I’m probably the only Dodgers-based blogger who hasn’t written yet about Manny’s return. Last week, he started a game at Dodger Stadium for the first time since May 6, when the Dodgers began play after the All-Star break against the Astros.
Well, Manny has re-established his presence nicely. By now everyone knows about this week’s series sweep by the Dodgers over the Reds, capped off by a thrilling Wednesday night win.
First, let me say this much about the team from Cincinnati. Their manager is Dusty Baker, one of my favorite ex-Dodgers from the era in which I came of age with the team. Back in the 1970s, when the two teams were both playing in the old National League West, it was either one or the other who won nine of the division titles in that decade (the Giants were the sole exception, in 1971). Between the Reds and the Dodgers, they combined for six World Series appearances in the 1970s. So, there was quite a rivalry going on.
No longer, though. The Dodgers have so thoroughly owned the Reds over the last several years I’ve come to feel bad for Cincy. You would never have convinced me as a teenager that I could ever in the distant future feel anything other than hate for that team. But with Dusty at the helm, and complete domination by my team, I’ve almost developed a soft spot in my heart for them.
During Tuesday night’s Dodgers rout, Manny was hit on the wrist by a pitch and was determined to be available “day-to-day” after X-rays came back negative. In the series finale on Wednesday evening, the Dodgers sent struggling pitcher (and recent All-Star) Chad Billingsley to the mound, making his seventh attempt to win his tenth game of the season. But the reason for the sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium that night was the long-ago scheduled “Manny Ramirez Bobblehead Night.”
The Dodgers won, 6-2, notching their unbelievable 12th consecutive win over the Reds in L.A., a streak which dates back to 2005.
But for a mid-July contest against a fourth place team in another division, there was sure an October-like feel to that night’s game. Certainly the drama in the middle of the game gave one a sense of nostalgia.
As mentioned, it was Manny’s BBH Night, but he wasn’t in the starting lineup.
To set the scene, the Reds and Dodgers were embroiled in a 2-2 tie with a great pitching duel going on–Chad for the Dodgers and Bronson Arroyo for the Reds–when the Dodgers loaded the bases in the sixth inning. Mark Loretta, on deck to pinch-hit for Chad, was called back. “Could it be…Manny?…coming up?” queried the great Vin Scully on air, and to a wild ovation, this was confirmed as #99 did indeed emerge from the dugout with a bat. Vin noted that he hadn’t taken BP today.
As Manny choked up, Baker called for a double switch and brought in reliever Nick Masset, with a very tidy 2.37 ERA, from the bullpen. Vin reeled off the numbers: Manny is only 3-for-27 as a pinch hitter. Masset is holding right-handed hitters to a .128 average.
But 56,000 fans were on their feet in anticipation as if this was the seventh game of the World Series.
On the very first pitch from Masset, Manny, seemingly without effort, pulled a fastball out of the yard–and straight into Mannywood, 90090, putting the Dodgers up, 6-2–his first slam since 2005. The Ravine was reeling, rocking and rolling with a thunderous reaction. Fans waved their bobbleheads over their heads as if they were rally towels.
It was precisely at that moment–give or take a blink of an eye–that the nightly fireworks in my backyard began to go off. (These are a regular feature on every summer evening at nearby Sea World.) Meanwhile, 100 miles north, Vin deemed it to be perhaps the loudest reaction he’d heard to a home run here “in about 21 years…and I bet they can hear that all the way back to Ohio.” I’m guessing it was shaking enough just from my friend Crzblue in her top deck season seats! It all starts at the top, anyway.
Three innings later, closer Jonathan Broxton threw a ten-pitch ninth to finish off the Reds. That 6-2 score had held up, and the Dodgers capped off their sweep.
After the game, one of the post-game hosts told Manny he may be putting a few writers in town out of work. In retrospect, Vin mentioned before signing off that Baker’s double-switch “just turned on the stage lights.” He called Manny’s 21st career grand slam “almost fictional”, under these circumstances.
