MCU (formerly Keyspan Park), on Surf Avenue between West 16th and 19th Streets, opened in June of 2001 as the home field of the Brooklyn Cyclones, Brooklyn’s first professional baseball team since 1957. The Keyspan Corporation was one of the park’s major financiers, and the City contributed $39 million. Jack Gordon designed the 6,500 seat stadium to recreate the intimacy of Ebbets Field, home of the former Brooklyn Dodgers, and to evoke memories of old Coney Island. The beach is visible over the right field fence.
Professional baseball existed in Brooklyn as early as 1849. Because of the sprawling system of trolley tracks that forced Brooklynites to dodge the trolley cars as they crossed the street, the Brooklyn team came to be known as the ‘Trolley Dodgers’ -- later shortened to the Dodgers. During their 68 years, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ exploits became the stuff of baseball legend. From the two baserunners sliding into either side of the same base simultaneously to the Brooklyn priest who exhorted his parish to pray for the slumping Gil Hodges (1924-1972), a much-loved first baseman, the Dodgers and their fans provided more anecdotes per season than any other club. Not that the Dodgers didn’t play good baseball; except for a period in the 30’s, the Dodgers rewarded their adoring fans with winning seasons and many National League pennants.
The Dodgers also provided baseball with one of its most significant moments. Until 1947, there had been no non-white players in the major leagues. In April of that year, the Dodgers overcame that racial barrier by signing Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), the first African American to play big league baseball. He went on to become one of the great third basemen of all time.
1955 was perhaps the happiest year in Brooklyn Dodger history. It was the first year that the Dodgers won the World Series. Adding to the sweetness of victory was the fact that their opponents were the New York Yankees, the crosstown rivals who had defeated them in the Series several times in previous years. But the happiness was short lived. At the end of the 1957 season, Walter O’Malley (1903-1979), the team’s owner, stunned the baseball world by announcing that the Brooklyn Dodgers were moving to Los Angeles. Brooklyn went into mourning.
When the possibility arose of returning a professional baseball team to Brooklyn for the first time since 1957, there was great excitement in the borough. On June 25, 2001, the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Class A minor league affiliate of the New York Mets, played the first game at Keyspan Stadium. They were named for the Cyclone, the fabled roller coaster at Coney Island. In their first season, they compiled a record of 51 wins and 23 losses, and won the New York-Penn League Championship. After 44 years, Brooklyn fans have a team to root for again.