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: Ebbets Field Day

The Last Remaining Seats

April 18, 1999|Ed Leibowitz

The two wicks had burned out in the menorah. The grandchildren had gone home. Despite his bad back, David Salzman dragged his Hanukkah present from the living room of his Beverly Hills estate to his home office. There, beneath the 1996 Academy Awards poster with its enormous "produced by David Salzman" credit, the media entrepreneur plopped himself on one of the two adjoining decrepit stadium chairs with the stubby steel armrests and peeling blue paint and closed his eyes.

"I heard the din of the crowd," Salzman says. "The smell of the place: spilled beer and peanut shells and cigars, and 'Git yaw hot dawgs,' the yell of the old vendors. I remember feeling so close." Salzman had known these chairs when they were still bolted to the floor of the Brooklyn Dodgers' famed Ebbets Field, when he was a boy in a struggling family in mid-'50s Flatbush, long before Neiman-Marcus could ever contemplate offering them, at $2,750 a pair, in their last holiday catalog.

Many afternoons, when the game was over, Salzman would search underneath whole sections of these seats in the arena that he would see bulldozed before his high school graduation. Limp napkin between his fingertips, he scoured for the lids of ice cream cups redeemable in tickets. "You were shorter then," says Salzman, on his knees, flipping up his two rescued chairs with a deftness that 31/2 decades and Walter O'Malley's betrayal of Brooklyn have not dimmed, so it was easy to check under "hundreds and hundreds of these seats."

Salzman has permitted himself to savor the Sunday sports section in his chairs; he has even prodded them into his living room to watch March Madness with his 87-year-old father. "I feel I only deserve to sit in the seats at certain times," Salzman explains. "I don't allow myself to sit in them every day."

Let the N-M catalog tout the Heywood-Wakefield pedigree of these rough-hewn seats. "They're like guillotines," Salzman says. "Your clothes get caught, your fingers get caught. In Ebbets Field, you knew with pride that these were the world's worst seats. And I've lived long enough to discover we were right."

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