100th anniversary: Ebbets Field debutsby Chris Jaffe
April 09, 2013
A hundred years ago today, Dodgers history entered a new era. The team played its first real game in Ebbets Field, and the ballpark has gotten quite a bit of attention due to all the nostalgia surrounding Dem Bums, as Brooklyn denizens called the Dodgers. Histories of the game, most notably Ken Burns’ Baseball, spent considerable time on the stadium and the teams that played there.
But it might be too much attention. What advantages did it have over, say, Forbes Field in Pittsburgh? Well, the Dodgers played there, not the Pirates. To be fair, more memorable historical baseball events occurred with the Dodgers than the Pirates, but the romance of Ebbets Field goes beyond that.
Even the lesser Dodgers teams were well known. The Dodgers' weak years in the 1920s and 1930s, when they were nicknamed the Daffiness Boys, get a lot of attention as an example of a struggling club. Burns’ miniseries notes that Ebbets Field in its earlier decades hosted some of the worst clubs ever. That’s an enormous overstatement. Even when the Dodgers were bad, they were typically just sixth-place bad.
But moving into Ebbets Field was a big deal, as it was the club’s first real stadium. The first wave of steel and concrete ballparks went up around 1910. Previous stadiums were quickly-thrown-together wooden affairs, something you’d expect from a college or minor league club.
Shibe Park in Philadelphia began the trend when the A’s moved there in 1909. During the 1910s, almost every team followed. Most would last a generation or two, but Comiskey Park and Tiger Stadium remained until the 1990s, and Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, of course, are still here.
The Dodgers were experiencing a low point in franchise fortunes, but in 1913 they got their new stadium anyway. That first game on April 9, 1913, had an all-too-typical result for the Dodgers of that era. Staff ace Nap Rucker pitched brilliantly, but as good as he was, the Brooklyn bats were as bad. The Dodgers fell, 1-0, to the Phillies.
The Dodgers had a dreadful first season in Ebbets Field, going a woeful 29-47 at home. (Oddly, they won nearly half of their road games that year. Go figure).
The Brooklyn Dodgers would never have another season that bad at home. From 1913 until their move out west, they went 1,974-1,454 (.576) at home versus a much worse 1,683-1,748 (.491) road record. Admittedly, that includes a few home games in New Jersey toward the end, but that’s a nice home advantage. No wonder the Brooklyn faithful had such found memories of the park in which they saw their team play.
Though it’s been gone for over a half-century, Ebbets Field still witnessed nearly 50 years of major league baseball—and the first one began 100 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
1,000 days since Dontrelle Willis signs with the Giants in a failed comeback bid.
2,000 days since Joe Torre is out as Yankees manager, refusing to take a pay cut for a return in 2008.
4,000 days since Carlos Delgado bangs out his 1,000th hit. It takes him 1,013 games to get there.
4,000 days since Derek Lowe no-hits Tampa in a 10-0 Boston win.
6,000 days since the Angels hire new manager Terry Collins.
7,000 days since the Braves sign free agent closer Gregg Olson.
7,000 days since the White Sox sign amateur free agent Carlos Lee.
8,000 days since Paul Molitor hits for the cycle.
8,000 days since Queen Elizabeth is the guest of President Bush at an A’s-Orioles game in Baltimore.
9,000 days since Norm Charlton makes his big league debut.
20,000 days since NL president Warren Giles appoints a committee to study possibly expanding the league to 10 teams.
1879 Early-20th-century star pitcher Doc White is born.
1888 Hippo Vaughn, star pitcher for the late-1910s Cubs, is born.
1901 Vic Sorrell is born. He’ll be a good innings-eating pitcher for the 1920s-30s Tigers.
1904 Fred Frankhouse is born. He’ll be a good pitcher for the Braves and Dodgers in the 1930s.
1909 Claude Passeau is born. He’ll win 20 games in 1940 and 162 over a 13-year career, mostly with the Cubs and Phillies.
1930 The Pirates send aging spitballer and future Hall of Famer Burleigh Grimes to the Braves for a player and cash.
1945 Big-time baseball writer Peter Gammons is born.
1946 Nate Colbert, great slugger for the early Padres teams, is born.
1947 New baseball commissioner Happy Chandler announces he’ll suspend Dodgers manager Leo Durocher for the year. It’s a very weird suspension in that it doesn’t seem warranted. Durocher has hung out with gamblers but has pledged he’ll stop. Mostly, it’s Chandler trying to show he’s the boss.
1953 August Busch buys Sportsman’s Park from financially strapped Browns owner Bill Veeck for $800,000. This ruins what little economic standing the Browns have.
1953 In the paranoia of the Red Scare, the Cincinnati Reds rename themselves the Redlegs.
1961 Angels starting pitcher and quality hockey player Kirk McCaskill is born.
1962 The Orioles release aging veteran pitcher Joe Nuxhall, whom the Angels sign on this same day.
1962 It’s the first game in the District of Columbia Stadium in the capital. The Senators top the Tigers, 4-1.
1963 Rusty Staub makes his big league debut.
1963 Starting pitcher Jose Guzman is born.
1964 Milwaukee trades back-up catcher Bob Uecker to the Cardinals.
1965 In the first game indoors, the Yankees and Astros square off in an exhibition contest in the Astrodome. Mickey Mantle inaugurates the place with the first domed homer.
