Virtuality, time travel and Brooklyn Dodgers, circa 1955

DodgersHere’s what I want to do next spring.  I want to return to 1955 and listen to every game played by the Brooklyn Dodgers, in real time, several games a week through to the end of the season.

I don’t know what happened to the Dodgers that year.  I have no idea whether Brooklyn did well or badly.  So if someone can contrive to play the radio broadcasts over the week and send me newspaper clippings  at the appropriate intervals, I can live the entire season with each inning, each game, and the season outcome as a complete surprise.  Within certain limits I can experience the Brooklyn  Dodgers of 1955 as if I had found a seam in time, stolen back in history, and managed to come upon these boys of summer as they played a season completely unaware that there was a time traveler in their midst.

Thank god for the death of "living memory."  None of this makes any sense unless the knowledge of the season is completely extinguished.  But happily it is.   Unless someone blurts out details or, horrors, the season’s outcome, I will be listening to the 1955 season as innocent of its outcome as the fans of 1955. 

I am assuming someone has the tapes of the radio broadcasts.  I am assuming someone could send my the newspaper clippings each morning.  I am assuming that someone in the video game industry could actually mock up a street card ride to the stadium and that I could watch various parts of 50s Brooklyn passing by.  You could scale this up to be as absorbing as a fan could want.

I love the idea of sharing New York City with people who are playing an Area/code virtual game as a result of which the city takes on new drama and urgency that completely involves them but remains invisible to me.  (Come to think of it, this is often true of life in the city, area/code or no.)  And I really love the idea that I could be watching some guy listening to a game in emotional time and historical time simultaneously.  Is he rooting for the Denver Broncos now or the Bears many years ago?   There is something charming about the possibility that he is agonizing over games that have the intensity of the emotional moment but are played by athletes now turned to dust.  I love the idea of having the  spring and summer of my 2009  commandeered by a season that happened a half century ago. 

I understand this approach splices reality and history in a weird way, but there is now a plenitude of experiential realties out there now, why not this? 

8 thoughts on “Virtuality, time travel and Brooklyn Dodgers, circa 1955”

  1. Grant-

    This is an amazing project. I’d love to join in and organize a group of fans who would like to embark on this trip.

    Personally, this is utterly fascinating to me as it’s so close to my anthro thesis work from a few years back that dealt with the recreation of space, memory, and identity through the SF Giant’s AT&T Park (where the yellowed vintage jerseys outsell the ‘normal’ ones more than 2:1).

    My email should be on the comment. I’m thinking a name and site for this project will start us off quite nicely, especially if it’s designed as the NYT 1955.

    -Drew Breunig

  2. Assuming you are serious about such a project, you could probably get everything you need from the guys at SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research (www.sabr.org). The New York Chapter can be found at: http://nyc.sabr.org/

    If you’re not familiar with SABR, these people are amazing. I’m a former member and you can’t believe the depth of knowledge these people have. I have no doubt somebody there has every box score and game report, audio tape broadcasts might be tough as I doubt they saved those analog recordings back then.

    I think it would be an interesting programming move for ESPN Classic to run a vintage season from a team in this manner. The 67 Red Sox, 89 Cubs, 86 Boston Celtics, 60 Pirates, 85 Bears. You could do one every year during the appropriate seasons. I think you’d get some great ratigns. Intersperse with vintage and modern day interviews and even vintage ads, you’d draw decent numbers.

  3. Check with the Museum of Radio and Television in New York City. You would be surprised at the number of kinescopes it has of 1950s-era baseball games. I’m not sure about the Dodger games, but at least some should exist. I saw a HBO documentary on Brooklyn and the Dodgers, and it included footage from a pre-game television show called “The Knot Hole Gang” and broadcast Dodger players on the field teaching baseball tips to children. The quality of the footage was pretty good.

    I would also do a worldcat search to see if any libraries near you have archival holdings of the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper. This should be your best source for learning about Brooklyn, Ebbets Field, and the Dodgers. I would think the Dodger coverage should be better and more comprehensive in 1955 than it is today.

    For the “time travel” effect, I would recommend divorcing yourself as much as possible from 2008 baseball, television, and computers during the season.

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