It was also only Manny’s first-ever pinch-hit grand slam.
Kirk Gibson, are you feeling someone trying to nudge you aside? But I forgot, it’s only July.
Lost in the excitement was the fact that Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier hit his 20th HR of the season earlier in the game. Dre has been getting back into his groove this series.
While Chad did pitch well, he was erratic at times. Catcher Russell Martin had a great night defensively, blocking many pitches, prompting Vin to proclaim him “a trophy-winning goalie behind the plate.” Only one mistake was not salvageable, a wild pitch with a runner on third, that allowed the Reds to score their second run–just after Vin had said, “The Reds seem to be doing everything in their power not to score….and there goes a wild pitch, here comes Dickerson to cross the plate!”
The Dodgers are 27 games over .500 at this point of the season for the first time since 1974, when I was still in junior high. They have beaten Cincinnati in 19 of their last 22 head-to-head games, overall.
The Associated Press article about the game included a few interesting notes:
|It was Ramirez’s first homer into the “Mannywood” section…
…Ramirez’s electrifying moment was the only souvenir for 6,000 fans who went home without a bobblehead, which were limited to the first 50,000.
…Baker said before the game he planned to snag a keepsake bobblehead for himself, adding that Ramirez has been kind to his 10-year-old son.
Dusty Baker, who enjoyed so many great moments at Dodger Stadium in his career (1976-1983, as a Dodger), must now view it as a House of Horrors for his current team. Like this evening’s hero, Baker was also a fan favorite in L.A.–though not quite on the same scale. When he played left field, it was affectionately referred to as “Bakersfield”, not Mannywood.
And the Dodgers organization never sold Dusty wigs, or Tshirts that boasted ”Bakersfield 90012.”
The Florida Marlins roll into Chavez Ravine tonight for a three-game set, and then the Dodgers hit the road.
The Summer of ’69 may have been one Bryan Adams sang about, but that song was written from a very different perspective than mine.
On July 20, 1969–40 years ago today–the historic moon landing took place, mid-summer in the last year of the turbulent decade of the ’60s. Those who weren’t born then no doubt know our country was embroiled in a war in Vietnam, with a new president in the White House who’d been inaugurated that January.
Baseball season in 1969–the 100th anniversary of professional baseball–saw several changes in the MLB. Two expansion teams, the San Diego Padres and the Montreal Expos, were added to the National League. Two more, the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots, were new franchises in the American League. Because of the fact more teams were now competing, 1969 marked the first time each league was split into two divisions, the East and the West. Baseball’s Rules Committee also decided to lower the pitching mound from 15 inches to 10 inches, in an attempt to spur more offensive output throughout the game.
For me, at age 9, this summer was special. I attended my first major league game–the Dodgers vs. the Padres–at San Diego Stadium. I bought my first pack of baseball cards. I began to learn who a lot of the players were.
It was an era of brand-new multi-purpose stadiums, a lingering time of the last few years before free agency would rear its (fill-in-the-blank) head.
But on July 20, the eyes of the nation were diverted from our national pastime to an unprecedented occasion–the landing of three men on the moon. I remember our family barbecuing dinner, then coming indoors that evening to watch this exciting event on TV–a color TV set, which we, probably the last family on the block to have a color TV, had just gotten a few months earlier. Our closest family friends joined us, and everyone shared the moment and celebrated with ice cream.
I recently acquired an audio tape of the Dodgers game vs. the San Francisco Giants played in Candlestick Park that same night, in which Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully giddily announced that “The Eagle has landed.” In the midst of a division race between these two bitter rivals, both took a back seat to the space race. “Can you believe it,” exclaimed Scully, “here we are talking about the Dodgers and the Giants, and there’s a man on the moon!”
The All-Star Game that year was held just a few days later, on July 23, in Washington, D.C. (The NL won, 9-3.)
The Giants’ Willie McCovey was the National League MVP, and Ted Sizemore of the Dodgers was the NL Rookie of the Year.
