Going, Going, Gone
For fans of defunct major league baseball teams, the future ain’t what it used to be.
When Major League Baseball’s All-Stars take the field on July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, a smattering of far-flung fans will no doubt be reminiscing about old-timers like Mel Ott and Eddie Joost instead of focusing on current-day favorites like Albert Pujols and Derek Jeter. Believe it or not, a small but devoted group of baseball enthusiasts maintain allegiance to bygone teams like the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Braves and Washington Senators. They organize fan clubs, celebrate great moments in franchise history, and purchase memorabilia on eBay, all in the name of honoring the past of America’s pastime.
Ron Gabriel, who grew up two miles from Ebbets Field at a time when one could hear Red Barber’s radio play-by-play “from every open window in Brooklyn,” is one of those fans. These days Gabriel lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, but Brooklyn is never far from his mind. On October 4, 1975, at exactly 3:44 p.m., he founded the Brooklyn Dodgers Fan Club, 20 years to the minute that the team celebrated its first and only World Series title.
Gabriel went on to host annual meetings at his home, where he served hot dogs and Schaefer beer (a longtime Dodgers sponsor). When the 50th anniversary of the team’s championship rolled around in 2005, he organized a commemorative dinner and passed out bumper stickers that proclaimed: We Loved the Brooklyn Dodgers—and we STILL DO!!
For Gabriel and countless fans of “Dem Bums” (an affectionate nickname), the world turned upside down when the organization moved to Los Angeles following the 1957 season. “I went into a state of shock, and I still can’t believe it,” he says. Diehards were devastated and many, like Gabriel, never transferred their allegiance to another team. “Once a Brooklyn fan, always a Brooklyn fan,” he pronounces.