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The History Of The Brooklyn Dodgers

By: Johnny Moon

The Brooklyn Dodgers are one of the most storied and fabled teams in all of baseball history. Most famous for their second baseman, Jackie Robinson, breaking the color barrier in not only baseball but all of professional sports, the Dodgers were one of the first teams to join the then-upstart National League. The Brooklyn Dodgers Baseball Club was established in 1883 and joined the now-defunct American Association the following year; they won the American Association Pennant in 1889 and joined the National League in 1890.

The Dodgers tried out a variety of nicknames before one finally stuck; they were originally called the Brooklyn Atlantics, and later the Brooklyn Grays. The New York City press even took to calling them the "Brooklyn Bridegrooms" when many of the players had gotten married in quick succession. The team earned the nickname "Trolley Dodgers" when they played at Eastern Park during the 1890s since the fans and players had trouble accessing the ballpark because of the scarce trolley lines in Brooklyn at the time.

Early Dodger teams played in two ballparks�Eastern Park and Washington Park�before they moved to Ebbets Field. They won National League Pennants in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953 and were defeated all five times by the New York Yankees. Thus, the immortal baseball slogan "Wait Till Next Year!" was born. The only Brooklyn Dodger team to ever win the World Series did so in 1955 at Yankee Stadium.

In 1902, Charles Ebbets went deeply into debt to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn. He invested heavily to replace Washington Park with the appropriately-titled Ebbets Field, located in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, which became the Dodgers' home until their move to Los Angeles. Ebbets acquired parcels of land until he owned the entire block; Ebbets Field opened its gates on April 9, 1913. The team had limited success until "player development genius" Branch Rickey was hired; then the Dodgers became a perennial contender for the National League pennant. Ebbets Field hosted the 1949 All Star Game and the ballpark and the Dodgers' move to Los Angeles were featured in an entire episode of Ken Burns's acclaimed documentary, Baseball; additionally, Arthur Miller's classic American drama Death of a Salesman references Ebbets Field. After the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, Ebbets Field was demolished on February 23, 1960.

Perhaps the most famous and historically significant aspect of the Brooklyn Dodgers was the breaking of the color barrier with young, talented Jackie Robinson. Winner of the first ever Rookie of the Year award and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Robinson ended almost 80 years of segregation in baseball. Jackie Robinson attended UCLA and became the first Black athlete to earn varsity letters in four sports�baseball, football, basketball, and track. He later served in the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant. On April 15, 1947, Robinson became the first African American player for a Major League Baseball team. He earned the Major League minimum, $5000, his rookie year, while he also played first base (Robinson played second base for most of his career). Jackie Robinson played on six World Series teams, received six consecutive All Star Game nominations, and won the National League MVP award in 1949. He retired on January 5, 1957, and became a political activist until his death on October 24, 1972. Robinson was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his key role in the American Civil Rights movement. On April 15, 1997, on the 50th anniversary of his debut, Major League Baseball retired his jersey number, 42.

After the 1957 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers controversially moved to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Dodgers have won the World Series five times since their move, in 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, and 1988.

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