Monday, April 7, 2014

The Grim Reality of the "Trolley Dodgers"

The Grim Reality of the “Trolley Dodgers”

A History and Etymology of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Nickname

As William Shakespeare’s Juliet famously asked, what’s in a name?  As it turns out, what’s in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ name is quite a bit more than meets the eye.  It is well known that Los Angeles imported the name from Brooklyn and that the name is a shortened form of “Trolley Dodgers,” a name that hearkens back to a network of trolley lines that criss-crossed Brooklyn in the 1890s; a sweetly anachronistic name that conjures quaint images of men with big moustaches and bowler hats, women in long, flouncy dresses and ostrich feather hats, and little boys in blue sailor suits side-stepping cute yellow trolleys on the way to a baseball game.
The innocent-sounding name, however, masks the grim reality.  In mid-1890s Brooklyn, trolley dodging was not merely a way of life; it was a matter of life and death.

Little Zetta Lumberg, aged four, was this morning said to be dying at St. Mary's Hospital, Brooklyn.  She was knocked down by trolley car No. 118, of the Fulton street line, last night.

As the child crossed the street at Saratoga avenue there was a maze of trolley cars and vehicles.  She dodged behind an uptown car just as another trolley car came flying down the other track.

The Evening World (New York) October 3, 1893.

The “trolley dodger” name was first applied to the Brooklyn baseball team in 1895.  Some sources incorrectly date the first use of “trolley dodger” to 1891, when the team moved to its new ballpark, Eastern Park, which is incorrectly said to have been surrounded by several trolley lines.  In 1891, however, there would have been no need to “dodge” trolleys.  All of the trolley cars in Brooklyn in 1891 were slow-moving, horse-drawn trolleys; no dodging necessary. 

That would all change in 1892, however, when the first of many electric trolley lines were installed on Brooklyn’s streets.  The new, faster, more-powerful vehicles barreling through crowds of people raised in a horse-and-buggy culture was a recipe for disaster.  It took three years of maiming and death, a trolley strike, and a trolley reform movement for the “Brooklyns” or “Bridegrooms” (as they were known at the time) to earn their new nickname, the “Trolley Dodgers.” 
[(For additional background, see my supplemental post, 

The Introduction of Electric Trolleys

In 1881, Werner von Siemens introduced his electric-powered tramway at the first International Exposition of Electricity in Paris (an event that would, curiously, inspire the first-known science fiction story about an invasion of the Earth by Martians).  The first electric trolley was tested in the United States 1888.  By 1890, a speaker at the Convention of the American Street Rail Association noted that of the 3,150 miles of street railroad track in the United States (trolleys and cable cars), 2,354 miles were operated by horses, 260 miles by electricity, 255 miles by cable, 221 miles by steam, with the remaining miles being part of the New York and Brooklyn elevated railways.  When referring to a paper on the subject of street car horses that was to be read at the convention, he predicted that “electricity was making such rapid strides he did not believe that at any subsequent convention the street car horse would be considered.” St. Paul Daily Globe (Minnesota) October 16, 1890.  

Brooklyn, however, still did not have the electric trolley in 1890.  The only electric trolley service available in Brooklyn was the Coney Island and Brooklyn line, which ran from the Brooklyn city limits at Prospect Park (then at the southern edge of the city of Brooklyn) to Coney Island.  The neighborhoods of Flatbush, Flatlands, Gravesend and New Utrecht were all independent towns or cities in 1890.  Flatbush, Gravesend and New Utrecht were not annexed until 1894; Flatlands was annexed in 1896.  

Map of the City of Brooklyn - 1889

Electric trolleys would quickly encroach on Brooklyn from all sides, however. In November 1890, the New York State Railroad Commission approved an application to switch from horse and steam power to the “electric single trolley wire system” on the Fort Hamilton to Brooklyn line, several lines in New Utrecht, and a line from Bay Ridge to Gravesend Bay. The Sun (New York) November 19, 1890.  The Jamaica Electric Railroad also had a line that terminated at the Brooklyn city limits in 1891.  It was only a matter of time before the electric trolley extended into Brooklyn proper.

