For the Brooklyn generation who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, Ebbets Field was the centerpiece of the borough. It was the baseball shrine that their fathers took them to so they could see “Dem Bums”. It was where they headed when they played hooky from school on an early summer afternoon, maybe even sneaking into the stadium to catch a game.
In 2012, Fenway Park celebrated it’s 100th birthday and this year, Wrigley Field is doing the same – the last two baseball shrines standing from that era of baseball. And if Mr. O’Malley did not move the Dodgers to Los Angeles, we may have been celebrating the same birthday for Ebetts Field in Brooklyn today.
On April 9, 1913, a cold, windy afternoon limited the attendance to about 10,000 as the Dodgers lost their season opener to the Philadelphia Phillies, 1-0, the run scoring when outfielder Benny Meyer dropped a fly ball in the first inning.
Four days earlier, in the stadium’s initial game, an exhibition against the Yankees in warmer weather, about 25,000 enjoyed a 3-2 victory as Casey Stengel, a young outfielder who later managed the Dodgers and the Yankees, hit the first home run in Ebbets Field. On March 4, 1912, when Charles Ebbets dug a shovel into frosty dirt to break ground in a Flatbush neighborhood known as Pigtown, the plan was to name it Washington Park, after the team’s old wooden home closer to downtown. But a reporter for one of the Brooklyn newspapers spoke up.
“Call it Ebbets Field, Charlie,” he said. “You put yourself in hock to build it, and it’s your monument.
But alas, all we can do today is stare at a vapid apartment building on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and wonder ‘what if’?
Besides the article linked above, here is a nice gallery of pictures from Ebetts Field Then and now via the NY Times.