BEEN THERE (too late): I found the historical site in Brooklyn, prior to seeing a Nationals-Mets game on September 4, 2016.
ALL-STAR GAMES: 1949 LIGHTS: 1938
WORLD SERIES: 1916, 1920, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956 (1 W, 8 L)
In terms of both design excellence and nostalgia, Ebbets Field is, or was, the grand-daddy of them all. It was built in a former garbage dump in Brooklyn, a part of Flatbush that was called "Pigtown." The gleaming new arena dramatically lifted the socio-economic status of the neighborhood, thereby creating a prime location. The land slopes up toward the north, with a difference of at least 15 feet between the Montgomery Street side (beyond left field) and the Sullivan Street side (near first base). Thus, the playing field was approximately at the exterior ground level around the infield but about 15 feet below it in left field. Ebbets Field was a small, "human-scale" ballpark, tightly squeezed into the urban street grid with only limited expansion possibilities. For the first two decades, however, there was plenty of room in left field, and the original distance down the foul line was 419 feet, even more than at Griffith Stadium! That fluctuated slightly whenever temporary bleachers were installed. The concourse area in back of home plate featured a huge rotunda with marble floors, gilded turnstiles, and a huge chandelier. That was class!
Like most other Early 20th Century stadiums, Ebbets Field was significantly expanded about 20 years after it was built -- in this case, 1931. Seating capacity rose by 7,000 seats, with new double decked grandstands stretching from the left field corner all the way around the center field corner. Most of the outfield became enclosed, imparting a somewhat claustrophobic feeling, rather like at the Polo Grounds. The consequent reduced outfield playing area made for a lot of easy home runs. Most of right field was even shorter than at Yankee Stadium, but the high wall and fence (38 feet altogether) made up for part of that. Even so, the car dealership on the other side of Bedford Avenue (where a pharmacy is located today) often suffered broken windows. The lowest portion of the right field wall was sloped, not vertical, which often caused line drives to carom in unpredictable ways. It was plastered with huge advertisements that framed the scoreboard in the middle. The left field foul line actually ran flush against the stands, like the right field foul line used to do in Yankee Stadium.
CINEMA: Ebbets Field was featured in Whistling in Brooklyn (1943), starring Red Skelton and Ann Rutherford. Red was pretending to be a player from a fictitious team of bearded "barnstormers," similar to the "House of David" team.
One interesting feature was that the center field grandstand was actually about 15 feet higher than the rest of the stadium, because it had several additional rows of seats. In addition, the left foul line was literally on top of the fence for the last 25-40 feet in the corner. Also, the edge of the second deck was originally flush with the outfield fence in center field (and nearly so left field), like at Tiger Stadium or RFK Stadium, meaning that fans out there missed a lot of the outfield action. The second deck overhung the playing area in a nook in deep right center, where there was an exit gate. (Compare the upper-deck and lower-deck variants in the dynamic diagram above.) There was very little foul territory in Ebbets Field, so fans got to see up-close action. The bullpens were squeezed into the right and left field corners, and they shrunk further in 1948, when extra rows of seats were added all around the grandstand. That reduced the outfield distances by 10-15 feet.
The name Dodgers was not adopted as the official team name until 1932; it referred to the way their fans had to dodge trolley cars to get to their previous stadium, Washington Park. They were perennial also-rans in the National League until the 1940s when they began winning pennants. Not until 1955, however, did they finally win the World Series, stunning the world by beating the Yankees. Long-suffering Brooklynites were ecstatic beyond measure, but their hearts were broken two years later when franchise owner Walter O'Malley announced he was moving the team to Los Angeles, where he expected to sell more tickets. Brooklyn was never the same after that...
It was at Ebbets Field that the shameful baseball "apartheid" finally ended in 1947, when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play major league ball since the 1880s. He played a big part in the Dodgers winning six pennants over the next ten years, persuading other teams to make use of the long-excluded pool of talent.
A professional football team also known as the Brooklyn Dodgers played in Ebbets Field during the 1930s and 1940s.
As part of his maneuverings to pressure city officials into buying him a new stadium, O'Malley had his team play several of their "home" games in Jersey City's Roosevelt Stadium in 1956 and 1957. His ploy didn't work. With no prospective replacement tenants or alternative uses for it, Ebbets Field was demolished in 1960. Today the land is occupied by a 23-story apartment building, "Ebbets Field Apartments."
SOURCES: Lowry (1992), Ritter (1992), Gershman (1993), Ward and Burns (1994); The Glory Days: New York Baseball 1947-1957 ed. by John Thorn (New York: Harper Collins, 2007); footballdb.com
RESEARCH ASSISTANCE: Bruce Orser