Charles Ebbets

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For the photographer, see Charles Clyde Ebbets.
Charles Ebbets
Charles H. Ebbets Sr., owner of Brooklyn Dodgers, circa 1915.jpg
Charles H. Ebbets Sr., circa 1915
Born (1859-10-29)October 29, 1859
New York City
Died April 18, 1925(1925-04-18) (aged 65)
New York City
Occupation architect, Owner of Brooklyn Dodgers

Charles Hercules Ebbets, Sr. (October 29, 1859–April 18, 1925) was an American sports executive who owned the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1902 to 1925.[1]

Biography[edit]

Charlie was born in New York City at his parents’ home at 31 Clarke Street on October 29 1859.[2] His father was John B. Ebbets (ca. 1824–March 16, 1888), who owned a tavern at the corner of Hudson and Dominick Streets in lower Manhattan when Charlie was born.[3] John was of the fifth generation of the Ebbets family in New York City, a descendant of Daniel Ebbets (September 14, 1665–after 1724), a brickmaker who had arrived in New York from England in 1700.[4] His mother, Anna Maria Quick (ca. 1824–July 8, 1871), was in the fifth generation of a Dutch family that had been in New York since the 1640s.[5] Charlie first attended Public School 39 on Clark Street but left that school when his father moved to Astoria shortly after 1871.

Following his schooling, Charlie took up residence at 154 Alexander Avenue near 135th.[6] His first job was with Dick & Fitzgerald, a publishing firm at 18 Ann Street in Manhattan. He then began work as an architect with the firm of William T. Beer. His work there as a draftsman and building designer would serve him well in later years when he decided to build a baseball stadium. He next became a bookkeeper with Frank Leslie’s publishing house, a job he kept until he turned his attention to baseball.

But baseball was not Charlie Ebbets’ first sport. It was bowling. He was a member of the Prospect Club, the Carleton Club, and the Commonwealth Council team of the Royal Arcanum Bowling League. In 1889 he played with the Stars of South Brooklyn and the Lincoln Council Bowlers. The following year he joined the Prospects, the arch-rivals of the Lincoln Council team, and was elected their captain. In 1893, his bowling average was 170 in more than fifty games. That year the Brooklyn Eagle stated, “He is considered one of the swiftest and, at the same time, truest bowlers in Brooklyn.”[7]

In 1883 his brother Jack had introduced Charlie to Joseph Doyle and George Taylor, friends of his who had recently formed the Brooklyn Base Ball Association with Ferdinand Abell and Charles Byrne. Charlie got a job working for the team selling tickets, score cards, and peanuts at their Washington Park stadium at Fifth Avenue and Third Street. He printed the score cards himself. In 1891 the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (as they were then known) moved to a larger field called Eastern Park. Several years later, they had to move again, this time to the 18,000-seat “Washington Park 2nd” at the original site. On the afternoon of April 30, 1898, the first game was played at the new Washington Park. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote the following day, “The ball season is on in Brooklyn—inaugurated at the new grounds in South Brooklyn yesterday before a crowd of 15,000.”[8] Unfortunately, the Eagle also reported that “The heart of the fan to-day is heavy as lead,” as Brooklyn lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 6–4.

By 1890 Charlie had saved enough money to make an investment in the team, and he continued to buy stock whenever he could. In January 1898 Charlie owned 80 percent of the stock, the other 20 percent being held by the club’s then president, Charles H. Byrne. In reporting his controlling interest, the New York Times reported, “Mr. Ebbets is thirty-eight years old. He signed with the club in 1882, when it was in the Inter-State League. He has been Treasurer ever since, and has handled every dollar that came into the club in fifteen years.”[9] Byrne died three days later and Charlie was elected president of the ball club on January 13, 1898.[10]

