Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Think Blue

I almost forget there is actually a Mets season going on. I keep going to games, but I keep getting sidetracked by different things. For one, Carlos Beltran came to Brooklyn last Wednesday. I attended that game with CrazyMetGirl and will get that up soon.

I also sat in the Excelsior area on Sunday versus the Cubs, where it was Daniel Murphy Day. I will get that up as well.

But come on guys, who doesn't want to follow Coop's NEXT stop on her West Coast Baseball Jaunt? And that would be Chavez Ravine, where the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles play their games at a little park called Dodger Stadium. At this point in the season, I find my West Coast trip way more intriguing than the Mets play this season.

Anyway, I had never been to Los Angeles before, let alone a game at Dodger Stadium. It was something I had always wanted to do, I mean for obvious reasons such as the history behind it. I am not a Brooklyn Dodger denier, I am intrigued with their history. But I have been told to tone down my anti-Dodger rhetoric regarding CitiField's use of their history. I mean, sure, I love Jackie Robinson as much as the next person, but if you are going to honor New York Baseball History, do it right. Honor the other teams. But it goes without saying that Walter O'Malley, though purely profit driven, was a genius way ahead of his time for tapping into the West Coast market. Honestly, if there were never baseball on the west coast, I'd be less intrigued with visiting those cities. And that's the damn truth.

Okay, Brooklyn Dodger rant over, I had heard many different versions of what Dodger Stadium would be like for me, a first-timer. Some people who had been there before, years ago and more recently, had told me (in no particular order), I would be blown away by the beauty of it, not just the stadium, but the area. (I was). A few people tried to explain to me the actual logistics of the stadium -- you go in through the "mezzanine" which I think is actually called the "loge" at Dodger Stadium -- and it's built into a mountain. And the only thing I can tell you on that is...you cannot even imagine it till you actually go. Here's a pic of what I first saw as I came up from the ramps.

When I parked the car, I had to walk up a hill to get to the park --

Then throughout the concourse, you will see escalators and different ramps. Since I had gotten there so early (and I will get to that in a minute), I had time to walk around to the different entrances and how it looked to park on lower levels and higher levels of the stadium.

Imagine entering our old Shea through the Upper Deck. That was where I entered.

Other things people told me was the old saying that Dodger fans get to the stadium in the 3rd inning, and leave in the 7th. Others were that their fans were obnoxious, kind of know-nothing, and well, the type of fans to enter in the 3rd and leave in the 7th. Some told it was incredibly easy to get to by car (which is why O'Malley picked the area he did, with its proximity to the major highways).

I don't know if it had to do with timing (7 pm start on a Saturday night), or that the Dodgers are a GREAT team this year or that I was sitting next to some peculiarly knowledgeable fans, but I experienced none of those problems, and I can enthusiastically say that although I had my trustee GPS, it was sooooo easy to get out of Chavez Ravine.

Coming from Anaheim, some people warned me (local or those who had learned from experience) was to leave no later than 4:30 to get to the 7 pm game. Now, I'm wondering if those who warned me knew I wanted to get there on the earlier side since I wanted to get pictures and walk around, but I'll tell ya...I got there within an hour, which I think is unheard of to get anywhere in LA from anywhere else outside of that county.

I will get to their fans in a minute. I spent about 40 minutes walking around the stadium, trying to get a good idea of their fan base. Some of you may know that Manny Ramirez is #99 on the Dodgers now (I say that facetiously -- my two readers know for sure that he plays there since he could have been signed by the Mets and was not...). I LOOOOOVED the residents of Manny Wood, who wear Manny-type dreads and his jersey. I took a picture of this guy here...
Since I wasn't wearing any Mets colors, or any team colors for that matter, I probably looked like some crazy tourist type who wanted to get random photos. Like this one of two friends I presume -- one was wearing a Dodger #99 jersey, the other a Mets #57 jersey. SHEESH. To each his own (I did identify myself to be on friendly territory). Well, I was a crazy tourist type, but that's beside the point. But of course, I couldn't help but think of the differences between what their fan base had to celebrate against ours. They can dress up in fun clothes, and yet, we have nothin'. Wait, I take that back. We have Oliver's Army who wear sombreros and Perez #46 jerseys. It's five guys. Hundreds of Dodger fans wear Manny gear.

