It has been 100 years (this week) since the Brooklyn Bridge was completed. Lost in the centennial celebration is another Brooklyn milestone of no little significance: the 25th anniversary of the Dodgers' departure for Los Angeles. The two events should be inextricably linked in our memories.
The bridge was Manifest Destiny in stone and steel. Chief Engineer John A. Roebling felt that his creation—the greatest technological achievement of its time—signaled the conquering of the frontier. If man could link Manhattan and Brooklyn, surely everything Out There, from the elements to the Indians, would fall before America's westward sweep. The bridge inspired engineer and artist alike, as the current exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum, which runs through June 19, attests. Poet Hart Crane described the bridge as "harp and altar." Novelist Thomas Wolfe asked, "What bridge? Great God, the only bridge, the bridge of power, life and joy, the bridge that was a span, a cry, an ecstasy—that was America...."
The great bridge also signaled the birth of a borough. Linked to the metropolis, there burst forth a wondrous community of neighborhoods and parks and, pedestrians beware, electric trolleys. Hence the name Dodgers, for "trolley dodgers," for the baseball team that became Brooklyn's most unifying force.
To our chagrin, we eventually learned that technology didn't hold the solution to all our problems. Technology could conquer the moon, but it respected neither the environment nor the soul. And when the Dodgers left Brooklyn, we lost our innocence forever. Love and loyalty, we were shattered to hear, were only so much mush to people in power. Almost inevitably, it seems in retrospect, the events that followed—expansion, divisional play, nighttime World Series games, artificial turf, the designated hitter—honored financial expediency rather than good baseball sense.
The building of the bridge was the birth of an illusion. The exodus of the Dodgers was the death of a dream.