Brooklyn Dodgers

From BR Bullpen

(Also known as Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, Brooklyn Bridegrooms, Brooklyn Superbas, and Brooklyn Robins. Sometimes referred to as Dem Bums, or Dodger Blue )

The Brooklyn Dodgers were a major league baseball team that played in the National League from 1890 to 1957. The team is perhaps best remembered for being the first modern Major League team to integrate, when Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play big league baseball in the twentieth century, joined the Dodgers in 1947. The Dodgers are also fondly remembered as a major league team that represented a borough—a collection of neighborhoods, really—rather than an entire city. The Dodgers abandoned Brooklyn for Los Angeles for the 1958 season. The team, which has been known as the Los Angeles Dodgers since its move to the West Coast, still exists today as a member of the National League’s Western Division.

Win-Loss Record:

  • (1883-1957) 5,668-5,308-130-3 (.516)
  • (1911-12, 32-57) 2,339-1,658-45 (.544)

Post Season Record:

  • (1889-1900) 9-10-1 (.475)
  • (1916-57) 20-36 (.357)

Home Ballparks[edit]

Permanent Home Fields

Washington Park I, Brooklyn (1884-1889)

Washington Park II, Brooklyn (1889-1890)

Eastern Park, Brooklyn (1891-1897)

Washington Park III, Brooklyn (1898-1912)

Ebbets Field, Brooklyn (1913-1957)

Temporary Home Fields

The Brooklyn Dodgers also played a handful of home games in the following ballparks:

Union Grounds, in the Williamsville section of Brooklyn (May 24, 1889)

Ridgewood Park, Queens (just over the line from Brooklyn) (Sundays, 1886-1889)

Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ (seven games in 1956, eight games in 1957)

World Series Championships[edit]

1: 1955

National League Pennants[edit]

12: 1890, 1899, 1900, 1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956


Early Brooklyn Roots[edit]

The game of baseball first developed in the New York area in the mid-nineteenth century. At the time, Brooklyn, which is across the East River from Manhattan, was a separate city from New York. Together, the two cities formed the hub of the largest metropolis in the country, as New York, the largest city in the country, had a population of over 813,669 in 1860, and Brooklyn, then the nation’s third largest city, had a population of 266,661. By the 1860, there were a number of prominent amateur baseball teams based in New York metropolitan area, including the Mutual club in New York and the Atlantic and Eckford clubs in Brooklyn. The first baseball game in which admission was charged was an amateur game played in Brooklyn in 1858 which pitted all-stars representing New York teams against all-stars representing Brooklyn teams. Fans paid the exorbitant price of fifty cents to be admitted to Capitoline Grounds to watch the game. When baseball’s first all-professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings toured the country in 1869 and 1870, the Brooklyn Atlantics handed them their first defeat in June of 1870.

Brooklyn’s existing clubs originally chose not to join baseball’s first professional league, the National Association, when it was organized in 1871. In the middle of the season, however, the Fort Wayne club withdrew from the league and the Brooklyn Eckfords quickly replaced them. (At the season’s end, the Eckfords’ record was subsequently stricken from the season’s standings.) The following year the Eckfords were joined by their cross-town rivals, the Brooklyn Atlantics. The Eckfords dropped out of the league following the 1872 season, but the Atlantics continued as a member of the National Association until the league was dissolved after the 1875 season.

In 1876, the National League was organized to replace the National Association. Brooklyn was not among the original franchises in that circuit, but the Mutuals, a National League club representing New York City, played its home games in Brooklyn in 1876. The Mutuals failed to complete their final road trip in 1876, and, consequently, they were expelled from the league during the winter meetings. National League baseball, however, continued to be played in Brooklyn in 1877, as a team representing Hartford, CT arranged to play their home games in Brooklyn that season.

Brooklyn in the American Association[edit]

In 1882, the American Association, a second major league, was organized to challenge the National League. The following year, a baseball club was organized in Brooklyn which played in the Interstate Association, winning the pennant. In 1884, the Brooklyn club, known as the "Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers" because of the maze of streetcar lines that crisscrossed Brooklyn, joined the American Association.

