Monday, 18 April 2011

Dark days, and a ray of sunshine in Brooklyn

It's August 24, 1939 and the headlines in the Brooklyn Eagle say it all. Dark days indeed, but for Brooklynites a small ray of sunshine could be found tucked into the lower left-hand corner of the front page:

I'll save you the trouble of getting your magnifying glass. It seems a group of 50 fans held a dinner in honor of Dodger third-baseman Cookie Lavagetto at Withers Restaurant in Brooklyn. During the proceedings, a small fox terrier "wandered into the dining room and Lavagetto reached down to pet it [a typically generous gesture by a Dodger] but the animal snapped, digging its sharp teeth into his hand," leaving it "badly gashed." The good news? Manager Leo Durocher has announced that Cookie will be back in the starting lineup today at Ebbets Field against the league-leading Cincinnati Reds.

A glimmer of hope for an anxious world.


  1. We need a serious examination of the deeper issues. Were fox terriers always allowed -- perhaps encouraged -- to partake at Brooklyn restaurants? Did this bespeak an ecumenical approach to canine-human relations, or was the errant terrier owned by someone attending the party? Was it a breach of security long before this nation had even envisioned Homeland Security? Research, please!

  2. Dear Snappy,
    Thank you for your interest. Obviously, on such a busy news day the Eagle didn't have space to explore the deeper implications of the story. The article does reassure us that the authorities took quick, decisive action, ordering the animal "tied up pending an investigation by determine if it is infected with rabies." I think we may fairly conclude, from the arc of Lavagetto's subsequent career in major league baseball, including his historic, game-winning two-run double in the ninth inning of the fourth game of the 1947 Wold Series breaking up Floyd "Bill" Bevans' no-hitter, that the dog was not infected with rabies. Lavagetto's service in the Navy during World War Two is enough to convince me that he suffered no lasting health problems as a result of the bite. Whether the incident was a turning-point in public health or security enforcement in New York City I cannot say. It was, however, a milestone in the history of baseball. As far as I know, this is the last recorded instance of a ballplayer reaching down to pet a stray dog during a dinner. Ballplayers are a notably superstitious lot. Getting bitten and gashed on the hand by a dog is considered bad luck.