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Literature / The Man Who Brought the Dodgers Back to Brooklyn

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The Man Who Brought the Dodgers Back to Brooklyn is a 1981 novel by David Ritz. It blends together elements of Speculative Fiction, Alternate Universe, and Next Sunday A.D.; and strives to answer the question: how could the Dodgers baseball team plausibly move out of Los Angeles and back to a restored Ebbets Field in Flatbush, Brooklyn?

Daniel "Squat" Malone and Bobby Hanes have been friends since their days as schoolchildren in Brooklyn. Though Squat came from the rough-and-tumble Borough Park, and Bobby grew up privileged in Brooklyn Heights, they both grew up as Dodger fans in Brooklyn, spending many a summer at Ebbets Field. This, of course, was stymied by team owner Walter O'Malley moving the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958, when the two were teenagers (as happened in real life). And to make things worse, not long afterward, an accident crippled Squat and put a premature end to a promising baseball career.


Fast forward to 1985. Bobby is a successful and shrewd businessman and playboy, but still has a fondness for the Dodgers. On a whim, he decides to do what he can to buy out the failing Dodgers franchise from a German business conglomerate, and hires Squat on as the general manager. They play through the season, but the two Brooklynites are disillusioned with the life in Los Angeles, and quietly make plans to rebuild Ebbets Field and move the team back to Brooklyn.

Along the way, they are hounded by a female sports reporter and Dodgers fangirl named Oran Ellis, who befriends Squat and annoys Bobby; and they meet a shy female pitcher named Ruth Smelkinson.

And yes, eventually the two friends return the team to its old home, but not without problems along the way...


