Ballpark Preview: Dodger Stadium

Take it away, Vin:

We saved our most famous ballpark for last: Dodger Stadium is the final stop on our ballpark tour, and truth be told, it’s the one I’m most looking forward to.

The Team

Dodgers logo

The organization now based in Los Angeles began in Brooklyn in 1883, when they played in the now-defunct American Association. When that league broke up in 1890, the team joined the National League.

In the early days of the franchise, the official name of the team was “The Brooklyn Base Ball Club.” That name wasn’t creative enough for sportswriters; they used a bevy of nicknames for Brooklyn including the Robins, the Bridegrooms, the Superbas (from the Latin for superb, apparently), and the Trolley Dodgers. The last of those nicknames was the one that stuck; in the 1930s, the shortened version “Dodgers” first appeared on their uniforms.

Jackie Robinson Yogi Berra
Jackie Robinson slides into Yankees’ catcher Yogi Berra during a matchup between the crosstown rivals. The Dodgers kept running into the Yankees in the World Series and coming out on the short end of the equation until 1955.

For much of their early history the team was always the bridesmaid (or bridegroom, as the case may be) but never the bride. They won 10 NL Pennants from 1890, but it wasn’t until their 11th trip to the World Series in 1955 that they finally won it all. They would go on to win five more titles, with their most recent coming in 1988.

Robinson and Friends
Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and Roy Campanella hold up teammate Duke Snider. Campanella was a three-time MVP before a car crash ended his career.

Hall of Famers aplenty have pulled on the Dodgers uniform, including Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, and Don Sutton. No discussion of the Dodgers could be complete, though, without Jackie Robinson. The first black man to play in a Major League Baseball game, Robinson faced prejudice and discrimination from fans, players, and even teammates. Through it all Robinson kept his head down and played ball–and played well. He was named the NL Rookie of the Year in 1947, and two years later was named the league’s MVP. He is enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and is the only player to have his number 42 retired across all of Major League Baseball.

While in Brooklyn the Dodgers played at Ebbets Field, which was a stadium only a Dodger fan could love. By the mid-50s, the infrastructure was beyond repair. Majority owner Walter O’Malley tried to encourage the city of Brooklyn to grant him land for a new stadium, but the city stonewalled. O’Malley’s threats to leave went unheeded. When representatives from Los Angeles came east to woo the Washington Senators to the Pacific coast, O’Malley swooped in and offered the Dodgers instead. In 1958, the Dodgers played the first MLB game in Los Angeles, against their former cross-town, now cross-state rival the San Francisco Giants.

Magic Johnson Dodgers
The face you make when Kobe asks if he can play shortstop.

The Dodgers remain one of the most popular franchises in Major League Baseball. They averaged 46,000 fans per game last season, a major-league best. As the marquee team in the City of Stars, a number of celebrities are avowed Dodgers fans including Bryan Cranston, Alyssa Milano, and Magic Johnson.

The Roster

In case you somehow forgot one of the most exciting World Series of all time, here’s a reminder:

However, 2018 hasn’t been such a Semi-Charmed Life in LA. Their record stands at 22-27 with a minus-16 run differential. For a team almost unanimously picked to win the NL West for a sixth-straight season, it’s uninspiring to say the least.

Rich Hill Injury
“Whoa, dude–my finger doesn’t look so good!”

Injuries have played a role in the Dodgers’ lackluster start to the season. The rotation in particular has been decimated. Rich Hill is back on the DL for the second time this season, again with a blister issue. Hyun-Jin Ryu tore his groin muscle and will be out for a lengthy period of time. Staff ace Clayton Kershaw is still out with biceps tendinitis in his throwing arm, though he appears to be near a return. The Dodgers have enviable depth in their rotation, but manager Dave Roberts can’t have expected to have to use Ross Stripling as a starter this season.

The Dodgers have been hit where it hurts among position players as well. Star third baseman Justin Turner missed the beginning of the season with a fractured wrist. Yasiel Puig and Logan Forsythe have both missed time. Corey Seager, the NL Rookie of the Year in 2016, lasted only a few weeks before succumbing to Tommy John surgery; he’ll be out the rest of the season. Matt Kemp has been their best bat, and Max Muncy is seeing significant playing time. That is not a winning formula.

Bellinger
Cody Bellinger (pictured) and Chris Taylor have combined for 100 strikeouts this year. Centuries are good in cricket; not in baseball.

It’s easy to blame injuries, but the Dodgers that have taken the field have been less effective. Chris Taylor (.241/.330/.429) and Cody Bellinger (.243/.304/.443) have been average this season, but they were significantly above average last season (Taylor slashed .288/.354/.496 last season; Bellinger hit .267/.352/.581). The defense has been woeful with a -11.0 defensive efficiency, 28th out of 30 teams this season. The squad that went to the World Series last fall posted a 26.7, good for fourth in baseball. The bullpen–which hasn’t been decimated by injuries–has posted a 4.16 ERA, fifth-worst in baseball; last year, their bullpen was fourth-best at 3.38. In other words, the same players that performed last year aren’t performing now.

Despite the doom-and-gloom, all is not lost in La-La Land. The Dodgers won their last two games, and six of their last ten. They have enough depth on the bench and throughout their farm system to avoid being completely overwhelmed by injuries. Moreover, the NL West is not the juggernaut we thought it would be. The Rockies offense has looked lackluster, the D-Backs don’t have depth in the starting rotation, the Giants are midway through their application for AARP benefits, and the Padres are still the Padres. The Dodgers are just 3.5 games out of first place; they could well hang another NL East pennant without getting to 90 wins.

The Ballpark

Dodger Stadium Title

Situated in Chavez Ravine, with the outfield looking out upon the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance, Dodger Stadium is one of the gems in Major League Baseball.

The third-oldest stadium in continuous use in MLB (behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field), Dodger Stadium was completed in 1962. Since then, the stadium has held everything from concerts to monster truck races, and even served as the venue for a Papal Mass.

Dodger Stadium Curb Seats

Dodger Stadium has the largest capacity of any current professional ballpark at 56,000, and there’s not a bad seat in the house; the design of the ballpark, with it’s gradually-sloping sections creating an amphitheatre effect, gives even the nosebleeds a great view of a ballgame–which is good for us, since our seats are in the top row!

Unlike the vast majority of ballparks, Dodger Stadium was built entirely with private funding, the first since the original Yankee Stadium in 1923. Though the facility itself was privately constructed, the land was given to O’Malley; in exchange, O’Malley promised to construct the stadium.

Dodger Dog

In terms of concessions, there’s really only one you need to worry about: The Dodger Dog, a 10-inch tube of Lord-knows-what kind of meat swaddled in a hot dog bun.

Growing up as a kid in the Midwest, Dodger Stadium was my view of what life was like on the West Coast; classic, laid-back, understated yet sublime. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but I personally can’t wait to see this park.

Our ballpark tour begins one week from tomorrow! In the meantime, Brett and I will be doing cardio to prepare our bodies for the titanic amounts of beer we will be consuming over the coming week.

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