Sports

Sad Day in Brooklyn Lives On for Dodgers Faithful

Members of the Brooklyn Dodgers exit the fi eld on Sept. 24, 1957 following the last-ever game played at Ebbets Field. (Public Domain)

It’s tough to be a New York Mets fan.

Just when you think they’re about to go on a winning streak, they find a new — often ridiculous — way to lose a big game.

I’ve only had three decades of misery. I can only imagine what Mets fans since the beginning have suffered through with this team. Yet, the great thing about being a Mets fan is that they’re still going to be there tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the Brooklyn Dodgers. With a crowd of 6,702 looking on at 9:08 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 1957, Dodgers lefty pitcher Danny McDevitt threw the final pitch in Ebbets Field history — a groundout to shortstop Don Zimmer to preserve a 2-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Dodgers then closed out their season with a three-game series in Philadelphia, and at that point, Brooklyn Dodger baseball was officially done. Team owner Walter O’Malley wanted to build a new stadium in Brooklyn but was unable to come to an agreement with City Planner Robert Moses, which led to the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles.

Scores of Brooklynites were heartbroken to see “Dem Bums” leave the borough and head out west for the start of the 1958 season. Those who remember each have their own vivid stories about watching their favorite team pack up and leave.

“It was a pretty sad day,” said Bro. Robert Kent, alumni director and varsity baseball coach at St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows. “People were very down and got disgruntled with the Dodgers. They broke our hearts.”

“Brooklyn was never the same after the Dodgers left,” said Father Jim Devlin, pastor emeritus at Good Shepherd, Marine Park, who was a freshman at Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, when the Dodgers moved. “It was a terrible, terrible time when they left. As a boy, it was probably my first experience of genuine grief.”

“I can remember clearly that a great sense of sadness came over me,” said Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, who became a devout Dodgers fan during the 1955 World Series while watching the games on television as he recovered at home from a tonsillectomy.

“I quite didn’t understand the financial dealings that were behind it, but it was like the loss of a family member. I felt very sad and abandoned as a boy. These guys were my heroes, and these guys are now leaving me. My heroes are going west.”

Even those directly involved — the Dodgers players themselves and their families — knew they’d be leaving behind a fanbase that adored them. I spoke recently to Joan Hodges, the soon-to-be 94-year-old widow of fan-favorite Gil Hodges, who treasured the support of Brooklyn fans — especially those from the family’s parish of Our Lady Help of
Christians, Midwood.

“I was a very big baseball fan,” Hodges said. “I was very upset, but I was very devoted to the team. Everybody felt very bad about it. Gil was very depressed too. He hated to leave the fans who loved him very much.”

Carl Erskine, now 93 years old, told me it was a strange feeling to be heading west instead of north after spring training in 1958, since the Dodgers still held their preseason in the same place they had trained since 1948: Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla.

“It wasn’t until we boarded the Dodger jet plane and headed west that it really hit us that the Brooklyn
days were over,” Erskine said. Erskine was the starting pitcher for the first-ever Los Angeles Dodgers game on April 18, 1958 in front of a crowd of nearly 80,000 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — a football stadium.

“Compared to the Brooklyn crowd, that crowd didn’t really make any noise at all,” Erskine recalled.

“They were just sitting there with a curiosity to be seeing a Major League team play in a football stadium.” Some Brooklyn fans — like Bro. Robert, Father Devlin and Bishop Chappetto — tried to still follow the team in Los Angeles, but the time difference was a huge obstacle, since West Coast games wouldn’t end until well after midnight New York time. Luckily, instead of converting to the Evil Empire and rooting for the New York Yankees, many Dodger fans held out until the Mets arrived in Queens in 1962.

In an ironic twist, today there’s a sign at 55 Sullivan Place in Brooklyn — the former home of Ebbets Field — that reads “No ball playing.” How would the greats Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Don Newcombe, Pee Wee Reese, Clem Labine, Ralph Branca, Johnny Podres, Preacher Roe and countless others feel about that sign?

They’d probably feel pretty heartbroken, just like the Dodgers fans who had to say their final goodbyes to “Dem Bums” in 1957.


Contact Jim Mancari via email at jmmanc@gmail.com.

3 thoughts on “Sad Day in Brooklyn Lives On for Dodgers Faithful

  1. 1. It wasn’t “scores” of Brooklyn Dodger fans who were devastated by O’Malley’s abandonment of the borough – it was millions. 2. O’Malley did not “want” to stay in Brooklyn. He was after the 300 acres of Chavez Ravine land, adjacent to downtown L.A. during their postwar real estate boom that L.A. handed to him. O’Malley’s proposed Stadium would have been located at Atlantic Avenue & Flatbush Avenue, in a Downtown Brooklyn neighborhood already far too oversaturated with pedestrian & vehicular traffic to absorb another 50K fans during PM rush hours. O’Malley knew well that no one could approve his proposal. It was a smokescreen for the move. Robert Moses was a minor player in this drama; O’Malley was the star.

  2. September 24, 1957 was my father’s (and his twin brother’s) 44th birthday. I was 12. I could not root for the Yankees. I have been a Mets fan since 1962. The best part of being a Mets are the announcers. Hernandez to Darling to Cohen.

  3. My Dad and I loved going to Ebbets Field.
    The last time I was there was on June 23, 1958, the first year they were in LA.
    We saw the high school title game between Curtis and Franklin Lane. I sat next to the old Dodger dugout.
    As I looked around at the unmaintained park, it hit me that the Dodgers really were gone.
    Part of me grew up that day.
    I was 14.

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