On This Day in History, April 14: Ol’ Blue Eyes at Ebbets

April 14, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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World War II made up most of the news in the April 14, 1944, issue of the Brooklyn Eagle. But there was room on page 13 for a feature story about Frank Sinatra’s appearance at Ebbets Field on April 13 prior to the ball game. The proceeds from the gate that day benefited the Red Cross. Thirteen-thousand fans filled the stands. Apparently a large crowd of teenagers showed up, many of whom did not stay for the game after “Frankie Boy” (this was before he was called “Ol’ Blue Eyes”) sang.

The story by reporter Gertrude McAllister as it appeared in the Eagle:

It was a little after 1 p.m. yesterday [April 13] when the cabbie heard:

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“Ebbets Field, please.”

As the taxi shifted through Borough Hall traffic the driver remarked:

“Hope you’re dressed warm. Gonna be cold out there.”

“Guess it will but I’m not staying for the game,” replied the fare.

Forgetting the trolley lumbering along just ahead of the front fender the driver swung around, narrowed his eyes and spat:

“A Sinatra fan! Oi!”

He kept grumbling all the way to the field and every so often said loudly enough to be understood:

“I dunno what you dames see in that guy! I dunno!”

Well, now that this reporter has had the honor (in deference to Sinatra fans) she dunno either! Whatever he has, it must be admitted that he has it in great quantities. Enough to make as one the seven-to-eight-thousand bobby-soxers who gasped, sighed and all but died for him at the Red Cross rally yesterday. Or maybe there were even more than that in the crowd of 15,000 — only some must have been there for a ball game.

It’s a Mystery

Someday someone will delve deeply into the overpowering effect the youthful, even boyish, singer has on a whole parkful of high school girls and boys, as he did at Ebbets. No Moon, No Sun without Sinatra would sum up their feelings for him — and they’ll take him Sunday, Monday and Always.

To appreciate his superiority to all other men and crooners, one has to get right in with his fans and stand there when he’s in sight. To them, he isn’t skinny — he’s just so thin and frail. For them, he hasn’t the best voice in the world — just the best in the world for them. You can say you don’t like him and his young fans don’t mind. They just feel sorry for you because you’re so old and won’t ever have any fun anymore.

“That’s too bad,” a perfectly beautiful 17-year-older from Erasmus will reply. “He’s just a darling — I mean he really is.”

When his fans found out he was in the Dodger dugout yesterday they began that frantic surging forward in the stands. They didn’t push so they hurt one another. And if one had a camera she was trying to focus for several rows ahead, young girls obligingly dipped their shoulders so Sinatra would be in clear view. They even tried to encourage him to look her way by waving hands and pointing fingers back over their shoulders.

Ah, That Sinatra Squeal!

When the commotion in the stands was at its height the Cause Of It All was sitting down in the dugout next to Leo Durocher. Sinatra kept pressing his thumbs together and tapping his feet. He was nervous as a witch but laughing all the time. Finally he popped from under the shed and the girls let out the Sinatra Squeal which has become internationally famous. He liked it. He laughed with them. He looked all up and down the stands at the thick clusters of girls waving and laughing. He seemed to enjoy them and appreciate them. He wasn’t any hard-boiled celebrity. And the way some of the girls looked down at him you got the feeling that they were romantic about him but knew he had a wife and wasn’t a wolf like so many stars were said to be. It might also be said that they liked looking at him quite as much as they did listening to him.

Even they don’t call him handsome.

“Oh, no! He’s just a darling,” the little girl next to this reporter said when she was asked if she thought he was good looking.

And Then He Sings

Finally he sang — after the photographers had consumed an endless time with him down at the microphone. The anti-Sinatras expected him to break into some love melody right away and when he started with “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” they couldn’t believe it. Then he sang “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” The fans went wild. When he asked them to join in, they did. But for his final number they were quiet except for occasional Sinatra Squeals.

It was “People Will Say We’re In Love.”

They were in a trance. It was wonderful just to watch them.

In one of the boxes an army officer stood looking up at them. He had a broad smile.

“You know,” he told this reporter, “down in the camp I’m at — in the South — the boys don’t believe that shrieking and squealing is real. They think it’s a machine. Well, now I can tell them it’s real.”

And it’s real, all right. It’s real!

                 — V. Parker

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