In celebration of the triumphant return of major professional sports to Brooklyn, Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets held a ceremony yesterday to commemorate the new home of an Ebbets Field flagpole that now stands proud outside the arena. Center officials also acknowledged the most famous man who ever played at Ebbets Field, Dodgers great Jackie Robinson, upon whose shoulders all athletes, including the Brooklyn Nets, stand.
At the event, the American flag and a Brooklyn Nets flag were raised on the restored flagpole and a plaque signifying the history of the flagpole was unveiled.
Borough President Markowitz said, “There is no better way to honor the Dodgers’ legacy in Brooklyn than by raising the Ebbets Field flagpole with Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson, a product of Brooklyn and great American hero. Together, this Ebbets Field flagpole and Brooklyn Nets flag are a ‘home run’ and a ‘slam dunk,’ marking the transition from one great tradition of major league sports in Brooklyn to another. Today, we raise a Nets flag on a flagpole from one of the most famous stadiums in baseball history, Ebbets Field; soon, we will raise an NBA championship banner into the rafters of the greatest arena in the country.”
After the Dodgers’ former home, Ebbets Field, was demolished in 1960, the flagpole was later donated to a VFW post on Utica Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East Flatbush. It stood at that site, which later became the Canarsie Casket Company and then a church, until Bruce Ratner secured the historic flagpole in 2007, with the goal of positioning it at his planned arena in Brooklyn, which opened in September of this year. It was Borough President Markowitz, a Brooklyn history buff, who had alerted Ratner about the availability of the flagpole.
At the event, the American flag and a Brooklyn Nets flag were raised on the restored flagpole and a plaque signifying the history of this sports remnant was unveiled. The significance of the salute to Mr. Robinson was more than symbolic: plans to raise the flag were in progress last fall at around the time of the 40th Anniversary of the athlete’s death, October 1972.
“We are proud that such a historic symbol of Ebbets Field will now stand permanently outside of Barclays Center to connect the borough’s great sports past to its present,” said Bruce Ratner. “The memories of Ebbets Field and the Dodgers, most notably the 1955 World Series Championship, will always be an important part of Brooklyn’s history.”
Ms. Robinson, an author and educational consultant to Major League Baseball, told Our Time Press, “If my father were alive he would be thrilled that Brooklyn – with its national major league spirit — is a thriving, growing village and a wonderful asset to the world. This day promises to be a benchmark for years to come.”
She also told us that the flagpole (“standing tall”) is a reminder of the struggle and work of her father, who broke racial barriers as he pursued his dream. “I am hoping that those young people seeking careers in sports, architecture, business, real estate or any other field take a lesson from the life of my father: find your passion no matter what it is. Once you find it, follow it, you can’t be deterred.”
Sharon Robinson (www.sharonrobinsonink.com) has written several books on her father, including Jackie’s Nine: Jackie Robinson’s Values to Live By, an anthology of diverse writings illustrating the values that helped her father achieve his goals and Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, a biography that explores how Mr. Robinson broke the color barrier in sports. Her other books include: Safe at Home, Jackie’s Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah and Jackie Robinson with illustrator E.B. Lewis; Testing the Ice: A True Story of Jackie Robinson with illustrator Kadir Nelson (Scholastic, 2009)
For more on Jackie Robinson: www.jackierobinson.org. For more on Ebbets Field: www.ballparksofbaseball.com/past/EbbetsField.htm. For more on Brooklyn History: www.brooklynhistory.org. 42: The Story of a True Legend, a feature film on Mr. Robinson, was partly shot last summer on location in Bedford-Stuyvesant where Mr. Robinson resided in the late 1940’s, is scheduled to premiere nationally on April 12, 2013. For Our Time Press’ production coverage story, visit: www.ourtimepress.com. by Bernice Green Photo Cred: (Reid B. Kelly)