Before Chavez Ravine, there was Brooklyn. Before Elysian Park Ave, there was Sullivan Place. Before Dodger Stadium, there was Ebbets Field. Baseball in Brooklyn dates back to the 1850′s, but the Brooklyn Baseball Club didn’t join the American Association until 1884. While in the AA, the Brooklyn Baseball Club played in a small wooden field called Washington Park that sat 16k-18k people. In 1890, the Club joined the National League. While in Brooklyn, the ball club underwent several name changes, the Atlantics, Grays, Bridegrooms, Grooms, Superbas, then the Trolly Dodgers. Charles Ebbets bought the team in the early 1900′s and wanted to construct a new concrete and steel park, because of the fire hazard that wooden stadiums posed. Rather than tear down Washington Park, Ebbets began looking for land in the Brooklyn slums, purchasing land in 1905 until 1912, when construction commenced on the new ballpark. The park was completed one year later, costing $750k (compared to $23 million for Dodger Stadium, $177 million in 2012 US Dollars). The Brooklyn Dodgers played their first game at the self-titled Ebbets Field April 9, 1913. The ballpark had a 23,000 capacity consisting of a double decked grandstand from home to the right foul pole, and lower-level seating down the third base side. The exterior of Ebbets Field consisted of a brick and arch facade, featuring an 80 foot rotunda made of Italian granite in the entrance. Today, Citi Field uses elements of the brick and arch facade. A makeshift press box was placed in the two rows of seats on the upper deck.
In 1926, bleachers were added to the outfield, and a formal press box constructed. In 1931, the upper-deck of the grandstands extended down the third base line, and a scoreboard was put in. In the new bleachers, a female fan named Hilda Chester became popular fan who sat in the outfield and made noise with her cowbell. Advertisements came and plastered the outfield walls, most popular a Schaefer’s beer ad that showed the official scoring of hits and errors. Below this was an Abe Stark “Hit Sign, Win Suit” advertisement. This park went on to see Jackie Robinson break the color barrier in baseball in 1947, an all-star game in 1949, the World Series in nine years, and saw players the likes of Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, and Duke Snider. In June of 1938, Reds pitcher Johnny Vandermeer.
In the 40′s and 50′s, Ebbets Field had become structurally unsound, with narrow aisles, poor plumbing, and limited parking and seating. In 1946, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley hired somebody to design a new stadium, and if it were constructed, it would have been the first stadium to have a dome, with a seating capacity of 52,000. The problem with constructing a new ballpark in Brooklyn is the limited amount of space. Clashes between Walter O’Malley, and Robert Moses, a New York real estate mogul and most powerful man in New York, caused tension and threats to move the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers to California. In 1956, a real estate developer purchased Ebbets Field, and the Dodgers and Giants were set on moving to California. The Dodgers played their last game on September 24, 1957. Demolition began in early 1960; the lights from the scoreboard and lights were sent to minor league parks, and the center field flagpole was donated to a company in Flatlands. Today, apartments stand where Ebbets field once stood. The cornerstone of the ballpark can be found on display in Cooperstown. A Frank Sinatra song was written about the ballpark’s demise, entitled “There Used to be a Ballpark.”