Part VI: Marlins Park
(AKA: If It Is Broke… Fix It!)
Ballpark 20: Marlins Park, elevation 3 feet
The game: Dodgers @ Marlins on June 26, 2015
Continue Reading about Marlins Park
Part II: Civil Rights Game (Jackie Robinson Day)
(AKA: Dog Days in the Minors)
The ballpark: LoanMart Field, elevation 1190 feet.
The game: 66ers @ Quakes on August 27, 2014.
Yes, this is a departure from my posts about my ballpark tour, but with the regular season ending yesterday, I thought I would put up this post regarding a hot topic in baseball right now.
There have only been three pitchers to win the National League Most Valuable Player award since 1955. Why did I choose that year? That’s the year the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first championship, and their only title while still playing in Brooklyn. The last player to do it was Bob Gibson (St. Louis) in 1968. Before that, two dominant Dodger pitchers won the MVP: Sandy Koufax (1963) and Don Newcombe (1956).
Many former players didn’t like facing those three previously mentioned pitchers. In fact, even HoF’ers like Maury Wills even said that they hated facing Bob Gibson because of the intimidation factor he presents. Fast forward to 2014, and we are hearing about several players saying the same thing about Clayton Kershaw. His twelve-to-six curveball – or “public enemy number one” according to Vin Scully – is a plus pitch in his arsenal that fools countless batters every game.
Part I: Dodger Stadium
Folks, I’m not going to beat around the bush, the Dodgers are my favorite team in the major leagues, and always have been. I couldn’t think of a better place to start my tour than my second home for over twenty years. I’ve been going to games there since I was six, and have seen many fantastic games and have attended some historic events there. One of my first baseball memories is getting to see Fernando Valenzuela pitch at the Ravine, and a very major memory for me took place in 1991 when the Montreal Expos’ Denny Martinez pitched a perfect game against my home team. I will honestly say that was the only time I openly rooted against the Dodgers at my home stadium because I wanted to see the perfect game happen. Needless to say, I have a love for this old stadium, but I will try to be as un-biased as possible for this particular trip.
Ballpark 1: Dodger Stadium, elevation 502 feet.
The game: Padres @ Dodgers on July 13, 2014.
Here is what you should know about Chavez Ravine, it was built in the early 1960’s on top of a hill in the Elysian Park area. The area around the ballpark is very hilly, and there are tiered parking lots around the perimeter of the stadium. Unless you have preferred parking, expect to walk a bit! Since I prefer to spend my money on food and talk to you guys about it, I decided to go the inexpensive route and park outside at Stadium Way. Keep in mind, this is street parking and this parking comes at a “first come, first serve” basis, so arrive early if you want to save fifteen dollars. Believe me, with the raised food prices, you’re going to want to think about this option. Since I’m a long-distance runner, I don’t mind the long walk, but it is about a ¾ mile walk on average, depending on where you’re sitting. This is usually the way to go for me, and you do get some great pictures of the entrance into Dodger Stadium. Of course, making this trek is much more difficult on a badly sprained ankle…
Arriving at Chavez Ravine was a breeze, and I wanted to arrive early not just for the free parking, but also for the awesome giveaway, which was a Dodgers portable speaker. It has already been put to good use. This is one plus about the Dodgers, especially under new ownership, the giveaways have been really good. Earlier in the season, I got a replica Don Newcombe #53 Brooklyn Dodgers jersey as the free giveaway, so you can see that the quality of giveaways are quite excellent.
As I arrived, the first thing I did was snag a couple Dodger Dogs and make my way to my seat… which was still in sunlight. Fortunately, these are Dodger fans coming to the games, so I was able to move to shade easily, but more on the fans later. As I mentioned before, the food prices have risen this season, but there is also more variety. The main sell for everybody is the world-famous Dodger Dog, now $5.50! Even worse, the Super Dodger Dog is now over $7 (That used to be $5.50). Now there are Mexican “Doyer Dogs” sold that includes Pico de Gallo on it, burgers, garlic fries, Italian “Brooklyn style” pizza, and even the locally-famous Cool-A-Coo ice cream sandwiches, which are excellent, if you ask me.
