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Dem Bums Iz History
2005-06-01 12:45
by Mike Carminati
[O]nce a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable.
—John Steinbeck. Travels With Charley

As soon as the harvest is in, you're a migrant worker. Afterwards just a bum.
—Grapes of Wrath (Film version)

The Brooklyn Historical Society has opened an exhibit on the Dodgers that they've entitled "Dodgers Do It!: Celebrating Brooklyn's 1955 Big Win!" The fiftieth anniversary of such a bittersweet moment—the Dodgers announced that they were moving to Los Angeles a little over a year later (December 1, 1956)—is certainly worthy of commemorating.

However, the brochure that accompanies the exhibit plays a bit loose with the facts:

Journey back in time to baseball circa 1955, a season of destiny and deliverance for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Home runs jumped off Dodger bats and crowds streamed into Ebbets Field. Despite five prior trips to the World Series as the Dodgers - in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953 - the team had never won a World Series Pennant. Stroll through playful environments and travel back to experience the agony and ecstasy of each of the seven games in the World Series and Brooklyn's deep-rooted love for baseball.

Yes, the Dodgers lost the Series in 1941, 47, 49, 52, and 53. But, there are two gaping holes in their history. First, as the Robins (for manager Wilbert Robinson) the team lost the Series in 1916 and 1920. Prior to that, while known as the Superbas, the team won two NL pennants prior to the advent of the modern World Series (1899 and 1900). They also failed to win in the old National League-American Association championship series twice. In 1889, their last in the AA, they lost to the Giants. In 1890, the series between Brooklyn and Louisville ended in a three-three tie (with one tied ballgame).

For the record, here are all the Brooklyn champs in the professional era:

YrLgTeamWLLg WinWS WinPos
1889AABrooklyn Bridegrooms9344YN1
1890NLBrooklyn Bridegrooms8643YN1
1899NLBrooklyn Superbas10147Y 1
1900NLBrooklyn Superbas8254Y 1
1916NLBrooklyn Robins9460YN1
1920NLBrooklyn Robins9361YN1
1941NLBrooklyn Dodgers10054YN1
1947NLBrooklyn Dodgers9460YN1
1949NLBrooklyn Dodgers9757YN1
1952NLBrooklyn Dodgers9657YN1
1953NLBrooklyn Dodgers10549YN1
1955NLBrooklyn Dodgers9855YY1
1956NLBrooklyn Dodgers9361YN1

OK, but that's just me being a stickler. The second more important omission was that the Dodgers had lost each of the World Series mentioned (plus one in 1956) to the hated Yankees. That's what made 1955 so important. The Bums finally beat the Yanks. If the Dodgers had beaten the Indians, who finished three games behind the Yankees, even in seven games, I doubt it would be as compelling a story.

So why is the BHS burying the headline? Maybe it's because they don't want to alienate all of the Yankee fans who potentially would come out to see the Dodgers exhibit, something that would have been anathema to Dodger fans back in the day. Eh, so what's a little revisionist history among friends?

Anyway, to illustrate just how unlucky the Brooklyn Dodgers were, here are all the league champions broken down by city affiliation sorted by the percentage of World Series won in their league championship years (Notes: Years without a Series are listed separately. There are more losers , or non-winners, than winners since two pre-1903 Series ended in a tie and three leagues—UA, PL, and FL—had champions but never sent teams to the Series):

CityNo WSDid Not Win WSWon WSTot Lg Champ%
San Diego220%
San Francisco330%
St. Louis12102245%
Kansas City11250%
Los Angeles45956%
New York125356158%
Minneapolis-St. Paul12367%
Grand Total3111310625048%

Nine percent is pretty low, the lowest among the "original 16" cities. Brooklyn had the bad luck of having two of its best teams prior to the modern World Series, but look at Boston's non-WS numbers.

Yeah, they are bums, but look at it this way: They had one playoff championship in 62 years (ones that employed a playoff system). San Fran has none in almost fifty years, Houston none in 42, San Diego none in 35, Dallas/Fort Worth none in 32, and Seattle non in 28 years. Montreal had none in 35 and probably won't have another chance. Of those cities only San Francisco and San Diego have gotten to the World Series. That's more bummy, but I guess a bit less dramatic.

2005-06-01 13:23:44
1.   Bob Timmermann
The present day Dodgers don't acknowledge the AA championship for some reason. The Dodgers think they sprang fully-grown into the NL in 1890. There was still an AA team in Brooklyn in 1890, but it was terrible and moved to Baltimore before the season ended.

If you want to count the minor leagues, the franchise has another pennant. Brooklyn won the flag in the 1883 Interstate League. The next year, the team went "major league" and joined the AA.

2005-06-01 18:32:27
2.   Mike Carminati
I think the old AA has a lot of bad associations because of the minor league AA (which incidentally was set to start back up as a major league for many years before but never did).

The Brooklyn Atlantics also won, I believe, two National Association of Base Ball Players crowns in the 1850s/60s.

As for the 1890 Brooklyn Gladiators. They actually folded midseason and were replaced by the Baltimore Orioles who had jumped prior to the season from the AA to the Atlantic Association. As the Atlantic Assoc folded in August, the O's returned to the AA assuming Brooklyn's record.

By the way, the Interstate League became the old Eastern League which is now the International League.

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