In April of 1891, General Slocum, a Civil War hero in the Battle of Atlanta (and goat at the Battle of Gettysburg), petitioned the city for permission to build electric trolley lines on the streets of Brooklyn.  The Sun (New York) April 23, 1891.  The city initially denied his request, based at least in part on the perceived dangers of electric trolleys and their presumed negative effects on property values:  

Brooklyn taxpayers should appear to-morrow at the Chamber of Commerce to oppose this invasion of their streets.  If General Slocum gets a footing in Brooklyn, Deacon Richardson and Mr. Lewis, of the Brooklyn City Railway Company, and Mr. Culver and Mr. Corbin naturally will demand and will get the same privileges, and Brooklyn streets will be finally overrun by the worst system of propulsion yet invented.

New York Tribune, June 10, 1891.

The Brooklyn property owners’ fears were well-founded.  Electric trolleys had already proven to be dangerous in other cities.  The electric trolleys could travel at speeds of up to fifteen miles per hour, about three times faster than typical, horse-drawn traffic.  The high speeds, combined with chaotic traffic patterns of the time, made life more dangerous in the streets.  Newspaper accounts from before the approval of trolleys in Brooklyn, illustrate the twin dangers of collision and electrocution:

The third fatal accident since the introduction of the new electric railroad system in this city [(Newark, New Jersey)] occurred at 9 0’clock this morning.  Mrs. Mary Albrecht . . . started to cross Springfield avenue when a downtown car struck her and threw her with frightful force against one of the electric poles in the street.  When picked up one leg had been broken at the thigh, and her skull had been so badly fractured that she died shortly after her admission to the German Hospital.

The Evening World (New York) December 31, 1890;

A broken trolley wire on the Brooklyn and Jamaica Electric Railroad was responsible for the killing of three horses on Wednesday night. . . . William Grimms, a Woodhaven farmer, was on his way to market in his wagon, to which two fine horses were attached.  Just as they were crossing the railroad track both horses suddenly staggered and fell to the ground side by side. . . .  [A] one-horse car on the Cypress Hills road, which uses a portion of the same tracks as the electric road, was driven up, and the horse attached to it shared the fate of the two others.  It touched the broken electric wire and fell as if it had been struck by lightning.

The Sun, October 9, 1891.  

The electric trolleys were finally approved in early 1892:

Within a year or less a revolution is to take place in the surface railroad system in Brooklyn by the substation of the electric trolley system in place of horse power. . . .  [T]here is very little doubt that the resolutions will be approved by the mayor and all obstacles to the introduction of the electric trolley in Brooklyn removed.

The Sun, December 22, 1891.

Brooklyn’s Trolley Ordinance passed into law in January 1892 when the Mayor refused to veto the bill; he had vetoed an earlier version of the ordinance, but it had passed over his veto. The Evening World (New York), January 23, 1892.  Construction began on the first line by mid-March, 1891.  The electric trolley would soon take over the entire city:

Brooklyn will soon be bound by the trolley system.  Nearly every surface road in the city has made application to the Common Council and the State Railroad Commission for the privilege of changing their motive power from horses to the overhead electric system.

The Evening World, April 2, 1892.  


The Death-Toll Mounts

Accidents and deaths occurred almost immediately and the death-toll climbed steadily as the number of trolley lines multiplied.  A small sampling of contemporary news coverage gives a sense of the danger:

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”  Eternal vigilance is certainly needed as the price of protection from the death-dealing and hideous trolley abomination.

The Evening World, June 23, 1892;

Another accident due to the careless management of a trolley electric car is brought to the attention of Brooklyn people to-day.

The Evening World, June 24, 1892;

Run into by a trolley car. This time in Brooklyn.  The record of events keeps furnishing arguments against the perilous railway system, as applied on city streets.

