It was late spring 1951 and Americas greatest pastime was baseball and I just happened to live in Brooklyn NY, along with my favorite team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. I was 16 years old when my good friend Big John, who was selling concessions during baseball games, asked if I’d be interested in getting paid while watching Dodgers.
Big John told me to be at the Subway Station the next morning at eight AM sharp and he would introduce me to his boss. I felt like I was in a dream, I would actually get paid to watch my favorite baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers!
The next morning couldn’t come fast enough. I ran as fast as I could, knocking down anything in my way to met Big John at the subway and head over to Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Once we got there, Big John introduced me to a man named Sid, who was in charge of concessions. He told me I had the job and explained to me what I would do. He told me I would sell soda, peanuts and score cards. He explained to me that every soda I’d sell, I’d get paid three cents, for every bag of peanuts, two cents and for every score card a nickel.
He also told me if I’d hustle, I could easily make four to five dollars every day. Back then, four to five dollars per day, when the minimum wage in 1951 was forty cents per hour, if I did actually hustle, I could make double the minimum wage AND watch the Brooklyn Dodgers play! I thought to myself I had to be dreaming! So I told Sid was in.
They strapped a large tank on my back filled with soda and strapped on the tray to carry the bags of peanuts and score cards. That day, I began my new adventure selling peanuts at Ebbets Field.
John, because of his size, looked much older then me and was able to sell beer. The beer guys made twice as much as we did. Big John introduced me to several other guys selling who had been doing it for years.
I remember one of the guys sharing a good tip with me, one that would help me sell more peanuts. He told me to intentionally throw the bag beyond a normal reach, so when the customer had to stretch out to catch the bag, it looked like he was actually the catcher for the Dodgers. This would make the crowd would go wild, which made catcher feel like a hero, then they would give me a much bigger tip. I used this smart tip many times.
Whenever any of us made a big tip, we would yell out “Subway”. This meant the tip we just got was enough to pay the subway fare to get us home. This being my first day, I did not get to yell out “Subway” however I did make about $5 bucks and felt like the richest guy alive. Actually I got better at selling and it was not uncommon for someone to want two bags of peanuts, toss me a quarter and told me to keep the change. I got pretty good at yelling out “Subway”.
I worked the entire season that year in 1951 at Ebbets Field. While working, I was able to witness the best baseball team of all time, making legends such as Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, and Duke Snider. Like any 16 year old, I am sure I had no idea how this experience would become one that others could only dream of, especially since the Brooklyn Dodgers would play there last game six years later in 1957 and Ebbets Field would be torn down in 1960.
Today, only those of us who experienced this national wonder, could truly understand the thrill of being at the greatest baseball field of all time. I was one of the lucky ones, I was paid to watch the greatest baseball team of all time, The Brooklyn Dodgers.