The turn of the century was marked by the Dodgers' second consecutive pennant-winning team (82 wins) under Manager Ned Hanlon. In 1900, the league was pared from 12 teams to eight, with Baltimore, Cleveland, Louisville and Washington dropping out. Baltimore transplant McGinnity, nicknamed "Iron Man" because of his ability to pitch both ends of a doubleheader, was 29-9 for the ballclub and once won five games in six days.
Beginning in 1901, the newly-formed American League began taking shape, luring top-notch talent from the National League. With a "raided" roster, Hanlon watched the Brooklyn foundation crack. Stars like McGinnity departed, as did Keeler, Jones, Kelley, Tom Daly and "Wild" Bill Donovan. It would not be until 1916 that the Dodgers would again be perched above their National League competition.
In 1901, Brooklyn slipped to third place and managed a second-place finish in 1902. In Hanlon's final season in 1905, they hit rock bottom with an eighth-place finish, 56 1/2 games behind New York. In 1903, Jimmy Sheckard became Brooklyn's first home run champion, as he led the league with nine home runs and stole 67 bases to tie for the league lead.
One of the most exciting stars of the period was pitcher "Nap" Rucker, dubbed "Napoleon" by Grantland Rice. He played on the same South Atlantic League (Class C) team as Ty Cobb, which was considered the best club ever assembled at that level. The left-hander won 15, 17 and 13 games in his first three seasons with the Dodgers and wound up pitching in the 1916 World Series during his final season.
Zack Wheat was another Dodger great to emerge in the last year of the decade and would eventually play in more games (2,322) than any other Dodger.
The ownership of the ballclub was in a state of flux, as Charles Ebbets had become a 24-year employee of the original triumvirate of owners -- Charles Byrne, Joseph Doyle and Ferdinand Abell. Ebbets, who toiled at almost every aspect of baseball management -- from selling peanuts, scorecards and tickets to working as Byrne's assistant in the front office, used every opportunity to purchase even a small amount of stock in the team. He eventually held nearly 10 percent of the stock and after Byrne died in 1897, Ebbets managed to get elected as club president.
Then in a wild plan, Ebbets and Baltimore owner Harry Von der Horst became partners and while Von der Horst held 30 percent ownership of the Dodgers, Ebbets in exchange received Manager Ned Hanlon and several of Baltimore's top stars, including Keeler, Jennings, McGinnity, Kelley, Jones, Dahlen and Donovan.
When things turned for the worse in early 1900, Von der Horst wanted to sell his stock and Ebbets purchased it to become owner of the club. Immediately, he dreamed of expanding to a larger facility than Washington Park to accommodate the large crowds that were attending Dodger games against the rivals from New York, but would have to wait until the next decade for funding of the project.