Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Dodgers Second Full-time Home -- Eastern Park -- The Birthplace of the Name Trolley Dodgers

Following up on my past two post featuring the former home fields of the Brooklyn Dodgers (Washington Park I and Ridgewood Park), I now take a look at Eastern Park.  Go here to take a look at my past stories.
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As a point of reference, below is a quick guide of past Dodger home fields:
  • 1883-1891 -- Washington Park I
  • 1886 -- Grauer's Ridgewood Park
  • 1887-1889 -- Wallace's Ridgewood Park
  • 1891-1897 -- Eastern Park
  • 1898-1912 -- Washington Park II
  • 1913-1956 1957 -- Ebbets Field
*Please note that the dates above may not be exactly correct.  Various sources I found conflicted on this, so consider it approximate.  Also, it appears that the team played at several different ballparks during some seasons.
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(pic via ProjectBallpark.org)

Located in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, Eastern Park became the home park of the Brooklyn Dodgers franchise from 1891-1897.   It is bounded by Eastern Parkway (later renamed Pitkin Avenue); the Long Island Railroad and Vesta Avenue (later renamed Van Sinderen Street); Sutter Avenue to the south; and Powell Street to the west.

It was originally built in 1890 for the Brooklyn Ward's Wonders of the Players' League, but they survived for only one season as the league went belly-up.  Ward's Wonders was then shut down and merged with the Brooklyn Dodger franchise; thereby inheriting such players as future Hall of Famer Monte Ward, Tom Kinslow, and Con Daily.  Charlie Byrne (the Dodgers owner) also inherited the lease at Eastern Park.

Eastern Park, as the name suggest was in the far-eastern reaches of Brooklyn.  It was popular for a nice breeze coming off of Jamaica Bay, but eventually proved to be too far east for most fans. Attendance suffered during the Dodgers 7-year stay.

The ballpark had double-decker grandstand with cone shaped spires at the corners (see the photo below to see what I mean), and held 12,000 patrons.  In 1892, Charlie Byrne took the old grand stands from Washington Park I and move them to the first base side at Eastern Park.
(Opening Day 1894, pic via Wikimedia Commons)
Via Brooklyn Ballparks.com:
Byrne again oversaw substantial renovations at Eastern Park before the 1892 season. Most of the old grand stand from Washington Park was moved, and rebuilt as a shaded pavilion opposite first base. The bleachers near third base were enlarged and elevated for a better view, and renamed "field seats" with a new price of 25 cents, half the old rate. Pavilion seats cost 50 cents, and grand stand seats 75 cents. According to the Eagle, the three price system "worked to a charm." Not all the grand stand seats were profitable, however - a system of patronage was in place where a great many politicians demanded complimentary annual passes, and, as Chadwick wrote in the Eagle, "the majority of the political passes in question get into the hands of too rough an element to please the class of grand stand patrons who support the club by their money."
There are several reasons why Eastern Park is notable in both Sports, Baseball and Dodgers history. 
  • Eastern Park was the location of an infamous football game that featured Yale versus Princeton on Thanksgiving Day, 1890.  At an over-packed stadium, a temporary seating section collapsed under its own weight; causing numerous injuries.  Fortunately, no deaths were recorded.
  • During a July 14, 1890 game, Eastern Park saw the very first professional ballgame to feature four umpires on the field.  This was during a Players' League game featuring the Brooklyn Ward's Wonders.
  • Foreshadowing what would be a staple at Ebbets Field, located at deep centerfield was a Brooklyn Daily Eagle sign that offered to pay $10.00 to any player who could hit it.  Only one player did - Brooklyn catcher Tom Kinslow.
  • Eastern Park is said to be the birthplace of the famous Dodger name.  It is believed that this is the stadium where the nickname "Trolley Dodgers" came about.  The trolley and rail lines, that were located directly to the east of the stadium, were a constant hazard to fans attending games.  Frankly, this last item was a surprise to me as I began my research on this stadium.  I had always thought that Ebbets Field was where it originated, but that appears to not be the case.
Below are some pics showing how the stadium was situated. Other than the photo above, I am not aware of any other verifiable photographs of the stadium.
(pic via East New York Project)
(pic via Heritage Uniforms and Jerseys)
(pic via Brooklyn Ballparks.com)

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1 comment:

  1. You might be interested in my recent blog post: http://esnpc.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-grim-reality-of-trolley-dodgers.html?m=0
    The trolley dodgers name seems to have been more about the conditions in Brooklyn, generally, than at the stadium, specifically.

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