The Evening World, June 27, 1892;

The Trolley’s Fatal Score.  Score three more deaths for the trolley.

The Evening World, August 22, 1892;

[A] new precaution is necessary for the suffering Brooklynite.  In addition to being always prepared to dodge the trolley wire, he must always be careful to step clear of the trolley rail.

The Evening World, September 20, 1893;

In these times when the trolley-cars’ slaughter from one to two people a day, the public is apt to condemn the whole system.

The Evening World, December 20, 1893.

The trolleys were considered so dangerous that having no accidents on the first day of operation of a new line was apparently newsworthy:

The trolley system was put in operation on one more of Brooklyn’s surface roads this morning. . . . This is the first introduction of the system on Fulton street, and the swiftly moving cars attracted a great deal of attention.  Up to noon no accidents were reported.  The system will be operated on several other roads within a few weeks.

The Evening World, November 7, 1892.

It is hard to imagine today, with more than a century of higher-speed traffic and modern traffic laws behind us, that the introduction of electric trolleys could create such chaos in the streets of the mid-1890s.  Early film footage, however, provides a small glimpse of the hectic, nearly lawless traffic patterns of the time.

Fire Brigade - Brooklyn, 1893
This clip, from 1893, shows a fire brigade charging down a busy street in Brooklyn; two electric trolley cars are visible in the background.  Although the information accompanying the clip suggests that it took place in New York, the “Clinton Avenue” sign on the electric trolley suggests that it was actually Brooklyn.  With the exception of a “small bankside corner of it which faces the Third avenue bridge across the Harlem River,” New York City did not have electric trolleys in 1893. The Omaha Daily Bee, July 10, 1893. 

A Trip Down Market Street - San Francisco, 1906
This clip was filmed from the front of a cable car moving up Market Street in pre-earthquake San Francisco in 1906.  It shows automobiles, cable cars, electric trolleys, bicycles, horse-drawn wagons and carriages, and pedestrians fighting for the right of way.  Pedestrians stand in the middle of the street, squeezed on both sides by cars and cable cars; vehicles drive the wrong way down what we would now consider the wrong side of the street; cars, wagons, horses and pedestrians cross the street at right angles in the middle of the block with no apparent rhyme or reason.  It seems miraculous no one was injured during filming.  The clip is fairly long, at 11:30 minutes, but it provides a glimpse (minus the automobiles) of what traffic might have been like in mid-1890s Brooklyn. 

Trolley Strike

In January of 1895, Brooklyn's trolley operators and conductors went on strike.  Trolley service was interrupted completely for a time, although replacement drivers provided for limited service later during the strike.  The national guard was called out, there was some violence, but in the end, management was able to break the strike after about one month.

Issues raised during the strike revealed some of the factors that contributed to the trolley dangers.  Drivers complained that the trolley time-schedules were too tight, turn-around times too short, and that the schedules made it difficult for drivers to take their thirty-minute meal breaks and held them overtime, past the statutory ten-hour limit.  Management's policy of firing drivers who fell behind on the nearly impossible time-schedules prompted drivers to drive at unsafe speeds.

Although the streets were made safer in the short term at the beginning of the strike, the danger mounted again as replacement drivers took over:

The strike situation is doubtless somewhat tedious for Brooklyn citizens, but there is at least one consolation –while the trolley cars are not running they can’t kill anybody.  Brooklyn street know a safety they have not known for some years heretofore, and Brooklyn mothers can see their children start to school or to lay without the heart-straining thought that the little ones may be brought back on a stretcher dead or maimed. . . .

It is a question, however, whether the temporary suspension of operations by these instruments of death will reduce the yearly returns of the murdered and maimed.  It has been a bad enough killing machine in the hands of men whom the companies’ officers have declared to be skilled and experienced operators and whom they have paid fair wages.

