What if the Dodgers Never Left Brooklyn?: A Cultural, Economic, and Sports Viewpoint

When the Brooklyn Dodgers left for Los Angeles, it created the most famous move ever executed by an American sports franchise. The move transcended the sports world. The cultural, economic, and even political impact can not be measured. It is not hyperbolic to say that the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn changed the course of American history.

Few sporting decisions have had such a lasting impact on so many Americans. Older baseball fans in Brooklyn today know how traumatic it was to lose their team. Fans in Los Angeles have been eternally grateful.

To fully grasp the significance of the move, consider these examples.

In 1959 the film “Some Like It Hot,” was released. It was set in 1929 and Jack Lemmon’s character runs off a list of unthinkable events that could occur. “Suppose the stock market crashes … Suppose the Dodgers leave Brooklyn.” That was the magnitude of the situation.

Bernie Sanders, yes every youngsters favorite politician, explained the importance of the Dodgers to Brooklyn.

“The Brooklyn Dodgers were an enormously important institution to Brooklyn, going far beyond athletics and baseball. They were part of the fabric of our society,” Sanders said. “When people talked about the Brooklyn Dodgers possibly moving, people didn’t understand. Kids didn’t understand: ‘They are the Brooklyn Dodgers. They are owned by the people of Brooklyn. How could it possibly be that somebody could move them?’ We really did not understand that concept.”

Sanders went on to name the three most hated figures of all time: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley. Consider the long running joke in Brooklyn that if those 3 were locked in a room and you had a gun with 2 bullets, you’d shoot O’Malley twice. 

Why the Dodgers Left Brooklyn

You would think that 60 years later that O’Malley would be held in a different light, but he isn’t. Many still hold O’Malley in such regard, believing he is the reason for the Dodgers abandoning Brooklyn. That he had his eyes set on Los Angeles way before the actual move. But the evidence proves that theory to be wrong. 

O’Malley had his heart set on a piece of land at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. He dreamed of constructing a stadium with a dome, a concept that wouldn’t become normalized until decades later. All O’Malley needed was help from New York City to acquire the land. 

Rumor has it that Robert Moses, a NYC public official, single-handedly blocked O’Malley’s attempts to move to Atlantic and Flatbush. Moses offered O’Malley a site in Queens, the land where Shea Stadium would be built about a decade later. If O’Malley had been given the support to stay in Brooklyn, the Dodgers would never move across the country.

So do we blame Moses? Still blame O’Malley? The correct answer is somewhere in the middle. But what if we didn’t have to blame anyone?

What if the Dodgers stayed in Brooklyn?

Outlining what might have been different had the Dodgers stayed in Brooklyn is a pure test of imagination. It impacted millions of fans and altered the course of history within America’s two largest cities. Honestly it is too much to navigate through, particularly on the sporting side of things. But here is a local viewpoint.

If the Dodgers remained in Brooklyn, are the Yankees the single most popular American sports team of all time? With two of the top 4 historic teams being just a train ride away from each other was and could have continued to be special. The Yankees and Dodgers have long been top players in the free agent market. Imagine the drama that would have been if the Yankees and Dodgers were in a bidding war for Reggie Jackson, or current day Gerrit Cole. NY sports could have been even more electric.

What about the New York Mets?

With the Yankees and Dodgers in New York, there is no need for a third team. There would be no fans to attract. For Mets fans, it would be a great positive. The millions of current Mets fans who have been suffering for most of their existence, could have avoided all of it had the Dodgers remained.

The Mets, whatever incarnation of the franchise that would have been, wouldn’t feature the same color way. The colors of blue and orange are a tribute to the colors of the once Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. Without having to tribute the Dodgers, who knows what colors the Mets would dawn. Maybe the Mets are made as an expansion team in Los Angeles.

Economic Impact on Brooklyn

How different would Brooklyn be today? The proposed dome stadium the Dodgers would have played in would be where the Atlantic Terminal Mall now stands. The Dodgers Stadium would be adjacent to the Barclays Center now stands. There is a real chance that Brooklyn would be the epicenter of New York. 

From an economic standpoint, the revenue of 81 home games per year of a top franchise like the Dodgers would be immense for Brooklyn and New York in general. In the Bronx, surrounding Yankee Stadium, and in Queens surrounding Shea/Citi Field, there is not much to do. 

Had the stadium been built in Brooklyn, and the Dodgers stayed, the borough’s economic decline in the ’60’s and 70’s never occurs. Rather the economy thrives.

All the restaurants, shops, and business would have seen increased customers for at least the 81 days that the Dodgers played at home. The dome stadium would have become a tourist site to visit, bringing in all new types of traffic year round to Brooklyn. 

Impact Around the Country and League

When the Dodgers left, they weren’t the only franchise to leave town. The New York Giants also packed their bags and headed to the west coast. Regardless of the decision the Dodgers made, the Giants were leaving New York. They were not attracting fans, and were the third team in the city. 

The Dodgers heading to the west coast did impact the Giants however. The MLB would only allow the Dodgers to head to Los Angeles if they brought a team to the west coast with them. Without the Dodgers going out west, the Giants end up in Minneapolis. 

Los Angeles, desperate for a baseball team, finishes up a deal to get the Washington Senators franchise. But like I stated earlier, the MLB wanted and needed two California based teams for this to work. So in 1962, an expansion team was created and placed in San Francisco, without the name Giants of course. 

About a decade later, the expansion MLB would continue, altering the division and league landscape. 

Closing Statement

It was inevitable that MLB would head West. Improved transportation, media and technology made ti easier for coast to coast play. If it wasn’t the Dodgers and Giants, it would be another two franchises heading to California.

Could the economic decline that Brooklyn endured throughout the 1960’s and 70’s been changed by the Dodgers presence? Maybe, maybe not.

There is no way to know exactly how history would change. But history, both sports and American, would have changed drastically.

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