Movie Article

Willie, Mickey and the Duke

Vintage N.Y. baseball clips on home video. Reviews of ''The Golden Decade of Baseball,'' Parts I and II

Vintage N.Y. baseball clips on home video

It has been 32 years since the Dodgers and the Giants moved from New York to California, a baseball cataclysm that not only shattered loyal fans but signaled major changes in the game. The bottom-line mentality behind those moves led inexorably to the designated hitter, artificial turf, and nighttime World Series games.

The Golden Decade of Baseball, a two-tape series, celebrates the years 1947 to 1957 — baseball's last 10 years of innocence, and the Dodgers' and the Giants' final decade in New York. It's a fond reminder of pre-expansion baseball and of the fun it was to be a fan in New York when one of the city's three teams won the Series every year but one.

Plays from memorable games are intercut with revealing reminiscences from heroes such as Dodger all-time goat Ralph Branca (interviewed with Giant nemesis Bobby Thomson), who laments bitterly that unlike criminals who do jail time, ''I never got pardoned'' for giving up the pennant-losing homer in '51; and Willie Mays, who reveals that he surreptitiously applauded opponent Joe DiMaggio's last Series home run as he stood in center field at the Polo Grounds. Duke Snider, Don Newcombe, and Tommy Henrich also recall their glory days, though DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle are oddly absent from the interviews.

The first tape, which spans 1947 (Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier) through 1951 (Joe D.'s postseason retirement), has more exciting game footage and crisper commentary. The second tape ('52-'57) bogs down twice — in a segment on ''Yankee pride'' that reaches back to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig's era, and again in a superfluous bit on Robinson's civil rights activities (a percentage of tape sales is to be donated to the Jackie Robinson Foundation).

A word of caution about the title: Some fellows named Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Warren Spahn, and Ralph Kiner, who played no small role in baseball's ''Golden Decade,'' don't score so much as a mention. This nostalgia trip is for Bums, Bombers, and Giants followers only.

Part I: A- ; Part II: B-

Originally posted May 18, 1990 Published in issue #14 May 18, 1990 Order article reprints