In 1889, the Brooklyn club, now known as the “Brooklyn Bridegrooms” because a number of its players had married in succession, won the American Association pennant. The Bridegrooms met the National League's New York Giants in the annual “world series” between N.L. and A.A. pennant winners, setting the stage for a fierce rivalry that would last nearly seventy years. The Giants defeated the Brooklyn team, 6 games to 3.

Brooklyn Joins the National League[edit]

Following the 1889 season, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, along with the A.A.’s Cincinnati Reds, withdrew from the American Association and joined the National League. In its first NL season, Brooklyn, assisted by a players’ strike that leveled the competition by luring a number of stars from their former National League teams, won the NL pennant. Brooklyn met the American Association’s Louisville Colonels in the 1890 world series, which ended in a 3 to 3 draw, with one tie game. The players’ strike ended following the 1890 season, but not without irreparably harming the American Association, which folded after the 1891 season. With the demise of the American Association, four former-A.A. teams joined the National League in 1892, turning that organization into a twelve-team circuit for the remainder of the decade. In 1898, Baltimore Orioles owner Henry Von der Horst, whose club had been the most successful N.L. team of the 1890s, purchased the Bridegrooms, and began transferring many of his stars to Brooklyn, including manager Ned Hanlon, as well as future hall-of-famers Wee Willie Keeler, Joe Kelley, and Hughie Jennings. Re-invigorated, the Brooklyn team, now known as the “Brooklyn Superbas,” after a popular acrobatic troupe of the day named “Hanlon’s Superbas,” won the National Pennant in 1899 and 1900.

In 1898, Brooklyn was consolidated with the city of New York under the Greater New York Act of 1898. With the passage of the act, many fans in Brooklyn feared that they would lose the team because the city was already represented by the New York Giants. The National League had no problem with operating two teams in New York City, however, and when the league contracted to eight clubs following the 1899 season, Brooklyn remained in the circuit.

Ebbets Field[edit]

Although the Brooklyn club survived the city’s demotion to a borough, the team almost disappeared from the National League in 1902. Von der Horst was ill and had put the club up for sale. Manager Ned Hanlon, who had managed the National League’s Baltimore Orioles in the 1890s, made plans to buy the Brooklyn team and move it to Baltimore, which had been without a National League team since the N.L. contracted to eight teams in 1900. Charlie Ebbets, a long time club employee, found out about Hanlon’s scheme, and decided to thwart it. (Von der Horst had already rewarded Ebbets with ten percent of the ownership because of his faithful service to the organization.) Ebbets consulted every available avenue to raise the money to buy the team, and in 1902 he took over controlling ownership, keeping the team in Brooklyn.

Shortly after purchasing the team, Ebbets realized that Washington Park, at Fourth Avenue and Third Street, was in terrible need for repair, and he started hunting for a new playing site. Settling on a working class immigrant neighborhood in Flatbush called “Pigtown,” which was away from the borough’s main populated areas, Ebbets started to quietly buy the land necessary to build a ballpark. He secretly bought the first parcel in 1908. By 1912, Ebbets had bought the necessary 15 parcels of land for $200,000. Overestimating the cost of building the facility, Ebbets was again forced to heavily borrow money to construct the stadium, but in 1913, the new ballpark was ready.

Asked by a reporter on opening day what he would call the new facility, Ebbets confessed that he hadn’t thought about a name and would probably name it Washington Park after the team’s former stadium. The reporter responded, “Why don’t you call it Ebbets Field? It was your idea and nobody else’s, and you’ve put yourself in hock to build it. It’s going to be your monument, whether you like to think about it that way or not.” And, so the new stadium had a name.

Ebbets calculated the population trends of the New York area correctly, as, by the 1920s and 1930s, Ebbets field was surrounded by populated middle-class neighborhoods. He did not, however, calculate the impact of the mortgages he needed to take out to build the ballpark, and the debt carried by the team would encumber the Dodgers for a quarter of a century.

