The Rise And Fall Of Ebbets Field
Updated: May 19
Ebbets Field was in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. The stadium was home to the Brooklyn Dodgers and five professional football teams for the 45 years it was opened. It was once a world class stadium, iconic for its massive center field of 399-feet at its deepest point, accompanied by short sides in left and right field (348ft LF, 297ft RF).
The stadium was opened on April 9th, 1913, and was named after its architect, Charles Ebbets. The stadium build was $750k ($20.6M in today’s money).
The first game occurred on April 5th, 1913, an exhibition game vs the New York Highlanders (now called the New York Yankees). The game took place in front of 30,000 fans, overall the attendance would have been much higher but 5,000 people were not allowed in due to the stadium capacity limit. The first game that counted at Ebbets Field took place on April 9th, against the Philadelphia Phillies, Brooklyn would lose that game, 1-0.
Ebbets Field saw early success with the Brooklyn Dodgers winning the National League championship in both 1916 and 1920. The 1920s saw baseball increase in popularity, with that seating expanded in the ballpark. The roaring 20s also featured football inside the stadium for the first time. The New York Brickley Giants (no relation to the New York Giants) along with the Brooklyn Lions in 1926, whose franchise only lasted a single season.
The first night game at Ebbets Field took place on June 15th, 1938 and featured Cincinnati Reds star pitcher Johnny Vander Meer pitch a no-hitter in front of a crowd of 38,738. Vander Meer’s no-hit performance was his second consecutive one; he is the only pitcher in MLB history to have back-to-back no-hitters.
The late 1940s and 1950s were the best times for the Brooklyn Dodgers, who won pennants in 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956. In 1947 we saw the then controversial MLB debut of Jackie Robinson, breaking the color barrier. Robinson played a huge part in the Dodgers’ success and in their 1955 World Series win.
Despite this success and weekly packed crowds the stadium was deteriorating and the Brooklyn Dodgers success would lead to the eventual demise of Ebbets Field. Due to the stadium being in the constraints of a neighborhood made an expansion impossible. There was no car parking for Dodger fans who had moved to Long Island, the stadium was near a subway station though, but the New York subway in the 1950s was on a financial decline and was down over 10% from its mid 1940s numbers.
The Dodgers would eventually relocate to Los Angeles post-1957 season, becoming the Los Angeles Dodgers. Walter O’Malley, who was the majority owner with the Dodgers’ organization,was able to convince New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham to move his baseball franchise out to San Francisco, and with that New York lost both the Dodgers and Giants in the baseball realm.
The loss of the Brooklyn Dodgers would leave Ebbets Field in stadium purgatory. The stadium would host several soccer matches along with various baseball games at the high school and college level along with numerous negro league games.
The stadium would have its demolition start on February 23rd, 1960, in what would be known as the end to “one of the most notorious abandonments in the history of sports”. In the place of the once historic ballpark would be The Ebbets Field Apartments, which opened in 1962 and still stand today.
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