Mention baseball and even the greenest sports fan will probably think of pitching icon Sandy Koufax in his classic number 32 blue and white Dodgers jersey. One of the most beloved and renowned teams on the scene, the Dodgers have been a source of pride for Major League Baseball (MLB) fans ranging from Long Island to the west coast since they were first founded back in 1883. What has made the Dodgers such a household name? And why are they still referred to as the Brooklyn Dodgers despite their hometown being Los Angeles? Read on for more history on one of baseball's most successful teams in the world.
Before we go back to the beginning, let's address the elephant in the room. Before the Dodgers took up their title of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team had made a name for themself as one of the most well-supported and adored teams in baseball history in a location about as far removed from Los Angeles as you could be in 1957, Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Dodgers left their hometown alongside their main rivals, the Giants, in a move that left a string of broken hearts behind them but which ultimately catapulted the already famous team to new heights. Now, let's go back to a time before the Boys in Blue became the sweethearts of Los Angeles.
Before all the fame and the glory, the Dodgers were known by the far less memorable moniker of the Brooklyn Grays, a team that was founded by long-time baseball fan Charles Byrne in 1883. In their first home, Washington Park, the team rose from strength to strength before finally making a name for themselves when they secured the 1889 American Association League Championship title under a new name, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, also known as the Superbas. After picking up their first big win, the Superbas moved to the National League, where they extended their winning streak and picked up the championship title in their inaugural season. Being the first team in history to achieve such a feat, it is no small wonder that the team started attracting some major interest from sponsors and players alike.
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After picking up a second National title in 1900, interest in the team, now dubbed the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, skyrocketed, resulting in then-manager Ned Hanlon setting his sights on owning the team to move them to Baltimore. Fortunately for Brooklyn, loyal fan and co-owner of the team, Charles Ebbets stepped in, almost bankrupting himself to buy the team, keep them in their hometown (for now at least), even going so far as to build a brand-new stadium, the now famous Ebbets Field. The new baseball stadium, built over a former garbage dump called Pigtown, would go on to become one of the most iconic stadiums of baseball's golden age after its completion in 1913.
While their hometown stadium grew from strength to strength, the next few years proved rocky for the Superbas, whose fame resulted in several key players being poached from the line-up. After narrowly avoiding a 100-loss streak in 1904 to end in sixth place in the National League, fans hoped the bad luck would come to an end for the embattled team. Unfortunately, the blows would continue to land, as they posted a record low of 48-104 in the season of 1905 in Ned Hanlon's final season as manager. While their fans tried their utmost not to lose hope, the team continued to struggle despite being under new management, with the 1900s proving a trying time for the former champions.
In 1911, following a long string of disappointing results, and without a finish above fifth place, the team changed its name to the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers. This name was soon shortened to just "Dodgers" before being changed yet again in 1914 when the team became the Robins. The Robins would finally show their fans that their faith was well-placed, with the titular Wilbert Robinson bringing the team partly out of its slump before his retirement at the end of 1931. At this time, the team decided to revert to being the Dodgers, a name that it has held onto since.
After many trying years, the Dodgers finally found their feet in the late 1930s, eventually pulling ahead of the pack to finish in third place in 1939, their highest ranking since 1916. The rest, you could say, is history, as the Dodgers went on to pick up National League pennants in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1953, and 1953. Unfortunately, a World Series win continued to elude the team, at least until 1955 when the team bested the Yankees to win their first World Series title. This surge of success was a prelude to the team's move to Los Angeles, where they would continue their winning streak. In their new home, the Los Angeles Dodgers would go on to shape baseball history even further, ultimately cementing their place in the history books as one of the most profitable teams in MLB.