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Friday, April 6, 2012
Updated: April 10, 5:24 PM ET
Postcards of Dodger Stadium's past

By Mike Downey
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

Fernando Valenzuela
Fernando Valenzuela, a "wily old veteran" in 1990, blanked the Cardinals for the first Dodger Stadium no-hitter in 20 years.

So, what do Willie, Mickey, the Duke, John, Paul, George, Ringo, the Pope, Yom Kippur, a naked gun, opera singers, Marilyn Monroe, a Mexican pitcher, a Canadian pitcher, a Nicaraguan pitcher, a Japanese pitcher, Don Rickles, John Elway, Larry David and a talking horse have in common? Los Angeles 90012.

It's the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium (or "Chavez Ravine," as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim called home from 1962 to '65 when they were the Los Angeles Angels of Los Angeles). Each day until the Los Angeles Dodgers' home opener, Mike Downey counts down his 50 favorite moments -- chronologically, counting backward to 1962 -- while calling on a few eyewitnesses along the way. Here are moments from July 28, 1991 to Oct. 16, 1985.

« Previous: July 22, 2009 to July 18, 1994 Next: Aug. 7, 1984 to Oct. 2, 1977 »


40. A Martinez masterpiece (July 28, 1991)

Two days after Montreal's Mark Gardner no-hits L.A. for nine innings, then loses in the 10th, teammate Dennis Martinez gets the job done. "El Presidente" smokes the Dodgers with history's 13th perfect game.

Jaime Jarrin (Hall of Fame broadcaster, Spanish-language voice of Dodgers since 1958): "Perfect games are unique. I was blessed to be on the air when Sandy pitched his. I was in Cincinnati the day Tom Browning was perfect against the Dodgers. The one by Dennis was special because we were and still are good friends. The phone in the booth rang like crazy. It was Managua calling us. Radio stations in Nicaragua wanted to pick up our broadcast. Dennis comes from Nicaragua, where baseball is like a religion. So it was very special, even though the Dodgers were his victims that day."

39. A dog in the park (April-May, 1991)

All-time Dodger fan favorites? Koufax, Scully and Dodger Dogs might place 1-2-3, not necessary in this order. To the consternation of many, a change in the stadium's food service led to a wildly hot hot-dog topic: grilled vs. steamed.

Jonathan Gold (Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic): "That was more than 20 years ago. But what I remember most still holds valid. For all the controversy about the introduction of the steamed Dodger Dog, for all the anguished moans, the difference between a grilled Dodger Dog and a steamed Dodger Dog was the single black stripe on the grilled one. It was not possible to taste a difference between the two."

38. A nine-run ninth (Aug. 21, 1990)

La de da, L.A. leading 11-1. Lasorda unloads the bench. Philadelphia plates a pair in the eighth, no sweat. And in the ninth, Dave Walsh, Tim Crews and Jay Howell give up nine, including a three-run clout by John Kruk, who later says: "All I wanted was to get back to the hotel before room service closes." Phils 12, Dodgers 11.

Chris Gwynn (played for Dodgers 1987-91): "What a nightmare!"

Mickey Hatcher (played for Dodgers 1979-80 and 1987-90): "We couldn't stop the bleeding. I remember Kruk hits it out and me going, 'What is this?'"

37. A Fernando no-no (June 29, 1990)

Accounts vary, but while viewing the end of a Dave Stewart no-hitter on TV, Fernando Valenzuela apparently said something to teammates like: "Now you will see one in person." True or false, he blanked the Cardinals for the first no-hitter in this ballpark in 20 years.

Rick Monday (played for Dodgers 1977-84, broadcaster since 1985): "He was a sensation -- a novelty, if you will -- in 1981. Now, he was a wily old veteran. Once in a while he'd show you a flash of the old Fernando."

Dodger Dog
All-time Dodger fan favorites? Koufax, Scully and Dodger Dogs might place 1-2-3, not necessary in this order.

36. A different Martinez masterpiece (June 4, 1990)

Ramon Martinez, 22, fires a third strike by Atlanta's Dale Murphy and Jeff Blauser in the eighth inning of a 6-0 victory, tying Koufax's club record of 18 strikeouts. Not a K in the ninth, or the record would have been Ramon's alone.

Jarrin: "When he went back to the bench after the eighth, Ramon was informed that he had tied the Koufax record. On three of the last four batters he got out, I think the count went to 0-and-2. I presented him with a recording of the last two innings of his masterful job. He told me that many times he has played it back to bring back the sweet memories of that night."

35. A case for 'Police Squad!' (Premiered Dec. 2, 1989)

For a fictional Angels-Mariners game, scenes from the comedy "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!" are filmed in Chavez Ravine, not in Anaheim. The plot? In a nutshell, Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) must stop a hypnotized Reggie Jackson from assassinating the Queen of England, as orchestrated by villain Vincent Ludwig (Ricardo Montalban), who falls off the upper deck and is trampled by, among other things, USC's marching band. "Police Squad" character Nordberg (O.J. Simpson) falls off as well. Mel Allen, Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy, Tim McCarver, Jim Palmer, Dick Vitale and Dr. Joyce Brothers call the action from a very crowded TV booth.

