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#pounditSaturday, October 16, 2021

What Happened to the Dodger Stadium I Used to Love?

I can remember the seemingly halcyon days of my childhood spent at Dodger Stadium. None of us really minded during those years that Kal Daniels was patrolling the outfield, Rafael Bournigal was booting ground balls around the infield, or that Tommy Lasorda would periodically take naps… during the games. As long as Vin Scully’s dulcet tones could be heard over a portable radio, narrating how the sun was setting, illuminating the San Gabriel Mountain-backdrop, then everything seemed right with the world on a summer’s evening. A week’s worth of PE classes dashed to pieces in one night’s worth of a Dodger Dog and Cool-a-Coo binge. The only tomfoolery to speak of was a bevy of beach balls that, more times than not, seemed to find themselves ricocheting off the head of an unsuspecting blue-haired spectator. And there was the memorable inflated Shamu replica that was spotted at the stadium once; the thing filled up an entire row of seats. Chavez Ravine was the place to be.

Then, at some point over the last decade or so, civility became less frequent than victories. Walter O’Malley’s prized Los Angeles jewel began to lose its shine quicker than requisitioned cubic zirconium. If you believe the recent stories about assault, drug use (apparently not performance-enhancing), and drunken hooliganism at the ballpark, Dodger Stadium has apparently been transformed into yard time at cell block D, only with less courteousness. The latest such incident involves San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow, whose apparent transgression was to wear the colors of the opposing team during the Dodgers’ season opener. Stow, a paramedic and father of two, was beaten into a coma and has suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the incident. Some misguided opinions have surfaced implying that he should have known better than to cheer for the opposition in a place where a stabbing occurred almost exactly two years earlier for similar reasons. The most ridiculous part of that assertion is that some actually believe this. Apparently, some fans have taken the meaning of sports fanatic a little too far. When did it get to the point where it is forbidden to cheer for the other team lest there be some sort of reprisal? Hammurabi probably would have speculated that some Dodger fans have gone overboard.

If Frank McCourt had the money, perhaps he could put up a sign near the entrance of the park that says “__ days since the last savage beating/stabbing.” I can remember attending a game not too long ago when the Dodgers were playing the Washington Nationals. Now consider the fact that the last time the Washington franchise (nee the Montreal Expos) made a playoff run, Rusty Staub’s hair was still “orange.” Normally, what with Los Angeles being the second largest population market in the Major Leagues, one can expect to find a smattering of fans rooting for the visiting team. This apparently includes the fans of a team so far under the water mark they have hit rock bottom on the opposite side of the planet. One fan in particular was wearing Montreal Expos garb (perhaps an idealist). From the time when he showed up through the time he was escorted out for his own safety by stadium security, he was pelted with no less than Jimmy Carter’s entire farm’s-worth of peanut shells plus water, bottle caps, and a number of insults. And this was for a Nationals fan. That’s akin to declaring war on Switzerland. Another time, last season, an Angels fan was heard shouting homophobic insults at Dodgers fans IN DODGER STADIUM! Ostensibly, the fan would better appreciate the irony of hurling profanities at others wearing a shirt with the word “Angels” had he not been using a Bible as a doorstop.

One of the most troubling parts about the whole situation involving Stow and the legions of other complaints about the unruliness over at Chavez Ravine might be the lack of foresight. Since the episode, it has come to light that the Dodgers had planned on having promotions for half-off food and drinks for a handful of home dates this season (including spirits with which to imbibe and take one’s blood alcohol level over the Mendoza line). Security has certainly been lax, especially in the parking lot after games; a flow of people, cars, and lawlessness after the final out resembling a scene from Escape from New York or The Road Warrior.

Perhaps with the money saved by filling out their roster with a veritable who’s who (?) of Aaron Miles, Hector Gimenez, and Ivan DeJesus as members of The Boys in Blue, they could have added, well, more boys in blue. The organization was certainly slow to acknowledge any culpability when the ugliness occurred on Opening Day (probably on advice from legal counsel). They have since announced an increased police presence during and after games. A reward has been offered for the perpetrators in the assault of Stow (but an APB for two fans wearing Dodger blue at a Dodger game probably won’t be very fruitful in catching the perpetrators).

The sheen has begun to fade on the 49-year-old edifice that has hosted eight World Series (and four successful championship runs), an All-Star Game, Sandy Koufax’s brilliance, Fernandomania, and Kurt Gibson’s miracle. While the names on the back of the uniforms have changed, new seats, bright lights, and scoreboards have been added; the old ballpark has tried to remain the same, doggedly hanging onto the charm that has established Dodger Stadium as one of the premier sports venues in the country. The Dodgers are now trying to restore its attraction and appeal after yet another ugly confrontation. But why did Bryan Stow have to be sacrificed for that to happen?

Danny Lee has been involved in sports media for over seven years … While at UCLA, he turned his grade school doodles into a position with the Daily Bruin, and continues his diatribes to this day. You can read his contributions to Larry Brown Sports every Wednesday.


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