'A baseball Woodstock' (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday March 26, 2008 3:57PM; Updated: Wednesday March 26, 2008 4:03PM
In the decades since the Dodgers left the Coliseum, the running track that once surrounded the Coliseum football field was removed, putting the seats even closer to the action. On Saturday, left field will be a mere 200 feet away, and the height of the screen will jump to 60 feet. The change should do nothing to diminish the attraction of this weekend's event.
"It's not every day that you get 100,000 people to watch 200-foot home runs," Steiner said.
In fact, it's not every day that you get 100,000 people together for any reason, which is another draw. In an era when baseball has sought to build smaller, more intimate ballparks, there's something to be said for staging a big blowout once in a while.
"Some of (the attraction) is the history, I suspect," said Kevin Roderick, editor and publisher of perhaps the city's defining website, L.A. Observed, "but it feels more like another great example of L.A.'s ravenous hunger for communal ... communing. We don't have that many places and occasions to gather as a community outside our usual crowds. So when something fun and safe and new comes along, we turn out. You get 50,000 or whatever it is at the Festival of Books, or along the (L.A.) Marathon route. ... The 1984 Olympics was the same impulse writ mammoth. People came outside just to hang out, to mingle, to schmooze. I don't know anybody who was around then who doesn't remember those two weeks as a special time in the city, and not just because traffic v-a-n-i-s-h-e-d."
"I've got no empirical evidence, but I suspect the Coliseum game is a happening for casual or even non-fans. But it's great too for true junkies who have always wanted to see the Coliseum set up that way."
As an after-the-fact reward for ticket buyers (as well as an incentive for people to come early and reduce potential parking problems and mitigate the inevitable barbs about Dodger fans arriving late), the Coliseum game will be preceded by a day-long baseball festival, the likes of which the Dodgers don't offer for regular season games -- though don't think that team owner Frank McCourt won't be paying attention to what works and doesn't work. Proceeds from ticket sales will go in part to the Dodgers' new team charity, Think Cure, which McCourt modeled after Boston's Jimmy Fund.
The Campanella exhibition provided one of the standout memories of the Dodgers' Los Angeles history, when the Coliseum lights went dark, and matches and lighters ignited in tribute for the team's fallen hero. It was a one-of-a-kind event, to be remembered but not repeated.
Saturday's game won't have that emotional wallop, but its sheer size and eccentricity might create memories to last until the Dodgers' 100th anniversary in Los Angeles -- not only for the fans, but the players as well.
"Most of these kids, they've seen black and white photos at Dodgertown of the Coliseum," Steiner said. "The historical perspective may or may not be lost on them, but I think what is impressive to them is they will play in front of the largest crowd of people ever to see a baseball game."
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