of suburban sprawl and urban decay, the culture of the highway and the automobile, and the end of cheap and efficient urban mass transportation, and the growth of the United States into a nation whose important cities stretched from sea to shining sea-- not just as far west as St. Louis.
As serious as this all sounds, it is wonderfully entertaining and incredibly moving. "Brooklyn Dodgers: The Ghosts of Flatbush" is don't miss television.