The Checklist Doubleheader: Los Angeles
There is a story told about Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley, who in his younger brash years (OK, brash-er), was on the verge of pitching a no-hitter for the Cleveland Indians against the California Angels. The final batter, Gil Flores, kept stepping in and out of the batter’s box, until a frustrated Eckersley finally pointed at him and yelled something along the lines of “I need one more out and you’re it. Get in there.”
This sums up my thoughts on the St. Louis Cardinals.
Avid readers, or even those that happened to stumble across yesterday’s post while Googling “Philly Cheese Steaks”, know that I was on the verge of an historic Sports Fan achievement. When the sun rose yesterday, I had seen 27 of the 30 Major League Baseball teams play in person. By the time my head hit the pillow after attending a Philadelphia Phillies-Florida Marlins game, I was down to just one outlier – the St. Louis Cardinals. As my buddy Kels might observe, I had a “Date With Density”, for those very Cardinals were currently visiting my backyard of Los Angeles. Except that I was in Philadelphia. No matter – Sports Fan history was in my grasp, meaning “completely subject to the whims of the airline industry”.
And that brings you up to speed – which was approximately 15 mph, as Chris (The CO), my Honorary Observer for the landmark occasion, navigated the streets of downtown L.A. on the way to Dodger Stadium. Someone once said that “contrast is the best illustrator”, and I’m here to tell you that whoever they were, they were right. For everything about this game day experience, including the current upstream spawning against traffic, was impossible to process outside the context of my experience in Philadelphia just hours earlier.
I’ve been to Dodger Stadium a handful of times, and always regarded it as a serviceable venue for a ballgame – especially an evening game. The Stadium is a little dated, but it was hard not to like a place that allows you to gaze out beyond the park over a uniquely Californian vista while enjoying the hum of the game. Going from Citizens Bank Park to Dodger Stadium in the course of 24 hours though, cast a very harsh glare on all of the warts that the latter holds. It’s like having an old car that you’re very happy with – until you take a ride in a much newer model. In fact, having once held Dodger Stadium in fairly high regard, I now think it’s time for a complete do-ovah, as they say in certain parts of my ancestral New England.
My friend and accomplice in many a sports marketing boondoggle, The CO is equally attuned to the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of event production and the fan experience. And once we had run the gauntlet of traffic, parking, ticketing and concessions and were finally seated, we did a combined mental scan to come up with a stadium in the Majors that has gone as long untouched as has Dodger Stadium, which exists now in the same basic form in which it opened in 1962. Only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field came to mind, and in fact a quick check after the fact revealed that, refurbished or not, Dodger Stadium is indeed straight up the third oldest MLB stadium. Obviously Fenway Park has experienced significant renovation of late, so it’s official – only Wrigley is more antiquated than Dodger Stadium. Right here in L.A., the Home Office of Trendy.
That’s not to say that the Dodgers aren’t aware of the need for changes. They have undertaken some isolated upgrades such as replacing all of the stadium seats and upgrading the luxury boxes and amenities in the lower, field level. And a major renovation that was announced in 2008 laid out a $500 million plan to build Dodger Way, a huge plaza and promenade beyond center field that would create a fan gathering place of restaurants, shops and an interactive Dodger Experience museum. It would link to a “green necklace” of landscaped areas, ultimately leading to an elevated plaza that offered 360 degree views of downtown, the Pacific Ocean and the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as the Dodger Stadium field. All of this would be awesome and is badly needed – currently you have no eating options besides the…well there’s no other way to say this…crappy concession stand food, and no reason to arrive early to the ballpark other than to beat traffic.
And oh yeah, they were also going to fix the urinals in the upper level bathrooms, upgrade the concession stands from their Eisenhower-era condition, and replace the main scoreboard, which appears as if it was donated by Atari when the company was done using it to test the original Pong game. You know, the little stuff.
Sooooo….what happened? Well, hanky-panky happened, specifically between Dodger co-owner Jamie McCourt and her bodyguard/driver Jeff Fuller, eventually leading to divorce proceedings between Jamie and Frank McCourt. According to California law, all marriage property is considered communal and must be split 50/50 in a divorce. Meaning of course, that the Dodgers will have to be sold unless they can figure out a proper visitation schedule – maybe Frank can have the team sleep over every other weekend, and for two weeks in the summer. Perhaps spaghetti supper on Thursday nights?
In the meantime, while the tabloids and the lawyers get rich, all improvements to the franchise, both on and off the field have been pretty much tabled. But on this night, none of this matters. For Dodger Stadium is good enough for the St. Louis Cardinals, and therefore good enough for me. As Dennis Eckersley might say, “I need one more team and you’re it. Get in there and play ball.”
To be continued…