Ebbets Field was a brick structure whose hulking rotunda was probably its most notable feature. The close confines of the ballpark kept the fans in the action, and encouraged an intimacy between player and fan that no longer exists in baseball. Patrons at Ebbets Field could hear the players chat and they could see the expressions on their face. Over time, other notable features were added to Ebbets Field, including a sign advertising Schaeffer Beer, which partially lit up on close calls. If the close play was a hit, the “H” in Schaeffer would lit up, and it if was an error, the “E” in Schaeffer would lit up. A sign along the lower outfield wall advertising a Brooklyn tailor named Abe Stark lured batters with the promise, “Hit Sign, Win Suit.” Later Stark was elected borough president, probably more due to the name recognition provided by the sign than anything else.

The “Daffiness Boys”[edit]

Ned Hanlon retired following the 1906 season, and with his exit from the game fans and newspaper reporters reverted to calling the team the “Brooklyn Dodgers.” With the naming of Wilbert Robinson as manager in 1914, however, the team became known as the “Brooklyn Robins.” The Robins won pennants in 1916 and 1920, and, led by slugger Zack Wheat and pitchers Dazzy Vance and Burleigh Grimes (the last pitcher to legally throw a spitball), they completed for another in 1924. During the twenties, the team had developed such a wacky personality, the press often affectionately referred to them as the “Daffiness Boys.” Two incidents illustrate the club’s personality during this period. In one case, slugger Babe Herman hit what appeared to be a triple, only to be called out by the umpire for not touching second. Manager Robinson charged on to the field to challenge the umpire’s call, when his first base coach warned him, “Don’t worry about it, Skip. He missed first, too.” In another instance, outfielder Casey Stengel, who would later manage the great Yankee teams of the 1950s, once found an injured bird in the outfield grass. Planning to nurse it back to health, he placed the bird under his cap and resumed playing the game. By the time Stengel came to bat, he had totally forgotten the bird, but the crowd had not forgotten an error he had made the previous inning and began to boo him. In response to the crowd’s taunting, Stengel politely doffed his cap. The bird, which Stengel had forgotten, had been revived by his body heat and promptly flew away. The boos quickly turned into roaring laughter.

Robinson retired after the 1931 season. He was replaced as manager by Max Carey. With the appointment of a new manager, some in the media suggested renaming the club the “Brooklyn Canaries” after Carey, whose real name was Max Canarius. The team, instead, returned to the name “Dodgers,” a moniker they have continued to retain.

“Dem Bums”[edit]

By the late 1930s, the Dodgers had earned the reputation of loveable losers. One day in 1939, sports cartoonist Willard Mullin of the New York World Telegram asked a cab driver how the Dodgers were doing. The cabbie replied, “Dem Bums are bums.” The encounter gave Mullin an idea, and he soon developed a cartoon character, the “Brooklyn Bum,” to symbolize the team. Fans and newspapers alike, mimmicking a Brooklyn accent, often referred to the team as “Dem Bums.” Even circus clown Emmett Kelly, who had created the hobo character, “Weeping Willie,” for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, got into the act, often appearing at Ebbets Field as the Dodgers unofficial mascot.

Emmett Kelly wasn’t the only colorful character to grace Ebbets Field. Because of the intimacy of Ebbets Field, fans had always felt a closeness with the players, and Brooklynites found unique ways to support their team. Hilda Chester attended Ebbets Field daily with a cowbell, urging her team on. A group of would-be musicians, known as the Dodger Sym-Phoney, serenaded the team with something that approximated music. Even Ebbets Field organist Gladys Gooding joined the fun, ridiculing umpires with her rendition of “Three Blind Mice”.

