Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Nifty at Fifty

The Los Angeles Dodgers have begun their historic 50th season in the City of Angels and it has been an exciting weekend indeed. I was absolutely giddy about going to the game at the Coliseum…until I saw the parking situation. I was grumbling about a $25 charge at the venue when I saw nearby lots charging $50 and $60! I’m always so delighted to see entrepreneurs come out and rip off sports fans. Thanks cool guys; Frank McCourt is already bleeding us to death to see our beloved team. At any rate, we ended up catching a ride so that we didn’t have to deal with the whole thing. I heard that the shuttles coming from Chavez Ravine’s free parking worked but took a lot of patience to deal with from one person but another told me that many got a raw deal on that one.

So have you ever been to an event where there are 100,000+ people? When you are sitting there in the stadium, it is really remarkable! It was a bit hectic at times since no one would sit still in our section. In addition, a few young men had to stand up facing seats several rows behind them on their phones waving to friends that they just left a few minutes before in the parking lot. The most obnoxious sports fans had to be the Red Sox couple that insisted on standing up and pointing to their shirts and pumping their fists every few moments. I guess they were excited that their team could hit home runs over a 220 foot fence against a team that was caught up in the fanfare of it all during an exhibition game. Ten or fifteen years ago someone would have likely put these poor fools out of their misery but my fellow Angelinos have gotten past that stage and let them make idiots of themselves without incident. Congratulations guys – well done! We know how to welcome even unappreciative visitors and make them feel comfortable. I wonder how many really had roots in Boston and weren’t bandwagoners…

Update - apparently there is a video of a fight in the standing room only area. I see some scuffling but can't really make it out. There was no beating of Red Sox fans where I was sitting.

I must say that I really feel sorry for Al Michaels. During the opening ceremonies, the crowd was being pumped up for the introduction of the illustrious Vin Scully. First however, we were being introduced to Michaels that was then going to introduce Vin. Poor Al got booed and was visibly shaken. (special note to Mr. McCourt – if you’re wondering why you were so vigilantly booed upon introduction just drop me an email and I’ll be happy to explain it) I don’t think he expected that sort of reception. At any rate, Vin Scully was immortalized on a plaque inside of the arena and the crowd gave him an extended standing ovation. After what seemed like an eternity he humbly said, “It’s only me!” which sent us into an even louder cheering frenzy. When everything finally calmed down, I had a discussion with the guys behind me about how awesome he is and our early memories of Los Angeles sports. They were a bit older than I and had great stories of early Dodgers, Rams, and Raiders games to share. Yeah, it was an awesome Los Angeles sports fan event. Dodgers past and present and other local sports figures came out and threw pitches and made us all well up with pride that we are Angelinos. (I apologize for the diminished quality and lack of photos for the Coliseum event – I didn’t want to deal with my nice camera in that crowd so I used my cell phone.)

All I have to say about Opening Day at Chavez Ravine is WOW! Talk about an excellent Los Angeles sporting event. The place was packed, fans were having a blast, and the team shut out the San Francisco Giants.

The pregame ceremony featured players from the past and the whole thing had a dreamlike, ethereal feel. No one had any warning about what was to happen when out walks Duke Snider, taking his place at center field. There was no announcer, only names on the scoreboard as each player took their position on the field. The crowd cheered wildly with each name as Sweet Lou Johnson, Carl Erskine, Wally Moon, and others graced the field. Names from more recent memory showed up as well. Most notably, Steve Sax looked like he was still in playing shape as he trotted on the field. They saved the jewels for the end – Tommy Lasorda, Fernando Valenzuela, and Sandy Kofax. We noticed that Sandy looked rather spry for his age as well. Fernando and Sandy were the only two not to have a uniform on, even Rick Monday put his jersey over his suit from the event. There were some missing names as well that it would have been really nice to see but have other jobs around the league or are just M.I.A (Orel Hershiser, Davey Lopes, Dusty Baker, and Kirk Gibson to name a few). It was a truly awesome experience that I shall never forget. (You’ll notice some of my shots are a bit blurry – the crowd was going a bit too wild to keep steady.)

The game itself was remarkable as well. Brad Penny v. Barry Zito. Sweet. In the first at bat for the Dodgers, Rafael Furcal showed us he was still the man and Jeff Kent homered to make the score 3-0. Soon after the bomb from Kent, the section I was sitting in started the “Barry Sucks” chant. Welcome to Los Angeles Mr. Zito! By the way, Kent’s home run was his 5th on an Opening Day and his second on Opening Day against the Giants. Rookie Blake Dewitt singled in his first major league at bat and got an ovation that he was too full of adrenaline to hear. On defense, Furcal made a sick catch and throw, and everyone else was definitely on. The game ended with all of us on our feet as Takashi Saito closed out the top of the 9th. Afterward, I stood there like a dork and sung “I Love L.A” with everyone. You would have too. Heck, I was already in full Dodgers nerd regalia – hat and t-shirt under jersey under jacket. The whole stadium was a sea of blue! There were a ton of people with faces painted and really over-the-top get ups. The best jersey had to be the guy in the Pavilion – where the name should be it read “GIANTS SUCK”.

As a lifelong fan, this game felt like the old days. There were maybe three or four Giants fans in the visible crowd and all were booed and had handfuls of food thrown in their direction as they made their way to their seats. No, I’m not condoning violence, but like any fan of the home team it makes me ill when I see someone dressed in the visitor’s colors. On a day like yesterday, it was just asking for trouble. When I was growing up, we never had the influx of “other teamers” that seem to have migrated in over the last few years. Hopefully the fan pride has returned and we have our stadium back! I did feel sorry for one young woman dressed in a Giants hat and jersey. She got the boos and food tossing on the way to her seat and didn’t move the rest of the game. Poor thing looked mortified.

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