Friday, May 6, 2016

Living Former New York Baseball Giants

May 6, 1931, 85 years ago today: Willie Howard Mays Jr. is born in Westfield, Alabama, outside Birmingham. He grows up in nearby Fairfield.

September 29, 1957: The last New York Giants baseball game is played at the Polo Grounds.

To people now under the age of 60, the New York Giants -- presuming you're talking about the old baseball team, not the still-operating football team named for them -- are the home run by Bobby Thomson that won the 1951 National League Pennant, and the catch by Willie Mays that sparked them to win the 1954 World Series.
Even Dusty Rhodes, whose pinch-hit home run (with Mays on base) actually won Game 1 of the '54 Series, gets forgotten. And when Monte Irvin, a hero of the '51 and '54 Giants and a star in the Negro Leagues, died earlier this year, he was just a name to most current fans.

So what hope do Bill Terry, Mel Ott and Carl Hubbell, heroes of the 1933 World Championship team and the 1936 and '37 Pennants, have of being remembered? To say nothing of Frankie Frisch and the 1921-24 Pennant winners (including winniing the '21 and '22 Series)? Or Christy Mathewson, Roger Bresnahan, and the 1905 World Champions? Or the man who managed them to Pennants in 1904, '05, '11, '12, '13, '17, '21, '22, '23 and '24, John McGraw?

The San Francisco Giants have retired Terry's Number 3, Ott's 4, Hubbell's 11, Irvin's 20 and Mays' 24. And, since they were around before uniform numbers were worn, they have "NY" notations with the retired numbers for McGraw and Mathewson.

But time passes. It's been nearly 60 years since the Giants played home games in New York. The Polo Grounds last hosted an event on December 14, 1963, when the New York Jets lost an American Football League game to the Buffalo Bills, 19-10. The Mets clowned their way through the '62 and '63 season at the Polo Grounds. The old Harlem Horseshoe was demolished in April 1964, just as Shea Stadium was preparing for its opening.

As with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Philadelphia Athletics, the St. Louis Browns and the Boston Braves, an era is slipping away.

And, unlike the Dodgers, who had Roger Kahn write The Boys of Summer and publish it in 1971 while most of the heroes of their 1950s teams were still alive, the Giants didn't get a literary celebration to cement their memory while the Baby Boomers, the last fans they would have, were still relatively young.

All that's left is a few flickering images: Mathewson's windup, Hubbell's screwball, Ott's odd swing, Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World," Mays' catch, Rhodes' homer. And maybe even a song about Mays.

*

There are 22 surviving New York baseball Giants:

* Wayne Terwilliger, about to turn 91, from Clare, Michigan. A 2nd baseman, he served in the Marines in World War II. He debuted with the Cubs in 1949, and in 1951 was traded to the Dodgers along with Andy Pafko. The Dodgers sent him to the minors for the 1952 season, and he was claimed off waivers in 1953.

After being traded from the Cubs, he spent the rest of his career with teams that no longer exist in those forms: The Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Giants, the Washington Senators and the Kansas City Athletics, with whom he played his last game, in 1960.

He became a longtime minor league manager and major league coach, and was on Tom Kelly's staff when the Minnesota Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991. He won an independent league's Pennant as manager of the revived Fort Worth Cats in 2005.

* Harvey Gentry, about to turn 90, from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. An outfielder, he made 5 appearances as a pinch-hitter for the Giants in April 1954, and was long gone before the World Series.

* Ron Samford, 86, from Dallas. A shortstop, he appeared in 12 games as a rookie with the 1954 Giants, but was not on the World Series roster. He appeared in the majors again with Detroit in 1955 and 1957, and with the Washington Senators in 1959. He hit a home run in his last major league at-bat.

* Foster Castleman, 85, from Nashville. A 3rd baseman, he debuted with the 1954 Giants, but did not make the World Series roster. He remained with them through the end, but did not make the move, and played just 1 more season, for the 1958 Baltimore Orioles.

* John "Windy" McCall, 90, ironically from San Francisco. A pitcher, he debuted with the Boston Red Sox in 1948, made a few appearances for the Giants from 1954 (including in the World Series) until 1957, and never appeared in the majors again, just missing out on pitching for a hometown team.

* Billy Gardner, 88, from Waterford, New London County, Connecticut. A 2nd baseman, he played for 2 iconic New York baseball teams: The 1954 Giants and the 1961 Yankees. The Yankees acquired him that year from the Twins, with whom he had made the move as one of the last of the old Senators.

He managed the Twins from 1981 to 1985, and the Kansas City Royals in 1987. His son, Billy Gardner Jr., never made the majors, but is a longtime minor league manager, currently in the Washington Nationals' system.

