Hope Springs Eternal for MLB Return to Brooklyn
For the past 65 years since the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles, Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger has stated the team is on “an extended road-trip.” Yet in spite of the humor, there is still pain from those final days when the Dodgers left leaving millions of Brooklyn baseball fans heartbroken.
“It was almost like a death in the family,” he said when the news became official that the team was leaving Brooklyn after the 1957 season. By 1961, Ebbets Field was torn down and the Ebbets field apartments now stand where the ballpark once stood. Yet, the memories of the players who set foot there and the atmosphere at Ebbets Field still generates nostalgia and a sense of wonder for older Brooklynites.
“My older brother’s favorite player was Duke Snider, and mine was Jackie Robinson,” said Schweiger.
“When I played little league, I mimicked Jackie’s batting stance standing pigeon-toed with the bat held straight up, although he was a better player than me.” he added. Schweiger also recalls after games, when Dodgers players would change and then go to where they parked their cars near a mobile gas station behind the right field scoreboard on Bedford Ave, he and other youth would wait there to get autographs and get other memorabilia signed which players did without any fee or had kids place self-addressed postcards in their cars through an opening in the passenger side window with their addresses and within a week, kids would get their items back signed by their players. One of those players along with Roy Campanella, and Pee Wee Reese, was Jackie Robinson.
“As I recall he had a big black Buick, and Jackie never left that gas station till he signed every piece of paper or shook every hand of every kid that was there,” Schweiger recalled.
He also spoke about being in the stands of Ebbets field and even during Passover, going to games after he and his brother helped their mom make homemade chopped liver and put it together with matzah so they could eat their own food inside the ballpark.
“If you had box seats, you could literally hear the players talking or yelling at one another, the umpires calling balls and strikes and the sounds of the bats making contact,” he recalled. In addition, he also remembers his first time at age 8 in 1953 going to Ebbets Field with his father.
“My dad’s boss got us seats behind home plate, so we went up 1 ramp to the field level seats and when me and my Dad reached the top of the ramp and I first saw they field, I froze and my Dad asked if I was ok. I said its the greenest grass I’ve ever seen, on TV everything is black and white,” said Schweiger.
Schweiger who has a vast collection of Dodger memorabilia including old yearbooks, a signed team photo of all Dodger players from the 1955 World Championship season, and even copies of the original blueprints of Ebbets Field told me that when he’s met other Brooklyn Dodgers fans of his generation at sports memorabilia their first memories of seeing Ebbets Field match his completely.
However, while those memories may be in the past there have been recent developments that may bring joy to Brooklyn. A January article in the Buffalo Chronicle mentioned that NY Governor Kathy Hochul and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer have been trying to get MLB to expand the league by putting a major league franchise in Rochester and to bring a major league franchise back to Brooklyn.
The proposal would entail building a new stadium in Coney Island, along with the creation of a Santa-Monica like amusement pier as well as a potential Gondola between Breezy Point, Staten Island and Dyker Beach. This “tentative” agreement would commit the Empire State Development Corporation to cover half the construction cost of building a new stadium and the other half of the construction would be paid by private ownership.
However, so far there has been no new updates on this proposal, and Schweiger himself doesn’t see it as likely to happen.
“There is to my knowledge an unwritten agreement with the Mets and Yankees that no new MLB stadium will be built within a 100-mile radius, and while there are 4 subway lines that terminate at Stillwell Ave, a lot of parking lots are disappearing due to high-rises being built in the area.”
He went on to add, “the parking lot in Maimonedes Park where the Cyclones play is owned by a private company, and if they choose to sell the land and a high-rise goes up there, it will make commuting to the park very difficult for those who don’t live near public transportation and its gonna eliminate a lot of people going to see a major-league game there.”
In addition, Schweiger also noted fan support for a new team in Brooklyn will be a challenge as well.
“Soccer and basketball have exploded in popularity and the ethnic make-up of Brooklyn is much different than in the 1940’s or 1950’s. Today, there is a large Russian, Muslim and Caribbean population and those sports have more of a following now than baseball.”
Without fan support, a ballpark and other small businesses around it will struggle and could lead to decreases in the economic value and social fabric of the respective communities where the stadium is.
Several Brooklyn Dodgers players lived in different areas of Brooklyn like Bay Ridge, Midwood and even Canarsie, and thus integrated themselves into their local communities in a way that sports athletes rarely achieve today. Some of them as per the 2007 documentary, Brooklyn Dodgers: Ghosts of Flatbush even travelled to games on the subway with the local populace and even worked at regular jobs during the off-season.
Thus the team had a huge connection to their Brooklyn fan-base and was a major reason why the team drew millions of fans. Today, it will be hard to recapture this feeling especially with the Mets and Yankees having such a strong foothold across the five boroughs, that generating that level of support for another NY team will be almost impossible.
Therefore, it is unknown still whether or not Brooklyn will once again get major league baseball back. However, it nearly happened in 2004 when the Los Angeles Dodgers went up for sale and then Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz called owner Peter O’Malley, son of then Dodgers’ owner Walter O’Malley the man who moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles.
Schweiger stated, “that when Markowitz told O’Malley bringing the team back would restore his family name, he waited for a response only to hear a click indicating O’Malley had hung up the phone.”
Needless to say, many Brooklyn Dodgers fans still remain bitter toward Walter O’Malley as Schweiger shared a now famous saying among Dodger fans.
“If you were in a room with Stalin, Hitler and Walter O’Malley and had a gun with 2 bullets, Dodger fans say you shoot O’Malley twice.”
Leave a Comment
Leave a Comment