A FAN'S TALE OF TWO CITIES DEVOTEE STUCK WITH DODGERS IN BOTH N.Y. AND L.A.
When Richard Bloom first breathed in the Dodgers, they had Brooklyn across their chest and guys called Duke and Pee Wee on the field.
Some kid named Jackie Robinson played second base and the tickets read Ebbets. Bloom was just a boy back then, but he loved the Bums with a passion.
That passion never died. For 56 years, through World Series and last-place finishes, home runs and heartbreak, he's been there rooting them on.
Part of just a handful of families who've held season tickets for the team since it relocated to Los Angeles, Bloom, now 62, has been a rock-solid supporter of the boys in blue.
``After all those years, the Dodgers are like East 14th Street in Brooklyn,'' he said. ``They'll always be a part of home for me.''
Bloom doesn't just know about every classic Dodgers moment -- from their triumph in the '55 Series over the Yanks to Fernandomania to their current run for the pennant -- he was there to see them all.
Since he was old enough to remember, he lived and died with the team's every move. Each hit he cheered, each loss he mourned.
It all started back at 55 Sullivan Place in Brooklyn -- the mighty Ebbets Field -- where a kid like Richie Bloom could get a frank with mustard, kraut and a pickle on the side for under a buck.
His dad, Theodore, worked in the family business, women's garment manufacturing, and rooted for the team like a maniac.
Ted would take his son to the games before he was even 5 years old and told him to root for Robinson, No. 42, the slick-fielding rookie out of the Negro Leagues.
``My father got in a lot of fights about that,'' Bloom remembered. ``He didn't care what he looked like. He said, This guy's a hell of a ballplayer. If he's gonna get us into the Series and beat the Yanks, I'm all for him.''
In 1950, the elder Bloom decided to get season tickets, seats the family's held through two cities, three ballparks and 56 years.
They loved the team so dearly, they didn't even give 'em up after Ted moved west later that year. He relocated to Inglewood, then to Van Nuys.
To a young Dodgers fan, the distance between Brooklyn and Van Nuys might as well have been the same as between Van Nuys and the moon.
No one out here rooted for the Bums like they do today, so Ted Bloom had a solution: Each summer he sent Richie back to Brooklyn to stay with family and use the tickets. He took three friends to the games, stopping off for egg creams on the way to the ballpark.
If the team made it to the Series, Ted wrote a note saying his son had the flu, kept him out of school and flew him home. The kid loved it. He saw the team win it all in 1955, then lose the next year to the Yankees, including Don Larsen's legendary perfect game for the Bronx Bombers.
Back then, ballplayers weren't the Mercedes-driving superstars they are today. They were working men who lived in the neighborhood where they played.
``One day, we were playing stickball out in the street and Roy Campanella and Carl Erskine came and asked if they could play with us,'' Bloom said. ``Campy had to bat left-handed since he was right-handed and Erskine had to throw lefty and underhanded, just to make it fair.''
Bloom idolized Campanella, loved the way the big catcher swung the bat, the way he gave everything to the game. When a car crash ended his career in January 1958, Bloom still loved the team, but it was never quite the same.
The team that had won the pennant in 1956 had slipped to third place the following season. Even worse, owner Walter O'Malley then did the unthinkable -- packed the team up and moved to Los Angeles.
``I was sad,'' Bloom said. ``Don't get me wrong, opening day at the Coliseum was terrific. But I said, `Wait a minute!' I couldn't picture a world without the Brooklyn Dodgers. That was my whole life.''
But he learned to adjust. He watched the team beat the hated Giants, now West Coast rivals from their new home in San Francisco, 6-5 in the April 18, 1958, home opener.
The next year he was in the crowd of 93,000 that choked the Coliseum for Roy Campanella Night, an emotional affair that he can still describe like it was yesterday. He still gets a little choked up as he remembers Pee Wee Reese wheeling his injured teammate out to the field, the stadium lit up by thousands of flashlights.
