LOS ANGELES, Calif.—Hard to believe that my California pilgrimage has come to an end. For this final installment, I actually attended games on both Friday and Saturday. It was the perfect conclusion to the search. A life-long Braves fan, it is only fitting that I see them play...twice. It's almost a passing of the torch. And what games these were. Both went into extra innings and each ended with a Brave knocking a game-winning homer. It was baseball at its finest.
As far as my ultimate decision, I will take a couple of days to reveal the results of my personal journey and decide to which team I will sell my fan soul. Stay tuned for the series’ final installment, due out this Wednesday.
But for now, here’s what I discovered at the Dodgers-Braves games:
I had much higher hopes for Dodger Stadium, but its age is definitely starting to show.
Dodger Stadium is the most unconventional ballpark I have ever witnessed. Sunken into Chávez Ravine, there is no grand façade that distinguishes this park. As such, it makes it really difficult to figure out where to enter the stadium. Both nights I entered through the “top of the park” entrance, which as the name would suggest is at the very top of the park. And for a stadium that has four levels in the area behind home plate, it makes for a very long haul to get to the bottom of the park.
Once inside, there’s very little going for this stadium. There’re no sweeping panoramas of the nearby Hollywood Hills or the San Bernadino Mountains. The scoreboard looks like it’s straight out of an 80s DOS computer game, and the Jumbotron randomly blacks out. There’s also nothing that consistently shows scores from other games going on.
The outfield bleachers are small, which gives the ballpark an intimate feel, and palm trees rise above behind in both corners of the outfield (for that reason, Dodger Stadium evokes some of the charm of the Dodgers old Spring Training complex in Dodgertown).
But, as I discovered as I tried to tour the park, the bleachers aren’t connected to the rest of the stadium. If you have a bleacher seat ticket, you can’t even scan into the rest of the stadium—you’re confined to your little island. I don’t know about you, but when the game goes into extra innings—as both games did—I’d like to “upgrade” my seats after the ribbon clerks clear out in the eighth.
Over the left-field wall, giant white letters rise out of the hill, like the Hollywood sign, spelling out “THINK BLUE.”
Also, as much as I love singing along to “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the eighth inning at Red Sox games, I can’t stand hearing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” pipe in through the PA system in the middle of the eighth at Dodger Stadium. I never really bought into the recent rediscovery of Journey.
As far as concessions go, Dodger Stadium lacks creativity. You can get a “Dodger Dog,” “Super Dodger Dog,” or pizza. If you’re feeling fancy, you can hit up Carl’s Jr, which is the West Coast equivalent of Hardees.
A classy bunch of guys, who came up through the Dodgers farm system. And there's Manny.
I’m going to call it now, the Dodgers are the team to beat come October. The Dodgers are perfect up and down the lineup. With a lineup that begins Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez, and Matt Kemp, you have to be quaking in your cleats if you’re the visiting pitcher. Throw in Casey Blake, James Loney, and Russell Martin on top of that and you’re asking for trouble. And most of those guys are products of the Dodger farm-system—a testament to a franchise that recognizes and promotes talent.
“This is one of the most talented teams that we had in a long time,” said Dodger legend “Sweet Lou” Johnson, who played in Los Angeles in the 60s. “And we going to have them for a long time. So the average age for the young guys we got now is 27 years old…So, hey, we going to be around for a while.”
And despite all the steroids stuff, I can honestly admit that I am a Manny-ac. With Manny, you can make up the most preposterous rumor about him and people will actually consider its credibility, even if it’s short-lived.
The pitching needs some strengthening, especially in the pen, but Chad Billingsley, Randy Wolf, and Clayton Kershaw sure know how to get a game started right.
And one can never underestimate the Joe Torre factor. I was originally thinking Torre was a negative for me. Those Torre-led Yankee teams gave the Braves fits during their 14-year streak in the 90s and early “aughts.”
“We’re the West Coast Yankees,” said Dodger legend “Sweet Lou” Johnson, who played in Los Angeles in the 60s. “And the Yankees are the East Coast Dodgers.”
Now to me that didn’t immediately strike me as a compliment, since I despise the Yankees, but I took that to mean that Joe Torre, whether he’s on the East Coast or the West Coast, is synonymous with winning.
They show up late and leave early. They knock around beachballs, as well as each other. Need I say more?
I don’t know what to make of the Dodger faithful. They just may be giving Yankee fans a run for their money as most loathsome bunch in my book. Dodger fans tend to arrive late and leave early, and tend to get easily distracted. Another painfully annoying thing about Dodger Stadium is the overbearing prevalence of beachballs being tossed around the crowd. Despite both games being tense contests, Dodger fans, after spotting a beachball coming near, turned their backs to the game to send the ball soaring to the next guy.
Also, I was stunned by the unlawfulness of a lot of Dodger fans. I witnessed countless unruly fans being forcibly removed from the stadium by police officers, including one guy who got his clock cleaned after running out onto the field. In the upper deck, fights broke out with seeming regularity. One fight, which cleared out an entire section, was beginning to get broken up by the cops until the fans starting throwing punches at the cops.
But that being said, the Dodger fanbase also offers some hidden gems. You never know what “somebody” you might end up sitting next to. On Friday, Josh Duhamel, Jerry O’Connell, Jon Lovitz, and even Jermaine Jackson were in attendance. And on Saturday, Brian Baumgartner (aka Kevin from The Office), Tom Hanks, and Michelle Wie showed up.
FINAL SCORE OF FRIDAY'S GAME: Braves 9, Dodgers 5 (12 inn.) FINAL SCORE OF SATURDAY'S GAME: Braves 2, Dodgers 1 (10 inn.)
Dixon McPhillips '10, a Crimson sports chair, is a visual and environmental studies concentrator in Kirkland House.