The Dodgers are regularly covered by from 25 to 30 Southern California daily newspapers, and irregularly by as many as 50. Three major television stations and 10 radio stations are represented almost nightly at the stadium. For those stations that do not have people there, the Dodgers, through John B. Olds and Associates, provide summaries of every game, complete with post-game interviews, for use on the air. Not content with what amounts to free advertising in stories on the sports pages, the Dodgers pay for advertisements in at least seven of the area's biggest dailies. Their commercial spots abound on the airwaves.
Because most Dodger players live in Southern California, they are employed by the club throughout the year, advancing the cause at banquets and meetings. The players begin informal workouts in Dodger Stadium as early as January, and newsmen are kept fully apprised of any developments that may come out of these mostly inconsequential sessions. The culmination of these midwinter workouts, an annual game with USC's crack college team, has drawn as many as 50,000 fans in February. The Dodgers have their own television crew at their Vero Beach, Fla. training camp, and local sportscasters are encouraged to make use of the service. The team makes it a point never to be out of the news.
The Dodgers sell more season tickets—around 13,000—than any other major league team, and they excel at group sales. When 18,000 Sears employees showed up at the stadium for a game two years ago, they represented the largest single gathering of employees in the company's history. Of course, not every group is that formidable, but during a typical season, the Dodgers will entertain at least a dozen consisting of 5,000 people or more. Ticket prices, which are now $4.50 for boxes, $3 for reserved seats, $2 for general admission and $1 for general admission for children under 12, have been raised just once in 20 years.
But the team's most effective salesman is unquestionably Broadcaster Vin Scully, generally conceded to be the best in the game. Scully, who moved west with the team from Brooklyn, probably receives as much fan mail as any of the players whose exploits he faithfully recounts. And though the transistor radio is no longer a staple at the ball park, Scully's resonant nasal voice remains the most dominant sound in Dodger Stadium. He is both educator and entertainer, a sharp, incisive reporter and wry observer. When Third Baseman Ron Cey walked on each of his plate appearances in a game against the Padres, Scully quipped, "Cey could have mailed this game in." A recent study by
Los Angeles Mediatrend disclosed that an estimated 63.1% of the teen-age and adult population in the Los Angeles metropolitan area had been exposed to Dodger baseball through radio or television this year. Considering how often Scully's voice is heard, even that does not seem high enough. What in the name of Walter O'Malley is that other 36.9% listening to?
Because of network commitments, Scully has cut back on his Dodger broadcasts this year, a decision that outrages many of his loyal listeners. He now announces only home games on the radio and the 30 road games the Dodgers televise, which means that about 50 broadcasts are Scullyless. The great man's associates, Jerry Doggett and Ross Porter, have gamely carried on in his absences, but they cannot assuage the anxiety his absences create. Before a recent game, a woman in a box seat was heard to call out to her companion, " John! John! Vinnie's here! He's out on the field." It would be safe to switch on the transistor.
Pockets of unusually devoted fans may be found at any major league ball park, but few teams have been favored with such loyal followers as Mrs. Bonnie Marvin, who is 93, and her daughters, Mrs. Iola McCoy, 69, and Anna Marvin, 65. The Marvin women have seen every game the Dodgers have played in Los Angeles, some 1,600 in all. Despite advancing years, neither illness, injury nor afflictions of the pocketbook have kept them from their appointed rounds. "We catch the flu when the team is on the road," says Anna Marvin. "We do not give in to ourselves," says Mrs. McCoy. The daughters operate their own businesses—Anna is a caterer, Mrs. McCoy, a widow for 27 years, runs a secretarial service—so they have no bosses to sneak away from to get to the ball park. Their working hours are fixed to the Dodgers' schedule. The three live together in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood, a 10-minute drive from the stadium. Season-ticket holders from the beginning, they currently occupy front-row box seats at the outfield end of the Dodger dugout. "At the start of each season," says Mrs. McCoy, "the players come over to count us." The women are shooting now for 2,000 straight games, perhaps another major league attendance record.
One of the large arteries into Dodger Stadium is Elysian Park Avenue. How appropriately named it must seem to the O'Malleys, because the ball park has proved to be a paradise for them. It is their own building, not the city's or county's, and the people have flocked to it. The team's income—the parking revenues as well as a portion of the concessions also go to the Dodgers—staggers the imagination. (Because the franchise is family owned and not required by law to release an accounting of its income, any estimate of Dodger earnings would be wildly speculative.) There are stars on the field, stars in the stands and riches everywhere. The league championship playoff's are ahead, and beyond that, with luck and skill, the World Series. The Dodgers are taking a fortune out of their Elysian field. But "take" is a deceptive word. To some fans "give" actually seems more apt.
"People always ask us if we have ever added up how much money we've spent on the Dodgers," Iola McCoy said last week, looking up from her scorecard. "Why, we never stop to figure that out. Where can you go and see a show like this for as little as $4.50? These years with the Dodgers have been wonderful ones. We've cried with them, laughed with them, gotten mad at them, forgiven them, loved them. There is nothing like it. How much have we spent? All I know is that every penny of it has come back to us threefold in pleasure."
A fan cannot ask for more than that. Neither can a ball club.