The McPhail Years[edit]

Like many businesses, the Dodgers suffered economic hardship during the Great Depression. With losses on the field and attendance down at the box office, the team teetered near bankruptcy. In the late 1930s, the Brooklyn Trust Company, the club’s chief creditor, began pressuring the club to improve its solvency. At the suggestion of National League President Ford Frick the team hired Larry MacPhail to serve as general manager. MacPhail had already proven himself capable with the rebuilding job he had performed in Cincinnati early in the decade. MacPhail, who introduced night baseball to the major leagues with his installations of lights at Crosley Field in 1935, brought lights to Ebbets Field in 1938. Brooklyn’s first night game is noteworthy because opposing pitcher Johnny Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds pitched his second consecutive no-hitter. In addition to bringing night baseball to Brooklyn, MacPhail also arranged for Dodger games to be broadcast on the radio, hiring broadcaster Red Barber to call the games on the air. The broadcast of Dodger games, first by Barber and later by Vin Scully, saturated the borough and the surrounding metropolitan area, helping solidify fan interest. The Dodgers enacted one other major innovation in 1938. The unpopular kelly green and tan uniforms adopted in 1937 were discarded in favor of a new uniform that featured the word “Dodgers” in royal blue Palmer-style script across a plain white jersey. Even today, more than seventy years later, the Los Angeles Dodgers still wear a version of the classic uniforms adopted in 1938.

Novelties alone, however, would not end the Dodgers’ problems, if MacPhail did not work to put a winning product on the field. In 1939, Leo Durocher was brought into manage the team. Also in 1939 outfielder Dixie Walker would the club. The following year shortstop Pee Wee Reese joined the lineup, and the club finished the season in second place. With the addition of outfielder Pete Reiser in 1941, the pieces were in place. Nearly a 1.2 million fans squeezed into Ebbets Field that season to witness the Dodgers win their first pennant in twenty-one years. Heartbreak followed, however, as catcher Mickey Owen’s failure to hold a passed ball on a called third strike with two outs in the ninth inning turned the tide in game four of the World Series. Before the miscue, the Dodgers were leading 4 to 3, and were set to tie the series at two games apiece. However, given a second chance with the passed ball, the New York Yankees went on to score four runs, giving them a 3 to 1 series lead. The Yankees would go on to win the series in five games.

World War II and the Arrival of Branch Rickey[edit]

The Dodgers were hit hard by World War II, not only losing not only stars like Pee Wee Reese but also Larry MacPhail to military service. To replace MacPhail, the Dodgers hired Branch Rickey as general manager. In time, Rickey eventually assumed controlling ownership of the team. When he was the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, Rickey had developed the farm system as a means of developing talent for the big league club, and he quickly established a farm system for Brooklyn which included notable minor league teams such as the Montreal Royals of the International League, the St. Paul Saints of the American Association and the Mobile Bears of the Southern Association. With the end of the war, new stars would join the Brooklyn roster, including right fielder Carl Furillo, center fielder Duke Snider, and first basemen Gil Hodges.

“All Hell Breaks Loose”[edit]

Major League Baseball had excluded African-Americans since the 1880s, when Chicago White Stockings star Cap Anson refused to play in a game against the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association if Toledo fielded black player Moses Fleetwood Walker. With the United States fighting fascism in World War II, many people began to recognize the hypocrisy of fighting for freedom abroad while some Americans were prevent from playing baseball because of the color of their skin. New York Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia began pressuring the city’s three major league teams to do something to break the color barrier. Rickey, the son of a Methodist minister and a man with a strong moral streak, responded to the call. After scouting the talent in the Negro Leagues, Rickey decided that Jackie Robinson of the Negro American League Kansas City Monarchs was the man he wanted. Not only did Robinson possess unparalleled skill, but he agreed to Rickey’s request that he not respond to racial tauntings. In 1946 Rickey signed Robinson to a contract with the Montreal Royals, and the following year he made plans to bring Robinson to Brooklyn.

Despite Robinson’s obvious talent, he was not immediately welcomed by his prospective teammates. Dixie Walker demanded a trade, and rumors circulated of a petition of players pledging not to play with black teammate. Dodger captain Pee Wee Reese, a Southerner himself from Louisville, Kentucky, refused to sign the petition. The opposition from Robinson’s teammates gradually subsided, and Robinson was in Brooklyn’s opening day lineup on April 15, 1947. Although most players and fans in Brooklyn quickly accepted Robinson, the Dodgers’ second basemen remained the target of brutal race-baiting on the road. Following one particularly nasty episode in Cincinnati, a city just across the Ohio River from the South, shortstop Pee Wee Reese, a Southerner, himself, walked stepped across second base and embraced Robinson. The significance of Reese’s gesture is immeasurable.

