Jerry Kolander was listening to the 1952 World Series on a radio given to him by his grandfather.
It was a plug-in-the-socket radio – before transistor radios.
“The Brooklyn Dodgers lost to the New York Yankees,” said Kolander of a time when the St. Texas Cardinals and Browns (who became the Baltimore Orioles the next season) were the closest major league baseball teams to West Texas.
The Dodgers lost to the Yankees in the World Series a year later, but gained a fan in Amarillo.
“I didn’t want to choose the Yankees because they kept winning. The Dodgers didn’t win – I felt empathy for them, ”said Kolander.
His loyalty was rewarded two years later when Brooklyn won its first World Series in 1955 – also against the Yankees.
“I was riding my bike up and down Virginia Street in my Amarillo neighborhood, cheering and no one knew why,” said Kolander.
He played baseball at Texas Tech, where he received a bachelor’s degree in history before going to Tech Law School. He joined the McCleskey law firm in 1971, became a partner a few years later and is now a managing partner.
He’s still a Dodger fan all this time, basking in his team’s first World Series win in 32 years – in Texas, when the Dodgers recently defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in six games.
“I’m relieved – not only was it a long time ago, but lately they were expected to win and that adds a lot of pressure. In 1955 the Dodgers weren’t supposed to win, ”he said.
Kolander saw his first Dodger game on April 11, 1959 at Chicago’s historic Wrigley Field when the Dodgers beat the Cubs 5-3. Future Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax started for the Dodgers.
Duke Snider, Kolander’s favorite dodger, didn’t play in the game, which was a disappointment – but he got his autograph.
“I saw Duke Snider on the field before the game. I wanted to go downstairs and get his autograph and an usher stopped me. My dad told the usher we were coming all the way from Amarillo, Texas, and the usher said it was against the rules. Duke was about 30 feet away. My father yelled, ‘Mr. Snider, can we get your autograph? ‘He said, “It’s against the rules, but I’ll do it anyway.” That’s all he said, ”said Kolander.
The scorecard from this game, signed by Duke Snider, is framed in his office along with a black and white Snider photo.
Kolander’s father, Jerome, was a sports writer for the Amarillo newspaper and had played soccer and baseball at the University of Minnesota – but he became a lawyer and judge.
Kolander played for legendary coaches Berl Huffman and Kal Segrist at Texas Tech in the 1960s, but missed his senior year with knee injuries.
The law seemed like a natural career path.
“I grew up in a legal family. Besides my father, my grandpa was a judge and many of her friends were lawyers, ”he said.
Jerome Kolander was a Cardinals fan, but eventually rooted for the Dodgers.
“I trained them all to be Dodger fans,” said Kolander of his family.
Over the years he has appeared in a number of Dodger games, including the 1974 World Series, which they lost to Oakland As.
His daughter Angie pulled one of her teeth out while they were sitting in seats at Dodger Stadium in the early 1980s.
“Much to my chagrin, she became an Astros fan,” he said of Angie, who lives in Houston.
“The rest are Dodger fans,” he said, pointing to a 2020 World Series ball that his daughter-in-law gave him after looking away from her when he got into a lazy area during the third game in Arlington .
Then there is the Dodger Wall in his McCleskey office that looks down on University Avenue and 50th Street.
There are framed baseball cards his mom wanted to throw away when he was 18, art from Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Dodger Stadium, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park in Boston, and a painting by Snider and another starring Snider, Jackie Robinson and other Brooklyn Dodger stars .
What do people think of the wall when they meet Kolander in his office?
“Some people ask about it, and when I know someone is a baseball fan, I’ll mention it. People are usually very interested. Every object on the wall has its own story. Sometimes I’ll point out a few things and say, “I’m telling you too much,” and they’ll say that they want to hear about it, “he said.
There are numerous baseball balls on display throughout the office.
Former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda called Kolander on his 40th and 50th birthday – arranged by some McCleskey employees.
“We met and he remembered the meeting,” said Kolander, showing a copy of Lasorda’s book “The Artful Dodger”.
It’s signed by Lasorda: “For Jerry, you and the Dodgers are both great.”