Sunday, February 12, 2017

How to Be a Devils Fan In Brooklyn -- 2017 Edition

The New York Islanders don't play at the Nassau Coliseum anymore. For New Jersey Devils fans, this is good news: Not that the building long past the days when it could be called "Fort Neverlose" was a tough place to play the last few years, or that Islander fans were particularly inhospitable, the way they are to fans of the New York Rangers.

No, the problem was that getting there, and back, was not half the fun. Or any of it. Trying to get from New Jersey, across New York City, to Hempstead/Uniondale in the heart of Long Island was a pain in the ass.

The Islanders now play in the Barclays Center. Though how long that will be is now in question. Reports are that the building's owner, the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation, may terminate the team's lease, effective at the end of next season, with a decision possibly coming as early as January 2018.

If that happens, the Isles are well nigh screwed. Their choices, none of them particularly palatable, are:

* Negotiate a new lease, and stay at the Barclays, which has been shown to not be a good arena for hockey.

* Negotiate a temporary lease, and then build a new arena, something they weren't able to do in their last years on The Island. Building one next to the Mets' Citi Field, perhaps on the site of Shea Stadium, is one possibility being bandied about.

* Go back to the Nassau Coliseum, which is currently being renovated, but would only have about 13,000 seats, making it the smallest in the NHL -- and the Barclays, at 15,794, is already the 2nd-smallest, only about 500 more than Winnipeg's.

* Or move out of the New York Tri-State Area entirely. Quebec City, a former NHL city, has a new arena. Hartford is talking about one. The Isles could become the new Quebec Nordiques, or the new Hartford Whalers. Kansas City, Seattle and Portland have all been talking about bring NHL teams to their arenas.

At any rate, an Islanders game in Brooklyn is be a very different experience from what it was on Long Island, as you may find out if you go in the Devils' 1st visit of this season, which, oddly, wasn't scheduled to be held until this coming Sunday. It's a 6:00 PM start, not a 1:00 matinee or a traditional 7:00 PM start.

Before You Go. In New York and North Jersey, anything is possible as far as the weather goes, but since you'll be mainly indoors, and you'll probably be taking the Subway to the Barclays Center, it won't be nearly as much of an issue as it would be going to Yankee Stadium, Citi Field or MetLife Stadium. The weather is being predicted as in the low 50s for Sunday afternoon, and the high 30s for the evening. A regular winter jacket should be fine. Or maybe a light jacket over a team jersey.

It's the Eastern Time Zone, so you don't have to worry about fiddling with your timepieces.

Tickets. The Islanders are averaging 12,829 fans per home game this season. Only the Carolina Hurricanes are doing worse. The Isles are averaging 81.1 percent of capacity, and only the Isles and the Arizona Coyotes are doing worse.

In fact, of the 10 arenas currently home to both an NBA team and an NHL team, Brooklyn is easily doing the worst: The United Center in Chicago, 43,284 combined; the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, 39,824; the American Airlines Center in Dallas, 37,857; Madison Square Garden, 37,837; the Staples Center in Los Angeles (averaged out between the Lakers and Clippers), 37,238; the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, 36,926; the TD Garden in Boston, 36,081; the Verizon Center in Washington, 34,581; the Pepsi Center in Denver, 28,714; and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, 28,198.

Ordering tickets online is almost certainly going to be better than just walking up to the ticket window, plunking down some cash or your card, and saying, "One, please." But you could probably do that with no trouble.

In the lower level, the 2-digit sections, and in the 100 sections above them, seats between the goals are $152. Behind the goal, Sections 13 to 19, they're $130; 111 to 121, $125. In the upper level, the 200 sections, they're $62 between the goals, $46 in the corners, and $58 behind the goal.

Getting There. Sad to say, if you're a Devils fan going to Brooklyn to see them play the Islanders, or an Islander fan going to Newark to see them play the Devils, and you're not taking a car, you may still have to go through Penn Station and thus under Madison Square Garden, home of the Rangers, who (both sets of fans agree) suck!

Once In the City. Kings County was named for King Charles, but the Dutch name Breuckelen stuck, and it became the City, and after 1898 the Borough, of Brooklyn.

Going In. The address of the Barclays Center, perhaps the weirdest-looking building in the entire city, and named for a London-based banking and financial services company, is 620 Atlantic Avenue, at the southern edge of Downtown Brooklyn, intersecting with Flatbush Avenue. It's about 5 miles southeast of Midtown Manhattan, across the street from the LIRR's Atlantic Terminal, and several Subway lines meet there: The 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, Q and R lines.
The best way to get there from Penn Station is to take the 2 or 3; from Port Authority, take the tunnel connecting the 8th and 7th Avenue lines and take the 2, 3, N or Q; from Grand Central, take the 4 or 5.
Very weird-looking.

