Commentary

Postcards of Dodger Stadium's past

Updated: April 10, 2012, 5:24 PM ET
By Mike Downey | Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com

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 Aug. 7, 1984 to Oct. 2, 1977.

« Previous: July 28, 1991 to Oct. 16, 1985 Next: Sept. 17, 1977 to Sept. 9, 1965 »

Steve YeagerAP PhotoDodgers catcher Steve Yeager celebrates as he is greeted by Derrel Thomas on Sunday, Oct. 25, 1981, after homering to put the Dodgers ahead in the seventh inning.


30. A five-ring circus (Aug. 7, 1984)

As a "demo" sport, baseball comes to the Olympics at last. An eight-team tournament averages 48,000-plus fans per game. Future big leaguers on Team USA include Will Clark, Chris Gwynn, Barry Larkin, Oddibe McDowell, Mark McGwire, Cory Snyder, B.J. Surhoff, Bobby Witt and more. USA is unbeaten until the gold-medal game, which Japan takes against starter John Hoover, 6-3.

Chris Gwynn (played for Dodgers 1987-91): "I think 17 of our 20 ended up in the major leagues. What a great experience that was. The crowds were really into it. There I was in that beautiful stadium, and I ended up a few years there professionally. I still have my USA jersey. Somebody did a portrait of each of us. Mine is hanging in my office."

29. A really tight squeeze (Sept. 11, 1983)

Atlanta is ahead 6-3 in the ninth. A hot pennant race. A rally and the Dodgers tie it, 6-6. A rookie, R.J. Reynolds, would have only 55 at-bats all year. This was one. His squeeze bunt stuns the crowd and wins the game.

Tommy Lasorda (Hall of Famer, managed Dodgers 1976-96): "That came against Joe Torre and the Braves, and let me tell ya, Torre is still talking about it. He never forgot it. You don't squeeze with a lefty on the mound, never. But we did."

28. MVP efforts (Oct. 25, 1981)

The World Series opens on the road, where the Yankees take a pair. Games 3 and 4 go to L.A., where Dave Winfield's slump hits 0-for-19. A duel between Ron Guidry and Jerry Reuss is 1-0 in Yanks' favor until the seventh, when both Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager homer to make the ravine erupt. Dodgers win 2-1, then fly east to wrap up Series, with co-MVP awards for Steve Garvey, Guerrero and Yeager.

Steve Yeager (played for Dodgers 1972-85): "We went to our stadium down two, then Fernando gave us a great game. So we were alive. And then came the game when Guerrero and I went back-to-back. I guess that was only, like, the ninth time in World Series history that had happened."

Lasorda: "I managed in four World Series, and three were against the Yankees. They beat us in '77 and '78, so I said, 'Dear God, if you put me in another World Series, I promise we'll win this time.' I remember when Winfield finally got a hit, we saved him the ball."

27. Fernandomania goes to Canada (Oct. 14, 1981)

"Fernandomania" is at a fever pitch. In the NLCS against Montreal, which has made playoffs for first time despite a late managerial change, young sensation Fernando Valenzuela is outpitched by Ray Burris in Game 2. A trip to the World Series is at stake when the Dodgers fly to Canada, where they oust the Expos in the last game 2-1 on a Valenzuela three-hitter and a Rick Monday home run.

Bill Lee (pitched for Expos 1979-82): "We had Fernando on the ropes. But then Monday hit the homer off Steve Rogers, who shouldn't have been in there. I should have. Lefty versus lefty. That was tough to take. I remember our manager, Jim Fanning, goes to the mound. I've thrown about 12 pitches to get loose. Fanning looked at me and shook his head. He hated me. No way Dick Williams would have left Rogers in there. That cost us the pennant. Fernando was fantastic, but we had a chance to beat him twice in five games. He got us instead."

[+] EnlargePete Rose
AP PhotoPete Rose was part of the first (and so far only) All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium.

26. And the stars of our show (July 8, 1980)

For the first (and so far only) time, an All-Star Game comes to Dodger Stadium. NL starter: J.R. Richard. AL starter: Steve Stone. Final score: NL 4, AL 2. MVP: Ken Griffey (that's Senior). A total of 15 future Hall of Famers are in the game, plus one who maybe should be, Pete Rose.

