The 1957 rallies to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn

By the mid-1950s, the writing was on the wall. Shabby Ebbets Field, opened in 1913, wasn’t cutting it for Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley. He wanted a newer, bigger stadium for his team.

But one key city official wasn’t on board with O’Malley’s plan for a Buckminster Fuller–designed domed ballpark with plenty of parking at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. That man “was Robert Moses, who basically held veto power over any city project budgeted at more than $250,” wrote David Hinckley in the New York Daily News in 2017.

While Moses was trying to convince O’Malley to build his new ballpark in Fresh Meadows, Queens, O’Malley began scouting out sites 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, according to Hinckley.

In the spring of 1957, Dodger fans still thought they had a chance. So a group of Brooklyn businessmen led by Henry Modell (of Modell’s Sporting Goods fame) formed an organization aptly called the “Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn Committee,” based at the Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn Heights.

Their goal, as outlined in a letter to the Brooklyn Tablet in May 1957, was to convince officials to go ahead with the domed stadium plan, have residents sign petitions, and “organize and stage borough-wide rallies and mass meetings to demand action.”

The rallies happened outside Brooklyn Borough Hall beside the imposing columns; adult and kid fans held placards, wore buttons, and hoped that a show of support would keep the beloved team in the County of Kings.

Unfortunately, these rallies didn’t make a dent. O’Malley announced his plan to move the Dodgers to Los Angeles at the end of the season. Ebbets Field was demolished in February 1960—by a wrecking ball designed to look like a baseball.

[Top image: Keyman Collectibles; second and third images: Brooklyn Daily]

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7 Responses to “The 1957 rallies to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn”

  1. Richard Morris Says:

    A survey was taken of Bklyn residents a little while after the Dodgers left. It asked the respondents to name the most evil people in history. Hitler got the most votes. O’malley came in second.


    The name”Dodgers” should have stayed in Brooklyn. Go if you must, but you’re the LA Celebrities or whatever.

  3. Bill Wolfe Says:

    I’m glad you laid the blame where it belongs – with Moses, not O’Malley. A couple other points are worth mentioning. First, O’Malley wasn’t some rich tycoon who’d made a fortune through some other business, a la George Steinbrenner. The Dodgers *were* the O’Malley family’s business, meaning the family’s financial fortunes rose or sank with the Dodgers’ success at the box office. Despite the romantic view that assumes all of Brooklyn loved the Dodgers, the fact is that Ebbets Field was only half-filled, even during the 1950s when the team was going to the World Series almost every season. A big reason for this was the fact that the team’s fan base moved out of Brooklyn to Long Island after World War II. That’s why O’Malley chose the location of the proposed new stadium: it was at a stop on the Long Island Railroad, at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, thereby making it easy for all those suburbanite fans to travel to the games. (It was nearly impossible for those same people to drive to Ebbets Field because there were only about 600 parking spaces available in the area of the stadium.) Unfortunately for fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Moses opposed O’Malley’s idea for exactly this reason – namely, he made no money from fans riding on the Long Island Railroad, but he’d make a lot of money from people paying tolls to drive on the highways and cross the bridges to drive their cars to a stadium in Flushing Meadows.

    The final point that needs to be made in defense of O’Malley is that he planned on paying the entire cost of building the new stadium with his own money. I’m pretty sure that’s the last time an owner of a major sports team tried to do that.

  4. VirginiaLB Says:

    There can be no excuses for what O’Malley did and anyone who colluded with him. I was a child at the time and the Dodgers abandoning Brooklyn was the first great shock of my life. How could such a thing be possible? I still wonder. And keeping the name, with its deep connection with Brooklyn trolleys and not LA freeways, was salt in the wound. Still is.

  5. Bob Says:

    Today in history:

    The New York Times
    They Took Our Hearts, Too
    May 28, 1957

    CHICAGO-The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants received permission today from the National League to switch their respective bases of operation to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The permission, granted unanimously by the other club owners at the league’s mid-season meeting here, was conditional on two items that continued to leave room for conjecture that there might be a shift as soon as next season. […]

  6. Joanne Says:

    Grew up in Brooklyn. And lived in Manhattan until a few years ago when I joined my brother in LA. Will always be a NYker…Occasionally see a guy wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers cap and smile…..My brother shook hands with Jackie Robinson and Joe D’Maggio at Ebbet’s Field. Loved Ken Burn’s doc on BASEBALL..So much history that was in NY. Fantastic..While LA had open fields waiting for something to happen…

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