* Joey Amalfitano, 82, from Long Beach, California. A 2nd baseman, he debuted with the Giants as a bonus baby in 1954, but wasn't on the World Series roster. An original Houston Colt .45 (Astro) in 1962, he wrapped up his playing career with the Cubs in 1967.

He managed the Cubs in 1979, and again in 1980-81, before becoming a coach with the Dodgers, winning a ring in 1988. He is now a minor league instructor with the Giants.

* Johnny Antonelli, about to turn 86, from Rochester, New York. Also a surviving Boston Brave, he was one of the heroes' of the Giants' 1954 World Championship season, leading the NL in ERA, and remained with them through the move to San Francisco. A 6-time All-Star, he had a career record of 126-110.

* Pete Burnside, 85, from the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois. A pitcher, he made scattered appearances for the Giants in the 1955, '57 and '58 seasons, closing his career with the 1963 Washington Senators.

* Gil Coan, about to turn 94, from Monroe, North Carolina. A left fielder, he was The Sporting News' Minor League Player of the Year in 1945, but was undistinguished in the majors for the Senators thereafter. He finished his career with the Giants in 1955 and '56.

* Albert "Red" Schoendienst, 93, from the St. Louis suburb of Germantown, Illinois. A 2nd baseman, he is the last survivor of the St. Louis Cardinals team that won the 1946 World Series. He stayed with the Cards until he was traded to  the Giants in 1956, but he was traded to the Milwaukee Braves and did not make the move to San Francisco. This was lucky for him, because he won another Series with the 1957 Braves, and another Pennant with them in 1958.

He managed the Cards to the 1967 World Series and another Pennant in 1968. He also won rings as a Cardinal coach in 1964 and 1982, and served as interim manager as recently as 1990. The Cardinals retired his Number 2. He is in the Hall of Fame, and 2016 is his 72nd consecutive season on an MLB team's payroll. As far as I know, that is a major league record.

* Ozzie Virgil, about to turn 84, from Monte Cristi, the Dominican Republic. How he didn't get the nickname "The Count of Monte Cristi," I don't know. The 1st Dominican national to play in the major leagues, even though he served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War. He debuted with the Giants in 1956, but was traded before the move.

In 1958, he became the 1st nonwhite player for the Detroit Tigers. He returned to the Giants in San Francisco in 1966, and remained through 1969. Mainly a 3rd baseman, he played all positions in major league games except pitcher and center field.

In 1969, he was named to the Giants' coaching staff, making him (possibly) the 1st Hispanic coach in the major leagues. He was on the Giants' staff when they won the NL West in 1971, on the Montreal Expos' staff when they won the NL East in 1981, and on the San Diego Padres' staff when they won the NL Pennant in 1984.

The airport in his hometown of Montecristi is named for him. His son, Ozzie Virgil Jr., was born in Puerto Rico while his father was playing winter ball there, and became a major league catcher, twice making the All-Star Game and appearing in the 1983 World Series with the Phillies.

* Ray Crone, 84, from Memphis. A pitcher, he went 4-8 with the Giants in 1957, and made the move with them, but was cut by San Francisco in 1958, and never appeared in the majors again.

* Jackie Brandt, about to turn 82, from Omaha. An outfielder, he debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1956, and was soon traded to the Giants, remaining with them through the move, until 1959. A Gold Glove winner with the Giants, he was an All-Star with the Baltimore Orioles.

* Daryl Spencer, 87, from Wichita, Kansas. A utility infielder, he debuted with the Giants in 1952, was a regular in 1953, missed the 1954 and 1955 seasons in the U.S. Army (including the '54 Series), made the move, hit the 1st home run in San Francisco Giants history, remained with the team through 1959, was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Cincinnati Reds in 1963 (and thus missed out on a ring again), and played in Japan from 1964 to 1972.

* Al Worthington, 87, from Birmingham. A pitcher, he arrived in the majors with the Giants in 1953, spent most of 1954 in the minors and thus missed the World Series, moved with the team, staying through 1959, and bounced around until arriving in Minnesota, helping the Twins win the 1965 American League Pennant and the 1969 AL Western Division title. He went 75-82 with 110 saves in his career.

He later served as head baseball coach at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and is a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

* Eddie Bressoud, about to turn 85, from Los Angeles. A shortstop, he arrived in 1956, stayed through the move until 1961, and later played for the Mets. Has been a longtime scout for the Los Angeles Angels.

* Joe Margoneri, 86, from the Pittsburgh suburb of Somerset, Pennsylvania. A pitcher, he went 7-7 for the Giants in 1956 and '57, for his only major league experience.

* Roy Wright, 82, from Buchtel, Ohio. A pitcher, he appeared in 1 major league game, on September 30, 1956. It was the last game of the season, he started against the Phillies, got rocked, didn't get out of the 3rd inning, lost, and stayed in the minors through 1959.

