Growing up a baseball fan in the early 1990s, every Major League ballpark had its own look and feel through the TV screen. If you were a fan at that time, you can picture the unique features each stadium offered.
There was no internet, social media or 25 different sports channels. You had SportsCenter, CNN Sports Tonight or the weekend George Michael Sports Machine (remember him?). They served their purpose and you could see the recap of big plays from all the ballparks across the country.
Each park had traits that stuck with you.
Kansas City had the fountains. Wrigley Field had the brick walls and ivy. Houston had the “eighth wonder of the world,” the Astrodome. Think of a team, and you can probably picture their park.
The Dodgers had the palm trees and hillside (known as Chavez Ravine) beyond the outfield stands with the wavy rooftops. It was L.A. It was the Dodgers, a franchise rich in history.
Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to get a first-hand look at one of the few parks left that brings back childhood memories.
It’s actually now the oldest park west of the Mississippi River. It opened in 1962, and now holds the claim of the largest capacity ballpark in the Major Leagues.
The first challenge is actually getting to the park. Even on a Saturday morning (it was a 1:05 p.m. start), there was plenty of traffic on the freeway. It’s a way of life in Southern California. It’s also well-known in baseball circles that Dodger fans are traditionally late to games — I can see why with the traffic.
The first thing that strikes you is the overall size of the park. The upper deck is high. Really high. Most newer parks are lower. This is another throwback of Dodger Stadium.
While taking in any ballpark, it’s hard to do on an empty stomach. First things first, I ate a “Dodger” dog. Their famous hot dogs lived up to the hype. I had two — just to make sure.
As the game gets under way, it’s easy to tell that Dodger fans are knowledgeable, and laid back at the same time. There was no heckling, booing, and all the cheers were for the home team and their successes on the field.
The ballpark also acknowledges the past. Most recently, celebrating the career of their long-time TV announcer, Vin Scully. The road leading into the stadium was changed to honor him. Even the umpires look up to him in the broadcast booth and salute him before every game.
Even after the Dodgers’ days in Brooklyn, the park was host to the 1963 World Series winning team, and three Sandy Koufax no-hitters. Even into the 1980s, Tommy Lasorda, the team’s long-time manager is featured, along with pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, as well with their 1988 World Series win.
Remember Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homer against the A’s? Throughout the park, all those days are remembered with various signage and monuments.
It was fun to walk around and get the feel for one of the few parks left that captures the past and the present so well.
The game itself was very non-descript — a four-hour, nine-inning game in which the home team eventually one. But after 30 years of seeing it on TV, the length of the game was fitting. It gave me a little more time to walk down memory lane.
Ernie Bertothy is a contributing writer to the Citizen’s News.