Nets hold ceremony for flagpole

NEW YORK -- During his playing days for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson used to look up at the flagpole at Ebbets Field.

Now, that same flagpole stands at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, serving as a symbol of the borough's storied sports past.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Brooklyn Nets held a ceremony to commemorate the new home of the Ebbets Field flagpole, just steps from Barclays Center. During the ceremony, an American flag and a Nets flag were raised atop the flagpole, and an accompanying plaque was unveiled.

Jackie Robinson's daughter, Sharon; Nets veteran swingman Jerry Stackhouse, who wears Robinson's iconic No. 42; Barclays Center owner and developer Bruce Ratner; Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz; and Nets CEO Brett Yormark were among those in attendance.

"I think it's a beautiful connection to Ebbets Field, to imagine this flying over Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Dodgers being such a part of that history here with this plaque," Sharon Robinson said. "So it will remind people that the Brooklyn Dodgers were here, and made such a difference in this community, and now we have the Brooklyn Nets."

Asked what she thinks her father, who broke baseball's color barrier, would've thought, Sharon Robinson replied: "I think he'd be very proud. My father loved sports. He was a four-sport lettermen at UCLA. It's right here in the city, right here in the heart of the city, and that would've been very important to him, as it is to us."

The Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1957. It took 55 years for the borough to land another major professional sports franchise.

Sharon Robinson always thought Brooklyn would get another team.

"Knowing Bruce Ratner and Marty Markowitz, that's a pair that can make anything happen. I'm not at all surprised," she said.

The flagpole was donated to a VFW post on Utica Avenue in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, after Ebbets Field was demolished in 1960. It stood there for 47 years before Ratner secured it in 2007 after Markowitz alerted him of its availability.

"Jackie Robinson means so much to African-Americans like myself," Stackhouse said. "Without his contributions and what he was able to do through his playing, we wouldn't be able to do the things we're able to do today. I'm ecstatic to be here and be part of this.

"I wore 42 for a number of different reasons, but when I found out the story and what he meant to athletes in general, I wear that number with tremendous honor. And I look forward to carrying what he stood for into the next generation and whoever wears this number after me."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.