Jan. 31 marked what would have been the 100th birthday of baseball legend and civil rights activist Jackie Robinson. It reminded me of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Ebbets Field. It was a time working- and middle-class men and women of all ages, classes, races and religions commingled in the stands rooting for Jackie Robinson and his teammates, regardless of ethnic origin, game after game.
The original Brooklyn Dodgers’ name was derived from Brooklyn residents who would dodge trolley cars, which ran for decades until their own decline and final death in the 1950s.
The golden era of baseball in New York City took place in the ’50s, with a three-way rivalry between the American League Bronx Yankees, National League New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.
All three teams claimed to have the best center fielder in baseball. On street corners all over town, citizens would argue whether the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle, Giants’ Willie Mays or Dodgers’ Duke Snider was champ.
Ordinary Brooklyn natives could ride the bus, trolley or subway to Ebbets Field to see their beloved Dodgers. Everyone could afford a bleacher, general admission, reserve or box seat. Hot dogs, beer, other refreshments and souvenirs were reasonably priced.
Just as Jackie Robinson fought racism in the 1950s, Detroit Tigers’ Hank Greenberg had to do the same with anti-Semitism in his time. Robinson and Greenberg both document the long-lasting relationship between African Americans and Jewish sports fans, standing together for decades in support of each other.