June 18th, 2012

“It’s Time for Dodger Football …”

When Bob Chappuis passed away last week at age 89, he was remembered as one of the most famous football players at the University of Michigan and the runner-up in the 1947 Heisman Trophy balloting behind Notre Dame’s Johnny Lujack.

But Chappuis also was a former Brooklyn Dodger who performed at Ebbets Field. His sport wasn’t baseball, though. There was a time when Brooklyn’s baseball executives took a crack at operating a professional football team in the All-American Football Conference after World War II. The Dodgers went 3-10-1 in each of their first two seasons in the AAFC in 1946 and 1947. Chappuis was the headline attraction in 1948 for Brooklyn and signed was by Branch Rickey for a reported $17,000. The quarterback led the Dodgers in total offense, but the Dodgers went 2-12 and folded after the season.

Another “Brooklyn Dodgers” football team surfaced in 1966 and Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson was named general manager on May 2. But the team didn’t play at Ebbets Field, as it had been demolished in 1960. In its only season, the 1966 Dodgers football team played its “home” games at Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island. Small crowds early in the season forced the Dodgers to play the balance of its schedule on the road.

 The first “Brooklyn Dodgers” football team was a member of the NFL from 1930-43 and played in 1944 under the name “Brooklyn Tigers.” In 1945, the team merged with the Boston Yanks. It wasn’t affiliated with the baseball team.

(PHOTO: Borrowing a marketing tool from its from the baseball team, the Dodgers front office produced a 1948 football newsletter touting football at Ebbets Field. The cover features former University of Michigan star Bob Chappuis posing with Dodger president Branch Rickey, Brooklyn borough president John Cashmore, and Peter O’Malley, son of Dodger vice president Walter O’Malley.)