|FROM ||Ruben I Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [hangout] Brooklyn landmarks
WRITING'S ON WALL FOR B'KLYN BASEBALL RELIC
By GERSH KUNTZMAN
July 29, 2002 -- IN 1926, a company called Brooklyn Edison cleared the land on Third Avenue between First and Third streets for a new storage facility, yet intentionally saved a brick wall that had been part of Washington Park, where the Brooklyn Dodgers played before they built Ebbets Field.
At the time, the company said the wall - part of what would've been the stadium's left-field facade - was too significant to tear down.
Yet this year, Con Edison's plans for a new facility on Third Avenue between First and Third called for tearing down the very same wall.
Somehow, a wall that was seen as too historically valuable to destroy in 1926 has become, 76 years later, less historically valuable.
"Was there even a ballpark there?" argued Vibeke Koszeghy, Con Ed's lead architect. "No one has said definitively."
Clearly, Koszeghy hasn't spoken to baseball historian Tom Gilbert. The author of more than a dozen baseball books, Gilbert is saying - definitively - that there used to be a ballpark there, built in 1898 to house the Dodgers after a brief stint in Brownsville.
Hall of Famer Zach Wheat broke into the majors at Washington Park. The team, sometimes called the Superbas, won two National League pennants there. And the stadium was still being used in 1912, when a skinny kid named Dutch Stengel played his first game.
"Look, there's nothing left of Ebbets Field at all, so the wall needs to be preserved," Gilbert said. "Clearly, Con Ed thought it was important to save it in 1926. What's changed?"
Almost everything. Where home plate used to be, Con Ed operates a waste dump. Where the Dodgers' clubhouse sat, Con Ed now has storage rooms. Where Wheat and Stengel roamed, Con Ed parks trucks.
Con Ed says it will remove a small portion of the wall and install it in nearby J.J. Byrne Park - but a Parks Department spokeswoman said no one knew about that supposed plan.
Con Ed begins construction next month. The old wall will still be standing when Gilbert leads a tour for the Brooklyn Historical Society on Sept. 22. But soon after that, old photos will have to do.
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