Don Newcombe was simply referred to around the ballpark as “Newk“. His accomplishments in baseball, during a time of racial integration, has always been underrated and underappreciated by most. He earned Rookie of the Year, National League MVP and first ever Cy Young Award. In the memorable playoff game between the Dodgers and the Giants at the end of the 1951 season, Newk was relieved by Ralph Branca in the bottom of the ninth inning. Branca then surrendered the walk-off home run to Bobby Thomson to give the Giants the pennant. In the mid seventies I formed a friendship with this gentleman. Newk was named as Director of Community Relations by the Dodgers. We quickly learned that we grew up in the Garden State of New Jersey just a few miles apart from each other. He was a man of style and grace. Always one to have time to sit and talk, baseball or life itself. Two years ago I was a guest on the field prior to the Dodgers’ 2017 Old Timers Game. I’m pleased I had the opportunity to share a bit of time with him on the bench. The coordinator for the ball club called for a team photo of the former players to be taken at second base. Newk was determined to be included and declined the use of a wheelchair. He was going to walk out there on his own. Soon after crossing the foul line it was obvious he was not going to get his ninety one year body there. Quickly both Manny Mota and former Dodger manager Joe Torre, stepped in to lend an arm. I hit the shutter button.
To me, this photo serves as a reminder of the unbreakable bond ball players have for each other. It’s a poignant moment to me. Earlier this year Donald “Newk” Newcombe passed at the age of 92.