Despite the resistance in many quarters to the integration of baseball, Rickey’s signing of Robinson was successful on many levels. On the field, Robinson won the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award, as he led the Dodgers to the National League pennant. On the box office, the Dodgers opened a new market of fans, as African-Americans began patronizing Ebbets Field in large numbers. (Black fans also turned out to see the Dodgers on the road. Cities on the fringe of the American South, including Cincinnati and St. Louis drew so many black fans from Deep South that north-bound railroads had to add additional cars.) Most importantly, the signing of Jackie Robinson was a success in sociology, as white fans realized they had to root for a black player in order for their team to succeed. The appearance of Jackie Robinson in a Dodgers uniform would precede President Harry Truman’s integration of the Armed Services by ten months, and it would precede the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case by seven years. Soon, the Dodgers would add more blacks to their roster, including catcher Roy Campanella and pitchers Don Newcombe and Joe Black.

The “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”[edit]

In the late 1940s and early 1950s the Dodgers established themselves as one of the most successful teams in baseball, but they were still unable to win the “big one.” Robinson led Brooklyn to pennants in 1947 and 1949, yet for some reason, the Dodgers couldn’t seem to break the Yankees’ monopoly on the World Series. In 1950, Walter O'Malley, legal counsel for the same Brooklyn Trust Company that held the mortgage on Ebbets Field, assumed ownership of the club and forced Rickey out as general manager. The club’s apparent jinx continued. In 1950, shortly before O’Malley assumed ownership, the Dodgers lost the pennant on the last day of the season to the Philadelphia Phillies, on a tenth-inning home run by Dick Sisler.

The following year, everything looked like it was going Brooklyn’s way. The Dodgers got off to a quick start, and soon Brooklyn held a 13-1/2 game lead over the second place New York Giants. Late in the season, the Dodgers’ lead began to evaporate; and, when the season ended, Brooklyn and New York finished in a first place tie.

A three-game playoff series was held. The Giants won game one of the playoff series, 3-1, but the Dodgers came back to win game two, 10-0. In the rubber game, Brooklyn held a 4 to 2 lead, with one out and two men on base in the bottom of the ninth. Dodgers manager, Charlie Dressen called in reliever pitcher Ralph Branca to face Giant batter Bobby Thomson. Thomson lifted a fly ball over the leftfield wall, to win the game, and the pennant. Thomson’s home run is known in baseball lore as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” The moment was captured on audio by Giants’ radio announcer Russ Hodges famous scream, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!”

“The Boys of Summer”[edit]

By the mid-fifties, the Dodgers’ ‘‘persona’’ of loveable losers began to wear thin. With stars like Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges, the team was very good at its job, but it just could not seem to close the deal. To many, however the Dodgers represented real life. They seemed to symbolize average people who went to work, obeyed the law, and paid their taxes but still could not catch a break. (In contrast, during this same period, one wag observed that “Rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel.”) The team bounced back from losing the 1951 playoff series, to win National League pennants in 1952 and 1953, but, again, Brooklyn lost to the Yankees in the World Series.

World Champions at Last[edit]

The Dodgers finally found their way out of the wildness in 1955. Despite losing the World Series to the Yankees in 1953, Charlie Dressen, who had been working on consecutive one-year contract, requested that the Dodgers give him a multi-year contract. Walter O’Malley refused, and Dressen, who could not back down after making his demand public, resigned. O’Malley brought in Walter Alston, a man who had played exactly one game in the major leagues nineteen years earlier, to manage the club. In 1954, Alston’s first year as manager, it appeared that O’Malley may have made a mistake, as the Dodgers finished the season in second place, five games behind the Giants.

The following season, the Dodgers once again won the N.L. pennant. Powered by home runs by Duke Snider, and behind the brilliant pitching of Johnny Podres, the Dodgers finally won the World Series in 1955, beating the Yankees four games to three. Following the game, the New York Daily News (a paper with a large circulation in Brooklyn) carried a front page that featured a picture of a hobo drawn by cartoonist Bill Gallo with large print letters, asking “WHO’S A BUM?”

