What’s In A Team Name? Bridegrooms…Superbas…Dodgers! Oh My! The Birth of Brooklyn Baseball in the 19th Century (Part 3 of 3)

In Brooklyn, Charles Ebbets and his bosses suffered a crater in the bottom line because the Players’ League siphoned from the Brooklyn fan base for its Brooklyn team – the Wonders. Byrne merged operations with the Wonders.

The new incarnation acquired a nickname based on the trolley dodging custom unique to the urban landscape of Brooklyn. “Trolley Dodgers” eventually became “Dodgers” in the sports pages and popular accounts. But fluidity abounded regarding team names.The 1890’s saw the team change nicknames from Ward’s Wonders to Foutz’s Fillies to Hanlon’s Superbas. John Montgomery Ward and Dave Foutz managed the Brooklyn team from 1891-92 and 1893-96 respectively. Ned Hanlon managed from 1899-1905. The “Superbas” name paid homage to a vaudeville troupe called Hanlon’s Superbas.

In the new consolidated venture, the principals incorporated under the name “Brooklyn Baseball Club” and issued stock.  “[T]he stock of 100 shares capitalized at $250,000 with the Byrne-Doyle-Abell group taking just over 50 percent (Taylor had sold his interest in 1885) and the Chauncey group, with associates E.F. Linton and H.J. Robinson, taking the balance.”[i]

The Bridegrooms won consecutive pennants in different leagues, American Association in 1889 and National League in 1890.  Still, Goodwin and Chauncey forced out manager Gunner McGunnigle.

Chauncey’s keen business instincts appraised Ebbets as a blue-chip baseball prospect for the team’s front office. Consequently, he offered Ebbets the opportunity to buy stock, hoping that a financial stake would secure Ebbets’ long-term plans in Brooklyn.

It was a brilliant move.  Byrne died in 1898, leaving a void of leadership. Chauncey backed Ebbets as the heir to the throne. Ebbets bought 22 ½ percent of the Brooklyn Baseball Club stock from Chauncey. But Ebbets could not assemble the necessary finances to boost his position when Ferdinand Abell wanted to sell his stock because of frustrating losses.[ii]

Brooklyn won the National League pennant in 1899 and 1900.

In an early executive decision, Ebbets moved the club from Eastern Park to the second incarnation of Washington Park, located in South Brooklyn. Located between the parallels of First Street and Third Street and the corresponding parallels of Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue, the new Washington Park was on a north and west diagonal from its progenitor.[iii]

It was the last home field for the Brooklyn baseball team before Ebbets Field debuted in 1913.

Conclusion

Professional baseball in Brooklyn likely would have happened without Taylor, given the expansion of the sport.  Without Chauncey or Goodwin, it might not have stayed in Brooklyn. They could have absorbed the losses from the Players’ League venture, refused a merger with Byrne, and left Brooklyn baseball on a financial precipice leading to a fall into an abyss of baseball history.

Brooklyn would have either merged with a team in another city or dissolved, assuming Byrne could not get alternate financing.

Ebbets would have likely climbed the ranks of another team, perhaps even staking ownership as he eventually did in Brooklyn. Imagine Ebbets Field as the home of the Red Sox, Orioles, Giants, or Yankees.

That’s a worse nightmare than Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World in 1951!

I gave this presentation at the Society for American Baseball Research’s Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19thCentury Baseball Conference on April 20-21, 2012 held at National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.


[i] Shafer at 75.

[ii] McGee at 33.

[iii] Ibid. at 34.

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