Dodgertown blues: Time to say farewell
After 61 years, club bids adieu to revered Dodgers camp
DODGERTOWN, Fla. -- They have made the pilgrimage all month, paying their last respects on both sides of the foul line, players and fans alike filing by for the final public viewing.Soon, the place will be laid to its final rest. But you can already feel the ghosts. Here, Roy Campanella enthralls young players gathered at the tracks of his wheelchair. There, Walt Alston growls at messed-up rundown drills and Al Campanis talks about coconut snatching. Everywhere, hundreds of uniformed fuzzy-cheeked kids amble about, dreaming of The Call. Soon, the ghosts will have their own town. Vero Beach -- zip code 32960 -- isn't going anywhere. It may even be reincarnated as someone else's Spring Training base. Next year, it likely will at least host some country's pre-World Baseball Classic workouts. But it's farewell to Dodgertown, the seed of the whole community. Rome had Romulus and Remus, and Vero Beach had Robinson and Reese. The difference is that Rome became the Eternal City. Barring an unforeseen construction glitch in their Glendale, Ariz., destination, "Dem Bums" will draw the Dodgertown shades with Monday afternoon's exhibition tilt against the Houston Astros. Players under green caps will dig their spikes into green bases, on St. Patrick's Day. How perfect, given the profound Irishness of the owner who brought them here 60 years ago, Walter O'Malley. This has to be what Shakespeare foresightedly had in mind when he penned, "Parting is such sweet sorrow." Dodgertown is its own oxymoron. Charming, obsolete. Scenic, blighted. Comfortable, inconvenient. Hate to leave, love to go. It has been the crib for generations of Dodgers players, and generations of Brooklyn and Los Angeles fans who have flocked to see them at this redeveloped vacant World War II naval air base. But it's time for them all to come out from behind the Oz curtain and join the real world. It's time to run after the parade that has passed them by, in that new $80 million Cactus League complex they will share with the Chicago White Sox. Time to pull the covers. But, oh, what a storybook place it was.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.