The New York Mets, perennial losers in their first seven years of existence, would go on to win the World Series, upsetting the favored Baltimore Orioles, becoming the darlings of the sports media and shocking the world. The Mets’ improbable dream season was led by the stellar pitching of future Hall of Famers Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan. Seaver would win the Cy Young Award.
One of my dad’s favorite players, Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale, would cap off his Hall of Fame career that summer. So too did Yankees great Mickey Mantle retire. Stan “The Man” Musial, forever a Cardinal, and Roy Campanella, forever a Dodger, were inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame that summer.
But for me, the summer of 1969 was all about the beginning of a love affair–my love for baseball, still in its infancy, but which would blossom to fullness over the next four decades.
Bring it back to Chavez Ravine!
Today being the occasion of the Mid-Summer Classic, I thought it would be appropriate for me to share some of my All-Star memories here–that is, of the games I’ve attended in person.
The first ASG I ever remember watching was in 1970, from brand new Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, and I remember the excitement that seemed to surround this contest between the best players of each league. The NL won, of course–5-4–a standard I would become used to over the better part of the next couple of decades.
But, the first one I saw played live on a field right in front of me was on July 11, 1978, in the former San Diego (now Qualcomm) Stadium. It was San Diego’s first ASG–a big deal, as the first major sporting event to be held here. (San Diego hadn’t hosted a Super Bowl yet.) I’d been given tickets as a high school graduation gift. While I’d been to World Series games before, I was excited at the prospect of a game like this drawing fans from all over the country.
The National League was on a roll, having won 15 of the previous 16 games. Their team consisted largely of Dodgers and Reds players at key positions, and featured several future HOFers including Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver, Willie Stargell, Rollie Fingers, Joe Morgan and Bruce Sutter, as well as other stars of the ’70s such as Dave Concepcion, Davey Lopes, George Foster, Pete Rose, Larry Bowa, Greg Luzinski, Rick Monday, Ron Cey, Phil
Niekro and Tommy John.
Local boy Bob Boone, representing the Phillies in the NL, got a huge ovation upon his introduction. So did Graig Nettles, representing the Yankees in the AL, another San Diego product. Padres outfielder Dave Winfield was the lone position player representing the Pads.
Future HOFers George Brett, Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Reggie Jackson, Eddie Murray, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Palmer were on the other side. So were other big names such as Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Thurman Munson and Ron Guidry. It was so different to see fans of so many different teams wearing their various colors and jerseys as they converged on Mission Valley.
The National League won, 7-3, and how fitting it was that my favorite player, first baseman Steve Garvey, was named MVP of the game. Two years later, in 1980, Dodger Stadium hosted her only All-Star Game. I attended it with my boyfriend, who was a huge Mets fan. We had tickets on the reserved level, which was a good thing because it allowed us the opportunity to see what was being unveiled at the ASG as the first-ever “Diamond Vision” board at a North American major sporting event. The concept was so technologically advanced at the time it had to be seen to be believed. You mean the camera could capture people in the stands and beam them, live, for the whole stadium to see? Wow! I went home raving to all my friends about how Dodger Stadium had the only one of its kind, and I’d actually been there in person the first day it was operational. That was the way it stayed for another few years until they were eventually standard fare at ballparks across the country. I’m proud to say the Dodgers have always been trendsetters!
But, the game. Many of the same players returned from the 1978 game, with a new addition at shortstop in the American League. That was Alan Trammell, Detroit’s third-year player who was quickly gaining respect around the league. Since as an NL fan I didn’t get much of a chance to see AL players, it was an awesome thought to me that only four years ago, I’d been watching Alan star on our high school field. He had also played youth baseball with my stepbrother. Now here he was, not only playing in the majors, but excelling and becoming known and applauded nationally. Within another four years, he would be the 1984 World Series MVP.
The NL won again, 4-2, with the Reds’ Ken Griffey being named Most Valuable Player. It was their 17th victory over 18 years.
