Weaned on Dodger Blue
When you grow up in Los Angeles, it's inevitable.
You hate them when they lose, you love them when they win, you complain about them when they are not doing well.
But they're a part of you. You bleed Dodger Blue all your life.
I should know. I think my first trip to Dodger station was soon after moving from New England, which would have been at about seven years old. For a child, Dodger stadium is a magical place. You can play catch with the peanut man, eating those amazing Dodger dogs (still the best hotdog I ever ate), watch people scream and yell and cheer and lose their inhibitions. I was hooked. I went at least a few times every summer. Summer just wasn't summer with a Dodger game.
Tonight, we are back in the World Series. I will be watching from my living room in Minnesota, 2500 miles away.
But today I am remembering another World Series; one many call the forgotten World Series of 1974. I was there.
I was 14. I was somewhere between a kid and a teenager. While I loved my parents, I didn't really relish hanging out with them all that much.
Till my dad came home with World Series tickets. What could be cooler than going to the World Series? And all those cute players? I knew them all by heart: Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davy Lopes, Bill Russell, Bill Buckner and Steve Yeager; they were like members of our families.
We knew the Dodgers had an uphill climb playing the Oakland Athletics in this first World Series consisting of all California teams. The A's were baseball royalty in the 1970s, winning several playoffs and series. Lead by Reggie Jackson, they were a mean green crew with such players as Catfish Hunter and the infamous Rolly Fingers, known as much for his massive handle bar mustache as his pitching. But we were the big blue machine. We could take 'em down.
It was the first game of the series on a perfect Southern California Saturday afternoon. We climbed and climbed till we were at the very top of the stadium. Of course the players looked like ants up in that last row of the stadium, but we were shaded from the sun, and had a marvelous view of Chavez Ravine. We listened to Wayne Newton sing the National Anthem, and veteran player Roy Campanella threw out the first pitch to start the game.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, 1974
We had our Dodger dogs, and our drinks, and we were set. The game was a nail-biter for sure, a tight contest with few runs. Reggie Jackson of the A's was on the board first with a solo homer in the top of the second off 20-game winner Andy Messersmith. The A's added another run in the fifth when starting pitcher Ken Holtzman doubled to left, went to third on a Messersmith wild pitch, and scored on a Bert Campaneris suicide squeeze bunt
The Dodgers crept back with a run in their half of the fifth when Davey Lopes reached first on an error by shortstop Campaneris. Bill Buckner then bounced a single to right that Jackson misplayed, allowing Lopes to score.The A's scored their final run in the eighth when Campaneris singled to shallow center, was sacrificed to second by Bill North, and scored when Dodger third baseman Ron Cey threw wildly to first on a grounder hit by Sal Bando. Bando reached third on the error, and attempted to score on a flyout to right by Jackson, but right fielder Joe Ferguson gunned him down at the plate.In the bottom of the ninth, with Rollie Fingers on the mound, Jimmy Wynn hit a solo homer that just escaped the reach of Joe Rudi and North in left center. Catfish Hunter relieved Fingers and made the final out by striking out Ferguson. The game ended 3-2 in favor of the A's.
It was a bummer they didn't win that game, and that they lost the series. But the day was a great one, one I would always remember. Not so much because of the game, but because I shared a great memory with my father and my brother. And that is what baseball is all about. Bringing families together to have a great time, and to make great memories.
I am sure many families will be doing that tonight at Chavez Ravine as we did 43 years ago. All I can say is:
HAVE A GREAT TIME AND GO DODGER BLUE!!!!