Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Strange History of Final Games in Stadiums Slated for Demolition.

The departure of the Dodgers from Brooklyn may be a legendary moment even for those in the borough who weren't born yet, but remarkably few turned out to bear witness: Only 6,702 showed up at Ebbets Field on September 24, 1957, to hear organist Gladys Gooding play "California, Here I Come." According to a contemporary report in Sports Illustrated, the sparse crowd "seemed to regard the occasion as just another ball game." (This wasn't, incidentally, the final baseball game at Ebbets: Long Island University played its home games there in 1959, and on August 23 of that year, the one and only Satchel Paige yielded the final Ebbets home run, in an exhibition game of Black and Latino stars before about 4,000 fans.) Five days later, just 11,606 showed up to bid farewell to the Giants at the Polo Grounds; when the Mets later made the big Manhattan horseshoe their home for two seasons, their finale drew an even more piddling 1,752. The wave of vintage stadiums that fell to the wrecking ball in the early '70s—Sportsman's Park, Forbes Field, Crosley Field—to make way for the "concrete donut" craze fared somewhat better, but still, none sold out their final games.

Something that was a common sight on the final days of ballparks in that era: looting.

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