This fact was perhaps filed away or forgotten until my next All-Star Game, 12 years later, held again at what was now known as San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. In that decade-plus in between, I’d attended some of the festivities surrounding the game when the Big “A” in Anaheim was the site of the ASG in 1989, but not the game itself.
The “FanFest” was a newer concept that MLB had added to the All-Star game events which had not previously been offered, but was pretty popular by its third year, when I attended it in 1992. To me, it seemed like the best thing this side of Cooperstown…or heaven. All baseball, all through the ages, interactive exhibits, World Series highlights…well, it just doesn’t get any better than this, does it? I salivated at the sight of all those memorabilia collectors with special items on sale in the next hall of the Convention Center.
So, to 1992. In ’92, I was preoccupied with some other things going on in my life and wasn’t even going to attend the game, but then my mom secured two tickets for the outfield bleachers and asked if I wanted to go with her. I didn’t hesitate.
For fans of good pitching–and I’m a pitching-based fan–this was not a pretty one. The AL won, 13-6, in what was the beginning of a long dominating string of wins by that league. The names were certainly different from the 1980 All-Star Game. A whole new crop of players was on the rise, and the old veterans who’d been multiple All-Stars were on their way out. Even my beloved Steve Garvey had retired a few years earlier.
(Trivia note, the 1992 ASG was the first major league game to feature the “base cam” with an actual camera inside the first base bag.)
Whereas Padres outfielder and future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn wasn’t even a rookie the last time I’d been to an All-Star Game, here he was in his 11th season in 1992, starting for the National League on his home field. Other notable established players on the NL squad were Ozzie Smith, Barry Bonds, Fred McGriff, Terry Pendleton, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Larry Walker, Greg Maddux, Gary Sheffield, Ryne Sandberg, Will Clark and Tom Glavine. The American League team featured Roberto Alomar, Wade Boggs, Kirby Puckett, Roger Clemens, Ivan Rodriguez, Cal Ripken Jr., Mark McGwire, Brady Anderson (another local product from our county), Edgar Martinez and Joe Carter.
But the Most Valuable Player was the young rising superstar Ken Griffey Jr. of the Mariners. How interesting that over a period of a dozen years, I’d seen both Jr. and Sr. named MVP of ASGs I’d attended.
It was noteworthy that the tide had begun to turn with the AL now putting together a string of domination. This was the NL’s fifth consecutive setback.
Fifteen years later, in July, 2007, my friend Emma and I took a little trip up the coast to the City by the Bay–San Francisco, California, home of the archrival Giants–as beautiful AT&T Park hosted its very first All-Star Game, the first one in the City since the 1984 contest in Candlestick Park. We didn’t go to the game, but attended the FanFest. It doesn’t matter how many times I get to the FanFest, I’m still like a kid in a candy store!
Unlike the era when I was coming of age in baseball, by this time, the National League had failed in its attempt to win the last nine games (not counting the tie result in 2002). Over the years, the All-Star Game had lost a bit of its lustre, with many fans losing interest largely because of interleague play which began in 1997. Before its inception, this one game in July was the only interleague game until October.
And the National League still waits. Its last victory was in 1996, in Philadelphia, when Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza was named MVP. Piazza, of course, is retired now.
This year’s All-Star Game may be played in St. Louis, but it will definitely have a California flavor to it.&n
bsp; Fifteen of the players for the NL and AL are California born and bred. In particular, my southwestern corner of California has had a huge part in providing talent for the rest of the nation. For roughly 35 years I’ve been watching youth and high school baseball, attending tournaments all over this region, then following and tracking the careers of many of our Southern California boys who learn the game on our ballfields here, and go on to excel for major league teams all over the country. This trend of future All-Stars started with the great Ted Williams, Red Sox legend who was born and raised right here in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego. Keep in mind that even though the Pacific Coast League was wildly popular back in the 1930s and ’40s and launched the careers of quite a few greats, Major League Baseball wasn’t played west of St. Louis, which is 1500 miles away. It’s as if the MLB map included only the East Coast and Midwest and the rest of the country–that is, the West–was “minor league territory”, or perhaps a nice place to vacation or hold spring training workouts. So for a player to catch the eye of a major league scout back then was not quite as easy in this area as it is today. In ensuing years, the great Jackie Robinson and “The Duke of Flatbush” Snider, both Brooklyn Dodgers/Hall of Famers, were All-Stars who had gotten their starts on the ballfields of Southern California.
