Number two, the fans agree with Dodger President O'Malley and others that the ball team was bothered by the presence of the strange contraption in left field. The town just thought it was funnier than hell but the team played almost as if they were ashamed of it, and the pitchers had to fight off incipient hysteria every time they looked at it. Don Drysddale who used to knock the bats out of the hands of the opposition last year, waited till he was a safe 2,000 miles away from it before he even recovered enough of his composure to talk about it. It was a "monster," he said in Chicago. Other Dodger flingers went to the mound in the Coliseum as though they were on their way to be tied to the railroad tracks. Evidence of how rattled they were is not the home runs hit off them (73), it is the number of walks (nearly 200) they have given up in 50 games.
Number three, the fans realize the Coliseum is difficult to field in. For one thing, at day games the concrete rows glare whitely in the afternoon sun. Even veteran outfielders cannot get a jump on the ball till it soars above the rim of the stands, and they sometimes stagger around looking for it like a man brushing a wasp from his nose. Milwaukee Outfielder Mel Roach dropped one and, after pirouetting frantically under another one, finally settled where he thought the ball was coming down only to have Hank Aaron, sliding up behind him like a cat, catch it 10 feet from where Roach was waiting. At night, lights which are good enough for football are not quite good enough for a baseball which is so much smaller—even though the Dodgers added two expensive new banks of lights. The Coliseum takes some getting used to.
The Dodgers, further, suffered a painful short-circuiting of their power when Gil Hodges unaccountably failed to hit over or even up to the left-field fence and Duke Snider, of course, couldn't even aim at it. A left-hander's average port of exit from the playing field of the Coliseum is about 400 feet away, and in the recent Pittsburgh series, Pirate Pitcher Bob Friend almost laughed as he just lobbed the ball up to the Duke twice. The Duke, exasperated, finally lashed into one—for a 380-foot out.
But the fans have been sold on the idea that the Dodgers are fundamentally better than their record. In some respects, they are just right for the town. Los Angeles, fan after fan agrees, does not really want a crew of monotonous perfectionists like the Yankees or a one-or two-man team like the Giants. They rather approve the crew of gifted but jittery professionals the Dodgers have proved to be—a team which is capable of having 12 runs scored against it in two games with only one ball hit out of the infield but also capable of turning around and knocking the ears off the world's best, as the Dodgers did in three straight against Milwaukee. And besides, as Publicist Harry Brand points out, "If they win the pennant the first year, what are they going to do for an encore?"
The Dodgers will get better, Los Angeles feels. They watch with sympathetic interest the twilight efforts of Reese and Hodges, and they are quietly sizing up Manager Walt Alston, a silent, aloof man who gives the grandstand wolves nothing to howl about because he, too, suffers in silence. If he would pop off, extroverted L.A. would answer him back. But Los Angeles has its heroes already: Johnny Podres, who calmly and coolly won four games in the Coliseum, one a shutout, at a time when other pitchers needed smelling salts just to get themselves to go out to the mound, is one. Charley Neal and Don Zimmer are the pets of the Coliseum, and the fans chuckle approvingly when Radio Announcer Vin Scully alludes to their double-play antics as "two kittens with a ball of yarn."
The Dodger broadcasts (there is no television save for two out-of-town series with the Giants) have revived the almost lost art of radio listening. There are 10 radio stations in the Dodger network in southern California from Santa Barbara to the Arizona border, but 50,000-watt KMPC is the Los Angeles outlet, and Advertising Director John M. Asher reports: "The Dodger baseball broadcasts brought back the kind of radio ratings the medium used to enjoy in the heyday of Lux Radio Theatre, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen and the other top-rated broadcasts. Baseball put half again as many sets into use as would ordinarily be turned on during the time periods, has made the area radio conscious as it hasn't been in many a day. Reports from radio repairmen show that people are digging dozens of old sets out of the attic and are having them put back into shape and that people buying new cars...specify that one of the pushbuttons on the car radio be set so that they can tune the broadcasts. The station's mail has been tripled."
KMPC reports that its ratings were "the highest radio ratings earned by any station since television achieved saturation, with 66% of the radio audience or 400,000 homes tuned in."
If Los Angeles likes the Dodgers, the feeling is mutual. Most of the ballplayers settled in the solidly middle class southwest corner of the city abutting Long Beach, where the neighbors are working people but well paid and there are swimming pools in every block if not in every house.
The players go to work on the freeways in car pools, and like a lot of other newcomers find the weather too good to be believed. "Every day Pee Wee gets up in the morning," reports Mrs. Reese, "and says, 'Just imagine waking up every day and seeing the sun shining and knowing it is going to shine all day.' "