Marty Adler, Curator of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Legacy, Dies at 76
Published: August 17, 2013
Thirty years after Jackie Robinson broke the modern major league color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, his legacy was honored in classrooms only a home run shot or so away from the housing development where Ebbets Field once stood.
Steve Berman/The New York Times
Marty Adler, the assistant principal atJackie Robinson Intermediate School 320, bordering what had been the Dodgers’ third-base stands, organized projects in which the predominantly minority student body learned of Robinson’s baseball exploits and his pioneering role in the civil rights struggle.
That anniversary tribute in 1977 inspired Mr. Adler to keep memories of the Dodgers alive in Brooklyn long after their departure for Los Angeles and the demolition of Ebbets Field.
When he died of a stroke on Tuesday in Bethpage, N.Y., at 76, Mr. Adler was remembered as the founder of the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame. It never had a permanent home — it was essentially a personal journey down his baseball memory lane — but it enabled him to share his passion for the Dodgers with his fellow Brooklynites.
Mr. Adler saluted the heroes of his youth by bringing them back to Brooklyn for annual induction ceremonies at Grand Army Plaza. He donated memorabilia to theBrooklyn Historical Society and the Brooklyn baseball gallery at the minor league ballpark in Coney Island where the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Mets farm team, play.
“I’m reliving my childhood,” Mr. Adler once said.
“The Dodgers lived in the neighborhood,” he recalled. “Their kids went to the schools. Their wives shopped in the shopping places. They were an integral fabric of the pattern of the whole community, and we loved the guys.
“You could walk down the street and put a radio on — a black person or a white person. ‘How’re the Bums doing?’ It was one common denominator that tied everybody up together.”
Martin Norman Adler was born in Brooklyn on July 11, 1937, and grew up in the Borough Park neighborhood. He received a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College and a master’s in education from St. John’s University.
When Jackie Robinson died in 1972, Mr. Adler campaigned to have his school, then known as Crown Heights Intermediate School 320, named for him.
“The parents wanted it to be named after somebody in the civil rights movement,” Mr. Adler told The New York Times on the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers, “but I reminded them Jackie walked with Dr. Martin Luther King. Jackie gave impetus to all the other movements that developed in the 1960s.”
And so the school bore Robinson’s name and graced its lobby with an oil painting of him.
Mr. Adler gave annual talks over the school’s public-address system about Robinson, saying, as he recalled it, “This is what took place here, this is American history.”
In the late 1970s, Mr. Adler began sending letters to former Brooklyn Dodger players explaining his idea for a memorial to the team, and as word of his mission got around, memorabilia began to flow in. His early collection, stored in his school custodian’s office, included seats from Ebbets Field, which was torn down in 1960, two years after the Dodgers departed for Los Angeles; a uniform worn by Casey Stengel when he managed the Dodgers in the 1930s; and jars of Ebbets Field soil used as landfill at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn.
In June 1984, Mr. Adler helped create a Dodgers exhibit at the central Brooklyn Public Library on Grand Army Plaza and held his first Hall of Fame induction ceremony outside the building.
His first three inductees were figures from the 1950s teams that came to be known as the Boys of Summer: pitcher Carl Erskine, right fielder Carl Furillo and first baseman Gil Hodges, who died in 1972 while managing the Mets and was represented by his widow, Joan. None of the three have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Mr. Adler remained assistant principal at the Jackie Robinson school until his retirement in 1992, and he continued his induction ceremonies for a few years after that. Tommy Lasorda, who pitched in a total of eight games for Brooklyn in the 1954 and 1955 seasons before bleeding Dodger blue as their longtime manager in Los Angeles, was inducted into Mr. Adler’s Hall of Fame in August 2009 in a special ceremony at the Cyclones’ ballpark celebrating his 60 years in the Dodgers’ organization.
Mr. Adler, whose death was announced by his family, lived in Plainview on Long Island. He is survived by his wife, Linda; his sons, Eric and Jeff; his brothers, Richard and Stephen; and two grandchildren.
Although he rallied Brooklynites of a certain age around their heroes of years past, Mr. Adler left one goal unaccomplished: he was never able to help propel Hodges to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He sent bumper stickers to the 5,000 subscribers to his quarterly newsletter in 1999 that read, “Cooperstown Needs Gil Hodges.” He organized a letter-writing campaign to the Hall of Fame’s committee on veterans calling for Hodges’s admission.
“It’s total disappointment for the Brooklyn Dodgers community,” he said at the time, “but we’re never going to give up. We’re from Brooklyn.”