The rumors started around Christmas of 1947…

“Did you hear that the Brooklyn Dodgers are coming to Santo Domingo for spring training?”

¡MADRE MíA, LOS BROOKLYN DODGERS! I was 14 years old and loved BéISBOL. Most times I would
play with kids from EL PARQUE COLóN in my neighborhood, but I wasn’t very good with the
glove, or the bat either, so I would always be one of the last ones picked for the line-up.
But that didn’t faze me; if I couldn’t field or hit, I could still be a great pitcher.
In between losing balls hit in my direction in center field, I would dream of developing
the most wicked curve ball ever and becoming one of the most famous pitchers in history.
I had even picked the pose I was going to strike when the bubble gum people asked me to be
on their trading cards.

I spoke just enough English to get along with the TURISTAS NORTEAMERICANOS that used to
come ashore from such cruise ships as the luxurious ‘Stella Polaris.’ I would sell them
trinkets and postcards, and sometimes would take small groups on tours of our historic city.
We would ride in a colonial-style COCHE, or horse-drawn carriage, and visit the various
castles, forts, monuments, houses, museums, etc. preserved in Santo Domingo from the time
of Columbus’ arrival around 1493. One beautiful TURISTA confided that she was the actress
Alexis Smith (or was it Joan Fontaine?), but for all I knew she could’ve been an impostor,
for at that time all NORTEAMERICANAS looked alike to me.

As soon as the Brooklyn Dodgers rumors were confirmed by El Caribe, the main local newspaper,
I started planning my strategy. I stocked up on postcards and merchandise, and read all the
articles that were being printed about the team on the local press. I learned about Pee Wee
Reese, the legendary shortstop; also Duke Snider, who liked to hit the ball out of Ebbetts
Field into a nearby street. Then there was Jackie Robinson, who could steal home from third
base before you could say Jack Robinson. Carl Furillo, with the strongest throwing arm in
the majors… Billy Cox at third, Gil Hodges at first, Gene Hermanski in the outfield,
pitchers Ralph Branca, Rex Barney, Hugh Casey and Johnny Van Cuyk. Also coming was Montreal,
the Dodgers’ farm team in the International League, with their star catcher Roy Campanella,
who would join the Dodgers later that year; also with Montreal was Chris Van Cuyk, brother
of Johnny and also a pitcher.

The Dodger flight arrived during school hours, so I couldn’t be at the airport for the
landing, but the following day I put on my best clothes and headed for the Jaragua, the
beautiful resort hotel near the Caribbean Sea where the team was staying. My heart was
pounding… this was a definite fantasy masquerading as reality — I was going to meet the
Brooklyn Dodgers!

Being a tourist guide, I knew the hotel’s layout and was also familiar with the palm of
the hand of some of the employees, so I had no trouble locating the team: everybody was
hanging out by the pool area.

Out of the 25 or so people cavorting in and around the pool, I immediately recognized Pee
Wee Reese, who sent a beach ball flying to Gil Hodges. I looked at all those famous
athletes and was enthralled, but I also had a business to attend to. I had postcards and
a few mahogany curios. I spotted an ‘older’ man and a beautiful woman lying on chaise
lounges at the edge of the pool, so I figured I’d start with them. “Postcards mister…
lady? only five cents… I also have mahogany souvenirs.” They were a very friendly
couple, and then I recognized the face, “Hey, you are Leo Durocher, the manager!” The
man laughed, holding a daiquiri, then introduced his wife to me, the actress Laraine Day.
What a thrill!! Some of the players joined us and I made quite a few sales, but most
important, I lined up four of the players for a tour of the city later on that afternoon.
The group included the Van Cuyk brothers and two other Montreal pitchers.

From the pool area I noticed Carl Furillo playing tennis with another gentleman on a
nearby court. I watched him play for a while, then asked him for his autograph. I guess
that out of the whole team he was my biggest hero, followed by Pee Wee Reese and “The

A couple of hours later I hired a COCHE and took the Van Cuyk party on a tour of all the
tourist spots in the city. I showed them the tomb where Columbus’ remains were supposed
to be enshrined, at the entrance to the CATEDRAL MAYOR, the first cathedral built in the
Americas. We also watched native dancers doing the MERENGUE, our national dance. I also
made sure that we went to the PARQUE COLóN, so my friends could see me hobnobbing with
The Big Time.

I followed the team around every chance I got, going to many of their practices and
exhibition games, continuously in awe of their dexterity and power. It was such a
delight watching Pee Wee Reese making all kinds of wonderful plays at short stop… or
Jackie Robinson raising clouds of dust with his slides… or that gentle giant at first
base, Gil Hodges, who could stretch so far when catching a throw that it looked like he
could reach second base with his glove. And what a pitching staff! Ralph Branca, Rex
Barney and Hugh Casey had combined to help win the National League pennant the previous
year. Then there were the other members of the entourage: Branch Rickey, the team
president, who broke the color barrier when he signed Jackie Robinson in 1947. Also Red
Barber, the Dodger radio announcer, and coaches, trainers, players’ wives and sports
writers from all the major publications in U.S.A.

My proudest moments were when Billy Cox or any of the players would spot me behind the
chicken wire on back of home plate and say something like, “Hi, kid!” Everything went
great for about a month, but then one day my father sprung a big surprise on me. Just
like that he said, “Son, there is a plane leaving for Miami at 1:00 p.m., and you are
going to be on it, so pack your suitcase… you are going to join your mother in New
York.” He must’ve gotten a good deal on the ticket, for I was the only passenger on a
cargo plane.

I arrived in Miami about two hours later, then took a bus from the airport to the
train station; someone took me to the Travelers’ Aid booth where some very gracious
ladies informed me that I had a four hour layover, and gave me some tips on how to best
spend my time while I waited. I stepped outside the station and headed toward a Coca
Cola sign I spotted nearby. It was a luncheonette and while sitting at the counter met
a Puerto Rican young man, who looked about 25 years old. His last name was Arroyo; he
told me he was a carpenter and was on his way to the Carpenter’s Union, and that if I
wanted he would help me pass me pass the time until my train was ready to leave. I
immediately agreed and accompanied him to Union Headquarters; afterwards we walked
around Flagler Street, Miami’s main drag, where he treated me to a cup of Cuban
coffee and showed me a few places of interest. I didn’t know it at the time, but that
would be the first of many interactions with Puerto Ricans throughout the years, who
turned out to be of the friendliest and most helpful people I’ve ever known!

When I arrived at Pennsylvania Station I thought it was strange that no one was
waiting for me, so I took a taxi to my mother’s apartment at 206 E. 40th St, in the
Grand Central area of New York. When I got to the apartment door and knocked, there
was no answer. Soon a kind old lady in crutches, Mrs. Karageorges, came to my rescue.
She informed me that my entire family had gone to Pennsylvania Station to pick me up.
I soon realized that in typical Camposonian fashion I had given them the wrong travel
information. Meanwhile the kind old lady took me to her apartment and allowed
me to collapse on her couch, where I immediately fell asleep. Some time later my
worried mother was waking me up and we proceeded to walk up one flight to our
apartment. Several of my relatives were there and soon we were celebrating my safe

Meanwhile, back in the Dominican, the Dodgers were finishing up their spring
training. About two weeks later the 1948 baseball season began. I learned how to
take the subway to Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn, and from the bleacher seats I would
holler and root for my most favorite team ever, THE BROOKLYN DODGERS!

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