Special props to two of the younger SoCal players who’ve made this year’s All-Star team for the AL: Rays third baseman Evan Longoria is an All-Star for the second year without having played even one full season yet. Although he was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2008, he was a mid-season call-up. And how about Adam Jones, Orioles center fielder, who’s an All-Star in just his second full season? Last, another regionally-produced player, Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, should be an All-Star, but isn’t. Of course, he’d probably excel for the AL team, so maybe it’s a good thing.
So, the game may be played in St. Louis this year, but St. Louis is the Gateway to the West, and the West is not only where many of the players come from, but it’s also where the next two All-Star games will be played–Anaheim, California in 2010, and Phoenix, Arizona in 2011. I will be in attendance at Angel Stadium, and hopefully at Chase Field as well.
A few trivia items:
-In 2003, Aaron and Bret Boone became the 14th set of brothers to be All-Stars, and the Boone family was the first to send three generations to the ASG. Their dad, catcher Bob Boone, made four All-Star teams, and their grandfather, Ray, was a two-time All-Star. The Boones have their roots in San Diego, where Ray played for Hoover High–just a few years behind Ted Williams.
-On August 3, 1959, the first-ever Midsummer Classic to be played west of St. Louis took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This was the home of the Dodgers, who would later that year become World Champions. The American League won, 5-4. The starting pitcher for the NL was a Los Angeles native, playing for his hometown team in his home ballpark, future Hall of Famer Don Drysdale.
Who is the only player to make it into an All-Star game by write-in ballot, only to later become MVP of that game? Hint: This player is a multiple All-Star who played exceptionally well in those exhibition games over the course of his 17-year career.
Yes, it’s Steve Garvey who was written in for the 1974 contest. Garvey went on to be named National League Most Valuable Player while leading the Dodgers to the World Series that year.
Will this be the year for the Senior Circuit? We can surely continue to hope so.
Not talking about Manny–I’m talking about me!
Why has it been so long since I posted? (Two months, that is.) Too many reasons to go into but most of them are because I’ve been busy with so much baseball! And now that the College World Series is over, CIF baseball is over, the First Year Player Draft is over, etc., it’s time to get back to writing more. Also–I breathe a sigh of relief as I write this–my annual Fan Road Trip to Petco Park is over. I’ll say more about that in a minute.
In my last entry, I posted about the 1959 world champion Dodgers being honored at Dodger Stadium on May 7. That was the same day the news broke that Manny Ramirez would be suspended for violation of baseball’s drug policy. Manny returned to the Dodgers’ lineup on the road this weekend. That happened to coincide with my road trip.
Every year, a group of fans from dodgers.com gets together at Petco
Park for a weekend game in which the Dodgers play the Padres. We all
get a block of seats on the field level near the Dodgers’ dugout and
loudly make our presence known. Usually, we bring along a boom box and play the Nancy Bea Hefley CD to rally
the troops (Petco Park doesn’t have an organist; it only uses recorded
music). We even have specially modified lyrics for “Take Me Out to the
Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.
This annual event dates back to 2003. The seeds were planted the
previous year, when early in the 2002 season, a few fans on the
dodgers.com message board found out that all of us would be in
attendance at one of the Dodgers-Padres games at Qualcomm Stadium. We exchanged cell phone numbers and agreed to meet for tailgating and beer
in the parking lot afterward. And we all had a great
time hanging out together. In fact, we had such a good time we decided
to make it official the next year, 2003. The owner of our local sports pub, who’s a season ticket holder for the Padres, offered
to get us tickets in advance of when they went on sale to the general
public. In exchange, we would bring him business at the pub before that game, which took place on a Sunday afternoon in April, 2003. There were Dodger Dogs®
on the grill ready for us at our pre-game “Meet and Greet.” At the
time, we had about 15 fans lined up to take advantage of this event.
