TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE FIRST DODGERS OWNERS
The Los Angeles Dodgers soon will have a new owner after Frank McCourt finally agreed to give up the storied franchise that began in Brooklyn in 1883. How did it all start?
1, Who were the first owners of the Dodgers franchise?
A. Charles H. Byrne, a New York real estate developer, and George J. Taylor, a former night editor of the New York Herald Tribune. It was Taylor’s idea to start a team in Brooklyn in 1883. Like most newspapermen, Taylor had little money, but he did have a lease on property in Brooklyn. After costs of building Washington Park rose to over $30,000, Byrne recruited two casino owners — his brother-in-law Joseph Doyle and Ferdinand “Gus” Abell, who became the team’s chief financial backer.
2. When did the team begin playing?
A. In 1883 in the minor league Interstate Association. When the first-place Camden, N.J., team folded in mid-season,Brooklyn bought their top players and won the flag.
3. When did Brooklyn join the major leagues?
A. In 1884 in the American Association,then a major league along with the older National League.
4. Who was the team’s first manager?
A. George Taylor in 1883 and 1884, before he returned to the newspaper business. Co-owner Byrne also was the manager from mid-1885 to 1887.
5. Who was the driving force in the ownership?
A. Charley Byrne clearly was in charge. A small, visionary and intelligent man known as the “Napoleon of Base Ball,” he was widely considered one of baseball’s top owners. He developed baseball as a business aimed at attracting a broad fan base. He was the leading advocate of Ladies Day, which he believed improved behavior at games. He invented non-smoking sections and the rain check. In 1889, Brooklyn set a 19th century season attendance record of 354,000.
6. What other contributions did Byrne make to baseball?
A. Among other things, he was responsible for creating coaching boxes. In the early rowdy days of baseball, base coaches such as St. Louis’s Charles Comiskey would run up next to the catcher and yell obscenities in his ear. In 1886, Byrne pushed through a rule requiring bases coaches to stay 75 feet from home plate.
7. When did the team win its first pennant?
A. The Brooklyn Bridegrooms – its nickname after several players married just before the 1888 season— won the American Association pennant in 1889 after Byrne purchased the entire New York Mets team and three star players from the champion St. Louis team and hired manager William “Gunner” McGunnigle. Brooklyn played the New York Giants in the “World’s Series,” losing 6 games to 3.
8. When did Brooklyn win its second pennant?
A. Brooklyn switched to the National League in 1890 and became the only team in baseball history to win consecutive pennants in two different major leagues. That year top players revolted and formed a third major league, but Brooklyn players remained loyal due to Byrne’s generous treatment. Byrne and Chicago owner Al Spalding were credited with killing the players’ league after one season.
9. How did the owners save the franchise in 1891?
A. After the 1890 baseball war left all teams in dire financial straits, the Bridegrooms took on investors from the players’ league Brooklyn team, who insisted on replacing McGunnigle with player-manager John Montgomery Ward. Brooklyn didn’t win its next pennants until 1899 and 1900 after merging with the Baltimore Orioles.
10. What happened to the original owners?
A. Charley Byrne died in 1898 at age 55. He was succeeded as club president by Charles Ebbets, whom Byrne had hired in 1883 as a ticket taker. In 1892, Joe Doyle sold out to Gus Abell, who became majority owner. In 1902, he sold out to Ebbets, who owned the team until his death in 1925. In 1932, the team was officially named the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Ron Shafer,, When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms, Gunner McGunnigle and Brooklyn’s Back-to-Back Pennants of 1889 and 1890 (McFarland Publishing) 2544 William Tankard Drive Williamsburg, Va. 23185 757 345-6227 email@example.com www.brooklyndodgershistory.com