Since the main Subway exit is at the northwest corner of the arena, that's most likely where you'll be walking in. The arena has been home of the Nets since it opened in 2012 (delayed a few days due to Hurricane Sandy), several concerts have been held there, and the Islanders just moved in, making it 1 of 10 arenas to currently host both an NBA team and an NHL team.

But there are already complaints that its seating capacity is too low (15,795 for hockey, as opposed to 17,732 for basketball), that the seats aren't properly aligned for hockey (behind-the-basket seats had to be removed at one end), and that the scoreboard, while on-center for basketball, is off-center for hockey. I suppose it wouldn't be an Islander game if the building wasn't whacked-out in some way.
Groundsharing can be fun. In this case, it isn't.

The rink is aligned east-to-west. The Isles attack twice toward the east end.

Food. New York is one of the world's great food cities, and the Barclays reflects this far better than does "The World's Most Famous Arena" across town. Nets part-owner Jay-Z turned the old 40/40 Club nightclub into an upscale dinner & a show chain, and put an outlet in the Barclays. If you can't afford that, there are other options.

The Ticketmaster Main Concourse has Brooklyn Burger (behind Section 3), Calexico (a Brooklyn-based Mexican chain, Section 3), Avenue K Deli (Jewish, Section 6), Fatty Cue BBQ (Section 7), Brooklyn Bangers & Dogs (hot dogs and sausages, Section 8),  Paisano's Meat Market (Italian sandwiches, Section 10), Bed Stuy Grill (Section 17), Buffalo Boss (wings and fries, Section 22), Nathan's (the famous Coney Island-based hot dog chain with the wonderful crinkle-cut fries, Section 24), Habana Outpost (Cuban sandwiches, Section 25), Junior's, Blue Marble & More (another New York legend, Section 26), Fresco's by Scotto (Italian, Section 29), and Brooklyn Burger (Section 29).

The Metro PCS Upper Pavilion has L&B Spumoni Gardens (whose base restaurant is in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn, here they serve pizza and ice cream -- not mixed together, Section 206/207 and 225/226), Nathan's (Section 206/207), Habana Outpost (Section 209/210), Brooklyn Burger (Section 209/210), Prospect Heights Grill (Section 222/223), Fatty 'Cue (Section 222/223), and Brooklyn Bangers & Dogs (Section 225/226).

Team History Displays. The Islanders' history is summed up in 4 moments: The 1975 Playoff upset over the Rangers; the 4 and oh-so-close to 5 straight Stanley Cups of 1980 to 1984, including 3 Playoff wins over the Rangers; the 1987 "Easter Epic" Game 7 win over the Washington Capitals; and the run to the 1993 Conference Finals. But since the dawn of the Clinton Administration, they've won nothing.

The Islanders' 4 Stanley Cup banners now hang on the south side of the arena, alongside the retired number banners of the Nets. Also hanging are single banners for division and conference titles, as opposed to the banners for all of those that hung in the Coliseum: The Conference titles of 1980, '81, '82, '83 and '84; and the Division titles of 1978, '79, '81, '82, '84 and '88. (That's regular-season Division titles, not the "Patrick Division Playoff Champions" that were also available, and which they won in 1978, '79, '80, '81, '82, '83, '84 and '93.)
On the north side of the arena, alongside the Nets' championship banners, the Isles feature their retired number banners. All of them are from their Stanley Cup wins: 5, defenseman and Captain Denis Potvin (who, it should be pointed out, did not suck); 9, left wing Clark Gillies; 19, center Bryan Trottier; 22, right wing Mike Bossy; 23, right wing Bob Nystrom; and 31, goaltender Billy Smith. Gillies, Trottier and Bossy formed "the Trio Grande Line."
The Isles also honor coach Al Arbour and general manager Bill Torrey with banners. Torrey's banner has a bowtie, which he always wore, and the words "The Architect." Arbour, a good defenseman who usually wore Number 3 in his playing days, had been represented by a banner with the number 739 on it, for his coaching wins.

In 2007, when it was noticed that he had coached 1,499 games in the NHL, coach Ted Nolan asked the Isles and the League to allow him to step aside for 1 game, so that Arbour could be a head man for a 1,500th time. It was set up, and the Isles won. A new banner went up with Arbour's name and the number 1500. It made him the oldest man to coach in the NHL, and only Scotty Bowman has coached, or won, more games.
All of these men, except Nystrom, scorer of the goal that clinched the 1st Cup in 1980, are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. So is Pat LaFontaine, whose number has not been retired, but he has been elected to the Islanders' Hall of Fame. So have Bob Bourne, Ken Morrow, Patrick Flatley and Kenny Jonsson. Tomas Jonsson, a defenseman from the Cup teams, and no relation to Kenny, has been elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame. Torrey, Arbour, Morrow and LaFontaine have been awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in America. All of these honorees are still alive, except for Arbour, who died in 2015.