Nineteen Fifty-Six saw another rematch between the Dodgers and the Yankees in the World Series. This time, with Yankee pitcher Don Larsen throwing a perfect game in game 5, Brooklyn lost to their old nemesis in seven games.

The Dodgers Leave Brooklyn[edit]

Airplane used by the team, ca. 1950's

Although the Dodgers were winning pennants in the 1950s, owner Walter O’Malley had concerns about the future of the team and its aging ballpark. America underwent a number of changes in the postwar period, including a population shift that lured people the cities to the suburbs, a growing love affair with the automobile, and an infatuation with a new form of entertainment called television. Brooklyn was not exempt to these changes. The neighborhood around Ebbets Field declined as middle class families who fled Brooklyn for suburban homes were replaced by poorer residents. Although the automobile was growing in popularity, Ebbets Field, with its dearth of parking, was unable to accommodate more than a handful of spectators who chose to drive to a ballgame. Television competed with baseball as a form of entertainment. Compounding these changes were changes taking place within baseball. In 1953, after years of playing second fiddle to the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Braves abandoned New England for Milwaukee and sudden success. With the novelty of a new team in Wisconsin, the Braves suddenly had baseball’s busiest turnstiles, and it showed on the field, as the Braves were stocked with stars like Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron.

Walter O’Malley decided what the Dodgers needed to compete with up and coming teams like the Braves was a new stadium, and he proposed that the city of New York build him one in Downtown Brooklyn, near the terminus of the Long Island Railroad. O’Malley envisioned a futuristic structure, a stadium covered by a dome to make it possible to play baseball in any weather. The city rejected O’Malley’s proposal and, instead, offered to build a stadium in the 1939 World’s Fair grounds in the Flushing Meadows neighborhood of Queens, at what would eventually become the site of Shea Stadium. O’Malley, who questioned whether or not the Dodgers could still represent Brooklyn if they played in Queens, examined the site. Noting that Flushing Meadows was surrounded by water on three sides and cemeteries on the fourth, O’Malley doubted the neighborhood could sustain a major league baseball team. He rejected the city’s offer. In the meantime, perhaps to demonstrate he did not feel compelled to keep the team in Brooklyn, he scheduled a handful of Dodger games at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, NJ.

In the 1950s, postwar population changes were making it difficult for American cities to support two major league baseball teams, while other cities that had been minor league strongholds for decades felt that they, too, deserved a major league baseball team. In 1954, the St. Louis Browns changed their name to the Orioles and moved to Baltimore. In 1955, the Athletics abandoned Philadelphia for Kansas City, MO. It looked like the New York Giants, who were negotiating with the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, would be the next team to move. Although franchise shifts were underway in the 1950s, until 1958 all such moves were confined to the northeastern quadrant of the United States. When baseball relied heavily on train travel, franchise shifts to the Deep South and Far West seemed out of the question. With the arrival of commercial aviation, however, civic leaders in some West Coast cities began to agitate for a major league baseball in their region, as well. Los Angeles, which was then the nation’s third largest city, and the home of two minor league baseball with two teams in the Pacific Coast League, the Los Angeles Angels and the Hollywood Stars, began to see itself as a city worthy of major league baseball. Almost as a lark, the city’s leaders contacted the Dodgers about moving to California. They were astounded when O’Malley replied that he was open to hearing their proposal.

