Recently I had the pleasure to partake in a baseball game at the place where the Dodgers have called home for over 50 years, Dodger Stadium.
Counting the annual Dodgertown Classics between UCLA’s and USC’s baseball teams that have been played there, I have been to what Tommy Lasorda calls “Blue Heaven On Earth” 52 times, which includes 49 Dodger games, since my first excursion there on my 11th birthday.
So I wasn’t what you would call a newbie as I entered Chavez Ravine. However…
Even though I have sat in every section of that ballpark over the years, checking out the place for this particular game versus the Colorado Rockies it was clear that the Dodger Stadium I was in was a different place than the Dodger Stadium I went to on the day I turned 11 – and not just because the Dodgers’ opponent that day, the Montreal Expos, no longer exists, either.
I sat in the Reserved Level on the first base side, a few rows from the top, where the view was terrific, as is the view from pretty much every seat, which Dodger Stadium is famous for.
Before I got to my seat, I noticed one thing that was different from when I first attended the park in the 70s: the variety of food eateries as Dodger Dogs – still the best hot dogs in L.A. (though the folks who swear by Pink’s will dispute that) – are far from the only option.
Carl’s Jr. is prominent at that stadium now, as are choices like Dreyer’s Soft Serve Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt, Louisiana Sausage, Wetzel’s Pretzels and Brooklyn Dodgers Pizza. The fans sitting at field level have these choices plus Camacho’s Cantina, Campy’s Corner, and Think Blue Bar.
Another prominent change from when I was a youngster is the play areas that adorn the first and third base sides of the reserved level. The kids seemed to love them, as they do with all play areas; teams have put those in at theor ballparks as a fun option for the little ones, and it seemed that the Dodgers joined the club in that aspect.
The scoreboards and features pertaining to that are the biggest change from my childhood…
When I first attended Dodger games as a kid, there was no video screen above the left field pavilion, just a message board with a basic lineups/line score on the board above the right field pavilion.
The first video screen in sports, which was called “Diamond Vision”, was put above left field in 1980 for the All-Star Game – the only All-Star Game that Dodger Stadium ever hosted, by the way – but what is above left and right fields now is something else altogether.
Both screens are of the video kind today, splashed in brilliant color and HD vision. Everything you want to know about the game is above right field, as each batter and pitcher announced has all of their stats listed, and each pitch is clocked and numbered.
The fans particularly liked the bloopers and the kiss cam, in which the camera catches couples and stays on them until they show their affection for each other, as well as one other thing which got a standing ovation; the “Veteran Of The Game” during the later innings, in which a military serviceman is honored on the field. A very nice touch, to be sure.
The one problem that I noticed was after the game, where they had a round table panel for the movie “42”, depicting Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier, which was showed on the video screens afterwards in a “Movie Night At Dodger Stadium” event.
The film’s director, various members of the cast, including Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie, and Dodger legend (and Jackie’s teammate) Don Newcombe were all sitting in a half-circle in front of the pitcher’s mound talking about the movie and the impact that Jackie had on baseball and this country, but alas – the PA address system was turned down too low; I couldn’t hear them!
But that was a mere minor flaw in this latest Dodger Stadium experience of mine, as the lack of volume in the PA system was like saying that Miss Universe’s or Brad Pitt’s teeth could have been just a little bit whiter.
As for the game itself, I and the over 50,000 other fans were treated to a good one as the Dodgers scored a run in the first inning, and Zack Greinke made it stand up by pitching a complete game, two-hit shut out, winning 1-0 as the crowd went nuts after the final pitch; I was nearly laughing at the Rockies batter who actually had the gall to argue over his called third strike as the Dodgers were celebrating a much-needed win.
All-in-all, it was a very enjoyable outing, as it more or less always has been whenever I attend a game at Dodger Stadium.
It may be the third oldest ballpark in the major leagues, with only Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston being older, but you know what?
Not only does Dodger Stadium not look like MLB’s third oldest park, like the person at the 40-year high school reunion who looks exactly the same as they did at 18 years old, but like Wrigley and Fenway that place in Chavez Ravine, which has a spectacular view of Downtown Los Angeles from the parking lots behind home plate, has a charm that people love.
It certainly remains a great place to watch a baseball game; the over 130 million fans who have been to Dodger Stadium over the past 51 years can’t be wrong.