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Sampler: Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, New York


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Ebbets Field
Future site of Ebbets Field

The history of baseball is well documented in fire insurance maps. Famous stadiums of the major leagues as well as small, temporary ball parks in minor league towns were captured on paper by the agents of the fire insurance mapping companies. Many important stadiums of the major-league teams were constructed on the edge of town or in areas with large vacant lots, and the oddities of field dimensions and stadium designs often reflect the idiosyncrasies of their sites. As professional baseball became more popular and profitable, the stadiums were enlarged and remodeled, a process which can often be traced through various editions of the fire insurance maps of a given city.

Ebbets Field was the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The relocation of the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1957 and the subsequent destruction of Ebbets Field was a watershed event marking the beginning of the rapid expansion of teams and construction of new, modern stadiums in many professional sports. Ebbets Field is still fondly remembered by many people who attended and played in games there. Fire insurance maps provide insights that cannot be readily gained from contemporary photographs. The playing field, for instance, favored left-handed sluggers over right-handed batters. The short right-field fence that provided that advantage was merely a reflection of the irregularly shaped block in which Ebbets Field was built. Had home plate been placed at any of the other three corners, it would have been difficult to configure as large a playing field while providing as many good seats. With fire insurance maps, it is possible to measure the dimensions of the park, study the angles where foul lines and fences met, and look at the relationship of the seating and bleachers to the playing field.

Gary L. Fitzpatrick


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  August 9, 2010
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