Southern California beckoned, with a large and growing market. If the Dodgers left Brooklyn for L.A., they would no longer have to compete against the Yankees and Giants for the support of New York’s baseball fans. The Angelinos were offering a deal that was almost too good to turn down, including a new, modern stadium to be built in the heart of downtown. Walter O’Malley’s one concern, however, was whether Major League Baseball would sign off on a move that placed a single major league baseball team more than a thousand miles from its nearest rival. O’Malley’s solution was to contact Horace Stoneham, the owner of the New York Giants. Stoneham was on the verge of signing a deal to move the Giants to Minneapolis. As the Giants and the Dodgers had always been natural rivals, O’Malley offered Stoneham an alternative to Minneapolis. Wouldn’t the Giants like to preserve their lucrative rivalry with the Dodgers? Would they be interested in moving into the untapped market of San Francisco? Stoneham realized the brilliance of such a move. In September 1957, the Giants announced that they would be leaving Manhattan for San Francisco. A few weeks later, during the 1957 World Series, which ironically enough featured the upstart Braves against the Yankees, the Dodgers announced that they were leaving Brooklyn for Los Angeles. Neither Brooklyn nor New York, both of which had baseball since 1883, would field a National League team in 1958.

A National League Vacuum in New York City[edit]

New Yorkers were stunned by the announcement that their two National League franchises were moving to California, but there was little they could do to stop it from happening. Faced with the prospect of losing both teams, New York leaders pressured the National League into moving another team into New York, or barring that, expanding membership in the National League so that a new New York team could be established. None of the existing teams, however, were interested in moving to New York, and Major League Baseball was definitely not interested in expansion. As a contingency plan, the city encouraged Branch Rickey to move ahead with plans to form a third circuit, to be known as the Continental League. Franchises were awarded to Atlanta, Buffalo, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Toronto, and, of course, New York City. Faced with losing their long-standing monopoly, Major League Baseball capitulated and agreed to expand to twenty teams, with new franchises promised for Houston, Minneapolis, and New York. The Continental League promptly folded without playing a game.

The new National League franchise in New York, the New York Mets, was the step-child of both the Dodgers and Giants. The team’s colors, royal blue, orange (and later black) were taken from the team colors of the Brooklyn Dodgers (royal blue) and the New York Giants (orange and black). The team would first take the field in 1962, playing in the Giants’ old ballpark, the Polo Grounds until Shea Stadium, a brand new facility in Flushing Meadows, Queens would be available in 1964. Given an alternative to root for a team not called the Yankees, former Dodger and Giant fans from all corners of the Metropolitan area embraced the Mets.

The Brooklyn Dodgers’ Legacy[edit]

Although the Mets replaced the Dodgers (and the Giants) on the field, nothing replaced the Dodgers in the hearts of Brooklyn fans. As the team receded into history, a growing nostalgia for the Brooklyn Dodgers appeared to emerge. The Boys of Summer, Roger Kahn's recollection of the time he spend covering the 1952 Dodgers as a sportswriter for the New York Herald Tribune, reawakened America's interested in the Dodgers in 1972. Other recollections followed, including Peter Golenbock’s Bums in 1984. Soon, books on the Brooklyn Dodgers would grow into what Roger Kahn called a cottage history. In 1998, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin would publish Wait Till Next Year, her memory of growing up a Dodgers fan on Long Island. In 2005, journalist Thomas Oliphant would issue his own boyhood memories of the team in Praying for Gil Hodges. In fact, baseball did return to Brooklyn in 2001, with the arrival of the New York-Penn League's Brooklyn Cyclones, a Single-A minor league team for the Mets that play in Keyspan Park on Coney Island.

Why the continued interest in the Brooklyn Dodgers nearly fifty years after the team moved to California? Perhaps part of the answer is the Mets, with the words "New York" in their name, never quite completely filled the void created when the Dodgers fled Brooklyn. More likely, however, the Brooklyn Dodgers represented baseball in an earlier, less complex era. Unlike today, when athletes with multi-million dollar contracts seem isolated from the community, in the 1950s, fans often felt like they actually knew the players on the team. In the intimate confines of Ebbets Field, fans could hear the ballplayers speak and see the expression on their faces. Even more important, the ballplayers often lived in the same neighborhood as fans, and fans could encounter them on the bus or in a store. The Brooklyn Dodgers also represented a simpler era in another way. Today, many Major League Baseball teams, such as the Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, and Arizona Diamondbacks, represent entire states. There is something unique about a team that didn't even represent an entire city, but, instead, a merely a collection of neighborhoods that made up only a part of that city.

