OPINION: My memorable day at Ebbets Field
In times when tumultuous, seemingly intractable political battles wage — both nationally and locally — it is a relief to experience some moving memories from a simpler time.
In a rare visit to Brooklyn, a southern soldier experienced something at Ebbets Field that we are honored to share with our readers.
Velton Knight was just a boy when put into uniform and sent to New York in 1956. His recollection of an incident at a place called Ebbets Field is an iconic testament to the Brooklyn persona as we might find … and well worth sharing with our readers.
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I am an 82-year-old U.S. Army veteran now living in Louisiana that had a wonderful experience at Ebbets Field way back in 1956. Father time is running out, and I haven’t shared this story with many people, but I would like to do so in order to recognize the wonderful people I met in Brooklyn. I had an unforgettable experience there that I would like to share with all your readers.
I was born on a small farm in Mississippi and learned of your newspaper, the Brooklyn Eagle, through a Google search. I’ve attached a picture of myself taken 60 years ago, along with a recent photo. I think you will be able tell the old from the new.
After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1956, I was immediately drafted into the U.S. Army. On my second assignment, I was stationed at Fort Slocum on David’s Island, just off the shore from New Rochelle, N.Y. and accessible only by ferry. I am told the fort has been demolished. (Ed. Note: Fort Slocum was in fact deactivated in 1965. During the decades that followed, the facilities rapidly deteriorated from neglect and were eventually removed in order to make way for the redevelopment of the island.)
Upon arriving, after recovering from the shock and awe of seeing the Big Apple, my orientation included a session in which I was buried with information concerning places to go and things to do, most of which included free admission for servicemen in uniform. Now, I thought to myself, that can be arranged, and I took advantage of every opportunity that time allowed.
One specific event impressed me so profoundly that I have never been able to forget it. It involved attending a mid-week baseball game at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn with one of my buddies. The St. Louis Cardinals were in town to tangle with the Dodgers, and this ole farm boy couldn’t wait to see the array of well-known players for both the Cards and Dodgers.
My friend and I arrived at the stadium and went to a ticket booth for instructions on where we should enter and sit. They directed us up a ramp and told us to check with an usher up there. We walked up the ramp, which then opened up onto the most beautiful venue I had ever seen. There was no usher around so we just walked down a few rows where we found a few vacant seats by the railing. We ended up on the second level, right above third base, ready for the game to begin.
Well, just after introductions, and right after they played the national anthem, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A middle-aged usher asked to see our tickets. We told him that we didn’t have any, and that they had let us in for free. He said he understood, but added that we were sitting in the wrong place. We were in the “Reserved” seats section and needed to move out onto leftfield into the “General Admission” area, which looked scary because no one was out there. We were trained and imbued with a respect for authority, so we did as he asked and moved our seats.
Upon being seated in the leftfield section, we looked back and noticed a loud uproar in the area we had just left. People were standing, pointing and shouting, and it was obviously directed at the usher. Well, the usher walked back over to us, and frankly, I was somewhat afraid that we had upset someone or violated some rule, fully expecting to be ejected from the stadium. However, to our great surprise, the first thing he did was apologize for making us move, and then he pleaded with us to return to the seats above third base, the same ones we had originally been evicted from, and enjoy the game from there. Otherwise, he said those folks had threatened to throw him over the railing because there was no reason to let those seats sit empty while members of THEIR military sat afar.
We returned to the seats and received a standing ovation. There is no way to describe our feelings at the time. Those fans, although looking at us as individuals, were actually supporting THEIR military. Thus, my friend and I were just happy to be the beneficiaries of their goodwill. One individual handed us a hot dog, another brought us drinks and another came over with popcorn, etc., and it went on like that until the game ended.
Never, ever, have I met and associated with such kind, friendly and patriotic people. It makes me sad every time I think about the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles, and I know my “new friends” were heartbroken at losing their team. I will never forget the day my fellow serviceman and I watched the Dodgers play in Ebbets field, and the wonderful people we met in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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