* Bill White, 82, from Cleveland. A 1st baseman, he appeared with the Giants in New York in 1956 and in San Francisco in 1958, then was traded to the Cardinals. An 8-time All-Star and a 7-time Gold Glove winner, he won the World Series with the Cards in 1964. Batting .286 for his career, with 202 home runs.

His baseball life was far from over. In 1971, he became the 1st black person to regularly broadcast a major league team's games, with the Yankees, joining Phil Rizzuto and Frank Messer. He remained with the Yankees through the 1988 season, until he was named President of the National League, serving until the Strike of '94. Why he hasn't been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, while he's still alive to appreciate it, is beyond me.

* Mike McCormick, 77, from the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena, California. A pitcher, he debuted with the Giants in 1956, made the move with them, and lasted until the Pennant season of 1962. He was traded after the World Series, came back in 1967, and won the NL Cy Young Award that year. He pitched for the Yankees in 1970, and wrapped up his career with the Kansas City Royals in 1971. His career record was 134-128.

* Willie Mays, 85, from Fairfield, Alabama. He played with the Giants from 1951 to 1972, missing most of 1952 and all of 1953 while serving in the Korean War. NL Most Valuable Player in 1954 and 1965. NL Champion in 1954 and 1962, World Champion in 1954. He added a National League Western Division title in 1971. He was traded to the Mets, and ended his career with another Pennant in 1973.

660 home runs. Over 3,000 hits. Hall of Fame. All-Century Team. Number 24 retired by Giants, unofficially retired by Mets. Regarded by many fans as the greatest player ever. And the last New York Giant still active, playing until 1973.

This past November, "the Say Hey Kid" was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
For the moment, Willie Mays is still a living treasure. And one of the last links to one of the greatest of all baseball teams, which is still in business, although not in the city where it first made its mark.

Ten Innings In a Bandbox, No Runs

Can somebody please tell me why Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman still have jobs?

Or, for that matter, Aaron Hicks (.234), Dustin Ackley (.269) and Chase Headley (.401)? By the way, those aren't batting averages. They're OPS's.

Ackley, Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Didi Gregorius and Ronald Torreyes went a combined 0-for-21 last night. (Can't blame Alex Rodriguez: Girardi gave him the night off.)

Last night, in 10 innings against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, the Yankees had just 5 baserunners: A double by Starlin Castro; singles by Castro, Hicks and Mark Teixeira; and a walk by McCann.

Then again, the home team didn't score in the regulation 9 innings in their little harborside bandbox, either. Masahiro Tanaka was brilliant for 8 innings, allowing only 5 hits and a walk, striking out 7, proving himself once again to be the best starting pitcher in New York, better than any of the alleged "aces" on The Other Team.

But in the bottom of the 10th, Girardi brought in Johnny Barbato, who allowed back-to-back leadoff singles. That meant 1st and 3rd with nobody out. He brought in Andrew Miller, whom he probably should have brought in to start the inning, despite the game being tied. Miller allowed a game-winning sacrifice fly.

WP: Zach Britton (1-1). No save. LP: Barbato (1-2).

Games Girardi has blown with his pitching screwups, this season alone: 4. And it was only May 5. Long way to go.

What we need right now is to score a bunch of runs. What we don't need right now is to have to face The Scum and their Big Fat Lying Cheating Bastard again, just a week after they swept us at Scumway Park.

And, oh, look who's next on the schedule: Said Scum. Oh, joy.

Here's the pitching matchups:

* Tonight, 7:05 PM: Michael Pineda vs. Rick Porcello.

* Tomorrow, 1:05 PM: Nathan Eovaldi vs. David Price.

* Sunday, 8:05 PM: Luis Severino vs. Steven Wright.

Come on you Pinstripes! Beat The Scum!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Winning. It's Better Than Losing.

Yeah! Yeah! I love winning, man! I fuckin' love winning. You hear what I'm saying? It's, like, better than losing?
-- Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), Bull Durham

It's been so long, I can't tell anymore.

So the Yankees went into last night's game with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards with a 6-game losing streak and an 8-15 record. It was long past time for the lumber to wake up and for the Yankees to use it properly.

And to get a good start. In other words, get the hitting we need and the pitching we need.

The game's easy, Harry, when you get good pitching, you get good hitting, and you score a few.
-- Richie Ashburn to Harry Kalas during a Phillies broadcast, 1987

CC Sabathia, perhaps the biggest question mark in the Yankee rotation going into the season, got the start, and the Big Fella dealt: 7 innings, 99 pitches, 62 for strikes, no runs, 6 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts.

That's what I'm talkin' 'bout.

But you can't win if you don't score, and Tyler Wilson of the Orioles matched CC goose egg for goose egg for the 1st 5 innings.

Then came the top of the 6th. Chase Headley led off, and, as you might guess, struck out. But Jacoby Ellsbury singled, and stole 2nd base. Brett Gardner singled... and Ellsbury only got to 3rd.

