From humble beginnings to a breaking point, this was where The Heirloom’s story takes a turn.
Hometown pride is one thing. Supporting the Los Angeles Dodgers was easy, as long as they were winning. As long as Tommy Lasorda delivered on his enthusiasm, his loyalty to the O’Malley family, and to the fans in Southern California, that’s all we cared about.
Sometimes, it was a listen to 790 KABC Talk Radio to check in with Vin Scully to see how they were doing. Yet, my clock radio had some magic in its transistors. It would pick up the voice of Jerry Coleman giving me a glimpse on how the San Diego Padres were doing. On some nights, the faint voice of Lindsey Nelson on KNBR in San Francisco would bring me the latest on what the Dodgers’ mortal enemy was doing.
My clock radio may have provoked something about my love for baseball.
PART 3 – THE SCHISM
There were two words that described Dodgers baseball in the 1970s: Boring and Predictable. Using the word “boring” would be too emotive. In fact, it was my “out” of being a Dodger fan by the end of the 1978 World Series. “Boring” seemed too demeaning – and, to a point, incorrect.
On the other hand, “predictable” was more like it. Tommy Lasorda had a strategy and philosophy that centered on the long-time infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey. The addition of Dusty Baker, Steve Yeager, Reggie Smith. and Manny Mota in this strategy augmented the core of the Dodgers lineup. You knew how Don Sutton, Rick Rhoden, Doug Rau and Charlie Hough were going to pitch, but where Lasorda had to be creative was the second starter slotted in between Sutton and Rhoden/Hough. When John left the Dodgers to fulfill the surgery that now has his name on it, Lasorda was given the gift of Burt Hooton by 1978.
If you’re a student of baseball history, you know that the Dodgers were a strong unit built on farm system-bred veterans. Every acquisition was calculated for long-term results – not just a one-year-to-win-and-see-ya strategy. When Rick Monday came to Chavez Ravine, he didn’t just contribute to the 1981 World Championship – he stayed in the organization beyond the end of his playing years. Moreover, each addition to the Dodgers during the Lasorda years augmented and complimented the core of the club.
Lasorda did accomplish his World Championship goals twice. Something my mom lived to see.
After the 1979 season, I ended up going a few more times. If I recall, I once went with a friend, once with my brother, and maybe another by myself. My memory is kind of foggy of that time to recall whom the Dodgers played and when.
Except, there was one specific day at Chavez Ravine I’ll never forget.
By 1982, I was already a Giants’ convert. I was too hung up on wanting to get out of L.A. and making a life on my own, that I began converting myself to being a San Franciscan. A recent reflection hammered a point home: I wanted to be like my father. That is the only regret I had in my life was to follow the footsteps of the one key person in the world who never gave a damn about me.
It was the summer of 1982 – right after graduating Reseda High. I was with a friend and saw a Dodgers-Giants day game. I knew I lived dangerously by wearing that Giants’ jersey. I’m shocked I’m still alive. Back then, you had more chance of getting carted out on a stretcher wearing anything Dodgers at Candlestick Park than you would be wearing Giants’ stuff at Dodger Stadium.
I knew I was asking for trouble when I drove the big 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight with a “Billy Ball” sticker (when Billy Martin managed the Oakland A’s), a 49ers sticker (I was more into the ‘Niners than I was the Giants) and some radio station either in L.A. or up north.
As usual, the drives were crowded around the ballpark. I blew life lesson number 24 – never look at anyone in traffic at any time! Somehow I made contact with an old drunk dude who started yelling at me (we would call it bullying these days). I must’ve said the f-word when he wouldn’t shut up (I cursed more back then than now – think Joe Pesci). He got out of his Volvo, yelled some more, kicked my driver’s door and got back in his car.
I forgot there was a police baton in the trunk. Had I known, I could’ve used that on the guy. Then, I would’ve spent some time at L.A. County Jail…and so forth.
After finally finding a way out of Dodger Stadium, I was still freaked. I made a decision to never go back to Dodger Stadium ever again.
That incident also cemented my feelings towards the Dodgers and my hometown. It was rebellion with an added layer of anger. The move to the Bay Area in 1987 was a summative action to jump physically on the other side of the rivalry.
With many rivalries, there were no gray areas involved in the Dodgers-Giants one. You were on one side of the other – nowhere in-between. The rivalry not only focused on the teams themselves, but every aspect of each city’s life. San Francisco was seen as more down-to-Earth, countercultural and communal. San Francisco’s stars were of urban and urbane lifestyles. Their diversity was tied to the closeness of each other’s neighborhoods. Los Angeles was about distance, glamour, glitter, moderate-to-conservative values and suburbia.
Today, I can refute the stereotypes and images of each region and point to its flaws.