The Man Who Brought the Dodgers Back to Brooklyn contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Aerith and Bob/Gender-Blender Name: The main four characters are named Daniel, Bobby, Ruth, and...Oran. "Oran" is actually a given name of Irish origin, but is still fairly uncommon in the United States, and is usually a male name.
  • Alter Kocker: Ruthie's father Hymie is described as one of these.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Implied by Squat at the very end, after he and Bobby have married their respective love interests. Squat notices an airplane flying around above Ebbets Field, skywriting the phrase "Wait Till Next Year!"
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Bobby, who came from wealth, and combined that with his own personal business savvy. To wit:
    • He buys a bus company at the beginning of the novel after they fail to run their busses on time.
    • He buys the Dodgers from a West German conglomerate.
    • He buys out Ebbets Field Apartments and part of the surrounding neighborhood, moves the residents to temporary housing, then moves them into a newly-built (and nicer) apartment complex.
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    • He then tears down the apartments, rebuilds Ebbets Field, and moves the Dodgers all the way back across the country.
  • Artistic License – Sports:
    • During the process to move the team back to Brooklyn, Bobby would have had to contend with the Yankees' and Mets' territorial rights to the New York metropolitan area. The issue is glossed over in the book, ostensibly so that it more closely reflects the old status quo (i.e. three teams in New York).
    • When Bobby signs Ruthie to the team, she immediately joins the main Dodgers roster. In modern baseball, rookies — especially unknown pitchers with no professional experience — typically go through the minor leagues before hitting the majors.note 
    • Speaking of Ruthie, the team would also have had to contend with the MLB's ban on women, which was still in effect when the book was written. The book didn't address the issue whatsoever.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Bobby and Oran, who start out hating each others' guts. In truth, she finds him fascinating, and he's amazed that she's able to upstage and challenge him so well, but their pride keeps them from going anywhere serious. At least, until later in the book, when it escalates to Slap-Slap-Kiss, and eventually, marriage.
  • Better as Friends: Squat initially approaches Oran in LA because he's attracted to her, but the two hit it off so well that they agree early on that sleeping with each other would kill their friendship. The book actually plays with this as it goes along, as Squat gradually stops noticing and commenting on Oran's attractiveness, and starts treating her like a close friend. Plus, Oran's hot for Bobby, anyway.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: Alluded to, since it is partially set in the New York City of the 1980s, but it's also hinted that the Dodgers' return helps end this. Squat mentions that crime rates actually fall in Brooklyn during the 1988 World Series.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ruthie is too sick to pitch, and the hated Yankees whomp the Dodgers in the '88 World Series. But the Dodgers and Ebbets Field are a part of Brooklyn again; and the day after Game 7, Bobby marries Oran, and Squat marries Ruthie, at a double wedding ceremony at Ebbets Field.
  • Bribe Backfire: Bobby initially relies on the Ebbets Field Apartment tenants being pleased with the Dodgers' return to Brooklyn, and expects that nostalgia will be enough to persuade them to relocate. He doesn't take into account that they very much don't want to leave their homes so that some billionaire can build a ballpark, and angrily throw rocks and eggs at him to drive the point home. After reflecting on these events for a few days, he sweetens the deal with an offer of luxury apartments and box seats for life, at no expense, and they accept.
  • Brooklyn Rage:
    • Squat and Bobby. Neither is afraid to talk with their fists should the situation warrant it. The book opens with Squat and Bobby fighting with some boys in Borough Park. There's also a scene where Bobby slugs the president of a bus drivers' union for sabotaging a media day, and another scene where Bobby leaps out of the stands and slugs a Yankee player during a 1986 spring training game (thus getting himself suspended from the first part of the regular season).
    • Bobby is also on the receiving end from the residents of Ebbets Field Apartments, who don't want to be moved, and who pelt him with eggs and rocks. Squat lampshades the Brooklyn Rage in the narration, and admits he may have forgotten about it during his time in LA.
    • Squat also notices that Brooklyn Rage is in full effect when the Dodgers lose their first home game back at the new Ebbets Field.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Early on in the book, as a teenager in 1958, Squat is poised for a promising career with the LA Dodgers' farm team in Montreal, and is predicted to become the aging Roy Campanella's replacement as catcher. That comes to an end one icy evening in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while visiting Bobby in college; while playing catch with Bobby in the street, a car hits Squat and mangles his legs, requiring one to be amputated, and effectively ends his life as a baseball player.
  • Coitus Ensues:
    • After being injured by an angry mob at Ebbets Field Apartments, Bobby spends the night walking from his family home in Brooklyn Heights to the Brooklyn Bridge. He's halfway across to Manhattan when he discovers Oran has been following him. They go around Manhattan together, get drunk and high, and end up back in his Brooklyn Dodgers trophy room at the Hanes residence in Brooklyn Heights. One thing leads to another.
    • The same two also agree later on that her journalistic integrity and his baseball team ownership would be negatively impacted by a relationship. A paragraph later, they've slept with each other again.
    • Though they'd slept together before, Squat starts neglecting Ruthie so she'll pitch better. Eventually, after a stellar pitching performance during a Dodgers road trip, Ruthie makes her way into his hotel room, and they make love again. This later comes back to bite them when she finds out, shortly before the playoffs, that she's pregnant.
  • Dewey Defeats Truman: The story was written in 1981, but largely takes place in 1985-88, so things were obviously different in reality:
    • Obviously, the Dodgers are still in Los Angeles. And though there have been talks over the years about moving them back to Brooklyn, nothing significant has ever come of it.
    • The book mentions that Miami has a team by 1985 (called the SunKings). In reality, Miami's Florida Marlins didn't exist until 1993.
    • In the book, the Yankees sweep the Giants in a four-game 1987 World Series. In reality, the '87 Series went to seven games, with the Twins winning over the Cardinals.
    • The book also has the main characters break baseball's gender barrier by signing female pitcher Ruth Smelkinson, Squat's love interest. As of 2018, however, there are still no women playing in Major League Baseball.note 
    • The Dodgers' mid-Eighties stats weren't as bad as in the book. They were not dead last in the National League in the mid-Eighties, and in fact had respectable seasons during the book's time frame.
    • The book assumes that, by the mid-Eighties, Tommy Lasorda is no longer the Dodgers' manager (having been replaced by an Original Character who later gets fired), and that Vin Scully is no longer the play-by-play announcer. Lasorda retired as manager in 1996; Scully's last season with the Dodgers was in 2016 after a whopping 67 seasons as announcer.
