BROOKLYN HEIGHTS—Something was clearly missing from the exterior wall of the TD Bank branch at the corner of Montague and Court Street. Peter Duffy told Bklyner that it was “pretty obvious something had been there and was removed,” as he walked past the building in bustling downtown Brooklyn days before Christmas.
The shaded rectangular area against the white stone wall stood out like a sore thumb.
What was missing turned out to be the plaque marking the location where Jackie Robinson, the first African American Major League Baseball player, and the Brooklyn Dodgers broke baseball’s color barrier in the 1940s.
Duffy asked a bank employee what happened to the plaque, but she didn’t know and had apparently been asked about the plaque by other customers.
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“I’m disappointed by it,” Duffy said about the missing memorial. “It’s a piece of Brooklyn history. I’d hate to see it washed away. Hopefully, there is an innocent explanation for this.”
According to the plaque’s inscription, the commercial building stands on the site that was once the Dodgers’ headquarters from 1938 to 1957, before the team moved to Los Angeles. European American Bank, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and former Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden commissioned the plaque.
The team’s building, 215 Montague Street, was a 10-story structure built in the 1800s, according to baseball historian John Thorn. It housed the offices of Dodgers’ executives and served as a location for fans to purchase advance tickets.
On August 28, 1945, Robinson and Branch Rickey, the Dodgers president and general manager, signed a contract in that building that opened the door for Black athletes to integrate the national pastime. It was also a major step forward in the civil rights movement. As the first Black major league player, Robinson had a national platform to became a leader in the fight for racial equality.
That historic building was demolished in the 1960s and replaced by the current building, which several different banks have anchored over the past six decades.
A lot has changed on Montague Street since Robinson and the Dodgers made history. Memorials like the plague remind us about key events in Brooklyn history that should never be forgotten.
A spokesman for the property owner told Bklyner in an email that it’s a temporary removal to repair damage to the plaque, which was placed there on April 21, 1998. The damage was due to “normal wear and tear,” continued Mehul J. Patel, chief operating officer of Midtown Equities, adding that the company “intends to reinstall [it].”