Fort Point National Historic Site – San FranciscoMarch 9, 2022
Ojai Deer Lodge & Ojai Olive Oil Company – OjaiJune 18, 2022
Dodger Stadium Tour – Los Angeles
Visited: April 2022
Although I unwisely became a San Diego Padres fan while in college at San Diego State (please don’t let your children suffer a similar fate), in my younger years I lived and died with every pitch of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I thrilled to the exploits of Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Tommy Davis and countless other of my baseball idols. To relive some of those great memories when I used to root for a winning team, I decided to take a tour of Dodger Stadium with friends Jeff (spouting his Padres allegiance on his shirt) and his brother Robbie. It’s a ballpark where the three of us have easily spent more than a thousand evenings of our collective lives.
The Dodgers came to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1958 and played for four years at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which, at the time, was home to both the USC Trojans and Los Angeles Rams football teams. That made for a unique baseball field design. The baseball configuration had numerous peculiarities, including the left field wall being only 251 feet from home plate (barely more than a little league field). To make it harder for batters to hit a home run to left field, a 42-foot screen was erected in front of the bleachers. I was lucky (and old) enough to attend a few games there with my dad.
In 1962, the Dodgers moved into its new ballpark, and today Dodger Stadium is the third oldest park in the major leagues (only Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago are older). The expansion Los Angeles Angels also played home games at Dodger Stadium (although they called it Chavez Ravine) from 1962 through 1965, and I have tokens for that inaugural ’62 season.
On a hot, sunny Saturday afternoon the three of us decided to revisit some of its history on one of the stadium guided tours. Before the tour started we checked out a series of numbers worn by some Dodgers Hall of Famers, players who’ve had their numbers retired and a tribute to former Dodgers play-by-play man, the incomparable Vin Scully, immortalized forever on Robbie’s t-shirt.
Scully’s career spanned seven decades, starting in 1950 working with the famed Red Barber in Brooklyn. When Barber had a dispute with NBC in 1953, the 25-year-old Scully became the youngest person to ever broadcast a World Series (a record he still holds today). Vin became the Dodgers lead announcer in 1954 and held that position until his retirement in 2016.
Of course, you can’t mention the Dodgers without talking about Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier becoming the first African American in major league baseball on April 11, 1947.
Digression: I have a special affinity for Jackie since he grew up in my hometown of Pasadena, California. Should you ever be in the vicinity check out the bronze sculptures at the Jackie and Mack Robinson Memorial across the street from Pasadena’s City Hall.
One last stop for me before the tour was at #53 Don Drysdale. In 1968 Drysdale set a major league record with six consecutive shutouts. Coincidentally, on May 31, 1968, I was in attendance at Drysdale’s fifth consecutive shutout, and although we would not meet for two more years at SDSU, Jeff, along with friend and business partner Tim, also were at that game.
In my sports room, I still have a matchbook from Drysdale’s Dug Out restaurant that opened in Van Nuys in 1962 and closed in 1982.
After getting our hand stamped, the three of us awaited our tour guide by looking out from the General Admission area on to Dodger Stadium. Remember that’s haze in the distance, not smog (at least that’s what we tell the relatives from Seattle).
On the GA wall was a large mural of old Dodger tickets. I remember when it was hard to muster the $3.50 to afford those Field Box Seats. Today, that same ticket costs about as much as a gas fill-up.
Our tour guide, John, first took us to the Vin Scully Press Box, where the scribes take in the ball game.
Walking through the press box, there are a number of photos featuring the one and only Tommy Lasorda.
In 1976 Lasorda had an extended visit with Frank Sinatra, who would become a friend. Sinatra promised Lasorda that if he ever got his dream job of managing the Dodgers, Old Blue Eyes would sing the national anthem. In a 2020 article in Dodger Insider, Lasorda reminisced about meeting Sinatra, “For me, this was like meeting Babe Ruth or the President of the United States.” On April 7, 1977, at Dodger Stadium, Sinatra would fulfill that promise on Opening Day and Lasorda’s managerial debut. This photo on the press box wall was taken at Sinatra’s box seats.
Another photo that caught my eye was of my favorite baseball player of all-time, Sandy Koufax. This picture of Sandy’s perfect game brought me back to September of 1965, as my dad and I listened to Vin Scully call every dramatic ball and strike.
If you want announcing perfection, just go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WINiz0Bfb-0.
Speaking of Sandy Koufax, when I was a seven or eight he was signing autographs at a supermarket in South Pasadena. I begged my mom to take me, but when it was my turn, I was star struck and unable to speak so I ended up with this black and white autographed photo. Less tongue-tied kids got color photos.
Here’s a little cocktail party tidbit you could always throw out. The largest attendance at Dodger Stadium was not for a baseball game and not for the Beatles. When Pope John Paul II spoke here in 1987, it attracted 63,000 people, a record that our tour guide said would never be equaled. I heard the Padres wanted him to speak in San Diego, but the Pontiff said the team didn’t have a prayer.
A large ticket of the 1963 World Series brought back great memories of the Dodgers four-game sweep of the hated Yankees (some things never change).
I thought about taking these for my Sports Room, but remembered I already have stadium seats from Section 8 at old Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium, former home of the Padres and Aztecs, and that’s my allotted limit of stadium seats.
To cap off this part of the tour, John showed us an array of baseball caps the Dodgers (and its other nicknames) have used through the decades.
In order to change its losing the ways, in 1937 the Brooklyn Dodgers experimented with green caps. The experiment failed. The Dodgers finished 33 1/2 games behind the National League Champion New York Giants. The next year they changed back to blue, which started the tradition of the Dodgers featuring script letterforms.
