Saturday, January 31, 2009

In Their Infancy

With the Dodgers set to play their 51st season of baseball in Los Angeles let us reflect with a fan that was around during their 1st season in town. Thanks to my Dad for taking the time to answer these questions, and for opening the scrapbook and sharing the mementos.

The Dodgers moved to Southern California for the start of the 1958 season from Brooklyn, New York. What was the general consensus of a new baseball team in Los Angeles?

Being only 11 at the time, I am unable to answer such an adult question. I do however remember that Roy Campanella, the All Star catcher, was in a car wreck during the winter and was paralyzed and wheelchair bound the rest of his life. This was a big loss to Dodgers and to the fans of the new team. It was big news at the time.

Were you fortunate enough to attend any games during the first season?

I probaby went to 4 or 5 games. Again, as an 11 year old, the Coliseum was the biggest place I had ever been in. The left field, like 204' with a 60' fence, was really short. Right field, at like 405', was really long and I remember that the field out there was sorta of in a dark area. The fence made Wally Moon and his "moonshots' famous and the right field distance ruined the home run career of Duke Snider.

(Note: In looking at Duke Snider's stats you can see the noticeable drop off. Following seasons of 42, 40, 42, 40, and 43 in Brooklyn, he notched only 15, 23, 14, and 16 in his first four season in Los Angeles. Despite playing in substantially less games his numbers would still fall short of his Brooklyn glory if spread out over an entire season.)

(Note: In looking at Wally Moon's home/ away splits you see how his "moonshots" only applied to the Coliseum. While notching 37 dingers at home, he only recorded 12 on the road during 1959 - 1961.)

Obviously the Los Angeles Coliseum wasn't build for baseball games. What was it like watching a baseball game in a football stadium?

Because it was where the Dodgers played, I don't recall anyone thinking of it as a football field. It was the LA Coliseum, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I do remember going to Fan Appreciation Day and getting to stand along the outfield fence and take pictures of the players.

(Wally Moon, Dodgers OF 1959 -1965)

(Jim Gilliam, Dodgers IF from 1953 - 1966)

In 1959, Los Angeles hosted the MLB All Star Game. You attended and had an interaction with the players. Please elaborate.

Well, I didn't actually meet any players. My dad and I went to the players tunnel and waited. I don't recall more than 10 or so other fans being there. He left for awhile to get a ball to have signed. While he was gone, a bus pulled up and Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, and Yogi Berra walked right past me. I could have touched them but I was so in awe that I just sat there and watched them go by. In 1958, there was only one baseball game (in black and white) on TV each week on Saturday, called "the game of the week" and most weeks the Yankees were playing so the players were instantly recognizable to me.

(Yup, he was there. And for only $6!)

After four seasons in the Coliseum, the Dodgers finally moved to Dodger Stadium. What have been some of your favorite Dodger Stadium memories?

Off the top of my head, in no particular order:

1. In 1963, I got to see Sandy Koufax win game 4, a series sweep, and Mickey Mantle hit a home run. I still have the ticket stub and program here. I also kept score in the program as I was taught to by listening to Vin Scully over the radio.

(That's cool!)

(50 cents! Incredible!)

2. Vin Scully. When you went to a game, EVERYONE had transistor radios and listened to him. The stadium echoed with his voice. To people who listened to the Dodger games on the radio, Vin Scully was Dodger baseball.

3. Kurt Gibson home run...enough said.

4. Taking my aging dad and my two young sons to a game in the early 90's. Three generations of Dodger fans together.

5. Da Da Da Dat Da Da "CHARGE" It started as a chant early and was fun to participate in because everyone in the stadium was yelling the rallying call also.

6. "GO, GO, GO, GO." The yell every time Maury Wills got on base the year he stole 104 and broke Ty Cobb's record. Everybody in the stadium knew he was going to steal, including the pitcher and catcher, and he still did it.

7. Walt Alston, the "Skipper." Over the years the players changed, but not the manager. He was cool.

8. Willie Davis, Wes Parker, John Roseboro, Junior Gilliam were some of my early favorites.

You've been fortunate to have seen every Los Angeles Dodger championship, the great players such as Koufax, Snider, and Drysdale and have been able to listen to Vin Scully your entire life. Looking forward, what are you most excited about as a Dodger fan?

Simply going to more games is something I look forward to. The place hasn't changed all that much since 1962. It’s kinda like Disneyland. You know where places are, you know how to get around, and you know that you are going to have a good time.

I'm guessing a lot of us weren't around during the first few seasons of Dodger baseball in Los Angeles. In the coming weeks I'll be pouring through my Dad's scrapbook, pulling pieces of history and sharing them with you. If you have any old pictures/ articles feel free to send them over to


Orel said...

Great stuff, Brandon! Not everyone gets to interview his dad, let alone share his memorabilia.

Nat said...

Great post. This is what being a Dodger fan is all about.

Trolley Dodger said...

Awesome! Thanks to your dad and you for the great memories and memorabilia.

Miss Molly said...

Hey Brandon, this is awesome! Can I send it over to PR to remind them why your dad should get a field pass?