Let me get this straight: Ellsbury, who was signed mainly because of his speed, stole 2nd, and couldn't score from 2nd on a single?

There's always these omens in baseball.
-- Doris Kearns Goodwin, Brooklyn Dodger fan (1943-57), Boston Red Sox fan (1967-present)

Well, Ellsbury's inability to score from 2nd on a single turned out not to be an omen, because he could, and did, score on a sacrifice fly to center by Carlos Beltran. Then Mark Teixeira (the Baltimore area native still getting booed by Oriole fans for choosing the Yanks over the O's come free agent time) drew a walk. Then Brian McCann singled home Gardner. Then Starlin Castro grounded back to Wilson, who threw the ball away, allowing Teix to score. 3-0 Yankees.

The Yankees struck again in the 8th. Doubles by Beltran and McCann bracketed another walk by Teix, and singles by Didi Gregorius and Headley followed.

Headley got a hit?

Hoo-ah! The boy's alive.
-- Frank Slade (Al Pacino), Scent of a Woman

Ellsbury drew a walk to load the bases, and Gardner was hit by a pitch to force home a run.

Kirby Yates and Dellin Betances pitched a scoreless 8th, and Chasen Shreve pitched a perfect 9th.

Shreve pitched a perfect inning? I don't believe it.

That is why you fail: You do not believe.
-- Yoda (Frank Oz), Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

At any rate, we got everything we needed: 7 runs, 10 hits, errorless baseball, and great pitching.

Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!
-- John Sterling

Yankees 7, Orioles 0. WP: Sabathia (2-2). No save. LP: Wilson (1-1).

Start spreading the news.
-- Frank Sinatra

The series concludes tonight. Masahiro Tanaka starts for us, Kevin Gausman for the O's. Then, it's back home, to face The Scum.

Come on you... yes, we can call them this again, even if there weren't any home runs last night... Bombers!

How to Be a Met Fan In Colorado -- 2016 Edition

On Friday of next week -- Friday the 13th, as if they needed any more bad luck -- the Mets head out to Denver to play the Colorado Rockies.

Before You Go. Denver is a city of unusual weather, because of its elevation. I still remember that Monday Night Football game in 1984, when the Green Bay Packers, thinking they'd escaped the Wisconsin chill, got surprised by a blizzard when they played the Broncos at Mile High Stadium. On October 15. Check the Denver Post website before you decide to go.

For the moment, the projections are varying greatly. For Friday, they're saying high 70s in the afternoon and high 40s at night; for Saturday, high 50s by day, mid-30s by night; for Sunday, mid-60s by day, low 40s by night. You didn't think you were going to need a winter jacket for a baseball game in the middle of May, did you? At least no rain (or snow) is predicted.

This will be the Mets' only trip out to Denver this season, but if you don't want to take a chance on the weather, then, unless you're doing the All 30 Ballparks In One Year thing, the old adage "Wait 'Til Next Year" comes into play: Skip this series, and stay home and watch it on television. The Rockies are a team with rich owners, a relatively new ballpark and a solid fan base: Unlike the hockey team of the same name that became the New Jersey Devils in 1982, they're not going anywhere.

Denver is in the Mountain Time Zone, so you'll be 2 hours behind New York time. And there's a reason it’s called the Mile High City: The elevation means the air will be thinner. Although the Rocky Mountain region is renowned for outdoor recreation, if you're not used to it, try not to exert yourself too much. Cheering at a sporting event shouldn't bother you too much, but even if the weather is good, don't go rock-climbing or any other such activity unless you've done it before and know what you’re doing.

Tickets. When the Rockies began play in 1993, there had never been a major league team in the entire Mountain Time Zone, and the Denver Bears and their successors the Denver Zephyrs had been among the best-attended teams in the minor leagues. That, plus the huge capacity of Mile High Stadium, allowed Colorado fans to set several major league attendance records that are unlikely to be broken in my lifetime, including most fans for an Opening Day game (80,227), most fans for a single regular-season game (same -- the old Yankee Stadium and Cleveland had a few bigger crowds for doubleheaders), most fans in a single season (4,483,350 in that 1st season of 1993) and most fans per home game (56,094 in the strike-shortened 1994 season).

When Coors Field opened in 1995, with a capacity around 47,000 (now officially 50,398), every game was still sold out, until 1999. The Rockies have gone downhill since their last Playoff berth in 2009, but still averaged 31,334 for the 2015 season. So tickets may not be easy to come by.

