Celebrating 60 Years in Los Angeles: A Crash Course on How the Dodgers Left Brooklyn

DukeSnider-GH-JR-PeeWeeReeseRoy-Campenella

The year is 1957. It’s been 10 years since the world was introduced to Jackie Robinson. Brooklyn, New York is the epitome of a baseball town. Ebbets Field has spent the entirety of it’s season being home to some of the strongest fans, and loudest cheers in New York.

Tonight is different. Tonight is ominous, and the fans are blue. Tonight is the beginning of the end.

The Dodgers are leading the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 on a chilly September night. The game is headed into the top of the 9th. Danny McDevitt, the 5-foot-10-inch tall starter for Brooklyn, is still on the mound. Pirates first-baseman, Dee Fondy, is at the plate. On a 1-1 count, he grounds out to Dodgers shortstop, Don Zimmer.

It’s the last play Ebbets Field ever sees.

On May 28th, 1957, at a meeting of National League owners, the Dodgers and the New York Giants were granted permission to move West. A clause stated that both teams, both rivals, had to move, or neither could. There would be no chance of a trans-continental rivalry.

On September 29th and October 8th respectively, the Giants and the Dodgers formally announced their plans. And then, as they say, there was one. From 1958 to April of 1962, the same time span in which the Dodgers played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Yankees were the lone ballclub in New York.

Brooklyn loved the Dodgers. Whether you heard it from “Ken Burns Baseball” or your neighbor who grew up in Flatbush, it’s no secret; Brooklyn was admired by baseball fans. Imagine the ferocity and admiration of Dodger fans today, and condense it, so that it fits within the 69.5 square miles known as Brooklyn.

Even after the Dodgers left for good in 1958, their memory was still alive because of the then still-standing monument of Ebbets Field. The field, however, was torn down on February 23rd, 1960.

The home of Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, and Pee Wee Reese was no more.

The Dodgers played at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for four years while Dodger Stadium was being built. The Coliseum, now home to the Los Angeles Rams and the USC Trojans, held north of 90,000 people. It’s large capacity, however, was no match for the Dodgers’ loyal fans, who virtually filled the Coliseum on a relatively chilly autumn day. On October 4th, 1959, the first World Series game was played in Los Angeles, and 92,394 fans made the journey out to see their beloved Dodgers beat the Chicago White Sox.

Los Angeles went on to win two more titles in the 60’s, and two in the 80’s.

Walter O’Malley, the Dodgers owner who moved the team west, never planned on leaving New York. The Brooklyn Bums were simply casualties of a rather common reason for teams leaving their beloved cities; O’Malley wanted a new stadium, and Brooklyn wouldn’t give him one.

Los Angeles made the Dodgers an offer. O’Malley accepted.

We’ve seen this before. We’ll see it again. When the Dodgers announced they were leaving, Brooklyn’s shared heart broke. Fans who had spent their entire lives loving a team that they thought loved them, were suddenly left alone and abandoned.

It’s been over six decades since O’Malley moved his team, and when the team takes the field on Opening Day next Thursday, that heartbreak will be but an old, historical, and controversial memory.

This season, we celebrate 60 years since that fateful decision. We celebrate Sandy Koufax, Kirk Gibson, and every player who has made Los Angeles the true, and honest baseball city that it is today.

This year, we celebrate the Brooklyn Bums becoming the Boys in Blue.

(FOLLOW SARAH ON TWITTER: @SARAHMANINGER)

 

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