As a side business, Ted Bloom ran a parking shuttle at the Coliseum and got friendly with the ballplayers. He worked those connections into a relationship with cowboy singer Gene Autry, whose Los Angeles Angels expansion team began play in 1961.
``The day they got the franchise, my father was with them,'' Bloom said. ``He pulled out his checkbook, signed his name and said, `I want the four best seats in the house, plus season parking.' He didn't even ask how much it cost.''
After their initial season at Wrigley Field at 42nd Place and Avalon Boulevard in Los Angeles, the Angels shared Chavez Ravine with the Dodgers, so the Blooms suddenly had tickets for every home game at the stadium. Ted Bloom used the tickets he could and gave the rest to friends and business associates. He managed to work the same connections that got him in good with the teams to land season tickets to another new face in town, the Los Angeles Lakers.
At one time, the Blooms had passes for both baseball teams, the Lakers, the Rams, USC and UCLA. Ted Bloom had a charisma that could get him anywhere, and his son could start a conversation on any subject. By that time, he had his own wholesale paper business, which Richard followed him into as a salesman.
They were inseparable at games until the old man died 30 years later. Bloom wrote a heartbreaking eulogy mourning the loss of the man who introduced him to the Bums.
These days, he limits himself to the Dodgers, Angels and basketball. He's never missed an opening day for his first team in 56 years. Whenever he gets a chance, he's there on the first-base line, field level.
The skinny guy with the Brooklyn hat who talks and cheers throughout is a well-known fixture of Section 28.
On a recent night against the Reds, Bloom stretched back in his seat and watched Rafael Furcal pop a hit to shallow center field, and the longtime fan, completely in his element, shifted seamlessly from recounting some Dodgers history to cheering.
``C'mon, drop!'' he hollered. ``All right, this is a big one!''
Soon, the Dodgers were rallying, and Nomar Garciaparra stepped to the plate. Bloom clapped and watched the batter settle in. A towering drive to left got the crowd all worked up, but Bloom, with a half-century of experience, didn't get excited.
``The wind's not right tonight,'' he observed. ``It'll never get out of here.''
And, indeed, he was right. The Dodgers faithful will likely hope the same proves true for his observation that the team's got the juice to make it to the playoffs this year.
Earlier, he wasn't so sure, but once they landed Greg Maddux to bring some maturity to the pitching staff, Bloom decided they're a lock for the postseason.
Steve Whitelaw, a buddy of Bloom's for 20 years, has often tagged along with his friend to fill those seats. They arrive early, grab a bite at the Stadium Club and head down near the first-base line.
``With the Dodgers, I don't care if they're playing well or not, as long as they've got character,'' Whitelaw said. And that character stems from the memories Bloom can quote for hours on end.
``All of Richie's stories, the ones about Duke Snider, Maury Wills, that's the stuff that makes you like 'em,'' Whitelaw continued. ``I met Duke Snider one time, and he told me all those same stories Richie does, only he was there on the field.''
After all these years watching the Dodgers legends at play, mingling with them at autograph shows and team functions, Bloom is now trying to pass his love for the game on to another family member.
His nephew Talin, 8, frequently accompanies the longtime fan, and the boy has begun to pick up Bloom's passion. By his uncle's side, he cheers Jeff Kent and roots for the home team.
There's one tradition, however, that Bloom will not pass on -- Tommy Lasorda's famed description of a true Dodgers fan. He thinks it's simpler than all that.
``I always hated the phrase `Bleed Dodger Blue,''' he said. ``Back in Brooklyn, you didn't bleed Dodger blue. They were just a part of you.''
(1 -- color) Longtime Dodgers season ticket holder Richard Bloom hugs Dodger Stadium usher Vickie Gutierrez prior to the start of a game Aug. 30. His family has held season tickets since 1950.
(2 -- color) Richard Bloom's father wrote illness notes to get him out of school for Dodgers games.
Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer