Past and Present: Ebbets Field

A Look at Brooklyn, then and now.

For many people of a certain generation, Brooklyn began and ended at the gates of Ebbets Field, where the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers played baseball. The years between 1913 and 1957 were the Golden Age of Brooklyn glory, especially in 1955, the year the Dodgers beat the hated Yankees in the seventh game of the World Series, score 2-0. The Dodgers were Brooklyn; proudly working class, with names like Campanella, Furillo, Snider, Hodges and Robinson. “Dem Bums” were the first team to integrate Negro players into the major leagues by hiring Jackie Robinson in 1947.

Ebbets Field stood at Bedford Avenue in the block bordered by Sullivan, McKeever and Montgomery Streets in what was called Flatbush then, and now considered to be part of Crown Heights South. Although it is now covered in nostalgia and glory like Camelot, the park was actually way too small by modern standards, and lacked parking and other facilities. When club owner Walter O’Malley wanted to build another stadium (at Atlantic Yards, ironically), Robert Moses tried to get him to go to Flushing Meadow. O’Malley refused, and waved offers from Los Angeles in Moses’ face to force him to approve the move to Flatbush and Atlantic. Moses played a better game of chicken, and the Dodgers went west, a move considered by many to be the greatest sports betrayal ever.

Ebbets Field was torn down in 1960, and the large housing complex called the Ebbets Field Houses was built, opening in 1962. It consists of seven connected high rises in a huge “H” shape, at the time Brooklyn’s tallest apartment buildings. The Houses opened as part of the Mitchell-Lama program, offering building owners tax breaks and low interest loans to build and maintain working class housing. Ebbets Field Houses left the program in 1987, with problems plaguing it ever since. Today, the only remnant of Ebbets Field and the Dodgers is the name and a plaque, as well as a tribute to Jackie Robinson. They should have done better. GMAP

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