Ticket prices: While regular ticket prices for the Los Angeles Dodgers are not too shabby, this is definitely a place where the secondary market consistently has incredible deals on tickets, and this is mainly due to the fact that there are a plethora of season ticket holders that end up selling their tickets at a decent price. For this particular game, ticket prices were well below face value. My ticket was a lower-row seat in Inner Reserve, section 19, for only $8.49 after the awesome Wendy’s discount. Yep, I got a good seat for under ten bucks! But for most Dodgers games that don’t have an extremely popular giveaway, ticket prices on StubHub are beyond cheap, so your best bet is to look there for most games. For parking (or lack thereof) and the ticket, I only spent $8.49. With the two Dodger Dogs and a drink, I only spent about $25 for the whole game!
The fans: The stereotype is true that fans typically “arrive in the 3rd inning, and leave in the 7th inning.” However, because my seat was drenched in sunlight and many of the seats above me had not arrived yet, I quickly moved up to the last row of that section and kept fairly cool in the shade. Still, it is a sad fact that fans don’t show up early, and that gives Dodger fans a bad rap. I don’t think this has to do with a lack of support, and it didn’t sound like a lack of support based on what the people below me said. Apparently, there was some particularly nasty traffic on the I-5 freeway, a route I never take (nor would I recommend taking). This family had to deal with a couple bad accidents on their way to the Stadium, but that is something that could be easily avoided by taking better routes, or just simply avoid the same route everyone else goes. Better yet, your best bet is to ARRIVE EARLY.
The game: Because of the blazing sun, I moved up to the empty top rows for the first four innings of the game (since they went so quickly), and then moved down to my original seat for the rest of the game. The Dodgers had a couple base-runners in the 2nd inning, but weren’t able to cash in a run. Ryu actually pitched a very solid game for the Dodgers only allowing two hits over six innings.
All of his pitches were working, although he did make 20 pitches in the top of the 6th. The game was moving very quickly until the bottom of the 6th when All-Star Yasiel Puig scored fellow All-Star Dee Gordon on a solid RBI single. That was the only run scored of the game. The game came to a crawl when Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly decided to pull Ryu after six innings, and it nearly cost them the game. But, aside from that, this was a fairly routine win for the Dodgers who were in first place in the NL West at the All-Star break!
This ended up being a very fun game, and if you plan it right, you can attend a Dodgers game at an affordable price, if you do a slight bit of research on StubHub beforehand, and if you’re willing to walk and save fifteen bucks. Of course, this is one of my favorite stadiums, and I don’t know if it’s the relatively cheap prices, or the beautiful hike up the entrance, the recorded voice of the legendary Vin Scully greeting you at the entrance, or the Dodger Dogs, but there are few ballparks better than this one, and that’s a main reason why this ballpark is consistenly rated highly amongst players and fans alike. While there are many food options, not much can beat a good old-fashioned Dodger Dog. Just don’t forget the condiments…
It’s time to enjoy an East Coast thunderstorm as I continue writing. Next stop, San Diego. The next post will come tomorrow, Sunday evening!
I know this post is coming a week late and a dollar short, but I wrote this out about a week ago, but never had the time to finish the post and put it up. This is how it was written a week ago. Enjoy!
So with a soft autumn breeze in the air, the Dodgers were behind two games to none, and I was arriving at the stadium about four hours before the game. I wanted to get a good parking spot out on the streets, and decided to blast the Dodgers music I brought, and bring some sandwiches. It was fun for a little over an hour, and then my friend, Matt, and I decided to get in the stadium early to see what was going down. Unfortunately, there was no early entry for batting practice down in the field level, but it was good for my friend who had never met Sweet Lou Johnson before. He got that special treat in autograph alley. As soon as we got to the front of the line, he recognized me from the last time I was there at the stadium (I had been there for the one NLDS game, as well as the Dodgers’ home season finale when they won the NL West title). Of course, who could mistake a Mexican Dodger fan with an easily recognizable orange Wheel of Fortune bag? That’s besides the point. After saying hello to Sweet Lou, Matt finally got his autograph and a picture with the former Dodger. After taking some batting practice along the outfield warning track, we made our way to our seats and sat back with a Dodger Dog, a drink, and the pregame ceremonies beginning shortly. It was nice to just sit back and watch all of this as the afternoon came to a slow and beautiful close.
