Manager Wilbert Robinson, another former Oriole, popularly known as ”Uncle Robbie”, restored the Brooklyn team to respectability. His ”Brooklyn Robins” reached the 1916 and 1920 World Series, losing both, but contending perennially for several seasons. Charles Ebbets and Ed McKeever died within a week of each other in 1925, and Robbie was named president while still field manager. Upon assuming the title of president, however, Robinson’s ability to focus on the field declined, and the teams of the late 1920s were often fondly referred to as the ”Daffiness Boys” for their distracted, error-ridden style of play. Outfielder Babe Herman was the leader both in hitting and in zaniness. The signature Dodger play from this era occurred when three players – Dazzy Vance, Chick Fewster, and Herman – ended up at third base at the same time.
After his removal as club president, Robinson returned to managing, and the club’s performance rebounded somewhat.
When Robinson retired in 1931, he was replaced as manager by Max Carey. Although some suggested renaming the ”Robins” the ”Brooklyn Canaries”, after Carey, whose last name was originally ”Carnarius”, the name ”Brooklyn Dodgers” returned to stay following Robinson’s retirement. It was during this era that Willard Mullin, a noted sports cartoonist, fixed the Brooklyn team with the lovable nickname of ”Dem Bums”. After hearing his cab driver ask, ”So how did those bums do today?”, Mullin decided to sketch an exaggerated version of famed circus clown Emmett Kelly to represent the Dodgers in his much-praised cartoons in the New York World-Telegram. Both image and nickname caught on, so much so that many a Dodger yearbook cover, from 1951 through 1957, featured a Willard Mullin illustration of the Brooklyn Bum.
Perhaps the highlight of the Daffiness Boys era came after Wilbert Robinson left the dugout. In 1934, Giants player/manager Bill Terry was asked about the Dodgers’ chances in the coming pennant race and cracked infamously, ”Is Brooklyn still in the league?” Managed then by Casey Stengel, who played for the Dodgers in the 1910s and went on to greatness managing the New York Yankees, the 1934 Dodgers were determined to make their presence felt. As it happened, the season entered its final games with the Giants tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the pennant, with the Giants’ remaining games against the Dodgers. Stengel led his Bums to the Polo Grounds for the showdown, and they beat the Giants twice to knock them out of the pennant race. The ”Gashouse Gang” Cardinals nailed the pennant by beating the Cincinnati Reds those same two days.
One key development during this era was the 1938 appointment of Leland ”Larry” MacPhail as Dodgers’ general manager. MacPhail, who brought night games to Major League Baseball as general manager of the Reds, also started night baseball in Brooklyn and ordered the successful refurbishing of Ebbets Field. He also brought Reds voice Red Barber to Brooklyn as the Dodgers’ lead announcer in 1939, just after MacPhail broke the New York baseball executives’ agreement to ban live baseball broadcasts, enacted because of the fear of the effect of radio calls on the home teams’ attendance.
MacPhail remained with the Dodgers until 1942, when he returned to the Armed Forces for World War II. He later became one of the Yankees’ co-owners, bidding unsuccessfully for Barber to join him in the Bronx as announcer.
The first major-league baseball game to be televised was Brooklyn’s 6–1 victory over Cincinnati at Ebbets Field on August 26, 1939. Batting helmets were introduced to Major League Baseball by the Dodgers in 1941.
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