Fred, Jeff, Omar. You missed the boat on that one.

So again, I have to go into honoring baseball history, most notably, your own team. Again, pointing to the history of Jackie Robinson, color barriers broken, Don Newcombe, and Roy Campanella, something as simple as this sign here by the team store really touched me.

Now, skeptics might say - sure, Dodgertown is open to anyone...as long as you spend money! But I think it is extremely telling that the same franchise that not only broke the color barrier, but built unsegregated quarters at spring training and honor that history every day still hold that principle close to heart. And the kicker, when you are walking in, Mr. Voice of the Dodgers Vin Scully is giving an announcement to the tune of, "Welcome to Dodgertown...where all are welcome."

That just says it all. Scully's voice = two big sticks of buttah lashed together in a roughhewn manner. Dodgertown still holding their principles intact for well over fifty years = priceless. Moving right along...

As I walked around, I saw there was an open area for fans to watch batting practice. To some of you, this may seem par for the course. Of course they would have batting practice open for fans to watch. BUT I hadn't even entered the stadium yet. The area you can watch from is sort of an open area by center field (where you see the big Dodger Vision scoreboards on television). You think about how inaccessible some stadiums are -- granted, I don't think you can get autographs and stuff like that from players but it's nice that in this day and age they do not feel the need to make parts of the park so inaccessible to fans.

I tried to find a main entrance to get my picture next to, alas, surprisingly so, there is no "Welcome to Dodger Stadium" main entrance (at least, one that was conspicuous), except for this one here-- that was one for either press or club ticket holders. I was mingling with the commoners tonight though. Although truth be told, I may need to do the All You Can Eat section over by Right Field next time , just to say I did it (on a side note, San Diego Mets-connections J-Sol and Solly told me they sat in those seats a few months ago and STILL had leftover bags of peanuts to eat to this day). But Blondies Jake DID warn me that the lines there are long. So I guess All You Can Eat At Your Own Risk of waiting entire innings for food.

So I entered the stadium through I guess what would be considered the upper deck. What surprised me was that even if I wanted to walk around on lower levels without a ticket, well, they had ushers and security personnel stationed at every door checking tickets. I thought that was kind of a beat deal, but I guess save trying to sneak into better sections, they have specialty food at every level, so why would you want to move down.

So nearly all who had been following my Tweets (@Coopz22) or Facebook status updates all told me -- get a Dodger Dog. Well...I don't like hot dogs!! I mean, I used to, but no longer do. Years ago, I would have. But after seeing THIS sign below...how could I pass up the opportunity to honor my OWN team back in Flushing...

For Brooklyn rip-off stadium pizza, it wasn't half-bad. But just that. Can't tell a Jersey girl where to get good pizza. I would say, even though I did not indulge, go for the dog.

So back to the fans. I sat in a very cool section and the seats were very good.
I wouldn't be able to tell you if there are any sections I would definitely say to stay away from, but I don't think there is a bad seat in the house here.

Anyway, truth be told, I had my own prejudgments on Dodger fans. But the fans I sat next to were knowledgeable, bled Dodger blue and gave me some commentary on why they did not like the whole Angels name change to Los Angeles. "It's not even in Los Angeles County!" the female fan next to me said -- who apparently had a baby daughter she left with her mom that night...wearing her Dodger onesie. I loved this woman.

And surprisingly so, she and her husband both told me that Angels fans were the biggest frontrunners in sports -- their words, not mine -- since before they won anything in 2002, no one EVER went to their games. Funny, seeing those rivalries come into play from an East Coast point of view where everyone is a front runner.

The Dodgers played the hated Braves this night, and it was funny seeing Ryan Church in a Braves uniform when I was seeing him play against a team that was NOT the Mets. But here's something else. I spent most of the night paying attention not to what was on the field but getting the perfect picture of the Dodger Vision screen out in Left Field.

I had been telling someone that I remember not only watching Mets play the Dodgers in the 80s and what not, but during the old Game of the Week on NBC with Bob Costas and Tony Kubek, and just being fascinated with that board. My fascination with visiting other baseball parks might have even started by watching Dodger games on GotW back in the day, transfixed on that television. I still don't think I was able to get a good shot, or the perfect shot of it, but I hope you can see what I mean here.

