Origins of the Brooklyn Dodgers

The team currently known as the Dodgers was formed in 1883 by real estate magnate and baseball enthusiast Charles Byrne, who convinced his brother-in-law Joseph Doyle and casino operator Ferdinand Abell to start the team with him. Byrne arranged to build a grandstand on a lot bounded by Third Street, Fourth Avenue, Fifth Street, and Fifth Avenue, and named it Washington Park in honor of first president George Washington.

Nicknamed by reporters the ”Grays” for their uniforms, the team played in the minor level Inter-State Association of Professional Baseball Clubs that first season. Doyle became the first team manager, and they drew 6,431 fans to their first home game on May 12, 1883 against the Trenton, New Jersey team. The Grays won the league title after the Camden Merritt club in New Jersey disbanded on July 20 and Brooklyn picked up some of its better players. The Grays were invited to join the two-year-old professional circuit, the American Association (founded 1882) to compete with the eight-year-old NL for the 1884 season.

After winning the American Association league championship in 1889, the Brooklyn club (very occasionally now nicknamed the Bridegrooms or Grooms, for six players having wed during the 1888 season) moved to the competing older National League (1876) and won the 1890 NL Championship, being the only Major League team to win consecutive championships in both professional ”base ball” leagues. They lost the 1889 championship tournament to the New York Giants and tied the 1890 championship with Louisville. Their success during this period was partly attributed to their having absorbed skilled players from the defunct AA New York Metropolitans and one-year Players League entry Brooklyn Ward’s Wonders. The middle years of the decade were disappointing, a slump the Spalding Guide rather primly ascribed to management tolerating drunkenness among the players. In 1899, most of the original old Baltimore Orioles NL stars from the legendary Maryland club which earlier won three consecutive championships in 1894–1895–1896, were moved to the Grays (Bridegrooms) by the ownership partner in both teams, Harry Von der Horst, along with famed Orioles manager Ned Hanlon who became the club’s new manager in New York / Brooklyn under majority owner Charles Ebbets, who had by now accumulated an 80% share of the club. The new combined team was dubbed the Brooklyn Superbas by the press (inspired by the popular circus act The Hanlons’ Superba) and would become the champions of the National League in 1899 and again in 1900.


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