The last baseball game of the 2011 season in Dodger Stadium was in the middle of the week and it seemed like the park was half-empty; a sad mix of Dodger Blue and concrete. Long-time Dodger play-by-play announcer Vin Scully, slated to retire after the season, changed his mind and announced his return for 2012. Perhaps it was because no one had been coming to the games.
Certain things matter here in L.A., are considered native traits; knowing the exact location of Chavez Ravine, hating the McCourts and Shane Victorino, knowing where the sun will hit the stands and burn the tops of your thighs. I have driven to the park so many times that I know exactly how long it will take, from any freeway, in any amount of traffic, to get there.
On last day of the season, it was 80 degrees outside, and even when night fell the temperature stayed the same, the park shielding us from the wind. We had driven up through the gates and parked against the railing like we always do, under the eucalyptus trees and with a panoramic view of downtown. Walking toward the stadium, Eric carried the picnic bag (stuffed peppers and olives, crackers and hummus) and I kept the flask stashed against my leg.
Dodger Stadium is old by Los Angeles’ standards. It is uncomplicated, un-embellished, and the concessions are cheap. Visible from our seats on the first base line, past the lights and scoreboard, rise the green hills of East L.A. Perched on one of the hills outside the park sits a cluster of letters, in the style of the ‘HOLLYWOOD’ sign, that reads “THINK BLUE.” Dodger Stadium was built low, open to the land and sky.
It was warm and so we drank pilsners that day, rows of us leaning back in our seats, arms and legs akimbo. I bought a Dodger Blue water, temptingly beaded with condensation and sporting a plastic baseball for a screw-top. The family behind us pointed it out to their son, a disabled but enthusiastic youngster doing his level best to behave. Whenever I go to a game, I make a few friends in my section. The man behind us spent his career in the employ of the Cisco company, and had a daughter attending college in San Francisco in the fall. We shared recommendations and tips on Bay Area life, and mentioned our forthcoming trip to San Diego, where we would chase the Dodgers to watch the last of the season in that city, too. While their son waited impatiently for a foul ball, Mom and Dad dispensed advice on San Diego, where they owned a timeshare. Giving high praise to a wine bar near Petco Park, we promised to investigate it and root, root, root for the Dodgers.
The game ends in a Dodger victory, and we stick around for Randy Newman. Walking lazily back to the car, Eric and I smile at the light-hearted taunts offered by the fans streaming past us. Eric is wearing a Giants cap, and they’d like to know what I see in him…this…Giants fan.
Leaving a ballgame feels like a collective sigh. The walk from the park is slow, measured, and I notice most of the couples nuzzled against each other. Children are draped sleeping across parents shoulders like worn sweatshirts, and concessions workers gather in the alcoves smoking cigarettes with their backs to the departing crowd.
We get back to the car and lean against the hood, looking out over downtown L.A. We always park on the perimeter of Chavez Ravine, affording us a sweeping view of my hometown. The light cast off from the high-rises creates a soft glow that makes the city look like a mirage. From the top of the hill, it’s easy to imagine the city below is so distant, and so foreign, that going home would be impossible. The after-game glow sustains us, and we join the slow snaking of cars toward the freeway.
Dodger Blue-Eyes, 25 March, 2012