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On This Day in History, April 18: Ebbets Buried at Green-Wood

Charles H. Ebbets died suddenly on April 18, 1925, a victim of heart disease, at the age of 66.

At the time of his death he was half-owner of the Brooklyn National League baseball club. Ebbets Field (1913) was his creation. It was the realization of a dream that began when his son Charles Jr. was born in 1878. Ebbets wanted to build a baseball stadium that his son could inherit.

The team to play in the stadium was called the Brooklyn Superbas, and later the Brooklyn Dodgers. Some friends advised Ebbets against building the stadium but Ebbets told them: “I’m building this new ball park for my son. Mark my words, some day Ebbets Field will be in the heart of Brooklyn and thousands of fans will come to see the team play baseball. Some day, the Brooklyn club will be so famous that Ebbets Field will be too small to handle the crowds!” [His prediction was even truer than he could have imagined]. Charles Ebbets named his stadium for his son, Charles Jr., and not after himself.

On his death Ebbets left his half ownership of the club scattered among his surviving family. The other half of the club belonged to the McKeever brothers, Steve and Ed, whose construction company had come to Ebbets’s financial rescue during the building of Ebbets Field. Ed McKeever replaced Ebbets as president of the franchise, but during the burial service for Ebbets he contracted pneumonia and a week later was dead himself.

Ebbets’ funeral service was held at Trinity Church (now the Church of St. Ann and The Holy Trinity) at Montague and Clinton Streets on April 21. Burial was in Green-Wood Cemetery. All National League baseball games were cancelled the day of his funeral.

Mr. Heydler, president of the Brooklyn Club, said at the funeral: “Mr. Ebbets was probably the best beloved man in baseball, not only in his own league, but in other leagues as well. He was highly regarded, and always stood for the best interests of the game. He was ever a constructive force, and took the keenest interest in the development of the smaller leagues.

“Mr. Ebbets always stood behind the work of the umpire. He felt that if they were not supported the game would suffer.”

Steve McKeever and the other team directors chose Wilbert Robinson to fill the post of president and the name of the team was changed from Superbas to Robins after the new manager. It was later that the team became the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson, supported by Ebbets’s heirs, battled endlessly over the operation of the “Robins” and the strife damaged the club. In 1930 a truce was reached securing Robinson’s place as manager but forcing him out of the presidency.

Charles Ebbets Jr. never succeeded in efforts to collect his legacy, perhaps due to his sudden demise. Charlie had left only a $2,000 annuity and some personal effects to his son but no interest in the team. Charles Jr. died on May 15, 1944. This news story appeared on May 16: “Charles Ebbets, Jr., 65-year-old son of the founder of the Brooklyn Baseball Club, died yesterday, penniless and forgotten after 19 years of fighting to collect his share of his father’s million-dollar estate.” Charles Ebbets Jr.’s body was found in a little room near Ebbets Field. He was buried in a lot at Green-Wood Cemetery not far from that of his father.

April 18, 2012 - 11:38am


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