I had been planning for months to go to the August 9 Dodgers game. Ever since we finalized plans to be in Southern California the second week of August.
Duke Snider Bobblehead Doll night. A classy former Dodgers great and Hall of Famer. The Phillies, who have three former MVPs (Rollins, Utley, Howard) in the top four slots of their lineup. A Tuesday, so how crowded could it be?
But I also was bound and determined to spend as little money as possible because I don’t want to be making a major contribution to the Frank McCourt Legal Team, or paying for his haircuts or Jamie’s mansions. We also didn’t want to be beaten nearly to death by Dodgers fans, which happened to that unfortunate Giants fan back on Opening Day.
I think it turned out fairly well.
We were not attacked by drunken Dodgers fans, even though I was wearing a cap with “LB” (for Long Beach) on it. Living dangerously, perhaps, but no problems at all on this night — even for the Phillies fans, and there were more than a few, in the stands. So there’s that. I did notice more uniformed L.A. police inside and outside the stadium than ever before. I don’t know if it’s really affordable, but the police presence seems likely to keep the dangerous fringe under control.
My sense is that most Dodgers fans are just pretty numb by now, well into their second year of watching a bad team with an atrocious owner (or owners, if you side with Jamie). What amazes me is that this team still alleges to be getting about 37,000 people per home opening. Hard to beat out the allegiance, the love, even, that many SoCal residents feel for the franchise … though the McCourts are working hard at it.
So, not wanting to spend any money that might help Frank …
1. We stopped at Costco in Signal Hill and bought two of those big hotdogs. They would stand in for Dodger Dogs. Not quite the same, of course, but they would do. A savings of, what, $10? We also got drinks as part of the cost of the dogs, and that took care of our thirst. Maybe $16 that Frank McCourt would never see.
2. We didn’t pay for parking.
3. We walked up to the ticket office at the top level, the former “General Admission” zone, where tickets are cheapest and, no surprise, they alleged to have sold out all of their tickets there. Even though, in the middle of the game, we could see hundreds of empty seats in GA, including entire rows. I am convinced they were upselling us — assuming we would buy more expensive tickets and, sadly, we did — $20 for outer and upper “reserve.” We made it a bit better by plopping down in the $35 area of the reserve level, sitting in two of the many empty seats there, and sat there for the whole game.
4. I had considered buying a Dodgers “LA” cap for a friend in Abu Dhabi, but the Dodgers want $38 for a real hat, at their Top of the Park store, and I was never going to pay $38 for a cap.
5. We eschewed beer. We probably wouldn’t have had any, anyway, but the $13 tariff for a “large” beer was never, ever going to happen.
I confess that we did splurge $3.50 for cotton candy.
So, the game. We arrived late, as Dodgers fans are supposed to do. It was the second inning. Scads of people came after we did.
We got our Duke Snider doll. Looking forward to putting him at my work station next to David Eckstein.
I examined the Dodgers lineup and decided they were playing 2.75 real major leaguers. They would be Matt Kemp, by far their best player, Andre Ethier, who hasn’t done much since that hitting streak to open the season, and Ted Lilly, to whom I awarded the “0.75 of-a-big-leaguer” honors. He’s not awful, but he’s not someone you want to build a pitching staff around. At this stage in his career, he’s a No. 5 starting pitcher, but the Dodgers use him as a No. 4.
Not surprisingly, the Dodgers were helpless against Cliff Lee, the Phillies left-hander. No runs in eight innings. Not even a vague threat of a run, after the first inning.
The starting lineup included Gordon Johncock, Miles Simon, Lewis Carroll and Fred Gwynne (OK, they actually were Dee Gordon, Aaron Miles, Jamey Carroll and Tony “Not His Father” Gwynn), and included Casey Blake and Rod Barajas, who were useful players about five years ago. That lineup would have struggled to score with Bruce Lee pitching, and he died 38 years ago.
Theodore Roosevelt Lilly (great name, anyway), gave up a run on a bloop double in the second inning, and then allowed a home run to Cliff Lee. Lilly actually was solid, but the Dodgers’ offense is horrendous — they have scored 419 runs, 210 fewer than the Red Sox, 28th in a 30-team sport, behind even the Angels and San Diego. And they have scored only 37 more runs than the Seattle Mariners, who are being mocked as the worst hitting team in a generation. Hmm. There, but for Matt Kemp, go the Dodgers.
(In innings 5-6-7, we were happily distracted by visits from friends we hadn’t seen in a couple of years, both of whom were working in the press box. That was fun. Dodger Stadium as meeting place? May be what it’s best for, at the moment.)
In the ninth inning, two events: A chubby guy a few rows behind bellowing, “Make McCourt sell!” every minute or so, leaving me to wonder to whom he was addressing his demand and prompting a lot of generic asides from people around us. “Yeah!” “I wish!” And the second event … the Dodgers scored a run!
Cliff Lee gave way to Ryan Madson, and Ethier got a hit off of him, and two outs later the Dodgers had a runner at second … and we left. Not as a repudiation of the team but because the place still had maybe 15,000 of the announced crowd of 46,547 (actual, about 35,000), and we feared getting caught up in a rush to the exits.
That fear turned out to be unfounded. The one thing Frank McCourt got right, without argument, is improving the flow of people and traffic into and out of the stadium.
On our way out, we heard a noise that we might have described as a “crowd roar” in better days. It was Casey Blake driving home a run. Rod Barajas came up and fanned to end the game.
Also on our way out, I spent $5 for some brick-hard baseball painted with the Dodgers logo and a scene of the infield. Not sure why I bought it, except perhaps it was something that cost less than $10. How the thousands of others come to the game and spend $50 on tickets and that much more on concessions, I have no idea.
So, we left with a bobblehead. No one threatened us. We saw a bad team. And now I can go back to Abu Dhabi secure in the knowledge that Dodger Stadium is a pitiful place right now, and will be until the McCourts are exorcised.