Steve Stone (won 1980 Cy Young award): "A couple of things make Dodger Stadium a special place to me. I had a hard time believing it, but I think I was the only Giants pitcher ever to beat the Dodgers 1-0 in that park. I threw three perfect innings to start the All-Star Game and that'll never be done again … no starting pitcher will ever be permitted to go three innings again. My parents were in the park. It was the only All-Star Game I ever pitched in, and the whole experience was enchanted."

25. A school game for the books (June 6, 1979)

Crenshaw High can win the 1979 city championship. It looks to have one of L.A.'s best teams ever. Darryl Strawberry is on it. So is Chris Brown, another future big leaguer. Granada Hills gets in a jam, so its coach moves his third baseman to the mound. John Elway hasn't pitched in six weeks. He delivers 4 2/3 innings of three-hit relief, strikes out Brown to end the game. Highlanders 10, Cougars 4.

John Elway (pro football Hall of Famer): "The coach had benched me as a pitcher. He said I wasn't getting the job done. I had a sinking feeling he might be bringing me in when he came out there. I was strictly a fastball pitcher and Crenshaw was known to be a fastball-hitting team. What did they have -- not just Strawberry but something like seven of nine starters who ended up drafted by major league teams? We definitely had a sense that Crenshaw was the favorite, even though our school had been to the championship game before. To pitch in Dodger Stadium was an amazing experience at that age, or at any age."

Michael Sokolove (author, "The Ticket Out: Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw"): "In the fifth inning, Crenshaw had two on and no outs against Elway, with Strawberry, who had flown out to the warning track in his previous at bat, at the plate. Strawberry didn't swing … he bunted the ball back at Elway, who got a force at third. Strawberry never took losing well, a teammate told me … said after the game he 'ran out to center field and cried like a damn baby.' The scout who signed Chris Brown told me that before the game he didn't think Granada Hills had a chance."

24. A full count on Mr. October (Oct. 11, 1978)

Reggie Jackson up. Bucky Dent and Willie Randolph on. Two out, ninth inning, Dodgers 4, Yankees 3 in World Series Game 2. A rookie, Bob Welch, rears back. Nine times, nine fastballs. Finally, a swing and a miss, Dodgers win.

Yeager: "It was power against power. Sooner or later, one of you wins the battle. That one, Welch won."

Rick Monday (played for Dodgers 1977-84, broadcaster since 1985): "One of the most electric series of pitches ever."

23. A Kingman speech (May 14, 1978)

Fifteenth inning, Cubs win 10-7 after Dave Kingman's third homer of the night. "What's your opinion of Kingman's performance?" the Dodgers manager is asked. Lasorda: "What's my opinion of his performance? What the f--- do you think is my opinion of it? I think it was f------ horse----. Put that in, I don't f------ care. Opinion of his performance? Jesus C-----, he beat us with three f------ home runs. What the f--- do you mean, 'What is my opinion of his performance?' That's a tough question to ask me, isn't it?"

Monday: "I don't really remember that game, but I certainly do remember the postgame. A couple of Tommy's moments we were witness to, visually or audibly. That was one of the audible ones."

22. A Cincinnati kidding (Oct. 14, 1977)

Lasorda is fed up. Another club has been dominating the National League. It is only his second season in charge but the Dodgers' skipper is eager to manage in a World Series for the first time. And he does, although Reggie Jackson's three-homer Game 6 leads the Yankees to victory.

Lasorda: "Cincinnati had that Big Red Machine and was in the World Series again and again. So I went around telling everybody, 'Cincinnati will never beat us again.' I put it out there, just like that. And damned if we didn't win our league that year."

21. A long, Dusty drive (Oct. 2, 1977)

Last day of '77 season. Ron Cey has 30 home runs. Reggie Smith, too. Steve Garvey, ditto. No team has had four with 30. Dusty Baker has 29. He singles off Houston's J.R. Richard first time up, then strikes out. It is the sixth inning and Baker is almost out of chances when he knocks one over the fence.

Ross Porter (Dodgers broadcaster 1977-2004): "Reggie Smith made a phone call to the Astro clubhouse to speak with J.R. Richard, who was a 6-foot-8 flame-thrower. Smith told him, 'Dusty says he's going to hit his 30th off you.' Reggie then told Baker, who said, 'I can't believe you did that. J.R. is going to drill me.'"

« Previous: July 28, 1991 to Oct. 16, 1985 Next: Sept. 17, 1977 to Sept. 9, 1965 »

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

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