My brother Jerry, who’d been battling Parkinson’s for the past six years, died last week at the age of 84. He leaves no heirs, no inheritance, no smartphone, and no debts. He lived and worked his entire life in Brooklyn, but there will be no street dedications in his honor. A proud member of Teamster’s Local 237, a weekly contributor to Our Lady of Angels’ electronic collection basket, and a devoted follower of the Mets and Jets, he was just an ordinary guy. Unlucky in love perhaps (long-divorced), but respectful of the ladies in his life.

Working for Con Ed in 1982, he suffered severe injuries in a gas explosion. Recovering at the NYU Burn Center with some firefighters there, he gained a deep appreciation for their sacrifice and heroism. Before his mobility became problematic, he would often drop by the firehouse on Lorraine Street (Engine 279/Ladder 131), just west of Hamilton Avenue, to chat.

Despite the hard knocks he took in life, Jerry always looked at the bright side of things, and so he claimed the treatment for his injuries cured his fierce stutter. When he was forced to use a walker, he got the plain vanilla Medicare Model but another Parkinson’s patient told him about a high-tech model that “will talk to you like a smartphone,” so he cut back on food to save money and set his sights on “walking and talking in style.” But a series of falls led to a wheelchair – and new dreams of turbo-charging it.

He attributed his positive outlook to his formative years as a Brooklyn Dodger fan. He had just turned 13 when Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ’round the world” crushed the soul of Flatbush on October 3, 1951, as the New York Giants came back from nowhere-land in August to defeat Brooklyn in their last licks of the decisive playoff game. Rather than dwell on the disappointment, Jerry remembered in exquisite detail the last weekend of that season when the Giants traveled to Boston to play the Braves and the Dodgers took a train to Philly. It was the third season in a row in which the Dodgers would end the season playing the Phillies, and all three times, the pennant hung in the balance: in 1949, the Dodgers won the last game to capture the flag; in 1950 the Whiz Kids triumphed and in 1951…well, it was probably Jackie Robinson’s greatest game. But there are no kinescopes, so it’s been lost to history. Unless you saved the press clips like Jerry. Being an outcast as a kid (shipped off to Special Ed because of the stutter, his dyslexia never diagnosed, expelled from schools), he identified with Robinson.

Jackie, playing second base, hit into a double play in the 1st, let Richie Ashburn’s roller squirt out of his glove in the 2nd inning, leading to two Philly runs, then struck out in the 4th. Entering the top of the 5th, the Dodgers were down, 6-2. Then Jackie tripled to spark a rally, reducing the lead to 6-5. But the Phils scored two more runs to go up 8-5. In the 8th, Rube Walker and Carl Furillo knocked in three runs to tie it as the scoreboard showed the Giants beat the Braves, 3-2. It was win or go home for the Dodgers.

In the bottom of the 13th, the Phils loaded the bases with two outs. Eddie Waitkus hit a wicked line drive up the middle, low to the ground, just to the right of 2nd base. Robinson threw his body toward the ball, but it spun back toward him and he had to contort his body, with his glove moving back toward his stomach in order to catch it. He did. But he rolled over in pain, tossing the ball to Pee Wee Reese to show he caught it. Robinson just lay there for minutes, the wind knocked out of him and he was helped off the field. In the top of the 14th, nauseous and short of breath, he hit a rope into the left-field stands. The Phils got a runner to second in the bottom half but didn’t score and the Dodgers mobbed Robinson.

When Bobby Thomson ended the Dodgers season three days later, Robinson’s teammates trudged off the field but not Jackie – he watched Thomson intently, making sure he touched every base. Jackie Robinson’s never-say-die attitude always dominated Jerry’s memory of 1951. I’m disappointed he won’t get to see Pete Alonso in a World Series or watch the Aaron Rodgers Saga play out for the Jets. But perhaps the Big Scorekeeper in the Sky decided Jerry had suffered enough.

Jerry never had much money, but he had a generous soul. He spent hours helping me tune up the old clunkers I would foolishly buy. At Christmas, he would always send big boxes of Omaha Steaks to family members and whenever I dropped by his small apartment to fix his computer, I’d find some bills stuffed in my pocket on the way home despite my best efforts to thwart his secret payoffs. My mother brought nine children into this world. Jerry becomes the sixth to join her. Heaven should be a bit more cheerful now.

Red Hook Star-Revue