Monday, February 13, 2017

The Brooklyn Bushwicks and Dexter Park

From the desk of: BROOKLYN BASEBALL HISTORY





...and the baseball club from Brooklyn wins the Caribbean championship!

Perhaps not this year, but it happened, folks.  And not just once, but multiple times.


Brief History: Serie del Caribe

The inspiration for first creating a tournament whereby the best Caribbean winter league baseball clubs would vie for a championship is credited to Venezuelan businessman Jesus Corao.

In 1946, in Caracas, the first Inter-American Series was held between teams representing Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, and representing the United States ... the Brooklyn Bushwicks.  Five Caribbean series were held in Caracas between 1946 and 1950, with Brooklyn winning the first four and Venezuela winning the last.

The success of the series did not go unnoticed.  In 1946 two Venezuelan entrepreneurs pitched the idea of a Caribbean series to what became the original members of the Confederation of Caribbean Baseball (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Venezuela).  In August 1949, in Havana, they signed an agreement creating a tournament whereby each nation's respective champion would vie for the Serie del Caribe title.

The rest, as they say, is Caribbean beisbol history ...

  • Cuba won the inaugural Serie del Caribe of 1949-50, then captured a second in 1952.  Between 1956 through 1960, Cuba reeled off another five straight Caribbean titles.  However, as part of his revolution Fidel Castro disbanded the county's professional baseball circuits.  
  • At the same time, Panama's professional league ceased operations as well.  As a result, the Serie del Caribe was suspended between the years 1961 through 1969.
  • The four team Caribbean tournament resumed when the Dominican Republic joined the confederation in 1970 (with returning Venezuela and Puerto Rico), and when Mexico joined in 1971. 
  • The 2016-17 winter season marked Cuba's fourth straight reappearance in the Serie del Caribe. In 2014, Cuba participated in their first Serie del Caribe since 1960, and one short year later captured their first title in 55 years, and the country's eighth overall.  For now, they continue participating on an invitation basis extended by the four member confederation.
  • Most recently, the Criollos de Caguas baseball club representing Puerto Rico defeated Mexico's Aguilas de Mexicali, capturing the Serie del Caribe 2017 title, and thus becoming the 59th champion in the tournament's history.

The Brooklyn Bushwicks

They were an independent semi-pro club and easily one of the game's more unheralded New York City enterprises to ever take the baseball field.

The Bushwicks were owned by a gentleman named Max Rosner, whom immigrated to the United States in 1892 from Hungary.  A businessman in the cigar trade, he was soon sponsoring and even playing shortstop for a local team named the Paramounts in the neighborhood of Williamsburg.

A few years after the Paramounts disbanded, in 1913 Rosner purchased the nearby Ridgewood Nine semi-pro club, and in 1914 renamed them the Bushwicks.  The former Ridgewoods had previously played their home games since 1902 at Wallace's Grounds located at Halsey and Irvin streets in Bushwick.  Rosner's team remained there until a fire in 1917 destroyed the grandstands.

In 1918, the Brooklyn Bushwicks moved into Dexter Park where they played out the remainder of their existence.  At its height, the park grew to hold upwards of 15,000 fans for their traditional Sunday double-headers.

And for good reason - the team was good.

Former President of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Jack Lang said, "In any given game, the Bushwicks had up to five men in the line-up who had some major league experience."

Whether playing for the Bushwicks or in exhibitions against them, Whitey Ford, Dazzy Vance, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Dizzy Dean, Carl Hubbell, Casey Stengel, Jackie Robinson, Phil Rizzuto, Joe Medwick, and Hank Greenberg, were just a few (future or former) major league notables whom participated in games at Dexter Park.

The Brooklyn Bushwicks always maintained multicultural diverse rosters, and likewise hosted the finest Negro Leagues competition of the day, featuring their fellow Dexter Park tenant Brooklyn Royal Giants, the Adrian Page Fence Giants, Cleveland Buckeyes, Cuban Giants, Philadelphia Giants, Roy Campanella and the Baltimore Elite Giants, Josh Gibson and the Homestead Grays, and other stars Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, et al.

Jackie Robinson's breaking of baseball's color barrier and the resulting demise of the various Negro Leagues are believed to have made it increasingly harder for Max Rosner to field quality talent and lure representative competition.  The advent of television further affected Rosner's ability to draw fans to the park.

Shortly after their participation in the Inter-America Caribbean series, the team ceased operations upon completion of their 1951 season.

Dexter Park, 1930s

The area of Dexter Park had previously existed as a racetrack, then a recreational park.  The ballpark itself which dated back to the 19th century, was located just off Jamaica Avenue on the Woodhaven side of the Brooklyn/Queens border.

Dexter Park was also the nation's first ball field to be fitted with lights, hosting the first night game in 1930, a full six seasons before the Brooklyn Dodgers played the major's first night game at Ebbets Field.



One particular optician's advertisement on the outfield wall read, "Don't kill the Umpire - Maybe it's your eyes?"  An incline also existed in right field due to a horse having been buried there.

Only in Brooklyn...



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