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Scenes from My Life On Hemlock Street: A Brooklyn Memoir by Arlene Mandell

Duke Snider Breaks Our Hearts


One damp spring day in 1951, our fifth grade class went to Ebbetts Field to watch our heroes, the Brooklyn Dodgers. I don’t think there was any educational purpose in this field trip, or that Mrs. Klohe, our teacher, was particularly interested in baseball. The Yankee fans in our class of 34 kids grumbled, but a day at the ballpark beat anything going on at P.S. 159.

When we got there, the sky was dark and the stadium more than half empty. Out came our stars in their baggy uniforms: Pee Wee Reese at shortstop, Gil Hodges at first base, Roy Campanella catching, and Don Newcombe pitching. At second base, our beloved Jackie Robinson, and over in center field, handsome #4, Duke Snider.

I clutched my notebook with its carefully drawn charts and baseball statistics updated from The Daily News sports page, ready to record hits, runs and errors.

Nothing much happened for a couple of innings. Five of us girls—Gloria, Joan, Ruth, Susan and me—clustered along the rail in the bleachers, trying to get the players to notice us. Roy Campanella doffed his hat. Pee Wee Reese rose from his crouch after a 3-2 call and sort of waggled his bat at us.

But the Duke of Flatbush was totally indifferent. We cheered and called his name. He just kept his eye on the batter and stared straight ahead, his manly jaw firm, his lips pressed together. The more he ignored us, the more our fledgling female hormones were ignited by this 24-year-old hunk, the Clark Gable of baseball.

By the fourth inning it started to drizzle. By the fifth, they called a rain delay. A little while later, the game was officially rained out. Just before he headed for the locker room, Jackie Robinson smiled at us. But the Duke? He didn’t even glance our way.

And that’s where I think it all began, the struggle between loving the one you’re with and pining for that unattainable prince. There was usually a good, solid guy to take us out for pizza, change our flat tires, even smile through a visit to Grandma who didn’t speak English. But at least one of us would go through life falling for the too handsome, too cool player, forever yearning for her prince to steal home.

© Arlene Mandell, 2009

 
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Welcome to Hemlock StreetBlock PartyBuilding the Ferris WheelCrossing Pitkin AvenueThe KissInvisible BabyAunt Minnie's Second WeddingMurder Inc.A Real Italian DinnerSleeping with Nettie Sachs • Duke Snider Breaks Our Hearts • Cherries in the SnowMy Thirteenth SpringNo Room of My OwnDeeply in LoveHangin' Out and Makin' OutResolutions Made and Broken