Okay, and the hokey cheesy fan in me who not only LOVED the Rally Monkeys at Angel Stadium (where some fans wore in backpack-fashion) and I LOVED the MannyWood 99 area out in LF. So charming. But I mean, what are we going to put in LF at CitiField...a "Who IS This Guy?" sign, since I don't even think Jerry Manuel knows who is playing LF on a daily basis?

Now, MSF buddy DyhrdMet asked me what I thought of Dodger Stadium, being an old stadium, that if the Mets organization had kept up with repairs of Shea, maybe we could have kept Shea around longer and all it needed was some TLC.

Well here is my philosophy on what Shea could have used to make it a bit more fan-friendly over the years. I think Angel Stadium reminded me more of what the team could do to make the stadium more fan-friendly. Dodger Stadium, not so much. See, we need to understand something from a business standpoint. Walter O'Malley was given something like 300 acres in Los Angeles back in the late 50s and it was basically pure profit to move to the team out there in 1958. They could keep up with repairs and respond to fan needs because, well, they COULD. For the Angels, they had a media company that had a vested interest in keeping the team where they were, with its proximity to Disneyland (if you have ever been, it seems like there is just ONE road that one end is Disney, the other end is Angel Stadium).

I think after awhile, Shea was in such disrepair, it was almost better to build a new stadium. I still miss Shea and maybe when the DeRoulets owned the team they might have been able to sink some money into it, but then...they weren't sinking money into much those days.

I digress.

Now I said most fans I saw did not leave by the 7th inning. Unfortunately, I made out like a cliche and bolted after the 7th inning stretch. I was tired. And I can guarantee most fans in that park weren't on their second game of the day. I had a bit of a drive anyway.

But it also left me with a dilemma. When I entered the stadium, I wasn't able to get a good shot of myself near anything quite Dodgery enough. The interior of the stadium, by the way, honored of lot of their Dodger greats from the past with photos on columns around the stadium. I could have gotten a pic next to Sandy Koofoo, but it didn't feel right. He was MY pitching man crush, kind of like Nolan Ryan -- non-Mets who I would have loved to be Mets.

But it was almost as if Bart Giamatti himself pointed me in this particular direction to get the perfect shot before I left.
My first though was....Whatttt?????? How DARE the Dodgers honor one of our own...Oh wait, he was a Dodger. Well, at least Mike Piazza was, Jackie Robinson was not.

Sorry, I will always be on my soapbox about that.


dgwPhotography said...

Coop - this great stuff. I think one thing that gets forgotten in Shear/Dodger Stadium comparison is that Dodger Stadium was never exposed to the extreme changes in the elements that Shea was exposed to.

DyHrdMET said...

that's a good point by dgwPhotography about Shea being exposed to the elements. Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon did do some work on Shea in the 80s, but Wilpon probably wanted his new Ebbets Field, well, for over 50 years now.

thanks for fielding my question. I have another -
Was there any sense of Brooklyn Dodgers history in the stadium aside from the Brooklyn pizza place? I saw banners of Cey and Piazza from the LA Dodgers.

some of the outside shots of the ramps and staircases you took actually remind me of the old Dodgertown complex in Vero Beach (the one I always think of when I hear the name Dodgertown). Weird since Dodgertown in Vero Beach predates Dodger Stadium by about a dozen years.

Coop said...

DyHrdMet - there was a sense of Brooklyn Dodger history but since this is the LA Dodgers, they are going to heavily honor the LA team more. Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Eric Gagne, Eric Karros, Drysdale, etc. But on the flip side, I know for the first few years they existed, O'Malley made it a point to retire many of the Boys of Summer numbers to acknowledge their past (Campy, Newcombe, etc). But like you said, the whole Dodgertown idea was embraced by the Brooklyn team. That's why I thought the stadium was so eerie. It has kept up with the times (As Dave above you mentioned) yet is a throwback to a simpler time. And has been sheltered from the "elements" that plagued Shea. It was also fan-friendlier than others (so is Angel Stadium).

Solly said...

Dodger Stadium might be my favorite place in California to watch a game. Seriously next time you come out, we're so doing the all you can eat seats.

And yeah Angels Stadium and DLand basically share the same road. It's kinda cool.