Jim Palmer (Hall of Famer, pitched for Orioles 1965-84): "Our scenes were shot in a studio. I sat by Gowdy and the rest and even a psychologist. Vitale was the quietest one there, if you can believe that. With all the losing seasons the Orioles keep having, maybe we need a psychologist in our booth."

Art Bartner (director of USC Trojan Marching Band since 1970): "The gag, I think, was O.J. Simpson falls out of the upper deck and we flatten him, wasn't it? [No, it was Montalban.] I remember when they premiered it in Westwood, when the band came on the screen, the crowd booed. I said, 'Come on, you UCLA people, it's a movie! It's a funny bit!'"

34. A walk and a walk-off (Oct. 15, 1988)

Kirk Gibson
Kirk Gibson owns one of the stadium's most memorable moments.

New guys GM Fred Claire acquired for '88, such as Kirk Gibson and Mike Davis, have gotten them to a World Series, but Gibson is hurt, so Mickey Hatcher takes his spot. Tracy Woodson pinch-hits, then he and teammates hear Gibson taking swings on a batting tee. A's up 4-3 in the ninth. Davis draws a two-out walk off Dennis Eckersley. Out comes the hobbled Gibson and over Jose Canseco's head goes a thrilling 5-4 limp-off home run. Gibson would never bat in a World Series again:

Hatcher: "The game's going along, and I tell Tommy, 'I think Gibby wants to hit.' To me, a key came when Davis stole second base. Kirk now just needs a single, so he just tries to get a bat on the ball instead of hitting a home run. Then look what happens."

Tracy Woodson (played for Dodgers 1987-89): "Gibson didn't even go out for the introductions. No way unless I were seriously hurt would I miss Game 1's World Series introductions. When he came up those steps, the noise was incredible. And this wasn't a raucous place as a rule like, say, Wrigley Field. I saw cars leaving. I thought, 'You missed it! You missed it!' I was one of the first ones to grab Kirk. A lot of guys joked that I just did that so I could be in the photo."

Doug Harvey (umpire 1962-92, Hall of Famer): "I was in back of the plate. I won't say who, but somebody high up with the A's came out later and said Doug Harvey kicked a pitch during Gibson's at-bat. Said I missed a strike. I was concerned. I said, 'Did I kick a pitch that cost the A's the game?' I reviewed the film and it was out of the zone a good eight inches. I'll tell you this much: Eckersley never said a word. He had class."

Fred Claire (general manager 1987-98): "Jack Clark's ball was like a gunshot [See: moment No. 31]. That sound still lives in my head. Whereas the one Gibson hit, there was so much crowd noise, you couldn't hear the ball go off his bat. Up in Oakland a few nights later, Orel struck out Tony Phillips for the last out. Rick Dempsey gave me the ball. I put it on a shelf for a few years. Then I heard Cooperstown had just one ball from a final out of a World Series, so I was glad to give it to the museum. As for the Gibson ball, where it is now, no one seems to know."

33. An Orel examination (Oct. 12, 1988)

Before 1988's memorable World Series, the heroics of pitcher Orel Hershiser and catcher Mike Scioscia got the Dodgers that far. Hershiser pitched in four NLCS games. Scioscia had a huge home run. A five-hit shutout ended with Hershiser taking a knee Tebow-style, thankful for the team's 18th pennant.

Mike Scioscia (played for Dodgers 1980-92): "In the essence of being on a team, you're going to be hard-pressed to find anything like it -- the feeling of everyone having a role, and Orel epitomized that. What was fun behind the plate, when he was pitching, was knowing how the other team was really going to have to step up. You could see his talent come to the fore."

32. A Mass for all seasons (Sept. 16, 1987)

An estimated 60,000 or more came to see and hear Pope John Paul II say Mass. A 90-minute program preceded it, emceed by actor Ricardo Montalban and featuring student musicians from USC, performing an original fanfare.

Bartner: "I believe we had 32 fanfare musicians and four to eight timpani there. My arranger Tony Fox composed the original fanfare for Pope, who came into the stadium in, for lack of a better term, the Popemobile. There was definitely only one star of that show."

31. A crack of Jack's bat (Oct. 16, 1985)

L.A. on brink of elimination. Tom Niedenfuer on in relief, trying to protect a 5-4 lead. One out to go. Two on for St. Louis and first base free. Jack Clark (.381 in series) up next, Andy Van Slyke (.091) on deck. Reading lips, Vin Scully tells broadcast partner Joe Garagiola that Lasorda is saying: "Do I walk this guy and pitch to that so-and-so?" Dodgers pitch to Clark, who whacks one so far, Niedenfuer says: "It would have had to hit the blimp to stay in the park."

Joe Garagiola (Hall of Fame broadcaster): "I had the best of both worlds. I got to be there for a dramatic moment of a big baseball game. Then I got to sit back with the rest of the world and hear Vin Scully describe it. It was a privilege to sit next to the best broadcaster I ever worked with at games like that one and that other dramatic homer you may remember in 1988."

« Previous: July 22, 2009 to July 18, 1994 Next: Aug. 7, 1984 to Oct. 2, 1977 »

Mike Downey is a former Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune sports columnist.