"The Man Who Brought the Dodgers Back to Brooklyn" is a novel about a man who brings the Dodgers back to Brooklyn.
It's all make-believe. It's also 1988.
"And a lot of crazy things happen," says David Ritz, the author. "One of the nice things about being a novelist is that I can be irresponsible with facts."
Yesterday, in Brooklyn, a long fly ball from Prospect Park, a half-hour walk from the former site of Ebbets Field, New York State Sen. Tom Bartosiewicz was explaining to anyone who cared to listen that he was on the way to bringing the Dodgers back to Brooklyn. The nonfiction Dodgers.
Well, maybe not the Dodgers. But a major league baseball team of some kind. And when that team does show up, its name will be the Dodgers.
"What's Romeo without Juliet? What's Niagara without the falls? What's Brooklyn without the Dodgers?" The questions were supplied by Sen. Tom Bartosiewicz.
When Sen. Tom Bartosiewicz wasn't asking questions, he was answering them. The one he heard most was about the team in Los Angeles known as the Dodgers. Didn't Sen. Tom, as he's mercifully called, think the Dodgers would object to somebody else using their name?
"There's nothing wrong with having two teams named Dodgers," he said. He though they would make terrific rivals.
When Sen. Tom suggested the idea to the Los Angeles club, they said something about the Dodgers name being copyrighted. Sen. Tom isn't backing off. "That's a matter for the courts to decide," he said.
He was wearing a uniform shirt, "Dodgers" written across the front, the number six on his back. It's Steve Garvey's number. "Carl Furillo's number," according the Sen. Tom.
The senator and the novelist were at Brooklyn's Montauk Club for a publication party or a celebration of Brooklyn Dodger Day. It depended on whether you talked to the people from Simon & schuster or the senator's staff. One thing was certain: "It's a remarkable coincidence," Ritz said. "I was hustling to peddle my book while he was hustling to peddle his bill."
The senator's bill, passed last November by a voice vote, recognized the 25th anniversary of the Dodgers winning their only Brooklyn World Series and expressed the hope, in the senator's words, "that the Dodgers would return to their true home."
His latest bill, introduced three months ago, is moving about as quickly as a 40-year-old designated hitter. This piece of legislation would form a 13-member commission to study the feasibility of bringing a major league team to Brooklyn. The commission is also expected to recommend a minimum of three sites for the construction of a dome stadium.
Sen. Tom was standing in front of the architect's drawing. At the same time, he is standing solidly behind it. "Brooklyn wants its Dodgers back," he said. "This is a burgeoning national movement," he told several other adults. He pointed proudly to the drawing. "A magnificient full-color rendering," he called it.
Across the hall, a party was going on. The menu consisted of hot dogs.They were supposed to taste like the hot dogs sold at ball parks. This can't happen, of course, unless a minimum of six people pass the hot dog from the vendor to the customer.
There was beer. And a Dixieland band was playing, "Back Home Again in Indiana."
Carl Erskine was standing a dozen feet from the band. Another coincidence. Once upon a time in Brooklyn, Erskine was known as Oisk. He pitched for 10 years in Brooklyn. Now he's a bank vice president in Anderson, Ind.
Erskine and other Dodgers, Clem Labine, Sandy Amoros, Russ Meyer and Cal Abrams, were guests of the publishers.
What does Erskine remember about Ebbets Field? "That it took about 20 minutes to go over the ground rules before every game because the park had so many corners and nooks and crannies."
Labine, a pitcher who spent seven seasons in Brooklyn, wanted to talk about Jackie Robinson. "Jackie, in spring training, sitting on a bus with a box lunch, while us guys were going into a good restaurant."
A youngster handed Labine a poster of the 1955 world champions. He wanted an autograph. "This is me right here," Labine said, pointing to the back row, "the fellow with the big ears."
The Brooklyn Hall of Famers from that era, Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella and Duke Snider, weren't at the party. That didn't bother Sen. Tom. He met Koufax during a spring training visit with those Sunbelt Dodgers. "Sandy told me," Sen. Tom said, "that if I gave him enough advance notice, he would work it into his schedule and throw out the first ball at Ebbets Dome."
Someone asked Sen. Tom to sign a baseball. He was delighted. "Look," he said, "my name right next to Sandy Amoros. What a thrill."
The senator, a boyish-looking 33, was 7 years old when the Dodgers won the '55 series. "I vividly remember it," he said. "I lived and died with that team." And when the Dodgers left for Los Angeles? "It was like losing your best friend."
David Ritz, five years older, growing up in another section of Brooklyn, says the Dodgers' move "broke my heart. We could take losing the World Series every year. But to take the team away . . . that was the cruelest blow."
Ritz moved to Los Angeles four years ago, to co-author Ray Charles' biography. He was thinking about a novel, and decided to "pick out my most painful childhood moment and turn it around." It could only be the Dodgers.
He still lives in Los Angeles. "I'll come back to Brooklyn when the Dodgers do," Ritz said.
Sen. Tom doesn't have a date. His commission could find a site in a year.
Figure another 18 months to build the stadium. And then the search to bring a major league franchise to the fourth largest city in the country. It's going to take a bit more time, says Sen. Tom, "to right one of history's greatest wrongs."