August 21, 2019

Ebbets Field 100

April 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The move of the NBA’s Nets this season has allowed fans and journalists to speak a magical word that had disappeared from the lexicon of major sports leagues for more than 50 years: “Brooklyn.”

Brooklyn is probably New York City’s most beloved and, possibly, provincial borough and the relocation of the New Jersey Nets to Barclay’s Center allows Brooklyn’s residents to again tell the world: “Look what we got.”

An aging generation of Brooklynites is saying, “Look what we got, yeah,…but it still isn’t what we lost.”  That’s because no matter what success the Brooklyn Nets enjoy or loyalty they engender there will likely never be a bond like that between Brooklyn and the Dodgers.

To say that the Brooklyn Dodgers were a baseball team is to say John Wayne was an actor.  Both statements are completely factual but don’t begin to paint the whole picture.

The Dodgers were Brooklyn’s blood, guts and fabric.  They were the beloved “bums” most of the time, contenders a great deal of the time, and favorite sons for all-time.  They are mythologized, lionized and still greatly missed, 55 years after departing for Los Angeles for the 1958 season.

Fifty-five.  Such a beautiful, tragic number for Brooklyn fans who celebrated the team’s only World Series winner in 1955.

The Brooklyn Dodgers were New York’s flawed baseball heroes. If the Yankees played in a castle and the Giants lived in a palace, the Dodgers dwelled in the world’s most charming brownstone, Ebbets Field.

The first game ever played at Ebbets Field was an exhibition between the Dodgers and the Yankees 100 years ago, April 5, 1913.   The Dodgers won, 3-2, thanks in part to a home run by Casey Stengel.  The first official game at Ebbets Field came on April 9, 1913 when the Dodgers fell to the Philadelphia Phillies, 1-0.

(Side note: various places list Brooklyn’s nickname during 1913 and many other years as the “Robins” and the team was also known by another monikers but most fans and journalists more or less seem to have always referred to the team as the “Dodgers” in reference to Brooklynites being trolley dodgers and, as legend goes, in reference to the “Artful Dodger” from Oliver Twist.)

In Brooklyn, the Dodgers will be forever missed and Ebbets Field is eternally mourned.  Like many ballparks of its day, Ebbets Field provided an intimate setting for baseball, holding only 18,000 fans when it opened and, after renovations, 35,000 during the 1940s.   Its exterior façade looked more like a library or the world’s most massive cozy little home than a stadium.

Ebbets’ coziness was also what contributed to its demise.  Dodgers’ owner Walter O’Malley wanted a bigger, more modern park with more access to parking as, by the late 1950s, a lot more people were driving and many Dodgers fans were coming in from outside the borough.

The last Dodgers game was played at Ebbets Field on September 24, 1957, a 2-0 win over the Pirates.  Ebbets Field was torn down in 1960 and replaced by the Ebbets Field Apartments which were later renamed the Jackie Robinson Apartments.   There is also now a Jackie Robinson School.

In 1960 the New Yorker chronicled the demolition of Ebbets Field and the auctioning off of seats, nameplates and much else.  The magazine noted the disemboweled ballpark looked like a set from a movie chronicling the end of the world.

Some would argue that is exactly what it was.

 

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