The Dodgers won in extra innings that day, and a tradition was born.
The following season, Petco Park opened and a slightly larger pack of
our fans took advantage of the group trip. This was also the year I
assumed responsibility for organizing it. As one of a few posters from the message board who lives here in San Diego, it was easier for one of us to
handle the tasks associated with it than someone out of town.
During that game in July, 2004–although Petco was a brand-new
ballpark–Dodgers pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii hit what to this day remains
one of the longest home runs in stadium history. Most of us parked at
the transit station in Old Town San Diego and took the trolley to the game, which drops fans off at the south entrance to Petco. This also
stands out as the day of one of the blockbuster trades of this decade,
when the Dodgers shipped catcher and fan favorite Paul LoDuca off to
Florida for pitcher Brad Penny.
Since then, the Dodger fan road trip group has mushroomed into anywhere
from 35 to 50 eople, descending on San Diego from several parts of the
country–the Bay Area, California, to Wilmington, Delaware; as well as
several from L.A., Riverside and Orange Counties. For one of the first
road trips we organized, we had a fan fly in from Hawaii, where the
Dodgers maintain a strong fan base. Another year, one came in from the
Virgin Islands, also an area where the Dodgers have long been the
locals’ team of choice. And we always have an eclectic group–singles,
couples, families with children, etc. Among our crew this year were two returning Iraq War veterans and one 99-year old Brooklyn Dodger
fan (not a poster on the message board–but the word gets around!).
There’s always someone new at this outing whom I’ve never met before, and that was the case again this weekend.
When we first began organizing this in February, all I could see on
the calendar was that the Fourth of July would likely be associated
with a festive, party atmosphere, and seemed a great time to take in a
game (since we always arrange these group outings for a weekend), scheduled for late afternoon on a Saturday. Later, the
game time was moved up to accommodate Fox’s televising of it.
What we did not know at that time had yet to materialize, two things
that would increase interest in this game at a later date: the fact
that the Dodgers had such an awesome first half, sporting the best record in the major leagues, and the fact that
Manny’s return from a 50-game suspension would fall on this very same
From the perspective of the organizer, I have to say this is all a
lot of very hard work, but in the end, it’s always worth it. It might
seem pretty cut and dried on paper, but a lot of legwork and headaches
are involved: making seating arrangements within the block of tickets distributed so those who want to sit with other specifically designated
fans are accommodated; collecting money and submitting the payment to
the Padres’ office before tickets go on sale to the general public (and
believe me, it can be like pulling teeth getting people to pay for
tickets to a July game back in February); filling orders, and mailing
out the tickets to all the individuals and parties involved.
But from the seeds of one little parking lot meeting seven years ago,
from a group of many individuals who never knew each other except for
behind their keyboard–we are now one proud family of hermanos y hermanas en azul.
The intensity level this weekend was turned up a few notches
because of the return of #99 to the Dodgers’ lineup. But our intensity
level is the same, no matter who’s on the field, or whether the team is
in first or last place. We are enthusiastic fans who always have a great time, win or lose. It’s an opportunity to show San Diego what the World of Dodgertown is all about.
So, the Fourth of July arrived, and it was indeed a “beautiful day for a ballgame” on this afternoon at Petco Park.
Unfortunately for our group, the outcome wasn’t as pleasant as the weather. The World of Dodgertown arrived once again at Petco Park (Dodger
Stadium South) en masse, on a sun-splashed holiday, in a
celebratory mood. Independence Day, baseball, and a glorious afternoon.
What could be better? Only a win, which we didn’t get.