For tickets that are available, a Rockies game is the most economical in the major leagues: Infield Club seats are $70, Midfield Boxes are $50, Outfield Boxes are $40, Upper Reserved Infield seats are $23, Upper Reserved Outfield seats are $16, Pavilion (left field bleacher) seats are $27, Upper Rightfield Reserved are $67, and the center field "Rockpile" seats -- a holdover from the bleachers of that nickname at Mile High Stadium -- are the cheapest seats in Major League Baseball, just $7. That's right: Seven dollars. For a Major League Baseball game. In the 21st Century.

Getting There. It’s 1,779 miles from Times Square in New York to the Denver plaza that contains the State House and the City-County complex, and 1,790 miles from Citi Field to Coors Field. You're probably thinking that you should be flying.

The good news: Flying to Denver, considering how far it is, is relatively cheap. You can get a round-trip flight heading out on Friday morning, and buy it today, for a little under $700, depending on what time you want to fly. More likely, it'll be around $800, but that's still a decent price per mile.

The bad news: It won't be nonstop. While Stapleton International Airport (named for 1923-47 Mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton) was a major change-planes-here spot for going to the West Coast and Las Vegas, the new Denver International Airport isn't. You want to fly there, you'll have to change planes, most likely in either Chicago or Dallas.

Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited leaves Penn Station at 3:40 PM Tuesday, and arrives at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Wednesday. The California Zephyr leaves Chicago at 2:00 PM Wednesday and arrives at Denver's Union Station at 7:15 AM Mountain Time on Thursday. The return trip would leave Denver at 7:10 PM Sunday (after the series' afternoon finale), arrive in Chicago at 2:50 PM Monday, leave Chicago at 9:30 PM Monday, and get back to New York at 6:23 PM Tuesday. The round-trip fare is $448.

Conveniently, Union Station is at 1700 Wynkoop Street at 17th Street, just 3 blocks from Coors Field. The front of the building is topped by a clock, framed by an old sign saying UNION STATION and TRAVEL by TRAIN.
Greyhound allows you to leave Port Authority Bus Terminal at 4:00 PM Wednesday, and arrive at Denver at 10:50 AM on Friday, a trip of just under 45 hours, without having to change buses. That 44:50 does, however, include layovers of 40 minutes in Philadelphia, an hour and a half in Pittsburgh, an hour in Columbus, an hour in Indianapolis, 2 hours in St. Louis, half an hour in Salina, Kansas, and another half-hour in Burlington, Colorado; plus half-hour meal stops in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Kansas. Round-trip fare is $388, but you can get it for $290 on advanced-purchase. You can get a bus back at 7:10 PM Sunday and be back in New York at 3:50 PM Tuesday. The Denver Bus Center is at 1055 19th Street, 5 blocks from Coors Field.

If you actually think it’s worth it to drive, get someone to go with you, so you’ll have someone to talk to, and one of you can drive while the other sleeps. You’ll be taking Interstate 80 most of the way, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, before taking Interstate 76 from Nebraska to Colorado, and then Interstate 25 into Denver. (An alternate route: Take the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpikes to Interstate 70 and then I-70 through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado into downtown Denver. It won’t save you an appreciable amount of time over the I-80 route, though.)

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Illinois, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Iowa, 6 hours in Nebraska, and 3 hours and 15 minutes in Colorado. Including rest stops, and accounting for traffic (you’ll be bypassing Cleveland and Chicago, unless that’s where you want to make rest stops), we’re talking about a 40-hour trip.

Even if you’re only going for one game, no matter how you got there, get a hotel and spend a night. You’ll be exhausted otherwise. Trust me, I know: Trains and buses are not good ways to get sleep.

Once In the City. Founded in 1858 as a gold rush city, and named for James W. Denver, then Governor of Kansas Territory from which Colorado was separated, Denver is a city of 650,000 people, in a metro area of 3.3 million -- roughly the population of Brooklyn and Staten Island combined. It's easily the biggest city in, and thus the unofficial cultural capital of, the Rocky Mountain region.
The State House in downtown Denver

Broadway is the main north-south drag, separating East addresses from West. But the northwestern quadrant of the street grid is at roughly a 45-degree angle from the rest of the city, and this area includes the central business district, Union Station and the ballpark.

The sales tax in the State of Colorado is 2.9 percent, however, the City of Denver adds a 3.62 percent sales tax, for a total of 6.52 percent. Bus and light rail service in Denver is run by the Regional Transportation District (RTD), and goes for $2.25 for a single ride, and $6.75 for a DayPass.
Don't worry, the weather isn't forecast to look like this during your visit.
I chose this picture for the look of the train, not for the snow and wet streets.

The Denver Post is a good paper, but don't bother looking for the Rocky Mountain News: It went out of business in 2009.

Going In. Coors Field is in the Lower Downtown, or LoDo, section of Denver, a mile and a half northwest of Civic Center Park, the government center which contains the City & County Building and the Colorado State House. The Number 60 bus will get you to within 3 blocks of the ballpark. Denver has a light rail system, RTD, but chances are your hotel will be downtown, and you'd have to change trains at least once, so the 60 bus is the way to go. If you're driving, parking is $13.

