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Los Angeles Coliseum
Los Angeles, CA
Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Dodgers
March 29, 2008

By Ken Schlapp

When I heard that the Dodgers planned to play a game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, I was immediately excited and started working on my plans be there, because there was no way I was not going to go.  I was quite happy that the Dodgers made the decision to celebrate their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles by playing an exhibition game in the stadium in which they played their first four seasons, the Coliseum, before moving into Dodger Stadium and after abandoning Brooklyn.   All I had to do was convince TJ and Rick to go with me and then buy tickets as soon as we could.  The first part was easily accomplished, as I knew they would go.  With as large a capacity as the Coliseum has, I was not worried about getting tickets, but I never realized that when I did that I would be one of the 115,300 fans attending the game, which set a new world record for attendance at a baseball game.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was built in 1923 as the home of the USC Trojan football team and the Trojans still call the coliseum their home today.  It is a memorial in honor of the World War I  veterans.  It was also the home of UCLA football from 1928 through 1981.  However, the coliseum is most famous for being the only stadium to host 2 separate summer Olympics, in 1932 and in 1984.  Prior to the 1932 Olympics, the Coliseum was the largest stadium in Los Angeles, with a capacity of 75,144.  However, in preparation for the 1932 Olympics, the stadium was extended upwards to 79 rows in the upper level to bring the capacity up to 101,574.  After the 1932 Olympics, the Coliseum continued to add tenants.  The Los Angeles Rams began playing NFL games there in 1946 and continued to do so until 1979.  The Los Angeles Chargers played there in 1960, before moving to San Diego and the Los Angeles Raiders played there from 1982 through 1994, both after leaving and before returning to Oakland.  Various other professional football and soccer teams played there from time to time.  The 1967 Championship game (which would later be known as the Super Bowl) would be played her as well as the Pro Bowl from 1951-1972 & 1979.

There was no shortage of use for this historic stadium, but it was not until 1958 that baseball was added to the curriculum when the Dodgers abandoned Brooklyn to play in Los Angeles.  Coming from New York, I have to have some fun with the abandonment theme, because people from Brooklyn are still mad at the Dodgers for leaving, but still want them back.  I have always been a Mets fan, but my uncle and older cousins were New York Giants fans, so my long-time affiliation sides more with the Giants and I never liked the Dodgers anyway, so I have no problem with them being on the left coast, but I am not the majority.  The Dodgers were truly loved by Brooklynites even though they only managed to win one World Series during their long history in Brooklyn.  However, they did manage to win a World Series in only their 2nd year in Los Angeles in 1959 and have done it 4 more times since.  The unique thing about their 1958 title is that along with the 1967 Super Bowl, the Coliseum is the only stadium to host both the World Series and the Super Bowl.

During the Dodger 4-year tenure at the Coliseum, they had to play under some unique conditions because they were effectively squeezing baseball into a football stadium.  This means that the angles for the field and seating were not in the typical and appropriate positions.  In fact the distance to the left field fence was only 251 feet from home plate, but was 42 feet high.   This led to some very short home runs (although some line drives that may be home runs elsewhere would just bounce off the fence here..  Most famously were the many home runs hit by Wally Moon, which, of course, became known as Moon Shots!  Playing at the Coliseum also led to some of the largest crowds ever to attend baseball games to the humongous capacity of this stadium.  When the Dodgers finally moved into their brand new stadium in Chavez Ravine, nobody thought there would be baseball in the Coliseum again, and there would not be until March 29, 2008, when the Dodgers played an exhibition game against the Red Sox to commemorate their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles.

In 2003, during my big baseball, trek, I was able to walk around the outside of the Coliseum, but I was not able to make it inside on this day.  Thankfully, due to the Dodgers 50th anniversary celebration, I was able to make it inside this time.  I flew out to San Diego on Friday the 28th to stay at TJ’s house.  On Saturday, we met up with Rick and headed up to LA for the historic game.  As per tradition with this crew, we managed to find a spot on the street and walk a few blocks to the stadium, and with over 115,000 people in attendance, that was no simple feat.

Since the Dodgers were playing the Red Sox, I decided to wear my Pedro Martinez Red Sox Jersey to root for the Red Sox and against the Dodgers.  You can take your pick on either angle.  Rick, however, decided to wear his Roberto Clemente jersey, which made our day more interesting.  Several people saw him with his Pirates Jersey and immediately ridiculed/questioned him as to why he would be wearing a Pirates Jersey. However, every single time, when the noticed it was a Clemente jersey, the immediately said “Oh, Roberto Clemente, that’s cool”.  It must have happened at least 10 times, which made it quite funny.  I got a few derisive and abusive comments about my Red Sox jersey, but nothing like the constant reaction Rick was getting.

During our walk around the stadium, it was hard not to notice how majestic this old stadium is.  The concrete base, walls, and façade in conjunctions with some open air in between to give a peak at the inside, made this coliseum appear to be Romanesque like the great Coliseum in Rome.  Adding to that by the main entrance are the 2 large nude, but headless statues of a male and a female athlete that were erected for the 1984 Olympics.  USA water polo athlete, Terry Schroeder was the model behind the  male athlete, Long jumper, Jennifer Innis, from Guyana was the female model.  The “Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum” lettering and the Olympic rings were added along with the large analog clock and thermometer over the office windows on both ends of the peristyle in 1955.  This makes for a beautiful entrance to this almost ancient (by US terms) stadium.  In addition, there is a “Court of Honor” with plaques honoring the many heroes and events that took place during the Coliseum’s long history.  Finally the Coliseum was  deemed a National Landmark on July 27, 1984.