The player introductions of the whole team was awesome, but there is nothing quite like seeing that enormous American flag waving in the outfield with the national anthem being sung so well. Yes, it was great last time in the division series… but this was with the sun setting on the third base side, and a bit of that golden sun shining on the flag. Moreso, this was the National League Championship Series! It was the first time the Dodgers had seen the NLCS in twenty years, the feelings were pretty overwhelming.
One of the best parts of the pregame festivities was the first pitches. The four star infielders from the Dodgers for nearly a decade in the 70s and early 80s came out for the first pitch. How awesome is that? We had Ron Cey at third, Bill Russell at shortstop, Davey Lopes at second, and Steve Garvey at first. Catching the first pitches from the legendary infielders were the current starting infielders for the NLCS: Casey Blake at third, Rafael Furcal at short, Blake DeWitt at second, and Nomar Garciaparra at first. What’s funny is that I’ve met three of the four legends this season and have all of their autographs in the same book! (I still haven’t met Davey Lopes yet) Fun times!
After all of that, the game finally started and so did the Dodgers’ offense. Right away, the Dodgers put up a run with Manny Ramirez driving in Furcal, followed by an RBI single by Casey Blake, and then a huge three-run triple from Blake DeWitt to put the Dodgers ahead 5-0 in the first. Talk about a quick start! So with the moon slowly rising up and the sun slowly setting, it was getting a little testy when Russell Martin nearly got hit by a pitch in the second inning, after he already got hit by a pitch in the first frame. He didn’t appreciate that inside pitch in the second, so we knew he would get even later.
In the top of the third inning, Shane Victorino came up to the plate, and he got an inside pitch that HE didn’t appreciate. At this point, both benches were warned. Shane and Russell were exchanging some words with each other, and then Shane and Hiroki Kuroda got into it a little bit. Shortly after that, Victorino slammed a 1-1 pitch towards first base. While Garciaparra easily got the force out at first, Kuroda went over to cover first base… and right after the play, Kuroda and Victorino crossed paths… and then it began.
They exchanged pleasantries, got into each other’s faces, and then right before any fists went flying, or any leg kicking occured, the benches began to clear. First, the players on the field came to their team’s defense. Then the players from the dugout came out and tried to make peace, but that wasn’t going to work. So then, finally, both bullpens emptied and the pitchers also charged down the field. Players had to be restrained to stop the pushing and shoving. No punches were thrown, but it looked like it was about to happen if people didn’t get in the middle of things. Also, the umpires did a great job of breaking up the fracas pretty quickly before it escalated. Of course, there were now six umpires instead of the usual four. At the time, this needed to happen. The Dodgers needed to show that they had a little fight in them, and they weren’t going to back down easily.
After that whole scene happened, Hiroki Kuroda really got in a groove and got Phillies retired left and right! He put on a masterful pitching performance that evening and deserved the standing ovation he got when he was finally pulled late in the game. Those final three innings were fun to watch because we knew that the Dodgers had this game. Finally, the final out was recorded and Angel Berroa caught the final ball of the game. Dodgers win!
Since I didn’t have tickets for the other two games of the NLCS (and was hoping the Dodgers would pull off the NLCS victory so I could go to the World Series), I had a feeling that this may be my last time at Chavez Ravine for a Dodger game, so I decided to take a bunch of pictures down in the loge level, and finally of that famous club level entrance. It looked pretty nice that night!
After the game, my friend was really in a celebratory mood since the Dodgers won. Even though I told him it was only one game, he still wanted to celebrate and I ran with it. So I finally gave him the idea to head out to Canter’s restaurant on Fairfax because I wanted some good dessert. When we got there, I quickly noticed a mural of one of my favorite all-time Dodgers, Sandy Koufax. I said at the end of the night, I would get a picture with the mural. When we got inside, that’s when I saw the poster that said “Canter’s Celebrates 60 Years on Fairfax.” On Tuesday, they would be offering 60-cent meals of corned beef sandwiches, and other little goodies! I knew I had to go back on Tuesday. After having a delicious Chocolate Napoleon dessert, I decided to have my friend take the picture outside with Sandy Koufax.
Pretty nice way to end the evening, I thought. It was quite the game, and a great memory etched in my mind. With that, I bid you all adieu, and I will post again soon!
PS: More pictures to come soon! (EDIT: Updated with pictures on 29 Oct. New post tomorrow!)