Now the cars are being handed over to new men, gathered from various parts of the country, unfamiliar, most of them, with the trolley system, and all of them untrained in the running of cars amid the difficulties and dangers of Brooklyn’s crowded streets; paide, besides, less wages and less regularly employed than the men who have run the cars in the past.

The Evening World, January 16, 1895.  When the end of the strike was thought to be near at hand, one paper reported:

. . . the Brooklyn trolley strike is about ended.  The companies seem to be in a position to run their cars.  They are not skillfully operated, and throughout yesterday there were many collisions, and there was much bumping together but there was no accident of a serious nature.

Dr. Octavius' Dirty Work - Spiderman 2
Alexandria Gazette (Virginia) January 28, 1895. Again, one day without serious accident appeared to be newsworthy. 

The following cartoon, from a trolley strike in 1905 (with imagery seemingly inspired by Dr. Octavius in Spiderman 2), illustrates the public’s perception of the dangers associated with strike replacements:

The Washington (DC) Times, March 29, 1905.

A serious  accident during a trolley strike in 1920 illustrates the specific danger posed by replacement drivers to fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers:

Another serious accident occurred today on the lines of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit company, whose employes [(sic)] have been on strike for two weeks.  Two trolleys collided near Ebbets field during the rush to the ball park this afternoon and thirty persons were reported injured.

The Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner, September 11, 1920.

When the Brooklyn trolley strike of 1895 finally ended in late February, a gallows-humor cartoon reflected the expectation that nothing had changed:

The Evening World, February 27, 1895.

As it turns out, nothing had changed; public backlash, however, would soon change matters.

Resistance and Reform

Within a few week following the end of the trolley strike, the public organized mass-meetings, attended by 5,000 to 10,000 people, to protest the dangers of the trolleys.  The first meeting was held in early April, 1895, and continued, periodically, through May.  The meetings, led by a coalition of priests, ministers, and rabbis, pressed for changes in operational policy.  Their proposals included speed limits and the installation of safety fenders on the front of the trolleys.  In May, 1895, a crowd of more than 5000 people listened to a song entitled, “The Trolley Dirge,” in which a clang of a trolley gong was followed by a chorus of childish shrieks.  “It is a horrible thing, but not more so than the horrible work of the trolley which now has a record of 108 killed and over 500 more maimed for life.” Christian Work, May 23, 1895.  But the death toll continued to rise; it stood at 133 dead by the end of the year. Christian Work, January 2, 1896.

The political response was nearly immediate.  On April 14, 1895, the Mayor signed a new trolley ordinance.  The new ordinance limited speeds to six miles per hour in the most crowded districts and eight miles per hour in other neighborhoods (the original electric act of 1882 had included a ten mile per hour speed limit, but due to the lack of any speed indicator and the failure of enforcement, speeds had routinely been higher), created a team of trolley inspectors to enforce the speed limits, and required the use of fenders on the trolleys.  In May, several trolley executives lost their jobs for their part in contributing to the trolley dangers, and in August, the city instituted criminal proceedings against trolley executives who had violated the statutory, ten-hour shift for trolley car operators.

A trolley with safety fenders attached.
Brooklyn's reforms were part of a nationwide movement to reform electric trolley safety, as Brooklyn was not alone in having difficulty learning to live with the electric trolley.  In 1894, for example, Chicago experienced forty-five street car deaths and Philadelphia sixty-seven.   The danger created an obvious need for change and an opportunity for inventors.  One trolley executive purportedly reviewed more than “three thousand and nine different designs submitted by inventors” for electric trolley safety fenders.  Hopkinsville Kentuckian, September 6, 1895. 

The cities of Baltimore and Buffalo, which were both early adopters of trolley fenders, reported success in reducing the rate of injury.  Brooklyn began installing fenders in July of 1895. The Evening Star, July 6, 1895. Peninsula Enterprise (Accomac, Virginia) September 7, 1895.  In Philadelphia, the safety fenders may have been too successful:

The fun of dodging trolley cars, which has added so much to the agility of Philadelphians during the last couple of years, has just been augmented by the positive delight of falling in front of them.  Small boys are whitening the hair of every motorman in town by dropping unexpectedly in front of the cars just for the exhilarating experience of being tossed in the bed of a fender.

