Ebbets Field

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Ebbets Field
Ebbets Field
Location 55 Sullivan Place
Brooklyn, New York City, New York 11225
Coordinates 40°39′54″N 73°57′29″W / 40.66500°N 73.95806°W / 40.66500; -73.95806Coordinates: 40°39′54″N 73°57′29″W / 40.66500°N 73.95806°W / 40.66500; -73.95806
Broke ground March 14, 1912
Opened April 9, 1913
Closed September 24, 1957
Demolished February 23, 1960
Owner Brooklyn Dodgers (1913-1956)
Marvin Kratter (1956-1957)
Operator Brooklyn Dodgers
Surface Grass
Construction cost $750,000
($17.9 million in 2014 dollars[1])
Architect Clarence Randall Van Buskirk
General contractor Castle Brothers, Inc.[2]
Capacity 18,000 (1913)[3]
30,000 (1914–1923)[3]
26,000 (1924–1925)[3]
28,000 (1926–1931)[3]
32,000 (1932–1936)[3]
35,000 (1937–1945)[3]
34,219 (1946–1949)[3]
32,111 (1949–1954)[3]
31,902 (1955–1957)[3]
Field size Left field: 348 ft.
left-center: 351 ft
Center field: 484 ft.
Right-center: 344 ft.
Right field: 297 ft.
Tenants
Brooklyn Dodgers (MLB) (1913–1957)
New York Brickley Giants (NFL) (1921)
Brooklyn Lions (NFL) (1926)
Brooklyn Dodgers / Tigers (NFL) (1930–1944)
Brooklyn Tigers (AFL) (1936)
Brooklyn Dodgers (AAFC) (1946–1948)

Ebbets Field was a Major League Baseball park located in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York, USA, on a city block which is now considered to be part of the Crown Heights neighborhood. It was the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League. It was also a venue for professional football. The first National Football League team in New York City, the New York Brickley Giants used the stadium in 1921, as did the NFL's Brooklyn Lions in 1926. Two different incarnations of a Brooklyn Dodgers football team also used Ebbets Field as their home stadium, as did the Brooklyn Tigers of the second AFL before they moved to Rochester in November 1936. The field was demolished in 1960 and replaced with apartment buildings.

History[edit]

Ray Caldwell pitching in the first exhibition game at Ebbets Field, April 5, 1913. The dirt walkway visible between the mound and the plate disappeared after the 1910s.[4]

Ebbets Field was on the block bound by Bedford Avenue, Sullivan Place, McKeever Place, and Montgomery Street. After locating the prospective new site to build a permanent stadium to replace the old, wooden Washington Park, club owner Charlie Ebbets acquired the property over several years, starting in 1908, by buying parcels of land until he owned the entire block. This land included the site of a garbage dump called Pigtown, because of the pigs that once ate their fill there and the stench that filled the air. In 1912, construction began, and a year later, Pigtown had been transformed into Ebbets Field, where some of the game's greatest drama would take place.[5]

Charles Ebbets' daughter throws out the first pitch, at an exhibition game on April 5, 1913.

Following an inter-league exhibition game against the New York Yankees on April 5, 1913, the park formally opened on April 9 against the Philadelphia Phillies.[6] When the park was opened, it was discovered that the flag, keys to the bleachers, and a press box had all been forgotten. The press box was not added until 1929.[4] Initially the seating area was a double deck from past third base, around home plate, and all the way down the right side. There was an open, concrete bleacher extending the rest of the way down the left side to the outer wall. There was no seating in left or center. The right field wall was fairly high due to the short foul line (around 300 feet) but had no screen or scoreboard at first. The ballpark was built on a sloping piece of ground. The right field wall made up the difference, as the right field corner was above street level. The left field corner was below street level, and there was an incline or "terrace" running along the left field wall.

As was the case of Boston's Fenway Park and Detroit's Tiger Stadium (two ballparks that opened one year earlier, in 1912), the intimate configuration prompted some baseball writers to refer to Ebbets Field as a "cigar box" or a "bandbox."

Ebbets Field was the scene of some early successes, as the "Robins" (so-called for long-time manager Wilbert Robinson) won league championships in 1916 and 1920. The Ebbets seating area was expanded in the 1920s, a "boom" time for baseball when many ballparks were expanded. The double deck was extended from third base around the left field corner, across left field, and into center field, covering the terrace and allowing right-hand hitters to garner many more home runs. By the 1940s, the big scoreboard had been installed, as well as a screen atop the high wall, which made right field home runs a little harder to come by. However, additional rows of seating across left field reduced that area by about 15 feet, to the delight of the sluggers.

