Today marks a sad anniversary for Brooklyn. It was on Feb. 23, 1960, that wrecking crews began demolishing Ebbets Field.
The wrecking ball was painted white with stitches to look like a baseball. (It came in a little high and outside.) Was this meant to take the sting out? The visiting team’s dugout was the first part to go. (That first smash is pictured below)
In attendance were a group of former Dodgers, including Roy Campanella, who was catcher in the last game played at Ebbets, Otto Miller, who was catcher at the first game played at Ebbets in 1913, Ralph Branca, Carl Erskine (who is pictured above palming one of the wrecking balls) and Tommy Holmes. They were joined by a group of about 200 other spectators, a paltry number considering the thousands that jammed the stands for 44 years to watch ‘Dem Bums’ play ball. Leo Allen, historian for the Baseball Hall of Fame, was presented with home plate.
The passing of Ebbets was summed up by one angry state senator like this: “What’s Niagara without the Falls? What’s Hershey without chocolate? What’s Brooklyn without the Dodgers?”
Today, the Jackie Robinson Apartments occupy the land where the team used to play.
On April 9, 1913, Ebbets Field was the most modern ballpark of its time when it opened in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, between Bedford Avenue and Sullivan Place. By the 1950s it had become the smallest field in the National League and it had become rickety. The team was losing money in New York and was sold to Los Angeles.
The last game the Dodgers played at home was on Sept. 24, 1957, and fewer than 7,000 people came out to watch Brooklyn beat the Pirates 3-0.
The game ended with Gladys Gooding playing “May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You” on the organ and then the loudspeakers rang with a recording of the Dodgers theme song: “Oh, follow the Dodgers/Follow the Dodgers around/The infield, the outfield/The catcher and that fellow on the mound. There’s a ball club in Brooklyn/The team they call “Dem Bums”/But keep your eyes right on them/And watch for hits and runs.”
When the recording ended Gooding started playing “Auld Lang Syne,” but by then the fans were carrying off anything they could lift: patches of turf, home plate and pieces of the outfield fence.
Reminder: The Brooklyn Dodgers Film Series is still under way at the Brooklyn Historical Society.
Photos from AP