Posts Tagged ‘Ebbets Field’

The Greatest Ballpark Ever: A Review

April 11, 2017

Book Cover

I seem to be on Brooklyn Dodgers kick right now, so I decided to go with the kick. I also haven’t done a book review in a while, so I decided to join the two. The result is a look at “The Greatest Ballpark Ever.”

The book is by Bob McGee and it was published in 2005. McGee has written a lot on baseball and this book is one of his best efforts. He looks at the history of Ebbets Field from its building to its tearing down. Most of the famous stories you’d expect are here, but so are looks at how the team was run, how the park was built. It is, in its earliest pages as much a biography of Charles Ebbets as it is of the park. There’s also quite a bit of information on the borough of Brooklyn and how it changed, how it loved its baseball team, and how it dealt with the loss of the team to Los Angeles. There are pictures and a review of the special ground rules that were unique to Ebbets Field.

Knowing I was a Dodgers fan, my son bought the book for me several years ago. I read it in a couple of days (it’s not a hard read–the author writes well) and put it away on a shelf. I get it out every so often to use as a quick reference on something I’m researching. That’s what I just did to write-up the stuff on the 1941 World Series (the book gives a starting place, not a thorough look at the Series) and so decided this was as good a time as any to review it for you.

It’s worth the read if you’re interested in the Dodgers, baseball in the first half of the 20th Century, old ballparks, or particular players who wandered through the team before it moved to LA. Amazon has a copy for $20.55 in hardbound edition. Barnes and Noble also sells it. I’m sure there are other places you can find it online as well as at some used book stores. Enjoy.

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Hit Sign, Win Suit

May 29, 2010

Abe Stark (center)

If baseball has a cathedral, it’s Yankee Stadium. But for most of the first half of the Twentieth Century there was a second one that was almost as famous. It was in Brooklyn and called Ebbets Field. It was home of the Dodgers and home of some of the quirkiest people who ever graced a ballpark. Hilda Chester may be the most famous, but Abe Stark was the more significant. 

Stark was born in 1893, became a tailor, and in 1915 opened a clothing store at 1514 Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn. The store did well and Stark made money. There is dispute about how much of a baseball fan he really was. Some claim he was an entrepreneur who saw a way to make a buck, others say he was a fan and saw an opening on the stadium wall. 

Whatever the reason, in 1931 Stark bought space on the outfield wall of Ebbets Field. There was an open space just below the right-center scoreboard. Stark stuck his sign there. It read, “Hit Sign, Win Suit.”  The deal was that if a player hit the sign on the fly he would win a suit. There’s a lot of disagreement about how often the sign was hit. Some sources indicate almost never, others say a few times a year. There’s universal agreement that Mel Ott of the Giants did it first. There was, of course, a running joke that the Dodgers had two right fielders, the current holder of the job and Stark who stood in front of his sign to ward off hits. (Didn’t happen.) 

Apparently the official scorer would inform Stark anytime the sign was hit and at the end of the season, or the last time the opposing player was in town during the season, the lucky guy could pick up his suit. If he hit the sign more than once, he got more than one suit. The player didn’t get a top-of-the-line suit, but got a fairly inexpensive one (I’m trying not to call it a “cheap suit”). In Bob McGee’s The Greatest Ballpark Ever (certainly worth a read) there’s a story by the infielder Woody English to the effect that he won three suits, didn’t like the looks of the ones he was offered and agreed to take one suit of much better quality.  One story states that Stark was so grateful for Carl Furillo’s work in saving him money that he gave him a pair of pants as a gift for being a great right fielder. I couldn’t find any comment from Furillo acknowledging it ever really happened. 

The sign made Stark famous. In 1954 he was elected President of the New York City Council and served in the job until 1961, ironically the period when the Dodgers left Brooklyn. He closed the store in 1959, two years after the Dodgers decamped for Los Angeles. In 1962 he was elected President of the Borough of Brooklyn, holding the job until 1970. He died two years later. 

Stark’s name is still around in Brooklyn. A school is named for him, as is a senior center and a skating facility. Not bad for a guy most famous for a sign in a ballpark. 

BTW–the woman in the picture above is Dorothy Hamill, later Olympic figure skating champion.

Old Longings

May 13, 2010

A day or so ago SportsPhd put up a little post on four things in baseball he wished he had seen, but wasn’t around for. It was a great list and I don’t disagree with any of it except for Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. I got home from school in time to see the last couple of innings. I’m going to shamelessly borrow his idea and give you four baseball moments I wish I had seen.

I’m going back to a period either before I was born or when I was so small I didn’t know what was going on. That makes me leave out things I heard on the radio, like Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, but didn’t actually “see.” It also leaves out those things that happened while I was watching something else and have now seen a dozen times on TV. So with those caveats, here we go.

4. I’d have loved to have been in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1871 to see the first ever major league game. Fort Wayne beat Cleveland 2-0 in a game that sounds as if it was well-played. There’s something about being there at a birth that is so special. If you have a child, you know the feeling.