After the early successes, though, the team slid into some hard times, which would continue for a couple of decades, until new ownership brought in first promotional wizard Larry MacPhail (in 1938), then, after MacPhail's wartime resignation, player development genius Branch Rickey (in 1943). In addition to his well-known breaking of the color line by signing Jackie Robinson, Rickey's savvy with farm systems (as with his prior work for the St. Louis Cardinals) produced results that made the Brooklyn Dodgers "Bums" a perennial contender, which they would continue to be for decades to come.

The Dodgers won pennants in 1941 (under MacPhail), 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956. They won the 1955 World Series (the only world title in Brooklyn Dodgers history), and were within two games and a playoff heartbreak of winning five NL pennants in a row (1949–53) and matching the cross-town Yankees' achievement during that stretch. Ebbets also hosted the 1949 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Demise[edit]

Ebbets left field corner in 1920 World Series, with temporary bleachers sitting on the "terrace".

But the Dodgers were soon victims of their own success. Only a limited number of eager fans could cram into minuscule Ebbets Field; it never seated more than 35,000 people, and the constraints of the neighborhood made expansion impossible. It had almost no automobile parking for Dodger fans who had moved east to suburban Long Island, though it was near a subway station. Club owner Walter O'Malley announced plans for a privately owned domed stadium for his Dodgers at the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn (the future site of Barclays Center), where a large market was being torn down. However, New York City Building Commissioner Robert Moses refused to help O'Malley secure the land. Instead, Moses wanted the Dodgers to move to a city-owned stadium in Flushing Meadows in the borough of Queens (the future site of Shea Stadium and Citi Field). O'Malley refused to consider Moses' position, famously saying, "We are the Brooklyn Dodgers, not the Queens Dodgers!" In turn, Moses refused O'Malley's proposal. As a result, O'Malley began to flirt publicly with Los Angeles, using a relocation threat as political leverage to win favor with his desired Brooklyn stadium. Ultimately, O'Malley and Moses could never come to agreement on a new location for the Dodgers, and the club moved west to Los Angeles after the 1957 season During the last two years in Brooklyn, the Dodgers played several games each year in Jersey City, New Jersey's Roosevelt Stadium, as part of O'Malley's additional tactics to force a new stadium to be built.

In 1956, real estate developer Marvin Kratter bought Ebbets Field from O'Malley. He leased Ebbets Field back to O'Malley until the team left for Los Angeles after the 1957 season.

When the Dodgers left for Los Angeles, O'Malley urged Horace Stoneham, owner of the Dodgers' long-time crosstown rivals, the New York Giants, to move west as well. Stoneham, who was having stadium difficulties of his own, agreed, and moved the Giants to San Francisco after the 1957 season. That meant lights out for Ebbets Field, which was demolished, beginning on February 23, 1960. O'Malley's removal of the franchise from its historic home has been referred to by a federal judge as "one of the most notorious abandonments in the history of sports." [7]

Subsequent use of the former Ebbets Field site[edit]

Ebbets Field Apartments in 2008

Apartments were built upon the former Ebbets Field site, and were named the Ebbets Field Apartments upon their opening in 1962[8] and were later renamed the Jackie Robinson Apartments in 1972, the same year Robinson died. MS 320, a school across McKeever Place, has been renamed Jackie Robinson Intermediate School. In January 2014, the street sign that once stood at the corner of McKeever Place and Montgomery Street was sold at auction for $58,852.08. [9]

Legacy[edit]

Citi Field's exterior facade is influenced by Ebbets Field.

Ebbets Field was but one of several historic major league ballparks demolished in the 1960s, but more mythology and nostalgia surrounds the stadium and its demise than possibly any other defunct ballpark.

A great deal of history happened at Ebbets Field during its relatively short 45-year lifespan with the Dodgers. Of the many teams that uprooted in the 1950s and 1960s, the Dodgers have probably had the largest number of public laments over their fans' heartbreak over losing their team. A couple of decades later, Roger Kahn's acclaimed book The Boys of Summer and Frank Sinatra's song "There Used to Be a Ballpark" mourned the loss of places like Ebbets Field, and of the attendant youthful innocence of fans and players alike. The story of Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Dodgers' move to Los Angeles were also chronicled by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, figured into the plot of the film Field of Dreams, and were featured in an entire episode of Ken Burns' public-television documentary Baseball, as well as a 2007 HBO documentary called Brooklyn Dodgers: Ghosts of Flatbush.

