On a trip to Brooklyn, the Cardinals took a detour to Jersey City and played as if they were lost.
Fifty years ago, on May 16, 1956, the Cardinals faced the Dodgers in a regular-season game at Roosevelt Stadium in the Droyer’s Point section of Jersey City near Newark Bay.
Played on a Wednesday night with a raw wind howling and temperatures in the 40s, the game attracted 22,071 spectators to a stadium that officially seated 24,000.
A couple of gaffes by the Cardinals enabled the Dodgers to score five unearned runs and win, 5-3.
The Cardinals found themselves in Jersey City because of a business plan designed by Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley.
After the Dodgers won the World Series title in 1955, O’Malley stepped up efforts to get support for a new ballpark to replace Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. O’Malley said he would get private funding to build a ballpark but he wanted local government to provide land at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues in Brooklyn.
In December 1955, the Dodgers signed a three-year deal to play some home games in Jersey City. Located across the Hudson River from Manhattan, Jersey City appealed to O’Malley for these reasons:
_ Playing games in New Jersey would show Brooklyn officials that O’Malley wasn’t bluffing about relocating the franchise if the Dodgers didn’t get the site he wanted for a new ballpark.
_ Roosevelt Stadium had parking for 7,000 cars (compared with parking for 700 cars at Ebbets Field). Increasingly, Dodgers fans in the suburbs preferred driving to a game. O’Malley would get the parking revenue and gate receipts from the games at Jersey City.
_ If a ballpark was under construction in Brooklyn, Jersey City would offer, in O’Malley’s view, a better alternative than decaying Ebbets Field as a place for the Dodgers to play until the new home was ready.
“I have previously stated it is our intention to occupy Ebbets Field only two more years; that is, 1956 and 1957,” O’Malley said to the Associated Press. “It is unlikely that the progress of constructing a new stadium would be sufficiently rapid for it to be available in 1958, in which event our arrangement with Jersey City would guarantee the continuance of the franchise at the nearest available point to Brooklyn.”
On the road
Roosevelt Stadium was opened in 1937 on a site formerly used as an airport. The Dodgers arranged to play seven home games _ one against each of the other seven National League teams _ there in 1956 and pay Jersey City an annual rent of $10,000.
The first game was played April 19, 1956. The Dodgers beat the Phillies, 5-4, before 12,214.
The second game was against the Cardinals.
On May 12, 1956, the Cardinals began a two-week road trip that would take them to Chicago, Brooklyn, Jersey City, Philadelphia, New York City and Pittsburgh to play the Cubs, Dodgers, Phillies, Giants and Pirates.
In the first of a two-game set with the Dodgers, the Cardinals played at Ebbets Field on May 15, 1956, and were beaten, 7-5, before 15,788.
They traveled by bus from Brooklyn to Jersey City the next night.
Stars come out
The lineups for the Cardinals and Dodgers in Jersey City featured six future Hall of Famers _ Stan Musial and Red Schoendienst for the Cardinals; Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider for the Dodgers _ and two others (the Cardinals’ Ken Boyer and the Dodgers’ Gil Hodges) who should be enshrined.
Herm Wehmeier, acquired a week earlier from the Phillies, was given the start for the Cardinals. His opponent was Roger Craig.
In the third inning, Wally Moon broke a scoreless tie with a three-run home run off Craig.
In the fourth, the Cardinals unraveled.
With one out, Snider and Campanella each singled. The next batter, Hodges, hit a pop foul near the plate. Battling the wind, catcher Hal Smith caught the ball, then dropped it for an error.
Given the second chance, Hodges singled, scoring Snider and cutting the St. Louis lead to 3-1.
Wehmeier then got Robinson to pop out to Schoendienst at second base for what should have been the third out if not for Smith’s error.
Instead, Sandy Amoros batted. He doubled, scoring Campanella, advancing Hodges to third and reducing the Cardinals’ lead to 3-2.
With first base open, Wehmeier issued an intentional walk to Carl Furillo, loading the bases for pitcher Ken Lehman.
Lehman had relieved Craig in the top half of the inning. Dodgers manager Walter Alston opted to let Lehman bat against Wehmeier. The reliever delivered, punching a two-run single up the middle and giving the Dodgers a 4-3 lead.
The Dodgers’ still weren’t done.
Lindy McDaniel relieved Wehmeier and walked Jim Gilliam, reloading the bases. Reese then hit a routine grounder to Boyer at third.
Instead of stepping on third for the forceout that would have ended the inning, Boyer tried to tag Lehman as the pitcher advanced from second to third. When Lehman avoided the tag, Boyer, hurrying, made an errant throw to first base. Reese was safe on the error and Furillo scored from third on the play, putting the Dodgers ahead 5-3. Boxscore
After the game, the Cardinals were taken by bus to Philadelphia for their series against the Phillies.
The average attendance for the seven Dodgers home games at Jersey in 1956 was 21,196.
In 1957, the Dodgers played eight home games _ two against the Phillies and one each against the other six NL clubs _ at Jersey City.
The Cardinals again had a May date. The Dodgers won, 6-0, on Don Newcombe’s five-hit shutout before 14,470 on May 3, 1957. Gilliam and Furillo each contributed two RBI. Tom Cheney, the Cardinals’ rookie starting pitcher, was lifted after facing four batters and retiring one. Boxscore
Lacking support for a new Brooklyn ballpark, O’Malley took the Dodgers to Los Angeles for the 1958 season. He paid Jersey City $15,000 as a settlement for breaking the agreement to play games there in 1958.