Something about baseball that takes you way back to the days of summer and the boys in blue.
I have been a Dodger fan since the beginning of time, it seems. My dad had season tickets before Chavez Ravine, when the Dodgers were slugging it out at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Of those who remember, the coliseum was ill-suited for baseball because of its shape. The coliseum was built to honor all who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I and was specifically designed to host the 1932 Olympic games.
It works well for football and has been the home of the Rams, Raiders and even the Chargers. It has hosted three National Football League Championships and two super bowls. It was the site of the first super bowl, then called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, which I attended with my family.
But it was baseball that brought the oddest site. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, New York, they had no place to play so they called the coliseum home. Problem was the configuration was terrible for baseball.
The left-field fence was only 251 feet from home plate and so a huge netting was installed that topped out at 42 feet. Hitters were soon discovering ways to turn pop flies into home runs.
Ironically, baseball initially ordered the Dodgers to install two 42-feet screens in left field. One screen would have topped the left field wall, while the second would have been in the stands, 333 feet from the plate. A ball hit to left would have to clear both screens to be a home run; if it cleared the first screen, it would be a ground-rule double. However, the Dodgers discovered that the state’s earthquake safety laws barred construction of a second screen. The first screen was built, however, its cables, towers, wires and girders were in play.
Interesting stuff, but as a boy, clutching his baseball glove, watching Gil Hodges, Don Drysdale, Maury Wills, and Sandy Koufax, that was pure heaven. Koufax was my first sports’ hero. I was enamored with Koufax. He was the best baseball had to offer, in my youngster eyes. In fact, I thought he was the best human kind had to offer, in my youngster eyes.
Such good memories. Sitting with my pop and brothers watching these great players. Don’t forget, the Dodgers won the 1959 World series that was played at the coliseum, 4-2, over the Chicago White Sox.
Later on when I was the senior spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, I was invited along with my dad to play in a golf tournament benefiting 9/11 family and friends. I was able to have my dad play with Maury Wills. He was thrilled. I even got an autograph photo for him with Maury. I remember my dad’s smile when he saw the signed photo. He had done so much for me. I was able to do a very small thing for him. Such good memories.
Then there was Wally Moon. He figured out a way to turn pop flies into home runs. He became an expert in popping up home runs. They even called them Moon Shots.
Later on, I would go with my dad to see the Rams play.
But it was those early days when I was eight, nine and 10 that resonate.
I was playing little league baseball. I was catching the ace pitcher. We were winning championships. I was a kid playing a great game and able to watch the greatest players in the warm embrace of my family. Such good memories. Talk soon.