Unfortunately, the plaques for the Islanders' Hall of Fame are next to the team's locker room, and are not accessible to the general public.

Morrow played for the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Potvin, Bossy, Trottier and Smith were named to The Hockey News' 100 Greatest Players in 1998. So were Sweeney Schriner and Nels Stewart of the old New York Americans. Potvin, Trottier, Smith, Bossy and LaFontaine were named to the NHL's 100th Anniversary 100 Greatest Players last month.

Stuff. There are lots of souvenir stands at the Barclays, and even though the Isles are decidedly the building's 2nd team, after the Nets, they should have whatever you might be interested in. (If anything: You are, after all, a Devils fan.) But there's only a Nets Shop on the Flatbush side of the arena -- as yet, no Islanders Shop, like the Islanders Pro Shop on the east side of the Coliseum. Again, this "groundsharing" agreement has the Islanders as something they haven't been since the Nets moved out of the Coliseum in 1977, something the Jets always were at the Polo Grounds, Shea Stadium and Giants Stadium: The undisputable junior partner.

In 2012, to commemorate the team's 40th Anniversary, Greg Prato wrote Dynasty: The Oral History of the New York Islanders, 1972-1984. In 2005, Peter Botte of the Daily News and Alan Hahn of MSG Network picked up the story from the end of the dynasty with Fish Sticks: The Fall and Rise of the New York Islanders.

To celebrate their 15th Anniversary in 1987, the team released Pride of the Island: The New York Islanders Story, which is available on Amazon.com, but only in VHS form. So is Never Say Die: The Story of the New York Islanders, released in 1996.

In 2009, the NHL released the DVD New York Islanders: 10 Greatest Games, but Amazon says it is currently not available. It includes all 4 Cup clinchers, the 1982 Game 5 comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the overtime Playoff clincher against the Rangers in 1984, the 4-overtime Game 7 "Easter Epic" against the Washington Capitals in 1987, the 1993 overtime winner against the Penguins in 1993, a 2002 Playoff win over the Toronto Maple Leafs that featured a penalty shot by Shawn Bates, and Arbour's 1,500th game in 2007 (also against the Penguins). It doesn't, however, include the Game 7 overtime winner against the Capitals by Pierre Turgeon (and his subsequent clobbering by Dale Hunter), the Islanders' most consequential win of the last 30 years.

During the Game. A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the Islanders' fans 22nd -- 1 place below the Devils, and well below the Rangers, dead last in the Tri-State Area: "Maybe improved team, move to Brooklyn finally gets people interested in Isles." This prediction proved to be, at the very least, premature.

Islander fans hate the Rangers. They also don't like the Devils -- but their jealousy of our 3 Stanley Cups since 1995 leads them to say we are jealous of them for their 4 Cups, now long ago. Riiiight.

At any rate, they don't especially hate us any more than they hate Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington or Boston. They certainly don't hate us as much as they hate the Rangers. A Ranger fan, wearing a Ranger jersey, took his life into his hands in and around the Nassau Coliseum. That hasn't changed at the Barclays Center. A Devils fan, wearing Scarlet & Black, should be fine, as long as he doesn't provoke Islander fans.

The number of concession stands and bathrooms increased greatly in the move from the Coliseum to the Barclays. Convenience was key, and no longer will a game with only 12,000 fans feel like rush hour on the Subway.

The Sunday game against the Devils will be Jewish Heritage Night. Certainly appropriate, given the ethnic makeups of Brooklyn, Long Island and North Jersey. The Islanders will feature traditional music, and Islanders yarmulkes will be included for group ticket buyers of 10 or more.

The Islanders used to have mascots. Nyisles (pronounced like Frasier's brother) was "a seafaring islander." He was replaced by Sparky the Dragon, who had already been the mascot for the other team playing at the Coliseum -- no, not the Nets (though the New Jersey version had tried Duncan the Dragon), the Arena Football League's New York Dragons. But the character was retired, and won't make the trip down the LIRR to Brooklyn.
Sparky

Amanda Kaletsky is the regular National Anthem singer for the Islanders. Their goal song is "Crowd Chant" by Joe Satriani. The fans have a deep attachment to their cheerleaders/cleanup crew, the Ice Girls.

