Fifty years ago, Danny Kaye recorded what would be one of his most unique and enduring recordings—“The Dodgers Song.”* As a Brooklyn native, Danny was a die-hard Dodgers fan—a passion that lasted until his dying days, even during the period he co-owned the Seattle Mariners! In fact, when Kaye sold his share in the Mariners, he admitted that he was never able to adjust to the constant losing of his expansion team and that his heart still belonged to the Dodgers.
|Following a big victory, Danny (back) visits with the red-hot Dodgers during the summer of 1962. Jim Gilliam (front) and shirtless Johnny Roseboro and Tommy Davis would make appearances in Danny's "Dodgers Song."|
“The Dodgers Song” was written for him by his wife, Sylvia Fine, and her occasional partner Herbie Baker, to celebrate the summer of 1962’s particularly fierce pennant race between the Dodgers and the hated San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers would lose the crown to the Giants in a season-ending, best-of-three playoff series.
The song centers on a fictional game between the two rivals, featuring high drama by the likes of Dodgers speedster Maury Wills, power hitter Frank Howard, and eccentric coach Leo Durocher and the Giants’ Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda. The highlight is a tongue-twisting finale, as the ball flies between Miller, Hiller and Haller (actual Giants pitcher, infielder and catcher), reminiscent of the best of Danny’s famous patter songs.
Writers Fine and Baker also included a nod to Danny’s old radio show, where they first worked together in 1946. As a running gag, the show featured weekly variations on the old joke “My sister married an Irishman.” “Oh, really?” “No, O’Riley.” In “The Dodgers Song,” it became “Oh, really? No, O’Malley.”
Danny recorded the number on August 18, 1962, but by that time had already been performing it on stage during his July 23-August 4 engagement at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
Fast forward 20 years: The Dodgers, having won the World Series the previous year, once again find themselves locked in a heated, back-and-forth pennant chase with the Giants. And once again, just as in 1962, the Dodgers are eliminated on the final day of the season by the Giants.
What’s not as well known is that during the season, Sylvia updated her “Dodgers Song” for Danny to perform at an end-of-the-season special appearance. The new version featured the same melody and—at least at first—a similar storyline. She substituted Peter O’Malley for owner Walter O’Malley. “Sandy Koufax, Oh, my Drysdale. Maury Wills, I love you so!” became “Dusty Baker, Oh, my Garvey. Hey Ron Cey, I love you so!” Instead of Cepeda, Jack Clark would hit a grand slam off Fernando Valenzuela, while Willie Mays’ triple would instead be slugged by “ex-Dodger Reggie Smith.”
Frank Howard’s mighty strikeout was replaced by:
“Then up stands a guy named Monday
Who, one memorable Sunday,
Hit a screamer in Montreal.
Come on, Rick, belt me one today!
Monday hits—into a double play.”
In place of Wills being unexpectedly called out on a steal that causes manager Alston to glower in the dugout, Steve Sax is unexpectedly called safe, causing Lasorda to choke on a Chinese chicken leg. The inning is extended a little longer for:
“Pedro Guerrero, Pedro Guerrero,
He give de ball a mighty ride.
But Chili Davis the centerfielder
Catch it in de final stride.
The rally died.”
The song ends with Danny looking back and repeating the crazy finale of the first version, with one difference: For the final line, he sings (instead of “Do you really think we’ll win the pennant?”) “We didn’t win the pennant that year either! Bums!”
Unfortunately, Danny never recorded version two.
* The number was written under the working titles “Baseball Number” and “The Dodgers” before being issued as “D-O-D-G-E-R-S Song.”