3. I’d like to have been around in 1908 for the Merkle Game. It’s arguably the most famous regular season game ever played. It was apparently a heck of a game prior to the chaos of the ninth inning and might have been worth seeing anyway. Knowing what was going to happen (remember this is time machine stuff so I know who’s going to win already) I could now stay in the stands and watch the ball to see what really happened between Solly Hofman, Joe McGinnity, and Johnny Evers. And this is a two-for-one special. I also get to see the replay a few weeks later.

2. As I told SportsPhd I would like to be in Wrigley Field in October 1932 for game 3 of the World Series. That’s the game that featured Babe Ruth’s “called shot.” I don’t know what he did, but apparently he did something just before crushing the ball. I’d love to know exactly what he did. You can argue about the greatest player ever in the game, but Ruth is easily the greatest showman ever to put on a uniform (with apologies to Reggie Jackson). 

1. Here I agree with SportPhd. I want to be in Ebbets Field in April 1947 to see Jackie Robinson take up his position at first base. It was one of baseball’s finest hours and I’d love to be there to see and participate.

So that’s four things I missed and wish I hadn’t. Your own list?

A Rose by any other name

January 24, 2010

Back in the day Bad Bill Shakespeare (sounds like a linebacker, doesn’t it?) got it right about roses. But he didn’t get it universal. Some things by another name just stink. Take ballparks for example. I hate “naming rights.”

Gimme good old names. Names of teams like Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium. Names of owners or prominent people  like Wrigley Field, Hubert Humphrey Metrodome, or Ebbets Field. Names of areas like Camden Yards, Fenway Park, or West Side Grounds. I’ll even take simple things like The Ballpark at Arlington. But naming rights? Gag a maggot.

Tell me you really like to hear about the great game at Cellular One Field, or Enron (without reference to Enron’s later problems)? Wouldn’t you, rather, like to hear about the great game at Yankee Stadium? Quallcom? What the heck is a Quall and what does it have to do with baseball? Busch Stadium? Damned right, Busch Stadium. The family owned the team. Somehow in this case a little hubris is better than Southwestern Bell Park or Northeastern Wagestunter Field.

Come on, guys, I know you make a lot of money but get rid of the dopey names. Give us real baseball names like Comiskey Park or Forbes Field, or even Three Rivers Stadium. I have visions, and they are apocalyptic, of Fly By Night Financial Field in Brooklyn replacing Ebbets Field. Now Abe Stark Tailor’s Field, I’ll give ya that one.

Best Possible Game 4

December 12, 2009

In World Series history the Dodgers have played the Yankees more than any other matchup. It’s appropriate they make this list. In 1947 they played a game for the ages. It included the first integrated World Series and proved the Last Hurrah for 3 players.

Game 4 in 1947 featured Hall of Fame players Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, and Phil Rizzuto for the Yankees. But the pivotal player was Bill Bevens, a journeyman pitcher who was 7-13 for the season. Opposing them was a Brooklyn Dodgers team featuring Jackie Robinson, the first black American in a World Series,  and PeeWee Reese. The starting pitcher was 10 game winner Harry Taylor.

Taylor didn’t have it. He gave up a bases loaded walk in the first and was lifted for Hal Gregg. The Yanks got another run in  on a  triple and a double. 

It looked like that was all they would need, because Bevens was wildly effective. For eight innings he gave up no hits, not one. He gave up 8 walks and one run on two walks, a bunt sacrifice and a fielder’s choice, but no hits (see, I told you he was wild, but effective).

The bottom of the ninth in Ebbets Field started with a fly out, then a walk to Carl Furillo. A foul out recorded the second out. Now the Dodgers decided to pinch run for Furillo. Enter Al Gionfriddo, a backup outfielder with speed who promptly stole second. Bevens intentionally walked pinch hitter Pete Reiser to set up a force at all three bases. The Dodgers sent in pinch runner Eddie Miksis for Reiser and called on pinch hitter Cookie Lavagetto to get them home. Lavagetto immediately banged a double off the right field wall scoring Gionfriddo with the tying run, Miksis with the winning run, and ending the no hitter. The Dodgers had tied the Series 2 games apiece. They eventually lost in seven.

For Gionfriddo it was his last series. He played in 2 more games, making a famous catch in game 6 to save the game. He never played another game in the Major Leagues. For Lavagetto it was his last Major League hit. He played in two more of the games in the Series, but got no hits and was gone from the Majors after the Series. For Bevens it was the last game he ever pitched in the big leagues.

Honorable mention game 4:

1929-the A’s score 10 runs in the 7th inning to erase an eight run Cubs lead.

1939-the Series was a blowout, but game 4 was clsoe until Charlie Keller bowled over Reds catcher Ernie Lombardi leading to 3 runs in the 10th inning.

1941-The Dodgers were ahead until catcher Mickey Owen dropped the third strike with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth. The Yankees scored  four runs to win the game leading to a Series victory the next game.

1963-the Dodgers sweep the Yankees behind Sandy Koufax and a 2-1 win.

1993-Do you like offense? This 15-14 special asked if anyone on either team could pitch. Runs were scored in every inning except the ninth. What happened? Did the hitters finally get tired of running the bases?

2001-Down in the ninth, Tino Martinez homers for the Yankees, then in the 10th Derek Jeter becomes “Mr. November.”