The Dodgers played at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field from 1913 until moving West in 1958. Although they had plenty of nicknames (Bridegrooms, Superbas, and Robins), they had been known by many since 1885 as the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers (legend has it that fans had to dodge trolley cars to get to the game). Eventually it was shortened to Dodgers, although for many years the names overlapped one another. I had an inkling to pilfer this, but I remember the Dodgers don’t like people who steal signs.
On September 24, 1957, the Dodgers played its last game at Ebbets Field. Home plate from that game is displayed on the left, while a commemorative home plate was presented to the Los Angeles mayor by owner Walter O’Malley during the opening day ceremonies of 1958.
I asked our tour guide if they had ever received any of the Dodgers collection that had been displayed at the short-lived Sports Museum of Los Angeles that closed in 2016. Unfortunately, none of it was here. Here’s a couple of photos I took when I visited shortly before its closing. It was a fantastic museum.
This next display on the Dodger Stadium tour commemorated the man who broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron. On April 6, 1974, Aaron hit his 715th home run off of Dodgers’ pitcher Al Downing in Atlanta, breaking the Babe’s record. Vin Scully (as only Vin Scully could) eloquently commented as Aaron was being mobbed by his fellow players, “What a marvelous moment for baseball; what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia; what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron … And for the first time in a long time, that poker face in Aaron shows the tremendous strain and relief of what it must have been like to live with for the past several months.”
Maybe I should donate my 45 rpm record of Move Over Babe, Here Comes Henry.
A jersey of the 1955 World Series team was signed at an anniversary by the living members of that first Dodgers World Series championship team in 1955. Although Tom Lasorda was not a member of that team, he got to sign it because earlier in the season he was sent to the minors so they could add a young left-handed pitcher by the name of Sandy Koufax.
The only gloves missing from this collection were O.J.’s and Michael Jackson.
World Series trophies were showcased.
Three of those included first baseman Wes Parker, catcher John Roseboro and shortstop Maury Wills.
Don Newcombe and Fernando Valenzuela, to name a couple.
Yes, Fernando could hit as well as pitch.
Here you have Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider and Don Drysdale.
Saving my favorite for last, I stopped and gave thanks to Sandy Koufax.
Loved those Union 76 cups they used to hand out at the gas station, and I still have a few left. Hmm, I have more cups than I thought.
Here, Jeff attempts to tell reporters why he became a Padres fan, while I look on in bemusement and amusement.
Lining the halls were posters of two World Series programs, both of which I own in my collection. My favorite anecdote from the ’65 series is when Koufax was unable to pitch in the first game because it fell on Yom Kippur. Don Drysdale took his place and lasted less than three innings, giving up 7 runs. When manager Walter Alston came out to the mound to take him out, Drysdale reportedly said to his manager, ““Hey Skip, bet you wish I was Jewish today, too.”
Another little anecdote from the ’65 series. I was 13-years-old and desperately wanted to get out of school to watch Game 7 (they played in the daytime back then). I told my mom I was sick, and she got out the trusty thermometer. When she left, I rubbed it on the pillow a few times to make the temperature go up, and sure enough it was more than 100 when she looked at it. I had tried this trick before, and unfortunately my dad was usually the one to catch me. When my mom called him in to decide if I was ok to go to school, my dad said (much to my surprise, “I think he should stay home a day to get better.” I couldn’t believe I had fooled him, too, however when my mom walked out of the room, he turned around to me and gave me a wink. That special father-son moment always brings back great memories of my dad. To make it even better, the Dodgers beat the Minnesota Twins, and Sandy pitched a shutout.
To show how much I loved the Dodgers when I was a kid, I still have every Dodger Yearbook between 1958 and 1972 … except 1960. I bet my sister tossed it out with my old baseball cards.
There were more posters featuring Dodger greats.
I asked if I could go and pump iron in the Dodger weight room, but the tour guide looked at me like I was some kind of dumbbell.
Although we had booked the “Clubhouse Tour,” we were informed the clubhouse was being painted and was off limits to visitors. The website had said we’d be offered a “glimpse,” and a glimpse was all we got. We couldn’t even take photos from the perimeter of the clubhouse, so that was kind of a disappointment. The least they could have perhaps offered us was a Clubhouse sandwich.
Walking outside, we found ourselves in the Dodgers bullpen. With my injured rotator cuff beginning to ache, I figured this might be the place to find a pain reliever. Instead, I took a photo of the oldest battery in baseball.
The field at Dodger Stadium is in pristine condition, and it was cool to be standing where some of my childhood heroes played. We were given a warning that we had to stay on the track.
We took one final shot before leaving the field.
With the exception of not really seeing the clubhouse on the Clubhouse Tour, the experience was well worth the money. The three of us had a blast reminiscing about our times at Dodger Stadium, and since we are pretty big baseball trivia buffs, we took particular pleasure in annoying the tour group by answering most of the trivia questions tossed out by our guide. (I must admit I never knew the Dodgers were once called the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.)
If you root for the Dodgers or are just a baseball fan in general, the tour of Dodger Stadium is a great way to get a closer look at baseball history, especially since 2022 is the 60th anniversary of the ballpark.
The tour brought back a multitude of memories for me including listening to Vin Scully on my transistor radio hidden under the pillow as Sandy Koufax would mow down the hated Giants. For two hours anyway, I was a Dodger fan again.
1000 Vin Scully Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Parking for tours: Free
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