“Hit sign, win suit” a legacy of its own

Today, another little piece of baseball history, even though it is only baseball related. This blog post is about the famous Abe Stark sign at Ebbets Field, the former home of the former Brooklyn Dodgers.

In the early days of baseball, many MLB parks looked like many MiLB parks look nowadays. The outfield walls were full of ads. So were the walls of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Ebbets Field. Next to the legendary Schaefer Beer sign, the sign of clothing store Abe Stark has a legacy of its own.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Abe STark Suits me fine sign Ebbets FieldAbe Stark was a businessman, running a clothing store in East New York. Next to running this clothing store, he was a politician as well. But his political career took off in the 1950s as he served as President of the New York City Council from 1954 until 1961. He was also borough President of Brooklyn from 1962 to 1970.

But the thing that he was most famous for was the sign in right-center field of Ebbets Field. The sign said, “Hit sign, win suit.”  The intention was to hit the sign with a fly ball so you would be awarded a free suit. The sign itself wasn’t very high (three feet), so it was rather unlikely someone would ever hit it. It was placed at the location underneath the scoreboard in 1931. Especially in the 1950s, the Dodgers had a solid outfield that saved the clothing store from handing out too many suits. But the Abe Stark sign underneath the Ebbets Field scoreboard wasn’t the only one at Ebbets Field. The original one covered the complete right field wall and was much easier to hit. Eventually, it was moved to the aforementioned spot in 1931. The original sign was hit much more than the one underneath the scoreboard. One of Stark’s employees once told that at times he was altering more suits awarded to players than from paying customers. But after the sign was moved in 1931, he rarely saw any players.

According to the legend, only one opposing player managed to hit the sign on the fly. Arch rival New York Giants’ Mel Ott did it even twice. In 1937 Woody English hit the sign as only Dodger ever. The legacy also told us that Carl Furillo received a free suit for defending it from being hit. But Furillo reported that this “winning” a free suit wasn’t as free as you might think. When he went to the store to fit a suit, Stark came up with a lot of stuff he asked Furillo to sign.

Hitting the sign may have been attractive for players in those days as they didn’t earn as much as the players do nowadays. In fact, MLB players had to work in a regular job after the season was over. Today there are still some challenges for hitters to reach for. For example the big baseball glove in left-center field at Oracle Park (former AT&T Park). There is a grand prize of $1 million if a player hits it with a home run. Former Turner Field in Atlanta also offered a million Bucks if a player would hit the huge Coca Cola sign in left field.

When Stark first placed the advertising sign, it would cost him a whopping $275 per year. But after TV was involved in baseball, the advertising prices rose quickly as it meant more attention. Eventually renting the space cost Stark $2,500 in the final season of the Dodgers at Ebbets Field.

One Reply to ““Hit sign, win suit” a legacy of its own”

  1. Signs for Bull Durham tobacco abounded during the deadball era. Apparently if a player hit the sign with a fly ball they’d win a substantial cash prize in addition to claiming a home run (signs were commonly situated in fair territory).

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