Once inside the stadium, I was simply overwhelmed by the sheer size of the place.  Any venue that can hold the 115,300 fans that were in attendance on this day has to be massive.  Our seats we relatively high in the upper level and right down the left field line.  Therefore, we had a great view of the fence constructed to act as the large left field wall.  Due to the many modifications made to the Coliseum since the Dodgers last played here, the short 251-foot left field wall/fence had to be shortened all the way to 201 feet for this game.  To attempt to compensate for this short home run opportunity, the height of the fence was increased from 42 feet to 61 feet, which clearly makes for the shortest and most unusual home run barriers in all of baseball.

These unusual field dimensions would lead to some unique happenings within the game.  The Red Sox participation in the game was unique itself for many reasons. First was the fact that the Red Sox are in the American League.  Secondly, the Red Sox were playing an exhibition/spring training game after having already played to regular season games against the Oakland Athletics….in Japan!  On their way back from this trip, the Red Sox scheduled 3 exhibition games against the Dodgers, including this game in the Coliseum.  After that, they got back to regular season action against the A’s in Oakland.

Before the game, the Dodgers paid tribute to the 1958 Dodger team that played that first season in the Coliseum, by having Wally Moon of “Moon Shot” fame to throw out the first pitch. They added a 2nd 1st pitch in the 2nd inning when Laker great Kareem –Abdul-Jabbar through out the pitch, while being flanked by 15 members of the Dodgers 1958 team. The Dodgers long-time announcer, Vin Skully, was also honored before the game.  He has been announcing Dodgers games since the early 1950s, when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn.  The funny thing about his situation, is that I learned in a documentary, that he grew up a Giants fan, but ended up a big part of the Dodgers family and history.  In my opinion, he is the best announcer to listen to, and he does most of the games on his own, with no aid from a color man.  One of his best attributes may be his ability to be silent when appropriate and not overwhelm you with constant chatter.

The problem that I had after that was that I could not find a scorecard to buy in the stadium and could not keep score as I traditionally do on my first trip to any stadium.  I was very disappointed, but I trudged on and still took notes and cheated by looking up stats after the fact to get my story down correctly.

Once the game got started, the dimensions of the field immediately came into play.  The Dodgers decided to go with 5 infielders and no left fielder.  Normal center fielder, Andrew Jones, played right by 2nd base to clog up the middle, while Dodger shortstop Blake DeWitt was effectively playing both shortstop and left field on any balls that were hit over his head and off the giant screen/fence.  The Red Sox did not employ that same strategy, but their left fielder did play all the way over in left center field.

The Dodgers started off well in the first when Esteban Loaiza held the Red Sox scoreless in the first and then scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the inning.  Rafeal Furcal singled, moved to 2nd on Tim Wakefield’s botched pickoff attempt, and would eventually score on a sacrifice fly by Andre Ethier.  That brief lead would not last long.

Kevin Cash hit a 3-run home run in the 2nd after a 2-out error by Blake DeWitt, and added a 2-run homer by Kevin Youkilis in the 3rd to give the Dodgers a 7-1 lead that they would not relinquish.  No runs were scored in the 4th inning, but there still was a very unusual play when Jacoby Ellsbury was caught stealing at 2nd base when Dodger’s catcher, Russell Martin nailed him at 2nd on a hard throw to…center fielder…Andruw Jones.  This is definitely the first time (and last time) I saw a 2-8 caught stealing.

Bobby Kielty and Alex Cora each added RBI singles in the 6th to increase the Red Sox lead to 9-1.  The Dodgers would make a late, but feable attempt at a comeback when Trol Loney his a solo homer in the 8th and Blake DeWitt hit a 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th to make the final score a more respectable 9-4.  Wakefield ended up the winning pitcher by giving up 1 run on 5 hits,, one walk, and 2 strikeouts over 5 innings.  Esteban Loaiza was the losing pitcher after surrendering 5 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits, one walk and 3 strikeouts over 3 innings.

During the game, part of the fun was to stare at the record-breaking crowd.  I was amazed that over 115,000 people could fit into one stadium to see a baseball game.  The other thing that stood out to me was that even though I was high up and far away down the left field line, I was still infinitely closer than the people sitting in the upper deck in center field.  Those people must have been over 600 feet away from home plate.  I wonder if there were able to see at all.

Bottom Line – This was a great experience to see this exhibition game in an old venue that was never really meant for baseball in the first place.  The unique dimensions and defensive alignments made this game priceless, but my biggest lasting memory of this game is still all the people getting on Rick about the Pirates Jersey, and then backing off because it was a Roberto Clemente Jersey.  Rick and I still laugh at that when we are together at other games.

Basic trip facts:
-Stadium # 36
-Old Stadium Sites visited – None (Total – 36)
-Under construction Stadium Sites visited – None (Total – 2)
-Miles traveled – 250 via Driving and 4,892 via air, total – 5,142 (Totals: Driving – 19,831, Subway - 38, Amtrak – 460, Air - 18,028, Total – 38,357)
-States, provinces, Districts and/or commonwealths passed through – California (Totals: States – 48, Provinces – 2, Districts – 1, Commonwealths - 1)
-Seats – High up in the upper level down the LF line
-Prices: Parking – ?, Beer – ?, Hot Dogs – $4.00-$5.50, Program (including pencil) – ?, Souvenir Soda Cup – $5.00
-Credit Card giveaway –  None
-First Pitch -  7:10 PM
-Attendance –  115,300
-Results – Red Sox 7, Dodgers 4, W – Tim Wakefield, L – Esteban Loaiza, S – None
-Home team record to date – 24 wins, 18 losses
-Record of “team I was routing for” to date – 19 wins, 23 losses
-Lodging – TJ’s House – San Diego, California

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