As of 2013, the Dodgers have played in Dodger Stadium for more years (52 through the 2013 season) than they played in Ebbets Field (45). Shea Stadium's duration (1964–2008) was the same as that of Ebbets Field.

Ebbets Field has managed to transcend the realm of mere fact to become a kind of icon for what many see as the golden era of the national pastime, and its destruction symbolic of the "lost innocence" of a bygone era. Its influence can be seen in the current ballpark of the New York Mets, Citi Field, which features replicas of Ebbets' exterior façade and entry rotunda, which is named in honor of Jackie Robinson.

Other sports at Ebbets Field[edit]

Though known as a cathedral for baseball, other sports were played at Ebbets Field as well. In addition to the professional football teams (e.g., the NFL's Brooklyn Dodgers) that played at the stadium, it was also home to Manhattan College's football team from 1932 to 1937.

The stadium also hosted a number of soccer games. On April 11, 1926, Ebbets Field hosted the US National Challenge Cup soccer tournament (now known as the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup). Bethlehem Steel F.C. from Pennsylvania of the American Soccer League won its sixth and final National Challenge Cup title, scoring a convincing 7-2 victory over Ben Miller F.C. of St. Louis in the final before more than 18, 000 fans. On June 7, 1931, over 10,000 fans came out to Ebbets Field to watch Celtic of Scotland crush local side Brooklyn Wanderers 5 - 0. On June 17, 1947, the first known televised soccer game in the US took place at Ebbets Field when Hapoel Tel Aviv lost to the American League Stars 2 - 0. On June 18, 1948, Liverpool of England beat Djurgården of Sweden 3 - 2 in front of 20,000 fans at Ebbets Field. On October 17 of that year, the U.S. national team beat the Israel national team team in front of 25,000 at Ebbets Field. On May 8, 1955, Sunderland of England beat the American league Stars 7 - 2. On May 17, Sunderland tied 1. FC Nuremberg of Germany also at Ebbets. On May 23, 1958, Manchester City of England lost to Hearts of Scotland 5 - 2 in front of 20,000 patrons at Ebbets Field. On June 28, 1959, Napoli of Italy lost to Rapid Vienna of Austria 1 - 0 in front of 18,512. At the rematch, also at Ebbets Field three days later in front of 13,000 people, Napoli tied Rapid Vienna 1 - 1, in one of the last events ever held there.

Packed house at Ebbets Field

Dimensions[edit]

Original (estimates)

  • Left field pole - 419 ft
  • Center field deep - 4999384948 ft
  • Right field pole - 301 ft

1932-1947

  • Left field pole - 348 ft (unposted)
  • Left field corner - 357 ft
  • Left-center field - 365 ft
  • Deep left-center - 407 ft
  • Deep right-center bleacher corner - 389 ft (unposted)
  • Deep right-center notch - 395 ft
  • Right-center, scoreboard edges - 344 ft and 318 ft
  • Right field pole - 297 ft
A night game at Ebbets Field, 1950.

1948-1957

  • Left field pole - 348 ft
  • Left-center field - 351 ft
  • Deep left-center - 393 ft
  • Deep right-center bleacher corner - 376 ft
  • Deep right-center notch - 395 ft
  • Right-center, scoreboard edges - 344 ft and 318 ft
  • Right field pole - 297 ft
  • Backstop - 71 ft

References[edit]

  1. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  2. ^ http://www.ballparktour.com/Ebbets_Field.html
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lowry, Phil (2006). Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present. New York City: Addison Wesley Publishing Company. ISBN 0-201-62229-7. 
  4. ^ a b Lowry, Philip (2006). Green Cathedrals. Walker & Company. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-8027-1608-8. 
  5. ^ Ward, Geoffrey C.; Burns, Ken (1996). Baseball: An Illustrated History. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 0-679-76541-7. 
  6. ^ "Brooklyn Starts Season a Loser". The New York Times. April 10, 1913. p. 9. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  7. ^ Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. v. Sed Non Olet Denarius, Ltd., 817 F. Supp. 1103 (S.D.N.Y. 1993).
  8. ^ "New Chapter for Ebbets Field: Apartments Open This Month". The New York Times. September 2, 1962. p. 159. Retrieved 2010-04-18. 
  9. ^ http://www.upcomingautographsignings.com/2014/01/ebbets-field-street-signed-sold-for.html

Further reading[edit]

  • Green Cathedrals, by Phil Lowry.
  • Ballparks of North America, by Michael Benson.
  • Old Ballparks, by Lawrence Ritter.
  • The Zodiacs, by Jay Neugeboren.

External links[edit]