Shenandoah Herald (Woodstock, Virginia) October 11, 1895.

By August of 1896, there were no longer any electric trolleys in the United States that operated at speeds in excess of ten miles per hour. Western Electrician, August 15, 1896.

But speed limits, fenders and inatentive operation were not the only problems with electric trolleys.  Another major problem was the complete lack of traffic safety standards or universal rules of the road.  Mid-1890s Brooklyn, and everywhere else for that matter, did not have traffic codes.  The slow pace of the horse-and-buggy culture had simply never needed any standardized traffic rules.  The faster, more powerful electric trolleys, and later the automobile, would eventually lead to the introduction of standardized rules of the road that helped ameliorate the dangers of the new technologies.

In 1903, New York City (including Brooklyn, which had been annexed in 1898) adopted the first set of modern traffic codes.  The codes had first been proposed by William Phelps Eno (who later worked on traffic codes for London and Paris) in 1901.  His proposals included such revolutionary ideas as, keeping to the right, passing on the left, making right turns from near the right curb and left turns from near the middle of the street, and signaling before stopping or slowing.  Interestingly, his suggestion for the signal before stopping or slowing was to raise the buggy whip. The New York Tribune, February 4, 1900.  He believed that enacting, following and enforcing a few simple traffic rules could eliminate ninety percent of all traffic accidents.  The now ubiquitous and indispensible stripe down the middle of the road was invented in 1911 and the first traffic lights in 1912, although neither were widely adopted until years later.  

It must have been an incredibly difficult transition for a horse-and-buggy culture to adapt to the presence of large, mechanical machines (first electric trolleys and later automobiles) running down the middle of their streets.  Change was slow.  An indication of the slow pace of change is a report from the June 15, 1918 issue of Good Roads magazine that St. Louis was considering the noteworthy step of making pedestrians, as well as vehicles, subject to the traffic code.  Brooklyn in the mid-1890s was just beginning to deal with the changes and was paying the price that would eventually lead to much-needed reforms.

Trolley Dodgers

The name “trolley dodgers” first appeared in print in early May of 1895:

The “Rainmakers” and the “Trolley Dodgers” are the latest terms used by base ball writers to designate the Phillies and Brooklyns respectively.

The Scranton Tribune, May 11, 1895.  The reference to the “Rainmakers” appears to have been a reaction to a suggestion by a New York sportswriter less than two weeks earlier that, “[f]rom now out the Philadelphias will be known as the “Rainmakers” in Gotham.” The World (New York) May 1, 1895.  The name appears to have been prompted by a series of rain-outs of games with scheduled with the Phillies.  The reference to the “trolley dodgers” also appears to be a response to a newly minted nickname.

Barry Popick’s etymology blog, The Big Apple, cites one earlier reference to “Trolley Dodgers” from the previous week:

“Trolley dodgers” is the new name which Eastern baseball cranks [(fans)] have given the Brooklyn club.

The San Francisco Chronicle on May 4, 1895.  The fact that two, independent sources report that the name is “the latest term” or “the new name” suggests that the name was new, and unfamiliar to sportswriters (and likely their readers) at the time.  Clearly someone had used the name before the San Francisco papers picked it up on May 4, 1895, but probably not long before.  Although 1895 was long before the “information age,” they did have the telegraph that permitted nearly instantaneous dissemination of news, so a sportswriter who followed baseball would be familiar with developments in the game soon after they happened.   

