September 18, 2014

Gettin’ Psyched for March 29!

So while we’ve already picked out a few of the highlights of the Dodgers Spring Training schedule, there is one game that promises to be full of memories as the 50th Anniversary celebration of the team’s arrival in LA rolls on.  Yup, the Dodgers are going to play one exhibition game in the Los Angeles Coliseum, the first home for the team during the 1958 and 1959 seasons while Dodger Stadium was being constructed.  Personally, I can’t wait.  I remember my grandparents telling me and my brothers about going to games there (including the 1959 World Series).  Check out this image to see what how crazy the dimensions were (and keep it in mind as you read the excerpt below).

For fans of LA sports, there is simply no better writer than the late, great (and Pulitzer Prize winning) Jim Murray of The Los Angeles Times.  Here’s how he described the Dodgers arrival in Los Angeles in his autobiography, which is simply titled Jim Murray:

 “O’Malley had a choice of Wrigley Field or or The Coliseum to showcase his team when it arrived.  There was no contest.  Wrigley Field, which he had purchased along with the franchise rights to LA from Phil Wrigley, was a 24,000 seat replica of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.  The Coliseum had 92,000 seats – from about 28,000 of which you could actually see the game.

O’Malley, who never had trouble adding, had no trouble opting for the 92,000 seats.  The baseball establishment was aghast.  I remember the commissioner of all baseball, Ford Frick himself, taking to the airways to deplore what would happen to the grand old game in this monstrosity of a ballpark.  Frick, who had been his biographer, always worried what would happen to Babe Ruth’s home run records.

To be sure, The Coliseum’s dimensions were a little startling.  To squeeze a ballpark in, left field was a bare 250 feet from home plate.  So they put up a 4o foot wire mesh fence.  ‘There goes Babe Ruth’s record!  Also Roger Maris’!” harrumphed Red Smith.  “Willie Mays’ll bunt over that thing.”

It was a Pittsburgh pitcher, Bob Friend, who first tipped me to the essential characteristics of the Wall.  “You’ll get a lot of lazy high flys that will go over.  But, you’ll get a lot of line drive hits that Willie Mays’ll hit that would go out for homers anywhere else in the world-but they’ll crash into that fence for a single.  It’ll even out.”

He proved prophetic.  The most home runs any Dodger ever hit in a year while they were playing in the Coliseum was 25 – Gil Hodges, 1959.  A Dodger pitcher, Johnny Podres, also accommodated himself to the geometry of the park.  “You just get’em to hit to right field,” he said.  “It’s 440 to the right field wall.  It’s inhuman.”

The moral of the story: You can play baseball anywhere.  Even indoors, as they were shortly to prove.”

 Come on, how can you not want to go to this game?