1965 Solid-hitting Reds first baseman Hal Morris is born.
1969 Cubs star Billy Williams goes 4-for-4 with four doubles.
1969 Rod Carew steals home for the first time this year. He’ll end the season with a record seven swipes of home.
1971 The A’s trade veteran outfielder Felipe Alou to the Yankees.
1974 Making his big league debut today is the San Diego Chicken. Toward the end of the game, team owner Ray Kroc goes on the public address system to blast the club to the fans. He says, “I’ve never seen such stupid baseball playing in my life.”
1975 Infielder Doug Flynn makes his major league debut.
1976 It’s the return of Veeck! After a nearly 15-year hiatus from the majors, master showman Bill Veeck returns as new White Sox owner in classic Veeck style—with a memorable bit of theater. He stages a live reenactment of The Spirit of ’76 painting, complete with team manager Paul Richards carrying the flag on the White Sox Opening Day.
1976 Jim Palmer posts his 13th straight Quality Start, his longest such streak. His line during this run: 116 IP, 84 H, 20 R, 17 ER, 21 BB, 64 K, and a 1.32 ERA.
1976 Young catcher Butch Wynegar makes his big league debut.
1977 Reliever Willie Hernandez plays in his first game.
1977 The Seattle Mariners' cumulative franchise record peaks at .500 (2-2). They’ve been under .500 ever since.
1978 Young Orioles slugger Eddie Murray plays a full game at third base for the last time. It’s just his third big league game total, and they’ve all been at third, but he’ll never play there again.
1978 Blue Jays first baseman Willie Upshaw makes his big league debut.
1979 Atlanta’s Barry Bonnell bars two female sportswriters from the clubhouse, which violates an order by major league commissioner Bowie Kuhn from a month earlier.
1980 George Foster gets the first game-winning RBI, a newly kept official stat. It doesn’t take.
1981 Kirk Gibson has a horrible Opening Day, twice having balls hit him on the head in the outfield for Detroit.
1981 Several notable outfielders make their big league debut today: Tom Brunansky, George Bell and Dave Henderson.
1982 Reliever Doug Jones and outfielder Kevin Bass both make their big league debuts.
1985 Gary Carter smashes his first career walk-off home run. It took him long enough, as it’s his 216th dinger overall.
1985 Both Chicago teams break in new shortstops today: Shawon Dunston and Ozzie Guillen make their major league debuts with the Cubs and Sox, respectively.
1986 George Brett clubs his 194th homer with the Royals, passing Amos Otis to become the all-time franchise leader, a title he still holds.
1986 Bobby Bonilla and Mitch Williams make their big league debuts.
1986 Wade Boggs has his finest game ever, according to WPA. He is 4-for-6 with a double, homer, three RBIs and reaches on an error for a 0.665 WPA.
1988 Jack Morris balks three times in one game. Umpires have been ordered to crack down on balks this year.
1989 Rickey Henderson steals his 800th base, and he’s not slowing down at all.
1990 Astros first baseman Glenn Davis is hit by pitches three times.
1990 Delino DeShields not only makes his big league debut with the Expos, but he gets four hits.
1991 Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch makes his major league debut.
1992 George Brett becomes one of the few men to join the 600-doubles club.
1993 The largest NL crowd ever—80,227 proud Rockies fans—see the first major league game ever in Colorado.
1994 Michael Jordan debuts with the Birmingham Barons.
1995 Baltimore signs free agent pitchers Kevin Brown and Jesse Orosco.
1995 Bob Allison dies at age 60. He was a multi-time All-Star outfielder for the 1960s Twins.
1995 The Marlins sign starting pitcher John Burkett.
1997 Just 1,677 fans see the White Sox and Blue Jays play in 34-degree weather in Chicago. It’s the smallest South Side crowd since 1970.
1999 The Arizona Diamondbacks' all-time record bottoms out at 36 games under .500 (65-101). They’ll tie this low point twice in 2010, but they haven’t gone under it.
1999 Kris Benson makes his big league debut, pitching for the Pirates.
2000 Manny Ramirez smashes his 200th career home run.
2000 Jim Thome suffers through maybe his worst game ever, going 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. He has another five-K game, but he collected eight at-bat in that game.
2001 "Pops" Willie Stargell dies a month after his 61st birthday.
2002 Pitcher Brendan Donnelly makes his big league debut.
2005 Juan Pierre takes the day off after playing in 1,700 consecutive innings. (Not games—1,700 innings.)
2006 Japanese ballplayer Tomoaki Kanemoto breaks Cal Ripken’s more obscure iron man streak, playing in his 902nd straight game without missing an inning.
2006 Takashi Saito makes his big league debut.
2009 22-year-old Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart is killed by a drunk driver.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.