Dodger Stadium was without a doubt the most anticipated ballpark visit on my west coast trip. Since I was a little boy I have always wanted to go there. I was fascinated with the palm trees, the sunsets, the zig-zag roof over the outfield bleachers and Vin Scully’s sultry tones. I attended a Tuesday night game between the Dodgers and the Rockies and the experience was like that of a kid in a candy store. It exceeded all of my expectations.
Dodger Stadium has been home to the Los Angeles Dodgers since 1962 and the ballpark has not changed much since then. Perfectly symmetrical, the 56,000 seat Dodger Stadium is a pristine relic: a sun-bathed jewel tucked into the Los Angeles hills. In fact the stadium is built directly on a hillside only a mile north of downtown LA. From the southwest side of the park the profile of the stadium is very low and a visitor might wonder if they actually have the right address.
The exterior architectural design is elegant, with clean lines and no bells and/or whistles. Despite being perched in the middle of a sea of concrete, one never really feels like it with the strategic placement of trees – palm or otherwise – that surround the ballpark.
To get there I took a free shuttle from Union Station in downtown LA. If travelling by car, the rush-hour traffic snarl makes it so that the best that fans can hope for is to get there by the 3rd inning. As you can see, there is ample parking available. However, no tailgating is allowed.
Since my hotel concierge wouldn’t let me walk around the neighbourhood (she deliberately withheld directional information from me to deter me from exploring the area due to the probability of me ending up face down in a gutter) I would say the party zone is less than satisfactory. If you are in a car, take a trip down the Sunset Strip and see what’s poppin’. There’s a bar there called the Shortstop. Although I’ve never been, it sounds like a good post-game party spot to check out based on its name alone.
Dodger Stadium was at one time the only stadium with 4 decks. It also has the smallest lower deck in all of baseball, allowing all of the higher decks to be much closer to the field than a typical stadium. An unfortunate aspect of the design is that there is a disconnect between the different levels and the outfield bleachers – fans are restricted to their own section and are not free to roam the entire stadium.
This is probably the only flaw that can be attributed to this fine ballpark. Unlike the other ballparks I have visited on this trip, the Dodger Stadium experience is rooted in baseball with very little outside distractions. There are no sideshow diversions. No contrived attempts at “character.” It’s an open air theatre to watch the greatest performance invented: unscripted high drama in the warm night air. If you are looking for party patios, merry-go-rounds, skewered escargot or unabashed gimmicks - this is not the place for you. Dodger Stadium does one thing and it does it well: baseball.
The first thing that I noticed when entering the stadium was the unmistakeable voice of Vin Scully.
Scully is probably the best announcer of all time. At the very least, he is the best announcer alive today. Taking on both play-by-play duties and colour commentary, Vin breathes life into the narrative of every game seamlessly and smartly, informing and entertaining inning after inning with a voice and a tone and a pace that are perfect for the sport. And at Dodger Stadium, Vin is omnipotent; all around you on tv and radio in the concourses and in the bathrooms. It’s like watching the game with a lifelong friend, or grandfather you never had.
Once in the concourse, you are reminded of the Dodger franchise’s storied history, both in LA as well as Brooklyn through posters of old and current players that line the entrances to the aisles.
While touring the concourse there is the unmistakable aroma of 50-year-old sweat, spilled beer, dirt and tears. You know you are in a place where much baseball history has taken place. You can see the game from the concourse. This is a must; it should be an industry standard in all ballparks.
The variety of concessions is not as diverse as other ballparks, but in keeping up with the theme at Dodger Stadium, they do only a few things but they do them well. The signature item is the Dodger Dog – a hot dog which is boiled first and then grilled.
It’s long, it’s thin… and it’s better than a straight up steamed weenie. Other than the grilling aspect it is unremarkable.
There’s the ever popular Carl’s Jr as well as a healthy alternative set up by health-insurer Kaiser Permanente that offers salads, fruit and sushi. Churros can be had but they were not as good as the ones I had at AT&T Park or Angel Stadium.
Beers. All the standard fare is here: Miller, Bud, Coors. I did see one “Beers of the World” stand that has Fosters, Heineken, Dos Equis and others. What more do you need?
There are various team shops on the concourses and the official team shop resembles a portable classroom just outside the ballpark. Just like the baseball experience, there are not a lot of extraneous frills – just like the Dodger baseball experience. The shop features the core Dodgers gear: t-shirts, jerseys, hats and jackets. You’ll even find a few Brooklyn Dodgers-branded articles of clothing. Some Jackie Robinson merchandise is available as well. The one oddity that they had was the LA Dodgers fake-tattoo sleeve. I’m not sure why anyone would want one of these.