At least once every period, the whistle to which we have all become accustomed at the Prudential Center, and before that at the Meadowlands, will ring out in the arena where it originated, followed by the chant: "RANGERS SUCK!" (Which... they do.) Islander fans do not, however, add what we add, because they simply don't hate the Flyers as much as we do.

Inevitably, at some people, the Barclays sound system will play "The Chicken Dance," and at the point where most people would do the 4 claps, Islander fans shout, "The Rangers suck!" (Which, as I said, they do.)

After the Game. Brooklyn's reputation as a high-crime place is not nearly as true as it was up until the mid-1990s. Certain parts of Brooklyn still manage to defy this, but if you manage to avoid anybody who got drunk during the game, you'll probably be safe. Besides, it's only a short walk from the arena to the Subway or (if you came by LIRR) the Atlantic Terminal. Despite Brooklyn's image as a place for tough guys, white and black alike, Islander fans are mostly mouth. They're not going to fight you, with the possible exception of if you're wearing a Ranger jersey.

Unlike The Garden, there aren't many places around the Barclays Center where you can get a postgame meal, or just a pint. Jay-Z had The 40/40 Club, named for a legendary Atlantic City nightclub (which he also revived down there), built into the arena. But it's a little upscale for the average fan, especially one who's just spent a lot on tickets and arena food. Alchemy, at 56 5th Avenue at Bergen Street, is listed as serving "Comfort food in a pub style atmosphere," but that's about it. You may have to head into the Subway and look for something elsewhere.

If you're visiting New York during the European soccer season, as we are now in, there are many places where you can watch your favorite team. The best "football pub" in The City, and, indeed, in the country, is The Football Factory, downstairs at Legends NYC, at 6 West 33rd Street, across from the Empire State Building, and 2 blocks east from The Garden. B, D, F, N, Q or R train to 34th Street-Herald Square. The best one in Brooklyn is Woodwork, at 583 Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights. A or C train to Clinton-Washington Avenues.

Sidelights. This is where I discuss other sports-related sites in the metropolitan area in question, and then move on to tourist attractions that have no (or little) connection to sports. Since most people reading this will be from the Tri-State Area, I'll keep it short as possible. Indeed, since the focus is on the Brooklyn team, I'll focus on stuff in Brooklyn -- but also mention the former home of the Islanders.

I should note that the site of the Barclays Center was desired by Brooklyn Dodger owner Walter O'Malley as the site of what would have been America's 1st domed baseball stadium. Officially listed in plans as The Brooklyn Sports Center, it was nicknamed O'Malley's Pleasure Dome (the name taken from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem about Kublai Khan, "Xanadu").

By being across from the Atlantic Terminal and on top of a major Subway junction, it would have eliminated what was, along with the limited seating capacity, the biggest problem with Ebbets Field: Only 750 parking spaces. With so many Dodger fans having come back from World War II and gotten housing loans on the G.I. Bill, allowing them to move out to Queens and Long Island proper, instead of having to drive in to Flatbush, they could drive to their local LIRR station and take the train in, thus being able to celebrate their Dodgers in Brooklyn without having to "be in Brooklyn."

But Robert Moses, New York's construction czar, didn't want a stadium there -- probably because it wouldn't have been "his stadium," it would have been O'Malley's. He wanted one out in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, across from the site of the 1939-40 World's Fair he designed, to correlate with the 1964-65 World's Fair he was planning. O'Malley had a point: If the Dodgers were going to go to Queens, they wouldn't be the Brooklyn Dodgers anymore. Their identity would be gone. They might as well leave The City, they might as well leave the East Coast. And they did.

To make matters worse, Moses never offered his Flushing Meadow stadium to the Giants, who had better reasons to replace the Polo Grounds than the Dodgers had to replace Ebbets Field: Although it had the largest seating capacity in the National League at the time, it, and its neighborhood, were falling apart.

So while the move (some would say "theft") of the Dodgers was O'Malley's fault, first and foremost, Moses was, however indirectly, an accomplice. Some blame him more than O'Malley, which is stupid. He can be blamed 2nd, but not 1st.

* Site of Ebbets Field. It's hard for those of us under the age of 65, who have no memory of the Dodgers in Brooklyn or the Giants at the Polo Grounds, to realize that Shea Stadium, Dodger Stadium and Candlestick Park have all now lasted longer than Ebbets Field did (47 years) -- and that Dodger Stadium will soon surpass the final version of the Polo Grounds in age as well (53 years).

