On this day in 1912, Charles Ebbets, “The Squire of Flatbush”, announced he had acquired land in the Pigtown section of Brooklyn for a ballpark. Construction would start later that year, and the ballpark would open by Opening Day the next year. The name of the park: Ebbets Field (like you couldn’t guess, heh).
From what I’ve read, he decided to name the park after himself. And after working his way up with the Brooklyn Base Ball Club from errand boy/vendor in 1884 to team president in 1897 (meaning he was there from practically the beginning), I think he earned it. Plus, I’d pity the guy who would’ve suggested otherwise, Hercules was Ebbets’ middle name. Really.
While the Ebbets-inspired, soon-to-open Citi Field in Queens cost $600 million to build, Ebbets Field was build for less than a thousandth of that: $450,000. Today, that would get you close to 5 years of choice season tickets at the new Yankee Stadium.
I’ve delayed writing more about Brooklyn because I found it hard to convey how I feel It seems that in this year that celebrates the Golden Anniversary of the Dodgers comming to Los Angeles, it becomes that much harder for the 21st century Dodgers fan to connect with the team’s East Coast heritage. Where it once seemed that Dodgertown would forever serve as that connection, now even those hallowed grounds have been deserted, with the Dodgers moving light posts, street signs and even the big Dodgertown sign westward with them.
Part of me likes the fact that they’re moving to Arizona, as it increases the likelihood that I’d get to see a Dodgers spring training game. For me to go to Vero Beach, I’dve had to save up a ton of money just for the flight. This is selfish, though. I honestly think that the team will be missing something from now on, as they’ve torn their roots from the East Coast for good.
The main reason that I started the last post about Brooklyn with me meeting some of the 1987 Dodgers and standing on the field was to contrast with how much the Brooklyn Dodgers meant to the people of Brooklyn. The Dodgers lived within blocks of Ebbets field, and would walk to the park, soon finding some of the community of Brooklyn walking with them. There was Happy Felton’s Knothole Gang, a television program that ran before Dodgers games that had kids learning the game from Happy Felton and some of the Brooklyn Dodgers. According to the HBO movie Ghosts of Flatbush, the reason Brooklyn loved their Dodgers so much was because they unified their community, which was independent from NYC until the turn of the century. As it said in Ghosts of Flatbush, as vestiges of Brooklyn’s independence disappeared, the Dodgers were one thing that never changed.
Seeing the picture of the Bum crying as a giant hand ripped out a heart-shaped swatch of Brooklyn with Ebbets Field makes me feel really emotional, even though I’ve never been to NYC. I consider myself a HUGE baseball fan, and the Dodgers have been my team as long as I was able to understand the game of baseball. But to me, the team will never fully be “ours”, in the sense of California’s. When you look at the deed that brought the Dodgers into existence, the word “Dodgers” never appears on the paper, just four words: Brooklyn Base Ball Club. With Vin Scully, Tommy Lasorda and now Joe Torre, we still have connections to New York and the East Coast, but in another 50 years, what will remain? In Los Angeles, there are a ton of sports options for your money, and with a team like the L.A. Lakers in town, the Dodgers could never hope to become the single consciousness of an area as it seemed they were in Brooklyn.
The two times the team’s been for sale in my lifetime, I’d been scared at the media’s half-joke about the sound of Brooklyn collecting up their loose change for a chance to buy the team, scared that my Dodgers might be leaving me, without understanding that they left Brooklyn first. The next time the team’s for sale, I hope I could hear that sound in Brooklyn, and part of me will be rooting for them.