I met up with several fans outside Petco Park, as I still had some of their tickets in my possession, and we entered and found our seats. Introductions were made
and occasions celebrated. Several of us brought
in our own grilled World Famous Dodger Dogs® from home to enjoy during the game (because Friar
Franks don’t stand a chance in comparison!). Two fans who came from
south of the border (Rosarito Beach, B.C.) brought fresh lobster from Puerto Nuevo. (And if you’re looking for Dodger Dogs® in San Diego, every Smart & Final store carries them, as do some Vons stores.).
The 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s stirring “Luckiest Man” speech was observed before the game with a brief pre-game ceremony on ALS awareness.
Finally, “It’s Time for Dodger Baseball!” Our group was
seated on the left field line beyond the Dodger dugout, where there was
hardly a Padre fan to be found, and it was clearly “Mannywood South.”
What started out as an awesome pitching duel between Josh Geer for the
Padres and El Lobo for the Dodgers, and stayed that way for six-plus
innings, turned into a late-inning fiasco. The two starting pitchers
fought a good battle in typical Petco Park fashion. Manny’s
first-inning home run brought the house down as Dodger fans loudly made
their presence known. My friend Lou who flew in from the East Coast–traveling the furthest of all to be in attendance for this game–remarked: “He’s a day
late…but definitely not a dollar short.”
And never deny the Dodger Universe credit for our creativity, as
the “Beat LA” beach towels we were handed as a promotional giveaway had their
sentiments altered in several ways by thousands of blue-clad fans.
“BEAT LA” became “BE LA”, “I LOVE LA”, and (my personal favorite) “BEST
= LA.” Then there was the guy who simply cut the word “BEAT” out of the towel altogether, leaving a hole there.
Cruising along with a 2-1 lead, all was well until the seventh inning stretch. That’s when things pretty much fell apart.
Someone who claimed to be an authority on the subject told me early
last year, after Joe Torre was tabbed as the next Dodger manager, that
“he can’t manage a pitching staff, so your team is in trouble.” To this
point, 1- 1/2 seasons into his tenure in L.A., I have not noticed any real issues his with managing a pitching staff, until yesterday. Ronnie
Belisario replaced Lobo on the mound, yet clearly didn’t have his stuff. Everyone in
our group was questioning why Belisario was left in in the seventh when
he was missing locations pitch after pitch. Coming into the game, his
sparkling 1.89 ERA spoke for itself. But now, when he did find the
plate, a likely double play ball off the bat of Tony Gwynn “the son”, booted by Dodgers SS Juan Castro, worked itself into a rally that
led to the Padres scoring three runs that inning. Also, the damage
might have been controlled had the eventual move to bring in Ramon
Troncoso been made earlier. Well, maybe. That near flawless fielding
percentage the Dodgers boast? Not this game. Three errors? Three errors?
I guess with it being such a lovely day, the gloves decided to check
out early for vacation. Where else did that wonderful defense disappear
Lobo gets yet another no-decision, despite pitching well again, allowing one run over six innings and striking out eight.
Torre’s decision to remove Manny from the game in the seventh and
insert Juan Pierre in left field had some of us scratching our heads,
too. Of course, there may have been a good season for it, but his bat
might have come in pretty handy late in the game when pinch hitting options were running thin. The Dodgers had mounted a ninth inning rally
off Padres closer Heath Bell which fizzled, and you could only be
wondering “what if” about a lot of things.
Scoreboard watching wasn’t too fun either, with the Giants annihilating the Astros at home behind Tim Lincecum.
I could also go into the numerous bad umpiring calls which mostly
seemed to go against L.A., but I won’t. In the end, the Padres
prevailed, 7-4. Rookie shortstop Everth Cabrera had a fine game both
offensively and defensively for San Diego. He’s one to keep an eye on.
The Dodgers very rarely lose a game they are leading in by the
seventh inning. The silver lining to losses like Saturday’s are that
they’re going to happen, even if few and far between, and as one
blogger mentioned, “They keep the team humble.” Hopefully, they’ll put
it all behind them and take the series.