Ebbets Field gets romanticized by all those Dodger fans who made it big in media and entertainment, all of them now old or dead. The Giants don't get remembered as well because nobody wrote a book about them the way Roger Kahn wrote The Boys of Summer about the 1950s Dodgers, and because, while the Mets replaced the Giants as a representative of all of New York, there is no representative specifically of Brooklyn. (Had the Mets' permanent stadium been in Brooklyn instead of Queens, it might have been another story.)
Yes, that's a real color photograph of Ebbets Field. Not colorized.

Ebbets Field was flawed. Built in 1913, it had most of the flaws of the stadiums built in the ballpark building boom of 1909 to 1915, when 14 of the 16 teams then in existence built or moved into new stadiums of concrete and steel. (The St. Louis Cardinals waited until 1920 to move into the newer, larger ballpark in their town, and the Philadelphia Phillies waited until 1938, both remaining in wooden stadiums that opened in the 1890s.)

It only had 31,497 seats and 750 parking spaces, and it was a 6-block walk from the closest Subway stations -- now serviced by the B and Q to Prospect Park, and the 2, 3, 4 and 5 to Franklin Avenue. And if you've ever been to Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, with narrow iron seats and narrow rows, not exactly built with 21st Century tushes and legs in mind, you'll get an idea of what it was like to sit through 9 innings there.

But also had an intimacy that few ballparks had, even then. Most of the players lived not that far from the ballpark, instead of in Manhattan high-rises or on New Jersey or Long Island estates, as present-day Yankees and Mets tend to do these days. The furthest seats were close enough to see the players' facial expressions. The fans felt that they knew the players, and that the players knew them. And the characters, from noisy bleacherite Hilda Chester to the awful musicians that Dodger broadcaster Red Barber named "the Dodger Sym-Phony Band, with the emphasis on the 'Phony'!"

My grandmother was a Dodger fan from Queens. She told me that the Polo Grounds was a dump, but that, despite O'Malley not spending any money on upkeep -- aside from being naturally cheap, what did he need to do that for, since he was going to be out by the 1960s anyway? -- Ebbets Field was not falling apart, even toward the end. I asked her, point-blank: If the price for keeping the Dodgers in Brooklyn was building a modern ballpark, and sacrificing your beloved Ebbets Field, would you have paid that price? Without hesitation, she gave me an emphatic, "Yes." She would have liked Citi Field, the Mets' new ballpark, with its exterior designed to look like Ebbets Field, and its home-plate rotunda, designed to resemble the one at the Flatbush ballyard.

The Dodgers left after the 1957 season, and demolition began on February 23, 1960. Four years later, on April 11, 1964, the same demolition company used the same wrecking ball, still painted to look like a baseball, to begin tearing down the Polo Grounds.

In 1962, Ebbets Field Apartments opened on the site. Low-income housing, and long noted for drug sales, it's liveable again, although I would suggest visiting in daylight. 1720 Bedford Avenue, bordered by Bedford, Sullivan Place, McKeever Place and Montgomery Street. (The McKeever brothers, Ed and Steve, along with Charles Ebbets, owned the team in the 1910s and '20s.) The home-plate entrance was at McKeever and Sullivan. Across McKeever is an intermediate school named for Ebbets Field, formerly named for Jackie Robinson. A playground named for Jackie is just to the north of the school, behind where the left-field stands used to be. (At roughly the same spot in comparison to the Polo Grounds Towers is a playground named Willie Mays Field).

* MCU Park and Coney Island. Named for the iconic Brooklyn-based company formerly known as KeySpan, and before that as Brooklyn Union Gas, this is the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, established in 2001 as the Class A farm team of the Mets, and as the 1st professional sports team, at any level, in Brooklyn since the Dodgers left. Ironically, along each baseline there is a zigzag roof, similar to the ones over the bleachers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

The park was built on the site of Steeplechase Park, one of the amusement parks that made Coney Island America's 1st summer resort. It's not actually an island, but a peninsula. The original Dutch settlers named it "Conyne Eylandt" -- Rabbit Island. The rabbits, like Steeplechase and the old Dreamland and Luna Park to the east, are long gone. Only Astroland remains, and even that has been significantly redeveloped in the last few years.

The Cyclones have a rivalry with the Staten Island Yankees, with the Yankees-Mets dynamic coming into play. They beat the "Baby Bombers" in the Playoffs in 2007, but lost to them in 2006 and 2011. They have won their Division of the New York-Penn League 5 times, most recently in 2010. In their 1st season, 2001, they had won Game 1 of their championship series with the Pennsylvania-based Williamsport Crosscutters. The next day was September 11. The rest of the series was canceled, and the teams were declared Co-Champions. This is the Cyclones' only Pennant thus far.
MCU Park, with the Parachute Jump over right field,
and the water beyond.

