"Superbas” was the nickname of the baseball team that would later be called the Brooklyn Dodgers (now the Los Angeles Dodgers). “Superba” was the title of an 1890s entertainment spectacle brought forth by the Hanlon family. When Ned Hanlon (no relation) managed the Brooklyn club in 1899, his team was called “Hanlon’s Superbas.” Hanlon was let go as manager in 1905. The Brooklyn team would continue to be called the Superbas until 1910.
The Brooklyn baseball team which became Dodgers returned afterwards in 1883, and joined the American Association the following year. The “Bridegrooms” won the AA pennant in 1889. Upon switching to the National League in 1890, the franchise became the only one in MLB history to win pennants in different leagues in consecutive years. Eight years passed before any more success followed. Several Hall of Fame players were sold to Brooklyn by the soon-to-be-defunct Baltimore Orioles, along with their manager, Ned Hanlon. This catapulted Brooklyn to instant contention, and “Hanlon’s Superbas” lived up to their name, winning pennants in 1899 and 1900.
Teams of this era played in two principal ballparks, Washington Park and Eastern Park. They first earned the nickname “Trolley Dodgers,” later shortened to Dodgers, while at Eastern Park during the 1890s because of the difficulty fans (and players) had in reaching the ballpark due to the number of trolley lines in the area.
Los Angeles Dodgers
1958 - present
1932 - 1957
1914 - 1931
1911 - 1913
1899 - 1910
1890 - 1898
Brooklyn Bridegrooms (AA)
1889 - 1889
Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers (AA)
1884 - 1888
(The datings of some of these nicknames appear to be incorrect—ed.)
Under field manager John Montgomery Ward (1891 - 1892) some called the team Ward’s Wonders. Under Dave Foutz (1893 - 1896), they were often called Foutz’s Fillies. Ned Hanlon joined the team as manager in 1899 (along with half the American Association’s Baltimore Orioles team) and the nickname Superbas became common. It seems there was a popular vaudeville troupe at the time by the name of Hanlon’s Superbas (no relation). It also didn’t hurt that the team won the National League pennant two years in a row.
With owners having a hand in more than one club, it was decided in 1899 that Hanlon and his top players go to the Brooklyn Superbas (later known as the Dodgers), which had more drawing power; Baltimore folded after the season. In Brooklyn, Hanlon led his team to two consecutive pennants in 1899 and 1900. Let go after a last-place finish in 1905, he was picked up by Cincinnati, which placed sixth in Hanlon’s two final years as a ML manager.
25 November 1890, New York Times, pg. 4:
How great is the knowledge of the Messrs. Hanlon of the expedients of pantomime and how meagre is their ability to produce new effects in this kind of entertainment were fully demonstrated at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last night in the representation of “Superba,” a new spectacular play. George, WIlliam, and Edward Hanlon are advertised as the gentlemen responsible for the inventions and mechanical appliances used last night, while Mr. J. J. McNally is credited with having lent “valuable assistance in the writing of the story.”
The story of “Superba” is the old one of the incomprehensible and at times unintelligble admixture of fairies and mortals. Leander and Sylvia are mortals and they love. Wallawalla is a bad fairy who loves Leander, and for that reason seeks to separate him from Sylvia. But Leander is a true lover and withstands right nobly all her blandishments. Then Wallawalla resorts to magic, and with the aid of sprites, elfins, hobgoblins, and other terrible creatures is about to carry her point, when Superba, with a great force of good magical people, comes to the rescue of the lovers. A series of events follows, in which the good fairy and the bad fairy alternate in victory, until at last Superba triumphs and Leander and Sylvia are united in love and happiness for all time.
4 April 1899, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 4:
The final score was 8 to 6 to favor the Superbas.
29 April 1899, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, pg. 2:
Superbas Made a Rally in the Last Inn-
ing, but Fell Short One Run.
I was born in Brooklyn at the end of the 1957 baseball season..My fantasy club at MLB.com is named the Brooklyn Superbas after the famous Hanlon pennant winners of 1899 and 1900!!