This Day in Dodger Baseball - March 4, 1912

On this date in 1912, Dodger President Charles Ebbets, accompanied, among others, by the "big five" sportswriters of the Brooklyn-New York area, turned over the first spade-full of dirt that led to the construction of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

Ebbets, who rose from virtually a message boy in the Brooklyn organization to owner of the club, is a story in itself.

The team had played in four different locations in Brooklyn and all of the parks had been called "Washington Park," since General George Washington had fought the British over much of Brooklyn during the Revolutionary War.

But Ebbets, a remarkably forward-looking person, had envisioned his own park and for years preceding the purchase of necessary land, had walked the streets of the city looking for the best spot to build a park.

He finally found what he wanted in a run-down area of Brooklyn called "Pigtown." The area had housed around it and in the middle the residents dumped their garbage, making it less than attractive.

Ebbets set up a dummy company and began to buy land, hoping to keep the plan for a park from leaking out and causing a boom in land prices.

He was only partially successful, purchasing some parcels of land before the residents got wind of what was happening and boosted their prices exorbitantly, realizing that he would have to pay what they asked if he wanted the entire area.

He cut back his plan, due to financial concerns, and obtained nearly all the land he needed, save one plot. The owner was not to be found and Ebbets traced him to England and back but could not catch up with him.

Then one day the man walked into the Brooklyn offices and said, "I hear you are wanting to buy my land." Ebbets assured him that he was contemplating just such a thing and asked him what he wanted for it.

"Would $500 be too much?", the man asked. A check was in his hands almost before the words had left his mouth.

That completed, he hired contractors to build the new ballpark and on his day, some 96 years ago.

When the first shovel-full of dirt was flipped, a reporter asked him what he was going to call the new park.

"I don't know," Ebbets replied. "Probably Washington Park."

"Hell, Charlie," the reporter said. "This is your park. You should call it Ebbets Field."

"Well, OK," Ebbets said. "Then Ebbets Field it is."

The park would open in 1913 with a special pre-season exhibition game between -- appropriately enough -- the Dodgers and Yankees. With outfielder Casey Stengel hitting a home run for Brooklyn, the Dodgers earned a 3-2 victory, sending the chilled fans home with the first victory in the new park.

The Dodgers would play in Ebbets Field until 1957, when parking and a crumbling ballpark made a new venue necessary.

But New York officials drug their feet, thinking that the Dodgers would never move, felt they could relocate them in Flushing Meadows. However, owner Walter O'Malley said, "If we move there, we will not be in Brooklyn anymore and would not be the Brooklyn Dodgers."

A deal was struck with Los Angeles, the New York Giants moved to San Francisco at the same time, and the West was opened to Major League baseball and, as they say in Hollywood, the rest is history.

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