Photo by Lori Shepler/Los Angeles Times
It’s 3:40 p.m., and I’m finally able to take a break from work long enough to check the score. Here it is, Opening Day 2008, and I’m at work—first time in over 10 years, by my guesstimate. And that’s okay, because the Dodgers are apparently having another party out there at Chavez Ravine—they’re bringing it to the lowly Giants to the tune of 5-0 in the seventh inning. And yesterday they shut-out the team whose fans love to harp on that whole “World Champions” thing by a nice and tidy 8-0. That puts the Dodgers over the Red Sox four out of five clashes during spring training—the only one they lost, of course, was the one where I was present, and being able to say I was there for it has definitely taken the sting out of losing a meaningless game. Yep, my friend Doug procured tickets for the two of us and his wife and daughter for Saturday’s big game at the Coliseum commemorating the Dodger’s 50th year since moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. It was a thrill to be there, but I can’t imagine surviving having to play there, or schlepping out there as a fan for four years until Dodger Stadium was being built. After a while, I'd want a closer view of the game. But given that only nine games a year were televised 50 years ago (those Dodgers/Giants clashes), if you had the opportunity to see live major league baseball, you went.
If you draw a line at a 45-degree angle from the top of that fella’s cap in the foreground of the picture, you’ll see where our seats were—way the hell out there, to be sure, to the left of the Coliseum peristyle. But it was such a grand spectacle, who could complain? Certainly not me, even though at times it seemed like we were perched in the Coliseum's version of being out in the left field pavilion, where there was no shortage of Dodger and Red Sox fans, pre-lubed with three or four hours of Tecate and Bud Light before taking their seats, and ready to punch out or drench the first poor slob they fixated upon… over an exhibition game.
Even the much-debated shuttle service from Dodger Stadium got a thumbs-up from me, but that had more to do with the fact that I parked my car out there at about 2:00 p.m., when things were still relatively quiet. There were reports of some fans missing two, three innings due to incredibly long, slow-moving lines to hop shuttles originating at the stadium—these fans probably arrived a couple of hours later than I did, at least. By 3:00 I was sitting in the Rose Garden at USC reading a paperback (Scott Smith’s The Ruins, which is living up to its “scariest book of all time” press so far). I did that for nearly three hours—my idea of a pretty perfect day, a scenario that doesn’t get played out much for me these days—until I met Doug and his family around 6:00. It was only leaving the game that I got a taste of what most fans were up in arms about. I got in line to catch a shuttle right outside the Coliseum at about 10:45 p.m. I boarded the shuttle at 12:45 a.m. Whew. At least I was standing behind some pretty amusing close-to-retirees who were talking movies (Man #1: “Who played Jesus in King of Kings?” Man #2: “Uh, I don’t know. Gimme a hint.” Man #1: “He once appeared on Star Trek.” Man #2: “That Priceline.com guy!”). They also passionately discussed why a movie like No Country for Old Men was so good up to a point, and then dumped you with an ending that “couldn’t possibly be understood.” (Don’t worry. I held my tongue.) Anyway, I made it back to Dodger Stadium around 1:00 a.m. and was cozy and snoozing by 2:00. That’s a lot of work to see a baseball game where the field is wedged in like an incorrect answer to a geometry problem.
But it was a tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’m glad I could be a part of, and I must thank Doug and Linda and little Reagan for that. I just wish the DVD I had set to record the whole thing would have turned out—all I ended up with was snow. I really wanted to hear Scully reminisce about the Coliseum days and occasionally call the game. But all’s well there too, I suppose—Scully’s on-field remarks before the game had me in tears before the first pitch was thrown. If I were to see the broadcast, I’d probably be too teary to follow the action, especially if I were forced to pay attention to the score.
Update: Saito has the potential third out at the plate with the score remaining 5-0. Looks like a pretty good Opening Day for the Dodgers.
Any idea how I might be voting in this week's poll?
Okay, so it’s not just opening week here in Los Angeles. Baseball fans across the land are writing down the scores in permanent ink now as the 162-game season finally gets underway. And to celebrate, this week’s poll (unlike last week’s) is a good one: What is the best baseball movie of all time? I have loaded the poll with six titles that are likely to provide some heavy competition, and this time if you vote “Other,” please use the comments column below to mention the title you like, talk about it a bit, complain or crow about how your team is doing so far, or otherwise just commiserate.
One other thing: I was walking through Vons the other day, and here’s this big display of DVDs set out to catch some of the heat of the Opening Week. Among the titles made available were Bull Durham, Eight Men Out, The Jackie Robinson Story, Field of Dreams, The Natural, with a copy of Hoosiers and Like Mike functioning as token nods to the basketballers who are still either clamoring over March Madness or hoping that the Lakers don’t tank like the Mets did last year. But it made me think: For all the mindless blather on sports talk radio about how boring baseball is and how nobody likes it anymore, especially compared to the NFL or the NBA, why don’t we see display cases pop up in September loaded with copies of Any Given Sunday and The Replacements (or that old chestnut North Dallas Forty, for crying out loud)? This tacit commercial acknowledgement that baseball is still the game most people get passionate about is something, I suppose. And the ratio of good baseball movies to good movies about any other sport seems pretty lopsided in favor of, yes, America’s Favorite Pastime too. (Do I sound like I’m trying to start a fight?) Anyway, that little display just kinda sparked me in a funny way, which I’m sure was not its intent—MGM probably does have quite a few backlogged copies of Eight Men Out that they like to put out there this time of year, just to see if any suckers will bite. Whatever. I just like to be reminded that baseball is back, and I’ll take that news in any shape or form.
P.S. Congratulations to Jon Weisman, the big cheese at Dodger Thoughts, on the arrival of his newborn son, and many thanks for directing his readers to my essay about escorting Sergio Leone to his first baseball game. Kevin Roderick at the esteemed and very well read L.A. Observed was kind enough to do the same. Thanks so much, gentlemen. Your links are even better than those bacon-wrapped street dogs they were selling at the Coliseum Saturday night, and those were damn good!
Final score: Dodgers 5, Giants 0. How could the season start off any better than that?