When I first saw their mascot, I thought it was an eagle, named for the legendary newspaper, the Brooklyn Eagle, which, after the Dodgers lost the 1941 World Series to the Yankees, blared in a front-page headline what became the Dodgers' motto until they finally beat the Yanks in 1955 (bittersweetly, mere months after the paper folded): "WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR." But it's actually a seagull, Sandy the Seagull, named for the beach. (Not for Brooklyn native Sandy Koufax.) Despite the effects of the 2012 hurricane on the Tri-State Area as a whole, and Coney Island in particular, the mascot's name is still Sandy.

Over the right-field wall is the now-retired (due to safety) Parachute Jump, once a legendary Coney Island ride, which had been designed for the 1939 World's Fair and then moved to the boardwalk. Adjacent to that is a skating rink named for Abe Stark, who rode an advertising sign at Ebbets Field ("HIT SIGN WIN SUIT -- ABE STARK -- Brooklyn's Leading Clothier") to the Presidency of the City Council (where he fought in vain to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn) and later to the Presidency of the Borough.

Outside the park is a statue of Dodger legends Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, symbolizing the friendship of the 1st nonwhite player in modern Major League Baseball, and the Southern-born team captain who chose to defy prejudice and assert his friendship with the man. Although Jackie, buried in Brooklyn's Cypress Hills Cemetery, has many honors throughout The City, this was his 1st statue in the Five Boroughs.

1904 Surf Avenue. D, F, N or Q train to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue. The team is named for the iconic Coney Island roller coaster, at 1000 Surf, visible over the left-field wall. Also nearby, at 1300 Surf, is the original Nathan's hot dog stand, which celebrates its 100th Anniversary in 2016.

* Site of Washington Park. The team now known as the Dodgers -- previously known as the Grays; the Bridegrooms, because 3 of their 1880s players got married in a single off-season; the Superbas, after a circus troupe, Hanlon's Superbas, due to their manager being name Ned Hanlon; and the Robins, in honor of manager Wilbert Robinson -- played in 2 different places named for George Washington. (Ironically, Los Angeles also had a baseball facility named Washington Park.)

The 1st Washington Park was bounded by 3rd & 5th Streets, and 4th & 5th Avenues, in the Gowanus neighborhood. The property contained an old building then called the Gowanus House, which stands today, albeit largely reconstructed. It was Washington's command post during the Battle of Long Island. The proto-Dodgers began here in 1883, and won the American Association Pennant in 1889 and the National League Pennant in 1890.

The 2nd, which the club began using in 1898, opened at 1st & 3rd Streets, and 3rd & 4th Avenues, on the opposite corner of 4th Avenue from its predecessor. There they remained until 1912, winning Pennants in 1899 and 1900 -- Brooklyn's last "world championship" in baseball until 1955. Although its 18,800-seat capacity was big for the 1890s, the ballpark building boom that began in 1909 made it completely inadequate, and Charlie Ebbets began buying up lots in Flatbush where he built the stadium that would bear his name.

The Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League used it in the 1914 and 1915 seasons, but the league folded, and the park was soon demolished. But there is a remnant, perhaps the only remaining remnant of a 19th Century baseball stadium: Part of the wall still stands on the eastern side of 3rd Avenue, in what's now a Con Edison yard. R train to either Union Street or 9th Street.

* Site of Union Grounds. Built in 1862 as the 1st enclosed baseball ground, and named for the country in that time of Civil War, this was the home of several amateur teams that helped to popularize the game, who were actually "clubs," just as the early soccer teams in Britain still are, and, unlike today's baseball teams, which only call themselves "ballclubs," still have "Football Club" as part of their official names: The Atlantic, the Excelsior, and the Eckford among them. In the winter, it was flooded, and turned into an ice rink.

Harrison Avenue, Rutledge Street, Lynch Street and Marcy Avenue, in the Williamsburg section. Heyward Street now runs through the site, and the Juan Morel Campos Secondary School and the Marcy Avenue Armory are on the site. G train to Broadway.

The 1st baseball stadium, the Elysian Field in Hoboken, New Jersey, was designed for cricket rather than for baseball, and was never enclosed. It did not last long, being demolished in 1883.

* Site of Capitoline Grounds. Named for a famed hill in Rome, this 5,000-seat wooden stadium opened in 1864, meant to rival and surpass the Union Grounds. The Atlantics made it their home, and it was here, on June 14, 1870, that, in the first "greatest baseball game ever played," they ended the 89-game (or 130-game, depending on whose records you believe) unbeaten streak of the 1st professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

This ballpark, too, became a skating rink in the winter. But its existence was even shorter than its rival's, as it was demolished in 1880. Halsey Street, Marcy Street, Putnam Avenue and Nostrand Avenue, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. A or C train to Nostrand Avenue. While this neighborhood, notorious for crime not that long ago, should be safe during the day, definitely do not visit at night.

