Brooklyn Sports Make a Powerful Comeback
Brooklyn sports, restaurants, and culture often get compared to those of Manhattan, with Brooklyn historically on the losing end. People used to say Manhattan had better food, nicer views, and was simply “cooler” than Brooklyn.
This is no longer the case as Brooklyn has seen growth and gentrification, unlike any other borough. Part of this growth has been in the area of sports.
One hundred years ago, Brooklyn was a hot spot for sports. But, during much of the past 50 years, professional sports are not what you would think of when you think of Brooklyn. Today, however, Brooklyn is once again having quite an impact in the pro sports world.
A History of Professional Sports in Brooklyn
The history of sports in Brooklyn is interesting and dates back to 1845, six years after the first baseball games were played in Cooperstown, NY. Organized teams began playing against each other in Brooklyn. By 1855, there were sixteen baseball teams in the National Association of Baseball Players, eight of which were in Brooklyn. Three of the eight were considered the best in the league – Eckford, Excelsior, and Atlantic.
The first real professional baseball league came along in 1871, called the National Association of Professional Baseball Players. Three of the major teams were from Brooklyn.
The Brooklyn Dodgers, perhaps the most famous Brooklyn team ever, joined the league in 1873. The original Brooklyn Dodgers did not have the best skills or reputation, but by the end of the 1800s were performing well. They played in Washington Park and Eastern Park, both in Brownsville, Brooklyn. They eventually moved to Ebbets Field in Flatbush in 1913. The Brooklyn Dodgers famously signed Jackie Robinson to their Roster in 1947, making him the first African American player in major league baseball.
The Brooklyn Dodgers eventually played in several world series, finally winning the title in 1955.
There was also an NFL team called the Brooklyn Dodgers that played at Ebbets Field from 1930-1944. A little-known hockey team called the Brooklyn Americans played in the NHL during the 1941-1942 season but played in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden.
The Departure of the Dodgers Left Brooklyn With No Pro Sports for Decades
Everyone who is a baseball fan knows what happened in 1957. After a dispute over building a new stadium, the Brooklyn Dodgers left for Los Angeles, where they have been a powerhouse west coast team ever since. Many Brooklynites have not recovered from their departure while others continue to support the team they still call their Brooklyn Dodgers. The loss of the team left Brooklyn with no local professional sports team to call their own.
Sports in Brooklyn after 1957 went largely ignored. Brooklyn residents turned to other “New York” teams located in New Jersey, Manhattan, or Long Island. The NY Islanders and NY Rangers, NY Knicks, NY Mets, NY Yankees, NY Giants, NY Jets, NJ Devils, and NJ Nets all tried to fill the void left when the Dodgers departed to LA.
The Barclays Center Brings Pro Sports Back to Brooklyn
Not until 2012, when the Barclays Center opened on Atlantic Avenue, did Brooklyn finally get a professional team of its own again. The NBA’s NJ Nets relocated to Brooklyn and became the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn has rallied around its team, cheering them on and enjoying having a home team.
Barclays Center hosts other professional sports teams like the WNBA’s New York Liberty. The NY Islanders played there for several years before returning to an arena on Long Island. Barclays Center also features college basketball games, huge concerts, and other events drawing crowds from nearby Brooklyn neighborhoods and beyond.
Ironically, Barclays Center is located where the Brooklyn Dodgers wanted to build their new stadium back in 1957 after Ebbets Field became unsuitable. The refusal to accommodate the request contributed to their departure for LA.