The Brooklyn Dodgers were perhaps the most beloved team in all of sports. Their fans were passionate about their “Bums.” To this day the players are recalled by their first names as if they were members of the family. And in a way, they were. What if the great villain Walter O’Malley never brought the team out west? The Dodgers had been in Brooklyn since the late 19th century. They were called a few different nicknames in those days, such as the Bridegrooms, the Robins, the Flock, the Superbas and the Trolley Dodgers, and they played at two old time ballparks before Ebbets Field was built in 1913.
The team always had a great following even when they finished in the “second division.” New York was the king of baseball back then, fielding the Dodgers and the New York Giants in the National League and the New York Yankees in the junior circuit.
In the 1940s, the Dodgers started to become a team to reckon with. They won the National League pennant in 1941, 1947 and 1949, losing all three times to the cross-town Yankees. They again faced the Bronx Bombers in 1952 and 1953 and lost.
It was not until 1955 that the Dodgers won their first World Series, beating the Yankees 2-0 in game 7 on the road. The two teams again faced each other the following October with the Dodgers reclaiming their customary position in second place.
Owner Walter O’Malley was trying to find a place to build a new ballpark. Ebbets Field was terribly outdated.
At the time it was built there was not much of a need for large parking lots, but in the 1950s most fans drove to the game and the location inside an inner city precluded empty space for that purpose. In addition, the capacity needed to be upgraded.
O’Malley suggested a location near Flatbush Avenue and the Long Island Rail Road. City officials suggested the Flushing area, coincidentally enough where Shea Stadium would to be built for the “replacement” New York Mets.
O’Malley said thanks but no thanks. The threat of a move to Los Angeles was in the air, but no one took it serious. The team was only two seasons removed from their championship, and one year from their last pennant. And they were still drawing large crowds. There was no way that he would actually do it, would he?
Following the 1957 season the unthinkable happened. Not only did the Dodgers move to California, but also they took the Giants with them to leave the Metropolitan area without a NL team. The fans were crushed and there was no way they were going to start rooting for the Yankees. Everyone had to sit and wait until 1962 when the Mets were born,. But, what if things turned out differently?
The location where O’Malley wanted to build on is ironically the same place where New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner wants to build a basketball arena and move the NBA team back to New York. If this stadium had been built and the Dodgers had remained in Brooklyn, would they have won the World Series in 1959, as they did out in Los Angeles?
Sandy Koufax, the Brooklyn native that was on the 1955 team, would have been even bigger if he pitched in his own backyard. Would Roy “Campy” Campanella have possibly avoided his tragic automobile accident, which happened in the winter of 1957? Would Gil Hodges have produced better numbers to solidify his already Hall of Fame-caliber statistics?
If the Dodgers stayed, then most likely the Giants would have as well. The west coast would have been granted big league teams sooner or later, even if the area had to wait until the expansion era in the 1960s. West coast fans still had the Pacific Coast League to follow until then.
In 1961, the Los Angeles Angels were added to the American League. The National League would have had an opening because the Mets were not going to be in the mix if the Dodgers stayed. Either way, baseball would have expanded to the west coast. It did not need to have two established teams uprooted.
The entire face of baseball would have been changed if the Dodgers did not move. For the people of Brooklyn to be able to celebrate the championships that were won in LA would have been special. How hard was it for the Brooklynite to see the team win it all in only their second season out west when it took them over a half a century to do it in NY? The back-to-back battles in 1977 and 1978 versus the Yankees would have been even better if they were called the Subway Series’.
They would have been one of the old time teams that have a rabid fan base, such as the Red Sox and the Cubs. There would have been a ton of retired numbers for the likes of Jackie, the Duke of Flatbush, Pee Wee, Newk, and so many more. Hilda Chester would have been hitting her cowbell for many more years. The Sym-Phony Band would have been playing off-key season after season. The Knot Hole Gang would have lasted a lot longer. Walter O’Malley would have been a hero instead of public enemy number one.
Baseball will have to live with the fact that the team was stolen from the people of Brooklyn. The fanatic men, women and children that lost a part of themselves that September day in 1957 when the announcement was made will go on. But the game will never be the same without the Daffiness Boys, The Bums … the Brooklyn Dodgers.