ALL-STAR GAMES: 1949 LIGHTS: 1938
WORLD SERIES: 1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956 (1 W, 8 L)
In terms of both design excellence and nostalgia, Ebbets Field is, or was, the grand-daddy of them all. It was built in a former garbage dump in Brooklyn, a part of Flatbush that was called "Pigtown." The gleaming new arena dramatically lifted the socio-economic status of the neighborhood, thereby creating a prime location. Ebbets Field was a small, "human-scale" ballpark, tightly squeezed into the urban street grid with only limited expansion possibilities. For the first two decades, however, there was plenty of room in left field, and the original distance down the foul line was 419 feet, even more than at Griffith Stadium! That fluctuated slightly whenever temporary bleachers were installed. The concourse area in back of home plate featured a huge rotunda with marble floors, gilded turnstiles, and a huge chandelier. That was class!
The stadium capacity was expanded by 7,000 seats in 1932, with new double decked grandstands stretching from the left field corner all the way around the center field corner. Most of the outfield became enclosed, imparting a somewhat claustrophobic feeling, rather like at the Polo Grounds, perhaps. After the expansion of 1932, the outfield playing area was greatly reduced. This made for a lot of easy home runs. Most of right field was even shorter than at Yankee Stadium, but the high wall and fence (38 feet altogether) made up for part of that. Still, the car dealership on the other side of Bedford Avenue often suffered broken windows. The lowest portion of the right field wall was sloped, not vertical, which often caused line drives to carom in unpredictable ways. It was plastered with huge advertisements that framed the scoreboard in the middle. The left field foul line actually ran flush against the stands, like the right field foul line used to do in Yankee Stadium.
One interesting feature was that the center field grandstand was actually about 15 feet higher than the rest of the stadium, because it had several additional rows of seats. In addition, the left foul line was literally on top of the fence for the last 25-40 feet in the corner. Also, the edge of the second deck in left and center field was originally flush with the outfield fence, like at Tiger Stadium or RFK Stadium, meaning that fans out there missed a lot of the outfield action. In 1948 a few extra rows of seats were added, however, reducing the outfield distances by 10-15 feet. The second deck overhung the playing area in a triangular nook in deep right center, where there was an exit gate. (That nook is indicated by a lavender shading on the diagram above.) There was very little foul territory in Ebbets Field, so fans got to see up-close action. The bullpens were squeezed into the right and left field corners.
The name Dodgers was not adopted as the official team name until 1932; it referred to the way their fans had to dodge trolley cars to get to their previous stadium. They were perennial also-rans in the National League until the 1940s when they began winning pennants. Not until 1955, however, did they finally win the World Series, stunning the world by beating the Yankees. Long-suffering Brooklynites were ecstatic beyond measure, but their hearts were broken two years later when franchise owner Walter O'Malley announced he was moving the team to Los Angeles, where he expected to sell more tickets. Brooklyn was never the same after that...
It was at Ebbets Field that the shameful baseball "apartheid" finally ended in 1947, when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play major league ball since the 1880s. He played a big part in the Dodgers winning six pennants over the next ten years, persuading other teams to make use of the long-excluded pool of talent.
A professional football team also known as the Brooklyn Dodgers played in Ebbets Field during the 1930s and 1940s.
As part of his maneuverings to pressure city officials into buying him a new stadium, O'Malley had his team play several of their "home" games in Jersey City's Roosevelt Stadium in 1956 and 1957. His ploy didn't work. With no prospective replacement tenants or alternative uses for it, Ebbets Field was demolished in 1960.
SOURCES: Lowry (1992), Ritter (1992), Gershman (1993), Ward and Burns (1994)
RESEARCH ASSISTANCE: Bruce Orser