Remembering The Towers when the highest-paid Dodgers stayed there
Eye On Real Estate: Now the Jehovah's Witnesses are selling the former Brooklyn Heights hotel
Oh, the glamor of it all.
The brightest stars in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ firmament lived there in splendid suites during baseball season, in the borough’s premier hotel, The Towers.
Henrik Krogius remembers.
He was one of the kids who stood outside the hotel’s Clark Street entrance, on the hunt for autographs, in the early 1940s.
Only the highest-paid Dodgers were entitled to reside in the 1920s-vintage Brooklyn Heights Historic District hotel with colonnaded, Venetian-style towers adorning its four corners.
“The Towers was for the cream of the elite,” said Krogius, the retired editor of the Brooklyn Heights Press, who shared recollections about the Dodgers and the fabulous hotel in a recent interview.
We’ve been obsessing about the lovely landmark lately, and no wonder. In May its owners, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, put The Towers up for sale.
For four decades, the religious organization has used 313,768-square-foot, 16-story 21 Clark St., as it’s also known, as a residence for its members. The Watchtower is now selling the stunning property as part of a long-running effort to liquidate its Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO real estate holdings because it’s moving its headquarters to Warwick, NY.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses bought the hotel building for $1,992,229.08 in 1975, city Finance Department records indicate.
In its early days, before it belonged to the Watchtower, it was advertised as “The Aristocrat of Brooklyn Hotels.”
A babysitter for Joe Medwick’s son
Krogius, who was born in Finland, was 10 when he came to America at the end of 1939. He was a very active Dodgers fan around 1941 through 1943.
He was part of the Knot-Hole Gang — a group of Dodgers’ kid fans, who in that era paid a dime to sit in the Ebbets Field bleachers, he recalled.
One of the high-profile Dodgers he met at The Towers was big-time batter Joe Medwick, whom the Dodgers had acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Medwick, whose nickname was Ducky, played left field. He was known for his “sliding-sitting-down” catches.
“He would come running in, would slide, sit down and catch the ball. Nobody else did it quite like that,” Krogius said.
“Joe Medwick stayed at The Towers, naturally,” Krogius recalled.
“I remember there was a bunch of us kids standing outside The Towers waiting for him to come out one day. We were all wanting to get his autograph.
“And I don’t know if he thought that I looked more responsible than the other kids or what. More serious or what,” Krogius said. “But he asked me if I wanted to babysit for his son while he and his wife went out that night. So I said, ‘Of course.’”
Krogius was perhaps 12 years old at the time.
“I was taken to this very elegant suite. And Mrs. Medwick was there. She was the most glamorous woman I had ever seen,” the retired Heights Press editor recalled.
“The son was about three years old.
“The kid went to sleep very early. So I sat there and after a while, it couldn’t have been too late in the evening I don’t think, they came back,” Krogius said.
“I figured I would get paid something for this.
“Medwick took out a baseball and signed it and gave it to me.
“I was disappointed. So here he’d had an evening on the town, and it cost him a baseball.”
The fine art of autograph-hunting
The day he met Medwick, young Krogius was in a group of maybe five or six kids seeking autographs. “We sort of hunted in packs,” he recalled.
“Mostly, I think, one went on game days, figuring that in the hour or so before game time, the players would be emerging,” he recalled.
Or the kids stood outside The Towers after the games.
Back then, it wasn’t hard to meet star athletes.
“In those days, the separation between the public and the baseball players was much less,” the retired Heights Press editor said. “They took the subway to work.”
A brief aside: At that time, subway riders paid the fare with coins.
“You’d put a nickel in the slot and there was a magnifying glass that magnified it so that they could check that it was a nickel and not a slug,” Krogius recalled.
Brooklyn Heights was prime Dodgers territory
Back then, Brooklyn Heights was prime Dodgers territory. The team’s headquarters office was on the corner of Montague Street and what was then Fulton Street. An office building, 205 Montague St., now stands on the site.
Players who were a notch less important than those who lived in the suites at The Towers stayed at the Hotel Bossert at 98 Montague St., Krogius said.
Another brief aside: The Bossert would later become a place that abides in Brooklynites’ memories because the Dodgers held their Oct. 4, 1955 World Series victory party at the hotel.
An Associated Press photo taken at the party shows Johnny Podres, the Dodgers pitcher who won the Series’ decisive Game 7, leading a conga line. He’s so young. What a moment.
In recent decades, the Bossert, like The Towers, belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. As we reported recently, the current owners, who have been renovating the Bossert as a luxury boutique hotel, have set Oct. 1 as the target date for its reopening.
Whitlow Wyatt lived at The Towers
But let’s return to the Brooklyn Heights of the early 1940s.
The Dodgers’ young players lived at the Hotel St. George at 55 Clark St. — and outside the neighborhood at the Granada, which was located near present-day Barclays Center.
Some players rented homes for the season in neighborhoods other than Brooklyn Heights.
Star pitcher Whitlow Wyatt stayed at The Towers, Krogius recalled. He won 22 games for the Dodgers in 1941.
Instead of signing autographs, Wyatt handed out bat-shaped ballpoint pens that had his signature on them. He gave young Krogius — who lived on Monroe Place at the time — a pen when they met in the street one day.
“We recognized all the players in the street in their civilian clothes,” the retired Heights Press editor said.
Pete Reiser and Pee Wee Reese stayed at the St. George
In the early 1940s, two of the kids’ favorite players lived at the St. George during baseball season.
“Pee Wee Reese and his roommate Pete Reiser were two people who attracted us autograph hounds particularly because they were two young players coming up,” Krogius recalled.
He recalled Reiser as a “daredevil outfielder” who “would catch anything he could possibly lay his hands on.”
The rising star ran full speed into a concrete wall during a 1942 game the Dodgers played in St. Louis and suffered a fractured skull and a brain injury.
Reese later became a Dodgers team captain, but “was at that time something lesser,” Krogius recalled. “He was considered a good fielder but not such a good hitter.”
Readers, take note
Before Krogius’ 22-year stint as the editor of the Heights Press, he was an Emmy-winning writer, editor and news producer at NBC.
“The Brooklyn Heights Promenade” was one of the books he wrote during his years at the newspaper.
Since his retirement from the paper, the Brooklyn Heights resident has written a book with Joanne Witty called “Brooklyn Bridge Park: A Dying Waterfront Transformed.”
It’s in galley form now, and will be published this fall by Fordham University Press.
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