Several other sources would repeat the news of Brooklyn’s new name throughout the rest of the season, using precisely the same language (“‘Trolley dodgers’ is the new name which Eastern baseball cranks have given the Brooklyn club”), indicative of novelty, as had been used in the San Francisco article.  See, e.g. Atchison (Kansas) Daily Globe, August 30, 1895; Warren (Pennsylvania) Ledger, September 3, 1895; The Roanoke Times (Virginia) September 13, 1895.  The repeated reporting that the name was new, in so many different outlets, suggests that the name was, in fact, new in 1895 and had not been known or used during the previous season.  The name was still new enough in 1896 baseball season, that a magazine piece explained:

As a playful descriptive term for the members of the Brooklyn Baseball club, the name “Trolley-dodgers” has been adopted by some of the New York papers.

Western Electrician, August 29, 1896. 

The name, "Trolley Dodgers," however, had already achieved widespread, frequent use in many different newspapers during the 1896 season.  It was also used as the name for the Brooklyn Skating Club’s hockey team in 1897, in the earliest non-baseball use of the term that I could find. The Sun, February 6, 1897.  Unless earlier uses are discovered, it seems safe to say that the name probably originated near the beginning of the 1895 season.  In any case, it seems certain that the name could not have arisen prior to the introduction of electric trolleys in 1892.  

A biography of physicist Nicola Tesla, who worked with Edison on electrical power generators in New York in 1885, asserted, without citation, that the name "trolley dodger" had been adopted by a group trolley protestors. Margaret Cheney, Tesla: Man Out of Time (1981), page 33.   Although the timing of the appearance of the name in May, 1885, during the high-point of trolley reform activism, is consistent with the claim, I found no clear evidence of the name used in any of the contemporary accounts of the anti-trolley meetings.

“Trolley Dodger” as a Term for a Resident of Brooklyn

There are no known examples of the term “trolley dodger” being applied as a general euphemism for Brooklyn residents prior to 1895.  The verb, “to dodge,” however, appears with some frequency:

Brooklyn’s trolley cars made a field day of it yesterday.  There was a collision, which incomprehensibly failed to kill anybody, and there was the killing of an eight-year-old boy, who couldn’t dodge a car under full headway.

The Evening World, July 11, 1892;

In addition to being always prepared to dodge the trolley wire, he must always be careful to step clear of the trolley rail.

The Evening World, September 20, 1893; in a report about two Irishmen (I think I learned a song like that in grade school) who were hit by a trolley, written in a manner to suggest an Irish brogue:

We were dodgin’ the dorned throlleys at every corner, and couldn’t get clear of thim.  We will never go near Brooklyn again.

New York Tribune, November 27, 1893; in a one-liner joke:
“There’s no use in talking,” remarked a man who had just dodged a broken trolley wire; “even in this country a man must show respect for lineal descent.”

The Evening Star (Washington DC) January 29, 1894; in an article about a fat policeman who was outrun by a woman who was avoiding a trolley:

As for the fat policeman, he dodged off the track, mopped his brow, and observed; “Well, if women don’t beat the devil!”

The Sun, March 18, 1894; in a satirical article about the advantages of Brooklyn as a vacation destination;

Dodging trolley cars, I may say in conclusion, is, after all, great fun, and is much less dangerous than football.

The Sun, September 30, 1894; in an article about the life of an old man from the country who has not spent time in the city;

He hasn’t had to dodge trolley or cable cars, or live in 2x2 flats, or lie awake Saturday nights wondering if a side door will be open on Sunday.

The Evening World, December 17, 1894; in a humor piece that imagined how Napoleon Bonaparte would react during a visit to modern-day New York City:

Dodging a trolley car.  Mr. Bonaparte (loquitur) – Sacre! This is worse than the Russians.

The Washington Times, March 24, 1895; in an article about Brooklyn’s postmaster Sullivan, who had arranged for mail to be delivered continuously through the day using the electric trolley system:

Uncle Sam “would be too busy dodging trolley cars” in Brooklyn to tip his hat to postmaster Sullivan.

St. Paul Globe May 27, 1895;

People seldom kill themselves in the city of Brooklyn.  When they get tired of life they simply quit dodging trolley cars.