Charlie knew that the Washington Park site would not do for the game of baseball that he envisioned. It was a wooden structure and subject, therefore, to fire and significant maintenance. It was also located in South Brooklyn, near several factories and a canal whose unpleasant odors (and factory smoke) permeated the air. Scouting around Brooklyn for an alternate site, Charlie’s attention soon focused on an area in Flatbush known as “Pigtown”—so called because it was a local dump occupied principally by squatters. A major part of its attraction was that nine separate trolley car lines converged near the site. Charlie had already learned that it was important to get the fans to the game. He quietly began to purchase individual lots in Pigtown over a four-year period. By 1911 he had acquired 5½ acres of land for the bargain price of $100,000.[11]

Having acquired the land, in 1912 Charlie Ebbets sold half of his holdings in the Superbas to raise the $750,000 needed to build a new stadium and construction of the Superbas’ new 25,000-seat stadium at 55 Sullivan Place near the intersection of Empire Boulevard (called Malbone Street at the time) and Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn was completed and Ebbets Field opened for its first ballgame. Following an exhibition game on April 5 in which the Superbas beat the Yankees 3–2, opening day of April 9, 1913, saw a packed house witness the Philadelphia Phillies defeat the Superbas 1–0. But Charles H. Ebbets was now a half-owner and president of the Brooklyn Superbas Baseball Club in the National League, with a stadium named in his honor.

In addition to his service to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Charlie Ebbets was politically active. He served as a Democratic assemblyman representing the Twelfth District in the New York State legislature in 1896.[12] The following year, in a Republican landslide when William McKinley won the White House, Charlie lost his bid for re-election. In November 1897, he won election to the Municipal Council of Greater New York from his district in Brooklyn.[13] His term in the council ran for four years until 1901. The next year he decided to run as a Democratic candidate from Brooklyn for the New York state Senate. He ran in the election of 1904 but was defeated by 777 votes.[14] That loss ended his political aspirations.

Charles married first April 10, 1878, Minnie Frances Amelia Broadbent, born January 1, 1858, in New York City. Minnie was the daughter of English parents James Broadbent and Amelia Preston. They were married at Trinity Church by Rev. Thomas H. Sill.[15] Charles, at age 18, was nearly two years younger than his 20-year-old bride.

About 1903, Charlie was invited to a poker game at the Hotel Somerset on West 47th Street in New York City. The hotel was operated by a friend, Claude R. Nott. While at the game, Charlie met Claude’s wife, Grace, and apparently became infatuated with her. When Nott determined that his wife was being unfaithful to him he sued for divorce. Claude and Grace Nott’s divorce was finalized on January 6, 1909.[16] By 1910 Charlie and Minnie had apparently separated, as Minnie was then living at 214 Parkside Avenue in Brooklyn.[17] By 1915, Charlie was living with Grace Slade at 1466 Avenue G in Brooklyn.[18]

In September 1919 Minnie sued for divorce.[19] The following year Charlie and Minnie made an out-of-court settlement establishing an alimony payment to her of $6,500 per year for twelve years.[20] Their divorce was finalized in January 1922.[21] Minnie received an annual allowance of $7,500 and to guarantee those payments Charlie deposited his shares of the Dodgers with the Mechanics Bank in Brooklyn as trustee. On May 8, 1922, he married Grace Slade as his second wife in Bridgeport, Connecticut.[22]

In 1924 Charlie and Grace had a house built in Clearwater, Florida, and he moved the Dodgers to that town to practice in the spring. The following year, Charlie and Grace again went to Clearwater to attend spring training for the Dodgers. Returning to New York in April, Charlie checked into his room at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where he stayed when the Dodgers were playing in town. He didn’t feel well and was confined to his room for two weeks. Early on the morning of April 18, 1925, he fell into a deep sleep and awoke only briefly. Charles H. Ebbets died of heart failure that afternoon in his suite at the Waldorf Hotel.[23] He was 65 years old. His funeral was held at Trinity Church on April 21 and he was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.[24] That day all baseball games in the National League were canceled in his honor and the flags at all of the National League baseball parks would fly at half-staff for the next 30 days.

