Well, you can say this for the Los Angeles Dodgers — they’ve got balls.
Brooklyn Dodgers fans are bleeding blue over a promotional scheme by the L.A.-based franchise to wear throwback borough uniforms for six games next season.
The team is asking fans to vote for their favorite old-school jersey — and critics are saying that this foul ball is just another way to exploit the borough that the team abandoned in 1957.
“They are using us,” charged Marty Adler, 75, founder of the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame, a museum in Coney Island filled with team memorabilia that recalls the glory days of the 1940s and ’50s.
Adler was certainly not alone in the outrage.
“They’re not entitled to Brooklyn Dodgers shirts,” said East Flatbush-native Stan Feinberg, 69. “When they left, I was destroyed.”
Adding insult to injury, the Dodgers won’t be stepping up to the plate in New York wearing the Brooklyn uniforms. Instead, they’ll wear them at home games against a variety of teams from lesser cities. (Adding triple insult, food and drink will be half price at each of the games!)
“It’s a slap in the face — especially since they don’t want to wear it here,” Adler added. “If they’re going to do it, New York is the place to wear them.”
This is the point in any Dodger story where the reporter stops the flow of the narrative to remind the reader that Dodger owner Walter O’Malley became a pariah after making a bum’s rush from the borough after the 1957 season. He not only wrenched the hearts from Dodgers faithful from Voorhies Avenue to Visitation Place, but became the punchline in this celebrated joke: You’re in a room with Walter O’Malley, Stalin and Hitler and you have a gun with only two bullets — what do you do? Answer: You shoot O’Malley twice just to make sure he dies.
And now, back to our story.
Under the Dodgers’ uniform contest, fans can choose among:
• A 1911 Superbas-era pinstriped jersey with “Brooklyn” stitched down the button panel. The team wore this during its second-to-last season in Washington Park, located on Fifth Avenue between Third and Fourth streets.
• A 1931-Robins era jersey with a robin’s egg- blue “B” emblazoned on the chest.
• A 1940s uniform with “Brooklyn” scrawled in script across the chest. With the emergence of night baseball, this type of uniform was made out of a highly reflective satin to be more visible under the lights of Ebbets Field on Sullivan Place in Flatbush.
Dodgers-diehards such as Charles Solomonson, 85, of Bergen Beach, won’t be casting a ballot any time soon.
“They shouldn’t even talk about ‘the Brooklyn Dodgers’ any more since they left,” he said. “I don’t think they should even be allowed to do this.”
Solomonson’s ire is understandable. After all, this wasn’t just any sports franchise, the team was the flesh and blood embodiment of the borough: They were the lovable Bums, indomitable and fallible. They cemented a place in American history as the team that broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, when the great Jackie Robinson took the field in 1947.
And they weren’t New York City’s team, they were Brooklyn’s own.
“Most of them lived in Brooklyn. In fact, they would carpool to Ebbets Field,” Michael Shapiro, author of “The Last Good Season: Brooklyn, the Dodgers, and Their Final Pennant Race Together” told WNYC. “I mean it was a really local team. The idea that you would have baseball players, Brooklyn Dodgers, whose kids played on local Little League teams — this was all part of the Dodgers as a truly local sport. The Dodgers became the repository of all these notions of what baseball was supposed to be.”
The modern-day Dodgers were formed in 1883, and were at first known as the Brooklyn Grays. The squad took on an array of nicknames since then, including the Bridegrooms, Superbas, Grooms, and Robins, eventually settling for good on the name “Dodgers,” which refers to “trolley dodgers,” a nickname given to Brooklynites who were accustomed to evading the borough’s network of streetcars.
Team officials balked at the criticism of the uniform promotion.
“This is just to salute the history and recognize where we came from,” said Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch.
And this is not the first time the team has played with throwback jerseys, having donned replica 1955 road uniforms against Tampa in 2007.
“It’s not unprecedented,” he said.
And it’s probably quite lucrative.
Besides the classic Los Angeles cap, Brooklyn Dodgers hats are the most popular ones sold by the team, Rawitch said.
And no less a figure in the Dodger pantheon than Joan Hodges herself defended the promotion.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Hodges, widow of legendary first baseman Gil Hodges, who should be in the Hall of Fame, but is not. “The Dodgers are the Dodgers, and they’ll always have a special place in the heart of the people of Brooklyn.”
Besides, “It’s the name the Dodgers — not the city — that matters,” said Hodges, who still lives in the Midwood home she once shared with the slugger, who played 16 seasons with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers before retiring after two more seasons with the fledgling Mets. He ended his career with 370 home runs, nine All-Star team appearances and the admiration of an entire city.
Since the promotion began earlier this week, 30,000 votes have been cast, the Dodgers said. The winning uniform will be announced on Feb. 25, the day before individual tickets go on sale.
To vote, go to losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com. The deadline is Feb. 17.