See Also[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Red Barber: Rhubarb Patch: The Story of the Modern Brooklyn Dodgers, Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 1954.
  • John Burbridge: "The Brooklyn Dodgers in Jersey City", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 39, Number 1 (Summer 2010), pp. 18-26.
  • Dennis D'Agostino and Bonnie Crosby: Through a Blue Lens: The Brooklyn Dodgers Photographs of Barney Stein, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2007. ISBN 9781572439528
  • Michael D'Antonio: Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, Riverhead Books, New York, NY, 2009.
  • Peter Ellsworth: "The Brooklyn Dodgers' Move to Los Angeles: Was Walter O'Malley Responsible?", in Nine, 14, no. 1 (2005).
  • Andrew Goldblatt: The Giants and the Dodgers: Four Cities, Two Teams, One Rivalry, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2003.
  • Peter Golenbock: Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1987. ISBN 0399128468
  • Paul Hirsch: "Walter O'Malley Was Right", in Jean Hastings Ardell and Andy McCue, ed.: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 41, 2011, pp. 81-83.
  • Donald Honig: The Brooklyn Dodgers: An Illustrated Tribute, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 1981. ISBN 0312106009
  • Donald Honig: Dodgers: The Complete Record of Dodgers Baseball, Collier Books, New York, NY, 1986. ISBN 0020283806
  • J.P. Hoornstra: The 50 Greatest Dodgers Games of All Time, Riverdale Avenue Books, Riverdale, NY, 2015. ISBN 978-1-6260-1195-3
  • Roger Kahn: The Boys of Summer, Perennial Classics, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY, 2000 (originally published in 1972).
  • Roger Kahn: The Era, 1947-1957: When the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers Ruled the World, Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2002 (originally published in 1993). ISBN 0803278055
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin: Wait Til Next Year: Summer Afternoons with My Father and Baseball, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1998.
  • Joe Konte: Giants vs. Dodgers: The Coast-to-Coast History of the Rivalry Heard ’Round the World, Sports Publishing, New York, NY, 2017. ISBN 978-1683580447 (originally published in 2013)
  • David Krell: "Our Bums": The Brooklyn Dodgers in History, Memory and Popular Culture, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2015. ISBN 978-0-7864-7799-9
  • Rudy Marzano: The Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s: How Robinson, MacPhail, Reiser and Rickey Changed Baseball, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7864-1987-6
  • Rudy Marzano: The Last Years of the Brooklyn Dodgers: A History, 1950-1957, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7864-3006-2
  • Andy McCue: Mover and Shaker: Walter O'Malley, the Dodgers, and Baseball's Westward Expansion, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2014. ISBN 978-0803245082
  • Bob McGee: The Greatest Ballpark Ever: Ebbets Field and the Story of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Rutgers University Press, Piscataway, NJ, 2005.
  • William McNeil: The Dodgers Encyclopedia, Sports Publishing LLC, Champaign, IL, 2003 (originally published in 1997).
  • Andrew Paul Mele, ed.: A Brooklyn Dodgers Reader, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7864-6108-0
  • Robert E. Murphy: After Many a Summer: The Passing of the Giants and Dodgers and a Golden Age in New York Baseball, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2013. ISBN 978-0-8032-4573-0
  • Thomas Oliphant: Praying for Gil Hodges: A Memoir of the 1955 World Series and One Family's Love for the Brooklyn Dodgers, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 2005.
  • Carl E. Prince: Brooklyn's Dodgers: The Bums, the Borough, and the Best of Baseball, 1947-1957, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1996.
  • Michael Schiavone: Dodgers vs. Yankees: The Long-Standing Rivalry Between Two of Baseball's Greatest Teams, Sports Publishing LLC., New York, NY, 2020. ISBN 9781683583141
  • Michael Shapiro: The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers, and their Final Pennant Race Together, Doubleday, New York, NY, 2003.
  • Neil J. Sullivan: The Dodgers Move West, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1987.
  • John G. Zinn: Charles Ebbets: The Man Behind the Dodgers and Brooklyn’s Beloved Ballpark, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2019. ISBN 978-0-7864-9973-1

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