Charlie Ebbets was a hands-on baseball owner. Baseball was his life and his livelihood. Throughout his career, Charlie introduced many concepts into the game which we now take for granted, including:[25] • 1899: Ladies Day, in which women were admitted into the ballpark for a reduced fee. • 1904: The 154-game schedule, based on distances required to visit each club in the league. • 1906: Separate batting and fielding practices for the home and visiting teams. • 1906: Separate dressing rooms for the home and visiting teams, each equipped with lockers and hot and cold running water. (Prior to this, the visiting team came dressed for the game from their hotel, often jeered or pelted with objects thrown by fans of the home club.) • 1911: The “rain check,” a detached portion of the ticket to be used in the event of a rain-out. • 1913: The player’s draft, in which the team with the worst record gets the first picks in the draft. • 1922: Putting players’ numbers on their uniforms. • 1924: The 2–3-2 format for the World Series.

When he built Ebbets Field, Charlie Ebbets said, “Later I hope the players will capture a pennant, to make the combination complete.”[26] He never lived to see that pennant. The only time the Dodgers won a World Series while playing in Ebbets Field was in 1955. And five years after that, the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and Charlie’s ballpark was demolished. The Ebbets Field Apartments now stand on the site.

When he died, Charlie’s estate was valued at $1,115,257— most of it being in his half ownership of the Brooklyn Dodgers Baseball Club and the Ebbets Field property. His widow, Grace Slade Ebbets, and son-in-law, Joseph Gilleaudeau, were named executors. His will, however, stipulated that his shares in the Dodgers be kept intact and sold as a unit. No buyer of this large block could be found until 1945 when it was sold to Branch Rickey (then president of the Dodgers), Walter O’Malley (the Dodgers’ attorney, who later became president of the club and was responsible for moving it to Los Angeles), and John L. Smith (president of Charles Pfizer & Co.). Further complications arose as the other three of Charlie’s children, Charles, Jr., Maie Ebbets Cadore, and Anna Ebbets Booth, contested decisions made by the executors—pitting them in a sibling dispute against their brother-in-law, Joseph Gilleaudeau. The Depression economy of the 1930s also drained resources established for the annual payments intended for his heirs, which ceased in 1933. Settlement of the estate was tied up in the New York Surrogate’s Court for nearly a quarter century. It was finally settled on December 14, 1949. His widow, his three daughters, his son’s widow, and other heirs (22 in all) divided $838,558.[27]

After Charlie’s death, Grace eventually moved out to Long Island, living in a home at 41 Kenilworth Road, Mineola, New York.[28] She died in that home on April 26, 1959. Services were held at Freeport, Long Island, and she was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery on April 29, 1959 next to Charles.[29]

Timeline[edit]

  • 1883 Bookkeeper
  • 1898 President and manager
  • 1899 Won pennant
  • 1900 Won pennant
  • 1912 Ebbets Field built
  • 1916 Won pennant
  • 1920 Won pennant

References[edit]