Oddly enough, I went to more Oakland A’s games than Giants ones. The only explanation I can give was to the ease of getting to the Oakland Coliseum over Candlestick Park. That has since changed thanks to AT&T Park and its pristine bayside location and investment in infrastructure for placing MUNI and CalTrain right near home plate.
Was I wrong for turning my back on my birthright over a baseball team? It certainly played a huge part of what I was going through in the 1980s and early 1990s.
PART 4 – FORGIVENESS
Forgiveness is a powerful thing.
We’ve seen the power of forgiveness in 2010 with Texas Rangers’ Manager Ron Washington after a drug test proved positive during Spring Training. He asked for forgiveness from his team. Being redeemed provided the route to the World Series for Washington.
When I left my native state of California in 1996 for the Nation’s Capitol, I left behind many things. I packed what I truly needed into four large bags as I flew on a red eye from LAX to Dulles at the turn of December of that year. That was my way of cutting off everything that was my home state.
It took another ten years to return to my hometown. It was ten years away from my brother and his family. Ten years apart from friends, both old and recent. That gap hurt a lot.
Making friends along the way was fine, but I was constantly reminded of where I came from and why I was somewhat of a stranger to their world.
So I asked what was missing in my life? By turning my back on my hometown – let alone my home state – I realized that one could not have a future without honoring the past. Yet, I was not in the position to consider that point at that time.
I tried to, though.
While I was able to live without my hometown, I had a hard time living without baseball. I was spoiled for most of my life – living in Major League markets. Washington, DC was still years away from the arrival of the Montreal Expos when I lived under the second Clinton Administration. I had the minor league teams closer than I would if I rooted for the Baltimore Orioles – in Prince William County, Virginia, Bowie, Maryland, and, on a couple of occasions, Richmond. I did manage one game at Camden Yards – a sad occasion for a Peter Angelos-ravaged ballclub.
During my time in Madison, Wisconsin in the early 2000s, I was able to make it to Miller Park a couple of times for my Major League fix – with the Milwaukee Brewers. Sure, it’s over an hour from Mad-Town to Brew-Town, but those adventures were worth it when the mood was right. I also had my minors fix in Wisconsin, thanks to the Wisconsin TimberRattlers up in Appleton, the Beloit Snappers and the Northwoods League’s Madison Mallards.
On one of those occasions to Miller Park, I went to see to see the Dodgers. It was odd that I have never seen the team of my youth and upbringing away from Chavez Ravine. They were in Wisconsin – a reminder of my childhood.
When I left Miller Park, I didn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t figure out why. I went to a ballgame and felt no significance in doing so. They were not the Dodgers I grew up with. Not my mom’s Dodgers! They were some early 2000s facsimile of a team that donned a familiar hue of blue with the “L” and the “A” crossed together.
Yet, something needed to happen in my life. Wisconsin was not my home. My mom’s side of the family settled in Beloit, south of Madison around the time of her birth – but it was not enough to consider forgiving the past to move forward in the world.
My move to the Twin Cities in 2004 was the sea change I needed. I always said about the Minneapolis-St. Paul area that it was a conglomeration of every place I lived in my life. There were bits of the Los Angeles Basin, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Washington, DC, and Madison areas wrapped up in this Upper Midwest metroplex. My current neighborhood is almost like the one I grew up in. This is why I felt right at home in the Twin Cities even before I moved there.
The Metrodome was by no means a replacement for Dodger Stadium. However, I would attend just as many games there as I would anywhere else I saw a ballgame. Game 163 in 2009 would be the tipping point between Chavez Ravine and that Teflon-roofed monstrosity once briefly ruled by Brett Favre – before the roof caved in.
Target Field is by no means Dodger Stadium. It is more comfortable, more accessible and enjoyable than my old ballpark. Still, something was missing there, too.
What transpired during my life in Minnesota would change my thinking about the world – and my life.
In 2006, I returned to my hometown. I blessed it. I even drove up to Chavez Ravine to see the old ballpark again. It was a form of closure – a point of forgiveness. There was indeed a satisfaction of fulfilling my apology to my hometown for abandoning it for petty and adolescent reasons.
It would be an affront to my mother’s grave to say that the Twins of today are like the Dodgers of my youth. It would not be fair to balance Joe Mauer against Steve Garvey…or Steve Yeager.
That forgiveness came full circle in June of 2011. The Dodgers were in town to play the Twins at Target Field. A fellow MLBlogger and her friend came out to see the series on her birthday. I was there for two games during the series. I have come full circle with this strange relationship with the Los Angeles Dodgers – even as that relationship was tested during this past World Series.
The Dodgers – and the Twins – helped frame this relationship with this game handed down by my mother to her children. Just like the automobile, baseball is an integral part of my life. Just don’t ask me about these newfangled statistics and analytics they’re using these days.