    • Then there's the outcome of the 1988 World Series, which was the closest to what happened in real life. The (Brooklyn) Dodgers make it to the Series at the end of the book, but lose in seven games to the Yankees. In reality, the (LA) Dodgers won the '88 Series in five games against the Oakland A's.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In order to gain approval for the move back to Brooklyn from the other owners in the league, Bobby entices them with alcohol (as he had previously done when trying to buy the team), then one-ups himself by bringing in strippers dressed in mascot costumes.
  • Downer Beginning: After spending time establishing how Squat and Bobby bonded over the Brooklyn Dodgers as kids, the intro then shifts to the Dodgers' move to LA in 1958, followed by a teenage Squat losing his leg in an automobile accident, the two watching Ebbets Field being torn down in 1960, and Bobby's dad dying in 1965. After all that, the narrative fast-forwards to 1985 and the main plot begins.
  • The '80s: The bulk of the story takes place from 1985 to 1988.
  • Every Man Has His Price: The plot wouldn't progress without this trope. Bobby Hanes' talent is figuring out what people's prices are, or at least knowing how to negotiate their prices down. Throughout the book, he's able to finagle mutually lucrative deals from the Schmidt Conglomerate (which sells him the Dodgers), the other MLB team owners (who approve the sale and the move back to Brooklyn), and even the owners and residents of Ebbets Field Apartments (to allow the ballpark to be rebuilt).
  • First-Person Perspective: The book is narrated by Squat, and the narration is very much in his voice.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: When Squat and Bobby first meet Oran at the press conference announcing his aquisition of the Dodgers, she's wearing dark frames. Squat watches her on the evening news later, and finds that she's quite pretty when she's not wearing them.
  • High Concept: In the mid-1980s, two childhood friends purchase and move the Dodgers back to a restored Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, and meet love interests along the way.
  • History Repeats: Rule of Symbolism applies.
    • In the case of the Dodgers, they are moved back to Brooklyn exactly 30 years after the move to LA.
    • The struggle to buy out Ebbets Field Apartments and relocate its residents directly parallels the Battle of Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, except that in this instance, the resolution is a lot more amicable.
    • The 1988 Brooklyn Dodgers then sign Ruth on, and Squat lampshades how she's essentially a Rule 63 Sandy Koufax. In the same vein, some of the other new Dodgers are also described as doppelgängers for classic Dodgers.
    • Ruth's breaking baseball's gender barrier is also framed as a Jackie Robinson Story, creating a second parallel with a classic Dodger.
    • The phrase "Wait Till Next Year!" that a plane skywrites over the new Ebbets Field after the Yankees win the championship was the Dodgers' unofficial slogan in the 1940s and mid-1950s, when their teams were good but (at least until 1955) always came up second-best in the NL pennant race or the Series.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: It goes both ways, with Bobby for Oran, and vice versa.
  • Jackie Robinson Story: The Dodgers sign Ruthie, making her the first woman to play in Major League Baseball, as a deliberate parallel to the real life Robinson story. It's actually downplayed a bit, as all Ruthie really has to do is impress Bobby with her pitching prowess (without any mention of him seeking league approval), and public support is on her side.
  • Mistaken for Gay:
    • At first, Squat briefly thinks the tomboyish Ruthie is a lesbian. He's wrong.
    • Bobby mentions the trope when he ribs Oran for shilling Ruthie, saying that he knows firsthand that Oran's no lesbian, since he's slept with Oran at least once by this point.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The book came out in 1981, but largely takes place throughout 1985-88. It assumes that there's still a gasoline crisis by 1986, as Bobby and Squat use this as an excuse to move away from the wide-open parking lot around Dodger Stadium, and back to more intimate surroundings in Flatbush.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Bobby's father is the Borough President of Brooklyn in the 1940s and '50s, and wants Bobby to follow in his footsteps, to Bobby's chagrin. Bobby's father seems to be a copy of John Cashmore, the real life Brooklyn Borough President in that same time frame, whose relationship with his son James inspired the Harry Chapin song "The Cat's in the Cradle."
  • Not So Different: Oran and Bobby, who both like attention. Eventually lampshaded by Squat, to their displeasure.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Every character in the book calls Daniel Malone "Squat," a nickname he picked up while playing catcher in neighborhood baseball games as a kid. He points out that the only person who calls him by his real name is his mother.
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: The Dodgers are back in Brooklyn, and aside from the 1988 World Series, everything seems to work out for the team and their owners in the end. The same can't necessarily be said for the city of Los Angeles, which gets a Suspiciously Similar Substitute expansion team (the Stars) playing in Chavez Ravine, owned by the same German conglomerate that had previously owned the Dodgers. The narrative even mentions how utterly pissed the LA fans are over the whole thing, but Squat more or less brushes it off.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Invoked by Bobby in a Los Angeles ad campaign designed to help drum up support for him to buy the Dodgers franchise from the Germans.
  • Point of Divergence: In the book's universe, the O'Malley family sells the LA Dodgers to a German conglomerate in the early-to-mid 1980s. In Real Life, Peter O'Malley held onto the Dodgers until 1997.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Bobby plays this trope like a fiddle. He uses it twice to upstage the Commissioner of Baseball at owners' meetings, in order to get his way with the Dodgers.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: A criticism that the media frequently levels at Bobby whenever he does something outrageous.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Oran Ellis, as described by Squat's narration.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Bobby and Oran, repeatedly, as a sort of Relationship Upgrade. Although it's more like Slap-Slap-Sex. Squat lampshades their odd relationship, and tries to stay out of it.
  • Spoiler Title: The Dodgers are brought back to Brooklyn. But that's not all that happens along the way.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Ruthie is Jewish and female.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Defied. Not only is Bobby happy to move himself back into his old family home in Brooklyn and take the Dodgers with him, but he even rebuilds Ebbets Field as it originally was with added modern amenities, in the exact same spot (even though it would be easier to build it on unused land elsewhere in the borough).
  • You Go, Girl!: Oran, Hymie, and Squat know that Ruth is an exceptional pitcher, but Ruth's lack of self-confidence causes her to completely botch her first tryout with the Dodgers. When Squat starts ignoring her in order to get her to play better, she basically forces another tryout, bests the Dodgers' star slugger, gets herself signed, and becomes the Dodgers' star pitcher — all to get close to Squat again.

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