The mailing address is 2001 Blake Street. Blake bounds the 1st base side, 20th Street the 3rd base side, 22nd Street the right field stands, and Wewatta Street and the light rail tracks the left field side.
Most likely, you'll enter through the home plate gate, at 20th & Blake (shown above). I like that: All visits to the ballpark should make your first view of the field from behind home plate. This was rarely possible with the old New York ballparks: The stadiums pointed east, and both subway exits put you at the right field corner (if you entered Yankee Stadium from the 157th Street plaza, or the left field corner if you came down 161st Street). In the case of Coors, it’s just more convenient.
The field is natural grass, and points due north. Outfield distances are 347 feet to left field, 390 to left-center, 415 to center, 375 to right-center, and 350 to right. Why so far? To counteract the easy home runs that were hit at Mile High, due to the thin mountain air. A line of purple seats, 6 rows from the top of the upper deck, shows the exact point at which the elevation of the park is 5,280 feet above sea level, making it "a mile high."
After years of opposing teams complaining that the highest elevation in MLB history resulting in too many home runs, prior to the 2002 season the team ordered a study to determine if the elevation was the cause. As it turned out, the study suggested it was not thin air, but dry air that was doing it.

So a giant humidor – a room-sized version of the kind of box where a smoker would store his cigars – was put into the ballpark, and the baseballs were stored there. As a result, the ball is no longer going as far as it once did, although the thin air does make it go farther than at most ballparks. The thin air also makes curveballs curve less, which means it’s still not a good park for pitchers. Nevertheless, the team’s pitching staff can no longer be called, as it once was, "the Rocky Horror Pitching Show." The longest home run was by Andres Galarraga, a 529-footer in 1997.
This past February, Coors Field hosted 2 hockey games. The University of Denver beat arch-rival Colorado College 4-1 in a game billed as the Battle On Blake. And as part of the NHL Stadium Series, the Colorado Avalanche hosted the Detroit Red Wings, perhaps perversely celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the birth of their brief but nasty rivalry. The Wings won 5-3.

Food. Being a "Wild West" city, you might expect Denver to have Western-themed stands with "real American food" at its ballpark. Being in a State with a Spanish name, in a land that used to belong to Mexico, you might also expect to have Mexican food. And you would be right on both counts.

A stand called Buckaroos is at Section 148, Burritos is at 134, the Helton Burger Shack (named for Rockies star Todd Helton) at 153, a full-service bar called the Camarena Loft behind 201, another called Margaritas at 330, 3 Monster Nacho stands, and, for club-seaters, the Mountain Ranch Club Bar.

There's also stands with baseball-themed names, including several Fan Fare stands, Fair Territory in 106, and Yard Ball Yogurt at 330. There's a Starbucks-type place called Madeline’s at 151, a pair of sandwich bars called the Club Carvery behind 219 and 238, a coffee bar call Java City at 223, a Chinese-themed Wok in the Park at 150, and a Blue Moon Brewing Co. outlet at 111.

Buckaroos has "Dinger Nuggets," which I'm hoping is standard chicken nuggets, not dinosaur meat. (I’ll get to that in "During the Game.")

Team History Displays. The Rockies' history is short. They have made the Playoffs 3 times (in 1995, 2007 and 2009, all through the National League Wild Card), have won just 1 Pennant (2007), and have won a grand total of zero World Series games. As yet, they have no figures in their history who are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. No Rockies players were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Players in 1999. In 2006, Larry Walker won the Rockies' edition of the DHL Hometown Heroes contest.

However, there are 5 men with Rockies connections in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, whose display is at the new Broncos' stadium: Original owner Jerry McMorris, original manager Don Baylor, early stars Andres Galarraga and Larry Walker, and more recent star Todd Helton.

And while Walker's Number 33 has not been reissued, officially, their only retired number, aside from the universally-retired 42 for Jackie Robinson, who died over 20 years before the Rockies ever played a game, is the Number 17 of 1997-2013 1st baseman Todd Helton.

Those numbers are on the outfield wall, as is a display reading "KSM," for Keli Scott McGregor. Keli McGregor was a native of the Denver suburbs who played for Colorado State, and then briefly with the Broncos in 1985. He joined the Rockies' front office in the Autumn of 1993, after the 1st season, and was team president from 2001 until 2010, when he died of an undetected heart virus at age 47.
The 2007 Pennant is displayed top the left field scoreboard, under the giant Rockies logo. The 1995 NL Wild Card banner used to be on the wall, but once a Pennant was won, it seemed a bit silly. (Nevertheless, the Mets still have that 1999 Wild-Card display on the third-base facing of Citi Field, along with their 2 World Championship, 3 other Pennant, and 2006 NL East stanchions.) There is no mention, anywhere in the stadium, of the Pennants won by the Rockies' minor-league predecessors, the Denver Bears (also briefly known as the Denver Zephyrs).