Kansas City (Missouri) Journal, May 19, 1895; with the introduction of more cable cars in mid-town Manhattan, the streets of New York were also becoming more dangerous:

Cable car dodging at this point bids fair to become as prominent a feature of metropolitan life as trolley car dodging is in Brooklyn.” 

The Sun, October 20, 1895.

The Sun, October 20, 1895.

Despite frequent references to dodging trolleys, there were no references to a “trolley dodger.”  It would not be a stretch, of course; someone who dodges trolleys might easily be called a trolley dodger.  But as easy as it would have been to coin and use the phrase before 1895, there is no record of any such use.  The term seems to have been coined in early 1895, whether by a sportswriter with reference to the baseball team, a group of trolley protestors, or organically based on the common association of Brooklyn with dodging trolleys.

The earliest reference that I could find using "trolley dodger" in a non-sporting context was a joke that appeared in the June 3, 1897 edition of The American Stationer.  The narrator of the joke is described as a, “young ‘Trolley Dodger’ (misnomer for Brooklynite),” who is attending a Quaker church service with his best girl.  To lighten the mood, he tells her a humorous story about what had happened at an early Quaker service.   The story revolves around a “son of ‘Ould Oirland,’” presumably Catholic, who is unfamiliar with the rituals of a Friends’ Meeting House, which, as related in the joke, involve parishioners jumping out of their seats to shout when, “the spirit moved.”  

“Trolley dodger” is used here in a neutral, certainly non-pejorative, sense.  Placing the narrator in Brooklyn may have been designed to account for the presence of an Irishman at a Friends’ Meeting House; Brooklyn being home to a large Irish immigrant population.  Other non-sports related references to “trolley dodger” from after 1897 similarly lack a pejorative tone.  The phrase seems to have been embraced by Brooklynites, and never really understood as an insult.


The name “trolley dodgers” would not and could not have been used to describe the baseball team or anyone else from Brooklyn until 1892.  The frequent appearance of the verb “to dodge,” in association with trolleys in Brooklyn between 1892 and 1894, and the lack of evidence of “trolley dodger” during the same period, suggests that the phrase had not achieved a significant level of use, if any at all, before 1895.  The description of "trolley dodger" as the "new" name of the Brooklyn team shortly after opening day in 1895, and the repeated reporting of the name as “new” throughout 1895 and into 1896, suggests that the name was likely first applied to the team in 1895.  The name seems to have been extended to people from Brooklyn only later, and then not in a pejorative sense.  

The dark history of the Dodgers name should not caution against embracing the name.  Instead, the courage and persistence of our Brooklyn forbears in facing, surviving, and ultimately taming the trolley menace should elevate our appreciation of the name, “Dodgers,” from a sweetly anachronistic, dated vestige of an earlier age (like the Padres or Brewers) to that of a proud, heroic figure, more like the Pirates and Braves.

Go Dodgers!!!

OK, I’m not going to leave you hanging.  If you are curious about the 1897 “trolley dodger” joke, here it is in all of its glory:

A young “Trolley Dodger” (misnomer for Brooklynite) was taking his best girl to church Sunday night last.  It was to a Friends’ church, and to relieve the monotony of the occasion and to make his remarks apropos to the time as well as himself interesting to his companion he told her the following store:  The scene is laid in a Friends’ meeting.  All were according to custom waiting for “the Spirit to move.”  At last, at last, I say, a member of the sect jumped from his seat and exclaiming “I am married!” sat down.  Whereupon an Irishman, who was present for the novelty of the thing or by mistake, shouted out, “The d—d you are!”  Then all was as quiet as the soul when the spirit has departed.  Soon the same Friend was again touched by the Spirit, and by bounding from his seat he fervently shouted, “I am married, I am married to a daughter of the Lord,” and down he sat again.   Then the wit of the son of “Ould Oirland” came into play, and moved by an entirely different spirit he jumped up and said: “Say, mister, if thot’s the’ case it’ll be er long toime afore yer see yer father-in-law.”

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