There are few things that astound us any more.
Even less so, it seems, in sports. We’ve seen it all, or at least that is the conventional wisdom.
As I turned on NESN tonight ahead of the exhibition game between the Dodgers and Red Sox at the LA Coliseum, an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers arrival in Los Angeles, as well as a fund raiser for the Dodgers’ ThinkCure charity, the visual was so striking that I found myself repeating under my breath, “Unbelievable.”
As the camera panned across the crowd, the sheer enormity of it set in. The Rose Bowl? I had seen crowds of this size. But for baseball? Chances are we will never see so many in one place to see a game.
As expected, the announced paid attendance (the number of tickets sold) came in at 115,300, breaking the old record of an estimated 114,000 for an exhibition between the Australian national team and an American services team during the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia on Dec. 1, 1956. The record for a Major League game was set by the Dodgers on May 7, 1959 when 93,103 fans came to the Coliseum for an exhibition game in honor of Roy Campanella, who had been left paralyzed after a car accident.
But, as many that were there, and those that watched on television, the crowd was only part of the wholly unique event.
Calling left field a “short porch” would have been to understate the obvious. At 200 feet, it changed the dynamics of the game from beginning to end. As Dodgers’ starting pitcher Estaban Loazia said, "It's short, man. It's like playing a whiffle ball game."
And true to whiffle ball, or street ball, the managers positioned the players, as such.
Both sides played 5 players at the infield, with no one in left (select image to see larger version). With a 60 foot high screen “wall” in left, shortstops simply played it off the screen, or backed up to what would normally be shallow left in any other ballpark.
And that was the other thing: the screens.
With the LA Coliseum never designed for baseball, there were no walls anywhere, including the batter's eye.
On the latter, I thought for sure there would be all kinds of problems for the hitters. I recall interviewing Hall of Famer and former Red Sox 2B legend Bobby Doerr about playing before there was the now-mandatory black wall behind the pitcher in center to allow hitters to pick up the spin on the ball against a solid color. As Doerr said about playing in Yankee Stadium, “We always played to a big crowd and fans always had white shirts in center field with their white shirts, jeez it was tough the pick the ball up.”
After watching the game tonight, you had to wonder if the Red Sox and Dodgers players now know at least a little about how Doerr felt.
It was an amazing event to watch. One that will never be forgotten, and surely make the time capsule television footage at the end of this season, and most likely years to come.
Lastly, the McCourts and Dodgers should be commended, as all the proceeds from the went to a fantastic cause: helping to find a cure for Cancer through ThinkCure.
As Dodgers manager Joe Torre said to The AP, "Having had cancer and knowing all these people are spending their money for a great cause is wonderful.”
What did you think of the game? Don't forget to leave your comments.
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