Stuff. Coors Field has the Majestic Team Store behind Section 149, in the left-field corner. I don't know if the Rockies gear they sell includes cowboy hats with team logos on them, to tie in with the State's Western heritage. In addition, there are 7 Rockies Dugout Stores throughout Colorado, including 1 in Denver at 535 16th Street.

Don’t look for old Rockies videos on DVD – there aren't any. Unless you want to find the official highlight film of the 2007 World Series, in which the Rockies got swept by the Boston Red Sox. You'd think that, having won 14 of their last 15 regular-season games, making it 21 out of 22 counting the Playoffs, winning their 1st-ever Pennant, and setting a major league record for highest team fielding percentage (.989), there would be a commemorative DVD. But there isn't.

There are, however, a few books about the team, including A Magical Season: Colorado’s Incredible 2007 Championship Season, by the staff of the Denver Post. You can also pick up Colorado Rockies: The Inaugural Season, by Rich Clarkson, which came out right after that 1993 season ended.

The first-year Rockies probably got more respect than any 67-95 team ever. To compare, the 1969 Seattle Pilots went 64-98. They also played in a stadium that was inappropriate for the major leagues – albeit because it was an expanded 1930s Triple-A park, not a 1940s Triple-A park converted into a 1970s football stadium like Mile High. They got fewer fans in a homestand than the '93 Rox got in their home opener, got moved to Milwaukee right before their second season started, and today are remembered only for being in Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four. Even Seattle fans would prefer to believe their major league history started with the Mariners in 1977.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article ranked Rockies fans 29th among the "most intolerable" fans. More accurately, that makes them the 2nd-most tolerable.

Coloradans love their sports, but they're not known as antagonistic. Although the Jets came within a half of derailing a Bronco Super Bowl in 1999 (1998 season), and the Devils came within a game of short-circuiting their Stanley Cup run in 2001, the people of the Centennial State don't have an ingrained hatred of New Yorkers. As long as you don't wear Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders gear, you'll probably be completely safe. (But, as always, watch out for obnoxious drunks, who know no State Lines.)

All 3 games in this series will have promotions. On Friday night, as part of their Fan Friday series, the Rockies will be giving away team-logo tote bags. Saturday night will be Scout Night. And on Sunday afternoon, they're giving away a plastic bat & ball set.

The Rockies hold auditions for National Anthem singers, as opposed to having a regular, but they give priority to groups, even letting their Group Sales department handle applications.

When construction workers were excavating to build Coors Field, they found dinosaur bones. So the Rockies' mascot was made a dinosaur. In honor of the thin air's propensity for allowing home runs, the mascot was named Dinger the Dinosaur. Great idea, right? Well, a Tyrannosaurus Rex (or even a "Tyrannosaurus Rox") would probably scare kids, so Dinger is a purple triceratops, wearing a Rockies jersey, Number 00. Think of him as Barney's cousin from the weird side of the family.
The Rockies play Bruce Channel’s song "Hey! Baby" after "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the 7th inning stretch. Why? I have no idea. Channel isn't from Colorado, or any other Rocky Mountain State (he's from Texas). Why not a Colorado singer's song? You got me.

I guess "Rocky Mountain High" – whose singer used the stage name John Denver, for crying out loud – isn't particularly rousing. And his "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" was already the 7th inning stretch song for the Baltimore Orioles. Also not especially crowd-cranking is "How to Save a Life" by The Fray, who, unlike John, are from Denver. Sometimes the Rockies play "Get Free" by the Australian rock band The Vines, but they do not have a postgame victory song.

After the Game. Denver has had crime issues, and just 3 blocks from Coors Field is Larimer Street, immortalized as a dingy, bohemian-tinged, hobo-strewn street in Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road. But that scene was written in 1947, and LoDo has become, with the building of Coors Field and the revitalization of Union Station, a sort of mountain Wrigleyville. So you’ll probably be safe.

LoDo is loaded with bars that will be open after the game, including Scruffy Murphy's at Larimer & 20th, and an outlet of the Fado Irish Pub chain at Wynkoop & 19th. But the only baseball-named place I can find anywhere near Coors is Sandlot Brewery, at 22nd & Blake, outside the park's right-field corner. Behind home plate, at 1930 Blake Street, is The Sports Column, hailed by a recent Thrillist article as the best sports bar in the State of Colorado.

Perhaps the most famous sports-themed restaurant near Denver is Elway's Cherry Creek, a steakhouse at 2500 E. 1st Avenue in the southern suburb of Cherry Creek. Bus 83L. It’s owned by the same guy who owns John Elway Chevrolet in another southern suburb, Englewood.