However…despite all of this, we all had a lot of fun. I met some new
fans who joined us on this road trip whom I’d never met before. The Dodgers are now 8-4 on the season vs.the Padres.
Now, a few words about the “Beat LA” chant, the beach towel, etc. You hear that to some extent every time the Dodgers play there, although it’s never as loud as it is in AT&T Park, and seriously, I have to wonder if Padre fans understand how small-town this makes them sound. I know there are some fans of the Dodgers who get into the anti-opposition chants, but they are fewer in numbers than Padres or Giants fans are. But more importantly, what does this say about the Padres’ organization and its prevailing attitude of inferiority? The Dodgers organization never resorts to marketing any promotional items that are based on
“anti” sentiments about any other team. Although they’ve sure had plenty of fodder to do so, they have never felt the need to resort to this. Last year, when we celebrated our team’s 50th anniversary of its move to the West Coast, there was ample opportunity to get a few digs in at San Francisco. After all, our bitter rivals, the Giants, have never won a World Series since leaving New York (while the Dodgers have won five over the same amount of time), and I could think of many giveaways that would commemorate our proud history in L.A. in comparison to theirs. The Dodgers took the high road, though. They would rather commemorate our proud history and glory than bash the opposition. Once the Padres organization and their fans figure out that supporting your own team should be the overwhelming sentiment, rather than simply being anti-the visiting team, they might “get it.” Did you see any “Go Padres” beach towels being waved by Padres fans? No–only anti-Dodgers ones. That’s just a really sad commentary on what is more important to their fans. But it’s not new, and it’s something I’ve heard so many times over the years: “Even if we finish in last place, the most important thing is beating the Dodgers.” I could never subscribe to that theory, whether pertaining to the Giants or any other team. Being pro-Dodgers will always be more important to me. Next comment–why do Padres fans always want to start something as if we’re supposed to hate them so much? I would describe my attitude toward the Padres as more indifferent than anything else. I respect and admire some of their players, and always have. Some will say that’s because I live in San Diego, but that would give me all the more reason to dislike them, because of my everyday encounters with Padres fans. It’s almost like they’re mad when I tell them the only team I can’t stand is the Giants. No, I really don’t have anything against the Padres. They may play us tough from time to time, and this has been going on for years, but the fans seem to really want the same sentiments to flow back and forth. I just don’t feel strongly enough about anything related to them, to hate the team or its players. Fans from other teams will always hate the teams with the most success, and in the National League West, the Dodgers are far and away the team with the most success. But I don’t really follow that line of thought, anyway. If a team or individual player works hard and enjoys long-term success, all I can do is respect that team, even if I don’t “like” them. Hating simply for being talented or good doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I reserve my dislike for players with bad attitudes or who “dog it”. I understand why fans of other teams can’t stand Manny. I wasn’t a fan of his before he came to the Dodgers, and I’m only a fan now because the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the one on the back. That’s why I was presented with such a dilemma this weekend on how to react to his return.
So back your team, Padres fans. I can respect that. It’s frustrating in a season like this one. Another thing–don’t hate on visiting fans because they dare to show their support on the road. I heard a lot of grumbling from locals about how many Dodger fans there were at Petco Park and I understand how hard that must be, but give us some credit for always representing on the road. I also heard this expressed during Opening Week this season. We love our team, and some go to great lengths to be there for them. That’s dedication.
And Dodger fans were going to be here anyway, even without Manny’s return. Without us there wouldn’t be any sellouts at Petco this year.
So we’ll see how this rubber game goes as our All-Star, Chad Billingsley, takes on Josh Banks for the Padres. Petco Park was the site of Chad’s first major league start, which I attended in June of 2006. Today’s start will be yet another attempt for him to win his tenth game of the season.
This is also the last day at which my award-winning Dodger memorabilia collection can be viewed at the San Diego County Fair. I display it nearly every year in the Home & Hobby Show. That’s something else that always keeps me busy before the All-Star break!
GO DODGER BLUE!