The Most Important Person in Dodgers History

Topic:  The most important person in Dodgers history.

Discuss.  This could take awhile, if at least one participant bleeds Dodger Blue.

Jackie Robinson comes to mind, of course.  His courage opened the door for integration to revolutionize baseball.

Branch Rickey signed Robinson to the Dodgers, so he will get a vote in some circles.

Walter O’Malley, despised by Brooklynites for abandoning Brooklyn, may get mentioned simply for building Dodger Stadium.

Tommy Lasorda?  Another viable argument can be made because of Lasorda’s management, enthusiasm, and ambassadorial approach to the Dodgerverse.

For your consideration, I submit the name of George Chauncey.  Chauncey was an investor with the Brooklyn Wonders of the Players’ League, a renegade league that only lasted the 1890 season.  Though its tenure was short, its impact was great.  And not in the positive sense of the word.  The Players’ League started the “Brotherhood War” by pilfering the teams in the organized baseball duopoly of the National League and the American Association.

The result was a tornado that whipped through baseball’s infrastructure, leaving a trail of debris, including remnants of the Players’ League and the American Association.  Destroyed, the former folded while the latter limped along to an 1891 season that would be its last.

Chauncey and his fellow investors merged the Wonders organization with the Brooklyn team of the National League, presently nicknamed Bridegrooms.  The nickname derived from press accounts reporting on several players getting married during the winter of 1888.  Chauncey knew baseball as a player with the Brooklyn Excelsiors, amassed wealth as a successful real estate investor, and combined his passions as an investor in the Brooklyn Wonders of the Players’ League.

This new incarnation then acquired a nickname based on a custom unique to the urban landscape of Brooklyn—trolley dodging.  Hence the name Trolley Dodgers, which morphed into Dodgers.

When Team President Charlie Byrne died in 1898, Chauncey saw another opportunity.

Chauncey’s keen business instincts appraised Charles Ebbets as a blue-chip baseball prospect for the team’s front office.  Ebbets had been with the organization since its first game in 1883.  As a jack-of-all-trades office worker, Ebbets knew every nook and cranny of the team.  Consequently, Chauncey saw Ebbets’ zeal, skill, and value as investments to be purchased like oil or gold.

He offered Ebbets the opportunity to fill the void created by Byrne’s death, beginning with being an owner.  Chauncey’s strategy, if executed, would secure Ebbets’ long-term plans in Brooklyn.

It was a brilliant strategy.  Ebbets’ knowledge of the Brooklyn club’s business was an invaluable resource to be mined.  Chauncey, ever the businessman, seized the opportunity to further benefit from Ebbets’ baseball wisdom in the wake of a tragedy.

Ebbets bought 22 ½ percent of the Brooklyn Baseball Club stock from Chauncey.  Eventually he became sole owner of the team, purchased land in the Pigtown section of Brooklyn, and built Ebbets Field.

Without Chauncey’s involvement, perhaps Ebbets might have taken his baseball management know-how to an ownership position with another team.  Perhaps Ebbets might have gone to an executive position with a major or a minor league.  And, of course, one cannot help but think that any scenario removing Ebbets from Brooklyn means that Ebbets Field would never have been built.  No boys of summer.  Maybe no Brooklyn Dodgers if Chauncey et al. decided to move the team.

By the way, if Chauncey’s name sounds familiar in the context of Brooklyn, there may be a simple explanation.  Chauncey thrived as a businessman in the borough.  His endeavors included serving as President of the Mechanics Bank of Brooklyn.  And at 358 Chauncey Street lived a boy who later adopted that address for his famous alter ego on The Honeymooners.  Yes, Jackie Gleason’s boyhood address was, indeed, the same as Ralph Kramden’s.  Chauncey Street is not, however, named after George Chauncey.  Rather, it is named after 19th century naval hero Isaac Chauncey.

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