As for the bathrooms, Dodger Stadium is no different than any of the other old ballparks. The trough is in full effect. The trough is a very bizarre situation. There are some who like to get in there and flap their junk all around for all to see, like it is some sort of urinary dog show. Others will go to great lengths to go into full on stealth mode – that is to say they will do anything humanly possible to make sure noone gets a glimpse of their own Dodger dog. These people will try to hide into the corner of the trough. It is always a weird scene and I try to get in and out as fast as possible (that’s what she said!)
You really know you are in a throwback when you see the seats – a creamy lemon colour. For an old ballpark, the legroom is surprisingly ample. The armrests, however, are curiously short.
The scoreboard is small out of necessity; thankfully the designers were cognizant of the beautiful skyline and made the scoreboard with the intent of having fans be able to see as much of it as possible. The spectacular view of the palm-treed chapparal hills (and mountains on a clear day) makes for a unique skyline that must be witnessed in person.
The highlight is the DodgerVision screen stationed above the left field pavilion. High-res highlights and stargazing in the stands makes for a fun combination.
The DodgerVision also takes full advantage of the celebrity contingent who are loyal Dodger supporters. Every inning some LA celeb will come on DV and urge the fans to make noise. Some of the celebs I saw included Snoop Dogg, Larry King, Kobe Bryant, Kathy Ireland, Cheech Marin, Jillian Michaels, Nikki Sixx, Alyssa Milano, Brett Michaels, Kim Kardashian, Lauren Conrad and Oscar de la Hoya.
That brings me to the fans, who are a much different crowd than the one I encountered in Anaheim at Angels Stadium. Here at Dodger Stadium, the fans in my section were predominantly chicano or of latin-american descent. There was a lot of “pinche cabron” and “chingaderra” being thrown about. I had always heard that Dodgers fans were apathetic and uninformed but that didn’t seem to be the case when I was there. In fact, on the shuttle ride back to Union Station I encountered a particularly passionate group of cholos and vatos. Instead of shanking me, they threw verbal barbs at my Toronto Blue Jays. We engaged in a passionate baseball discussion the whole ride back and it continued on even after we were dropped off. It was a lot of fun.
The old adage about Dodger fans showing up in the 3rd inning and leaving in the 7th is true.
Here is the Dodgers game in the 2nd inning:
Now lets move to the 5th:
And here we are in the 9th:
Although Dodgers fans are not particularly loud, they are extremely hard on their own players. George Sherrill was booed from the point he began warming in the bullpen. Jon Broxton was booed when he came in to close the game out after blowing a save a few nights previous. They are hard on their players because they love them so.
The Dodgers have the best opening sequence in baseball: the players rock out to Motley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart” as they run out onto the field.
Ticket availability: It was difficult to get a single ticket and they are very expensive. I ended up paying $76.25 for a ticket on the second deck in the rightfield area of the 1st base side. There is no opportunity for “trading up” at any point in the ballgame.
The 7th inning stretch at Dodger Stadium is also bare bones with “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” played on an organ while the crowd sings along. It’s nice. That’s followed up by a full on sing-a-long to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” that’s led by a young Dodgers fan named “Deuce.”
At the end of the game Dodger Stadium kills it by serenading departing fans with Randy Newman’s “I Love LA.” It blows the Yankees’ “New York, New York” right out of the water. There is no comparison. Full marks to Dodger Stadium for this one.
Unlike other ballparks built at the same time as Dodger Stadium, it remains a true classic and I hope that it remains for many years to come, much like Wrigley and Fenway. The night air in Chavez Ravine (as it was called when the Angels played there) is a unique and wonderful thing. The way the night wraps itself around you, the electricity in it, the feeling you get from feeling it on your skin. The feeling that for 3 hours there is nothing bad that could happen - just in this place — that’s a Dodger Stadium trademark.
My thoughts on the Dodger Stadium sunset/state of twilight can be summed up best in this essay by longtime Dodger fan Hector Tobar.
In describing the Dodger Stadium experience, he states: “It’s a show of natural beauty played out against the hills of Elysian Park and the downtown skyline — and it’s best seen from some of the stadium’s cheapest seats.”
The stars come and go. They bleed Dodger Blue one year, and another color the next. They send home runs over the fence and win a space in our hearts — and then they do something dumb like fail a drug test.
Manny Ramirez was earning $25 million this year until his PED suspension. But the Dodgers don’t need to pay that money to keep this fan. What I go to Dodger Stadium to see doesn’t cost owner Frank McCourt a penny.
I go to Dodger Stadium for the twilight.
Over the years, the Dodgers have delighted me, but they’ve disappointed me many times more. The twilight, however, rarely fails to make the trek up and down the hills of the old Chavez Ravine worthwhile.
