Baseball had been in Brooklyn practically as long as there has been baseball. Sometimes known as the Grays, Superbas, or Robins rather than the Dodgers, the franchise helped establish professional baseball.
By the 1950’s, the Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees firmly established New York as the capital of baseball. The Dodgers won the exciting World Series of 1955, and represented the National League again in 1956.
Brooklyn, always a baseball town, absolutely fell in love with the teams of the 1950’s. Their Ebbets Field home, however, was not keeping up with the fan support.
Owner Walter O’Malley knew he needed a new park, and wanted it to be in Brooklyn. However, the city was trying to push him to Flushing, and to what later became Shea Stadium grounds.
The Brooklyn fan base would have been upset with a move to another Borough. Brooklyn was forced to join the City of New York around the turn of the century – against the wishes of the majority of the population.
This consolidation resonated for decades, as Brooklyners didn’t want to consider themselves New Yorkers. The extension of this community pride was the Dodgers, and it fueled their rivalry with the cross-town Giants.
While Brooklyn would have been upset with a move elsewhere in the City, what happened next has not been forgiven in half a century.
Going into 1957, Los Angeles was looking for a team. They thought they could get the Seantors, or an expansion team a few years later.
As baseball wasn’t played at the Major League level anywhere west of St. Louis, it was believed that expansion would be the only way to get teams on the West Coast. That is of course, unless two teams could move at the same time.
Los Angles officials and O’Malley soon found each other, and O’Malley was probably initially just looking for leverage to be able to get a Brooklyn stadium.
Soon it became apparent that New York would not be able to match a deal from Los Angeles, as O’Malley would be able to buy cheap land and own his own stadium in California.
O’Malley still had a problem of finding another team to move with him to assure league approval. He didn’t have to look any further than across town, and the Giants and Dodgers both left for California to start the 1957 season.
They left behind an era, a rivalry, and a group of heartbroken fans. The rivalry soon re-developed with the Giants, but O’Malley is still a sensitive subject in New York’s largest borough.