Every right-thinking Met fan misses Shea Stadium. Not a lot of good has happened to this franchise in the five years (five years!) since old Shea closed, and the old dump looks rosier with every passing year. For Sports on Earth, I dug into the history of Shea's construction, when New York City sold itself out to build a space age stadium that would be obsolete within a decade—signs of a city suffering stadium fever, a malady that continues to afflict the nation more each year.
70 years ago this month, the Brooklyn Dodgers found themselves fantastically inconvenienced by a European tiff known as World War II. Rather than travel south for spring training, they went north, and not very far, to the upstate resort known as Bear Mountain. It was cold, it was stressful, it was baseball.
On March 21, 1944, as the Nazis occupied Hungary, the Japanese pushed into India, and the Allies assaulted the ruined Italian hamlet of Cassino, manager Leo Durocher watched the snow, and dreamed of Florida. In deference to the army's need for trains, the sternly patriotic commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis had decreed that no club would travel south for spring training. And so, for the second time, Durocher's Brooklyn Dodgers wintered at the Bear Mountain Inn in New York, where the fires were warm, the steaks were thick and the practice fields were covered in eight inches of fresh powder.
They could work around the snow. While other teams shivered, West Point allowed the Dodgers to use its massive field house whenever the cadets weren't drilling. Durocher's problem was his infield, which had been so savaged by the draft that Branch Rickey had suggested his manager play second base or shortstop. Although ostensibly a player-manager, the Dodgers' skipper hadn't played a full season since 1938. His knees were bad, his bat was slow and he had acorns in his elbow.
If you're asking, "What the hell do you mean, acorns in his elbow?" then you have something in common with the sporting public of 1944. To find out what the hell Leo's talking about, click here, to be taken on to Sports on Earth.