It’s a show of natural beauty played out against the hills of Elysian Park and the downtown skyline — and it’s best seen from some of the stadium’s cheapest seats.
A lot of things have changed in Los Angeles since Dodger Stadium was opened in 1962. But the experience of settling into your seat for a night game after a day of suffering down in the city below is the same as it’s always been. We leave behind hot asphalt and smog for the cool air and comfort of watching a slow game unfold in a dry valley.
In a city that allows few things to grow old and familiar, twilight at Dodger Stadium is the same steady friend we’ve known since our childhoods.
I’m deep into middle age now, but when I go up in the general admission seats, or the slightly “better” seats of the reserve level, it’s the 1960s and ’70s all over again.
Beyond left field I see the white cube of the Police Academy, tucked into the bottom of the hillside. From this distance, it resembles a rustic country cabin, its familiar tile roof disappearing in the fading light.
In my memory, Joe Torre isn’t the manager — he’s a much younger guy who plays third base for the St. Louis Cardinals. The man in charge of my team is lanky Walter Alston, who heads with slow strides out to home plate to hand his lineup to the umpire.
On the mound, future Hall of Famer Don Sutton throws his first pitches through the field’s last squares of daylight. The sun is dipping behind the left-field stands, but its last rays are reaching underneath the upper deck’s wavy roof.
Later, the sky turns a darker shade of blue and Johnny Bench of the hated Cincinnati Reds comes to bat. He smashes a twilight home run, and I have to squint to watch it disappear over the center-field fence.
Fenway Park has the Green Monster, and Wrigley Field its brick and ivy. We Dodgers fans have the deep-orange sunlight glistening off the palm trees behind the bullpens. Those older ballparks are widely worshiped for their history. But to my mind, the panorama at Dodger Stadium is just as worthy of reverence.
Dodger Stadium is a symmetrical bit of Space Age, mid-20th century hopefulness, but it’s plopped in a very old corner of the city. It occupies a chunk of real estate where a barrio of tumbledown houses once stood, a neighborhood of mostly unpaved streets that looked a lot like a rural village.
“It was a little town, where everybody knew each other,” says Helen Yorba, 74.
As a child in 1940s Chavez Ravine, Yorba played hide-and-seek and kick-the-can on the streets. “We didn’t have TV then, so we ran around outside,” she says, remembering the neighborhood she left at age 16.
Yorba’s family house on Effie Street had a porch and a little lawn, and looked out on the hills of nearby Elysian Park.
The city never did allow developers to fill those bare Elysian Park hillsides, thank God. So even though her home is gone, we can still enjoy that same bucolic view.
From the general admission deck, we can buy a beer and spend a few minutes savoring the view to the south, watching the skyscrapers of downtown cast shadows over the Eastside.
We baseball fans inherited Chavez Ravine from the mostly Latino families that lived there. And just as they sat on their porches and watered their postage-stamp lawns, we sit in our plastic chairs and watch the groundskeepers water the outfield as the heat of the day lifts with each passing inning.
For much of the season, night games start a little before sunset. And during the dog days of July and August, a cool night at Dodger Stadium is a gift, even if the Boys in Blue are last in the standings.
Nightfall arrives in the middle innings. A cross-section of L.A. fills the stands, from the exclusive boxes near the dugouts to the plebeian benches of the pavilions. The distant mountains and even nearby hillsides become silhouettes and then fade to black
The floodlights come up and the field is bathed in the artificial light of a theater — as it should be, because in the late innings, the sporting drama of baseball takes over.
You may remember Dennis Eckersley stepping out from underneath the palms still out there in right field, leaning over the bullpen. He walked up to the mound to pitch, eventually, to Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
“High fly ball into right field,” Vin Scully announced as the ball climbed in the night. “She is gone!”
Every Dodgers fan knows that bit of history. A few years later, I witnessed another memorable moment, during a seemingly routine midseason game against the Giants.
On Aug. 17, 1992, Dodgers pitcher Kevin Gross took a no-hitter into the ninth inning. All around me, small groups of fans were heading for the exits.
“He’s throwing a no-hitter and you’re leaving?” I asked incredulously. From my reserved-level seats, I could see other fans running across the parking lot to get to their cars. As Gross recorded the last out, several cars were already zooming past the gates.
Perhaps those fans had come mostly for the sunset, the twilight and the beer, and didn’t care enough about the game itself to endure the traffic afterward. The Dodgers’ next home game is May 18, against the Mets.
I have no idea who will be pitching. I do know, however, that the sun will set at 7:51 p.m., about 40 minutes after the first pitch
- Hector Tobar