  1. ^ "C.H. Ebbets Dies of Heart Disease - Confined to Room Since Return From Brooklyn Training Camp 2 Weeks Ago - Called Dean of Baseball - All National League Games Called Off for Tuesday, Day of Funeral". New York Times. April 19, 1925. p. 26. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  2. ^ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 2, 1898, p. 22. New York City city directory, 1859, p. 257. His obituary in the New York Times, 19 April 1925, p. 26, reported that he was, “Born on Oct. 29, 1858, in New York City, at the corner of Spring and Clark Streets, Greenwich Village.” Unfortunately, in his documentary on Baseball, Ken Burns mis-identifies Charlie’s father as Daniel Ebbets (1785–1855), a Wall Street banker; that Daniel was of a generation earlier than Charlie’s actual father.
  3. ^ New York City city directory, 1859, p. 257.
  4. ^ The Burghers of New Amsterdam and the Freemen of New York, 1675–1866, Collections of the New York Historical Society, vol. 18 (1885), p. 74. Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes, The Iconography of Manhattan Island, vol. 4, p. 445. Also, Steele, Edward E., Ebbets: The History and Genealogy of a New York Family (St. Louis, Missouri, Edward E. Steele, 2013).
  5. ^ Quick Arthur Craig, A Genealogy of the Quick Family in America (South Haven, Mich.: Arthur C. Quick, n.d.).
  6. ^ New York City directories, 1881–1884.
  7. ^ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 9, 1893, p. 8.
  8. ^ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 1, 1898, p. 33.
  9. ^ New York Times, January 2, 1898, p. 2.
  10. ^ New York Times, January 13, 1898, p. 4.
  11. ^ G. Edward White, Creating the National Pastime: Baseball Transforms Itself, 1903–1953, Princeton University Press, 1996, p. 17.
  12. ^ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 20, 1895, p. 9.
  13. ^ New York Times, November 4, 1897, p. 1; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 4, 1897, p. 4; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 28, 1899, and New York Times, 29 January 1899, in which Ebbets’ seat is confirmed by the Supreme Court, with a plurality of 12 votes.
  14. ^ New York Times, November 9, 1904, p. 5.
  15. ^ New York City marriage certificate, 1878, no. 1935. Also, Trinity Church marriage register.
  16. ^ The New York Sun, January 6, 1909, p. 1.
  17. ^ 1910 U.S. census, Brooklyn, Kings Co., New York, ward 29, ED 9218, p. 7A (p. 122).
  18. ^ 1915 New York state census, Brooklyn, Kings Co., New York, ward 31, p. 53.
  19. ^ New York Times, October 23, 1919, p. 17.
  20. ^ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 9, 1920, p. 2.
  21. ^ New York Times, January 11, 1922, p. 7. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 27, 1922, p. 2.
  22. ^ S. passport application, November 16, 1922, no. 231312. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 9, 1922, p. 2. New York Times, May 10, 1922, p. 16.
  23. ^ New York City death certificate, 1925, no. 10675. A showman even in death, his occupation on his death certificate is listed as “BaseBall Magnate.” The exact cause of Charlie’s death was listed as “chronic valvular disease of heart.”
  24. ^ Green-Wood Cemetery burial record, Section 129, Lot 35567.
  25. ^ Boxerman, Burton A. and Benita W., Ebbets to Veeck to Busch, (McFarland & Co., Jefferson, N.C., 2003), pp. 10–12.
  26. ^ Leslie’s Weekly, April 4, 1912.
  27. ^ New York Times: May 7, 1925, p. 17 (reporting on Charlie’s will), August 13, 1927, p. 23 (reporting on a delay in settling the estate), December 11, 1927, p. 30 (reporting on a contested clause of the will), December 12, 1928, p. 19, and December 13, 1928 (appraising the estate), June 11, 1933, p. 29 (requesting an accounting), August 18, 1933 (an appeal for an accounting), October 25, 1933 (rejecting the appeal), November 19, 1937 (clearing the trustees of wrongdoing), February 26, 1942 (removing the Brooklyn Trust Company as a trustee), January 23, 1944 (rejecting a petition to declare payments as annuities), August 14, 1945 (announcing the sale of stock), December 15, 1949 (declaring the estate settled).
  28. ^ 1940 U.S. census, Mineola, Nassau Co., New York, ED 234, p. 13B.
  29. ^ New York Times, April 28, 1959, p. 35. Burial records, Green-Wood Cemetery, lot 35567, section 129.
  • Biographical Dictionary of American Sports, Greenwood Press (1987).

External links[edit]

New York Assembly
Preceded by
John H. Campbell
New York State Assembly
Kings County, 12th District

1896
Succeeded by
Henry E. Abell
Preceded by
Charlie Byrne
President of the Brooklyn Dodgers
1898–1925
Succeeded by
Ed McKeever