Marty Adler still remembers the days when all he wanted to do was
throw on his canvas sneakers, roll his Levis to his ankles, and run
out with his friends to play stickball on the streets of Brooklyn.
"You didn't have equipment - nobody could afford any of that,"
Mr. Adler says, some 40 years after every rhythm in the borough
seemed to pulse with the game of baseball.
Today, when the new Class A Brooklyn Cyclones take the field for
the first time in their new Coney Island stadium, many longtime
residents like Adler will recall the days when fans were singular
in their passion for the game and their team, the Dodgers.
Normally, the debut of a new minor-league team would hardly cause
such a stir. But this is Brooklyn, where baseball became a powerful
source of unity among a packed-in mix of immigrants. Though it's
been decades, many people still carry the anguish from the day when
the Dodgers packed their gear and moved to Los Angeles in 1957.
"It's really important for people in the area," says Steve Cohen,
general manager of the Cyclones. "Getting to know them and hearing
their stories - it's been 44 years of something missing in their
Why Brooklyn, though? After all, the Dodgers' hated National
League rivals, the Giants, left their home in upper Manhattan the
same year and moved to San Francisco. Teams such as the Washington
Senators and St. Louis Browns left their towns for good - but none
of their jilted fans carry the same kind of heartbreak as those in
What made a borough tick
In many ways, baseball first became the "national pastime" in the
heart of New York's largest borough. The city-within-a-city was a
mix of Italian, Irish, Jewish, and other immigrants who came to the
US in the first two decades of the 20th century. For their
children, baseball was a common bond as they played together in the
"And there was also a feeling of closeness with the players,"
says Richard Lupardo, a retired sales executive who also grew up
playing sandlot ball in Brooklyn. "Many of them lived in Bay Ridge
[a neighborhood in the south end], and they always did their
shopping at local merchants." On game days, many players would ride
the subway with fans to Ebbets Field, the Dodgers' small, intimate
Though Ebbets featured a domed rotunda enclosed in Italian
marble, it was known for its carnival atmosphere and rough-hewn,
blue-collar fans. When one fan yelled out at players who had struck
out, "Ya bum, ya!," it caught on, and the Dodgers became known as
"Dem Bums." A makeshift band of ill-talented musicians called the
"Dodger Sym-phony" would beat drums and blow horns to songs like
"Three Blind Mice." And in the center-field bleachers, a fan named
Hilda Schusta would clang cowbells and drop notes of advice for the
center fielder to take to the manager. …