Vero Beach — Dodgertown
A lot has been said about the Dodgers leaving Vero Beach. The comments are realistic, but the sentiments are sad. I’ve heard many, many fans say we are sorry to see you go, but we understand why you have to do it.
Even though we are moving, we will always have our memories. I first reported to Dodgertown in 1949. I was a young left handed pitcher with a lot of hopes and dreams. I was in a training camp that hosted more than 700 players. In order to make it to the Brooklyn Dodgers I would have to beat out about 200 pitchers. Prior to reporting, I had never been more than 10 miles from home.
The line outside the dinning hall looked like a line for Southwest Airlines. But every player, coach, manager and executive would eat in the same dinning hall. You would even find Walter O’Malley himself standing in line. I would eat next to the great Pee Wee Reese and Gil Hodges. I would tell my parents that I dinner with them. They never said anything to me, but hey, I had dinner with some of my heroes.
As Dodgertown grew, so did the city of Vero Beach. When we first reported, there was only one bridge, and it was so shaky they would only let on car cross at a time.
While Vero Beach has grown, it’s not the buildings or the monuments or the streets that make it great. What makes any city great are the people, and the people of Vero Beach are the heart of the city that so many of us Dodgers have loved for so many years.
I would like to thank Vero Beach for a lifetime of memories. You have played the perfect host, and I will never forget all the great times I have had.
The last game was an emotional one. I was really trying to win that game. I called for a double steal and I put on the squeeze. Furcal played all nine innings, and Loney did too. Russell Martin stayed on the bench all day long even though he could have been in the clubhouse, and I put him in to pinch hit in the ninth. The players showed a lot of respect for the fans at Dodgertown, the game, and for me. As I walked down the right field line for the very last time, I couldn’t believe what I saw. There they were, forming a tunnel with their bats and letting me walk through.
I have had a lot of great things happen in my life, but what those players did for me is something I will never forget.
They made an 80 year-old man feel great.