* Brooklyn Paramount. Opened in 1928, this 4,084-seat theater was a major jazz venue in the 1930s and 1940s. But it was the late 1950s that imprinted it on people's memories: Alan Freed, and later Clay Cole, hosted 10-day Christmas-season rock-and-roll festivals, featuring all the legends and semi-legends of the era. If you've ever seen the film La Bamba, about Ritchie Valens, one of these shows was depicted. (Although they probably had to use, ironically for Brooklyn, a Los Angeles theater as a stand-in for filming it.)

Like its contemporary, the Paramount Theater in Manhattan's Times Square, it still stands, but is no longer used as a theater. Rather, in 1962, it was converted into the gymnasium for Long Island University. Now named the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Athletic Center, the LIU Blackbirds played basketball on the stage once rocked by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly and Dion, until 2005, when they moved into a new gym.

The building is still used for sports, and the LIU Student Union is next-door. 1 University Plaza, at Flatbush & DeKalb Avenues, in the Fort Greene neighborhood, just east of downtown. B, Q or R train to DeKalb Avenue.

* Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Nets and expansion Islanders moved into the brand-new Coliseum in 1972, and while it took the Isles a while to find their bearings, the Nets won right away, including the 1974 and 1976 ABA titles with Dr. J, Bill Melk and Super John.
In 1976, they were invited to join the NBA. But in order to get in, they had to pay the NBA an expansion fee, and pay the Knicks a territorial indemnification fee. As a result, they had to sell Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nets went from being the best team in a 6-team league to being the worst team in a 22-team league. They had to get out, and they did.

Meanwhile, the Isles were building the team that would win 4 straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983, and win a record 19 straight postseason series from 1980 to 1984. The Coliseum became known as "Fort Neverlose," and the Isles' battles with the Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins became legendary.
But after the 1987 Easter Epic, a 4-overtime Game 7 win over the Washington Capitals, the Isles got old in a hurry. Aside from a 1993 trip to the Conference Finals, they've been just another team at best, and pathetic (and poorly-dressed) at worst. A failed referendum to build a new arena in 2010 led to speculation that they would move to Kansas City, which has built a new arena, but new ownership cut a deal to move them into the Barclays Center, which they have now done.

Which is just as well, for many reasons. Getting there is not half the fun, and neither is getting back. It's a pain in the ass to get in and out of: First you have to get on the LIRR at Penn Station, then you have to change trains at Jamaica, then you have to take the Hempstead Branch to the Hempstead Terminal, then you gotta ride the N70, N71 or N72 bus down the Hempstead Turnpike, and then you gotta schlep across a desolate parking lot.

In addition, as Devils fans found out at the Meadowlands, having 1 level of concourse for 2 levels of seating means cramped confines, and long lines for food and bathrooms. It's a terrible design. Actually, the seating area isn't so bad: The 16,170 seats are comfortable, and sight lines are good. But by the time you get there, you're already in a nasty mood, and regardless of whether you're rooting for the Islanders or the visiting team, you're loaded for bear. No wonder the place, when it has any atmosphere, has a bad one.

Elvis Presley sang at the Nassau Coliseum on June 22, 23, and 24, 1973, and on June 19, 1975. The 1st concert on his Fall 1977 tour was supposed to be there, but it was not to be. It's also hosted many other renowned concerts, including major ones by Long Island native Billy Joel.

A plan is in progress to redevelop the Coliseum, to downsize its seating area, and make it home for a new minor-league hockey team, while the Nets and Islanders would return to play preseason games. 1255 Hempstead Turnpike at James Doolittle Blvd. The mailing address is Uniondale, but it's part of the Town of Hempstead.

To the west, across Earl Ovington Blvd., is the campus of Hofstra University, including Weeb Ewbank Hall, the former offices and practice facility of the New York Jets. Across Hempstead Turnpike from that is another part of the Hofstra campus, including James M. Shuart Stadium. Although Hofstra no longer plays football, they play other sports there, and the new version of the New York Cosmos, as the original version did for a time in the early 1970s, plays their home games there while they look for a stadium closer to The City.

Hofstra's theater, the Leo A. Guthart Cultural Center, hosted the 2nd Presidential Debate of 2008, between Senators Barack Obama of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona; and the 3rd Debate of 2012, between President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. 779 Hempstead Turnpike, at California Avenue, 2 blocks west of Shuart Stadium and 9 blocks west of the Coliseum.

* Other Sites. If you have more than 1 day (and more than a little money) to spend in and around New York, I do recommend the American Museum of Natural History (79th Street & Central Park West, C train to 81st Street), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (82nd Street & 5th Avenue, 4, 5 or 6 train to 86th Street and then walk 3 blocks west to 5th Avenue), and the observation deck of the Empire State Building (34th Street & 5th Avenue, 2 blocks from The Garden, B, D, F, N, Q or R train to 34th Street-Herald Square and walk 1 block east).

There have been 2 Presidents born in New York City. And the 1st would have slapped the 2nd. Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, a recreation of the townhouse where TR was born in 1858, is at 28 East 20th Street. N or R train to 23rd Street. Donald Trump was born at Jamaica Hospital, at 89-00 Van Wyck Expressway in Kew Gardens. E train to Jamaica-Van Wyck.

The Borough has its own world-class Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, at 200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Avenue. 2 or 3 train to Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum. It's at the top of Prospect Park, a 5-minute walk from the Brooklyn Public Library and Grand Army Plaza, with its impressive Civil War Monument. Prospect Park (designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed Central Park, Fairmount Park in Philadelphia and Boston's "Emerald Necklace") also has a famous carousel, the Prospect Park Zoo and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

From 1929 until 2010, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower -- unlike the Brooklyn neighborhood, and the historic Virginia city of the same name, it has an H on the end -- with its Art Deco stylings and its clock tower, was the tallest building in the Borough, at 512 feet. 1 Hanson Place at Flatbush Avenue, on the other side of the Atlantic Terminal from the Barclays Center.

It has now been surpassed by The Brooklyner, a 515-foot-high apartment tower at 111 Lawrence Street at Willoughby Street, downtown. A, C or F train to Jay Street-MetroTech. It's a short walk from the Brooklyn Paramount, Borough Hall and 215 Montague Street at Cadman Plaza, the former location of the Dodgers' team offices, where Branch Rickey interviewed Jackie Robinson in 1945, told him of his plan to reintegrate baseball, and got him to agree to a contract. A bank is on the site now.

I can't recommend the Statue of Liberty for a tourist's visit, as it's not cheap, it's time-consuming both to get there and to get through, and the view from the crown isn't what you might hope. And the new World Trade Center isn't open yet, and the 9/11 Memorial is expensive and has long lines.

Plenty of movies have been set in Brooklyn, including the 1950 The Jackie Robinson Story starring the man himself, and the more recent 42 starring Chadwick Boseman; Dog Day Afternoon, the Al Pacino film about a real-life Brooklyn bank heist gone wrong; The French Connection, also based on a true story; Saturday Night Fever, based on a real Brooklyn disco; Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time In America; some of Spike Lee's films, including Do the Right Thing; and the gang film The Warriors, which concludes on the Coney Island boardwalk. Can you dig it?

TV has also used Brooklyn, no show more famous for doing so than Jackie Gleason's groundbreaking
The Honeymooners. The address for the Kramdens and Nortons, 328 Chauncey Street, is real, off Howard Avenue, although it's in Bushwick, not Bensonhurst like the show claims. C train to Ralph Avenue, which may be where Gleason, who grew up at 358 Chauncey, got the name for the character. In contrast, Gary David Goldberg's 1990s show about growing up in 1950s Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge, really was set in Bensonhurst.

The Patty Duke Show of the 1960s and The Cosby Show of the 1980s were both set in Brooklyn Heights, although both were taped in Los Angeles, and the townhouse used as the exterior for the Huxtables' home is actually in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. New Utrecht High School was used as the exterior set for both James Buchanan H.S. in the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter (series star Gabe Kaplan was both a graduate of, and a teacher at, that school before hitting it big as a comic) and Millard Fillmore H.S. in the 1980s sitcom Head of the Class, both on ABC. 1601 80th Street. D train to 79th Street.

Currently, Williamsburg is the setting for 2 Broke Girls, Greenpoint for Girls, and the police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine in, as the title suggests, the 99th Precinct. New York cop shows usually use precincts that don't exist in real life: Barney Miller in the 1970s used the 12th, as does Castle now; Life On Mars used the 125th (the highest-numbered in real life is the 123rd), and the film Frequency (which, like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, featured Andre Braugher as a detectives' squad leader) used the 74th.

*

Getting out of the Nassau Coliseum was a good thing for the Islanders. And, physically/geologically, if not culturally, Brooklyn is still on Long Island. So the identity still works.

How long they stay in Brooklyn remains to be seen. But it could be a fun experience.

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