About a mile southeast of Coors Field, at 538 E. 17th Avenue in the Uptown neighborhood (not sure why a southern, rather than northern, neighborhood is called "Uptown"), is The Tavern, home of the local New York Giants fan club. Jet fans gather at Chopper's Sports Grill, possibly named for Chopper Travaglini, at 80 S. Madison Street at Bayaud Avenue, 3 miles southeast of downtown, in the Pulaski Park neighborhood. Bus 83, then a mile's walk.

Sidelights. Sports Authority Field at Mile High, formerly Invesco Field at Mile High, has been the home of the NFL's Denver Broncos since 2001. Everyone just gives it the same name as the old facility: "Mile High Stadium." It includes the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, and the Broncos’ Ring of Fame.

It was built on the site of the McNichols Sports Arena, home to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets from 1975 to 1999, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche from 1995 to 1999, and the first major league team called the Colorado Rockies, the NHL team that became the Devils, from 1976 to 1982. The Denver Dynamite played there from 1987 to 1991, made the Arena Football League Playoffs every season, and won the 1st ArenaBowl in 1987. But the cost of running the team was too high, and it folded.

It hosted the NCAA Final Four in 1990, with UNLV (the University of Nevada at Las Vegas) clobbering Duke. (The University of Colorado, in Boulder, made the Final Four in 1942 and 1955, although it wasn't yet called the Final Four.  No other Colorado-based school has made it, and none has won a National Championship -- not in basketball, anyway.)

When the time came to play the final concert at McNichols, the act that played the first concert there was brought back: ZZ Top. This fact was mentioned on a Monday Night Football broadcast, leading Dan Dierdorf to note the alphabetic distinction of the long red-bearded men, and say, “The first one should have been ABBA.” Which would have been possible, as they were nearly big in the U.S. at the time. However, the fact that the arena only lasted 24 years, making it not that hard for the act that played the first concert there to also play the last, says something about America's disposable culture.

The old stadium was just to the north of the new stadium/old arena. The current address is Mile High Stadium Circle, but the old intersection was W. 20th Avenue & Bryant St. (2755 W. 17th Avenue was the mailing address.) It was built in 1948 as Bears Stadium, an 18,000-seat ballpark.

When the American Football League was founded in 1960, it was expanded to 34,000 seats with the addition of outfield seating. The name was changed to Mile High Stadium in 1966, and by 1968 much of the stadium was triple-decked and seated 51,706. In 1977 – just in time for the Broncos to make their first Super Bowl run and start “Broncomania” – the former baseball park was transformed into a 76,273-seat horseshoe, whose east stands could be moved in to conform to the shape of a football field, or out to allow enough room for a regulation baseball field. The old-time ballpark had become, by the standards of the time, a modern football stadium.

The biggest complaint when the Rockies arrived in 1993 wasn’t the thin air, or the condition of the stadium (despite its age, it was not falling apart), but the positioning of the lights: Great for football fans, but terrible for outfielders tracking fly balls. But it was only meant to be a temporary ballpark for the Rockies, as a condition for Denver getting a team was a baseball-only stadium. What really led to the replacement of Mile High Stadium, and its demolition in 2002, was greed: The Broncos' desire for luxury-box revenue.

At Bears/Mile High Stadium, the Broncos won AFC Championships in 1977, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1997 and 1998, winning the Super Bowl in the last 2 years after losing the first 4 in blowouts.  (They've now won an AFC title at the new stadium, but not a Super Bowl.) The Denver Bears won Pennants while playing there in 1957 (as a Yankee farm team), 1971, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1983 and 1991 (winning the last one under the Denver Zephyrs name).

The old stadium also hosted the Denver Gold of the United States Football League, the Colorado Caribous of the original North American Soccer League, and the Rapids from their 1996 inception until 2001 -- in fact, they played the stadium's last event, before playing at the new stadium from 2002 to 2006. The U.S. national soccer team played a pair of games at Mile High Stadium in the 1990s, and beat Mexico at the new stadium in 2002 (the only game they've played there so far).

While the 2008 Democratic Convention was held at the Pepsi Center, Senator Barack Obama gave his nomination acceptance speech outdoors in front of 80,000 people at New Mile High Stadium.

The Red Lion Hotel Denver and the Skybox Grill & Sports Bar are now on the site of the old stadium. At McNichols, the Nuggets reached the ABA Finals in 1976, and the Avalanche won the 1996 Stanley Cup (albeit clinching in Miami). Elvis Presley sang at McNichols on April 23, 1976.

The new stadium, and the site of the old stadium and arena, are at Mile High Station on the light rail C-Line and E-Line.

The Nuggets, known as the Denver Rockets until 1974, played at the Denver Auditorium Arena, at 13th & Champa Streets, from their 1967 inception until McNichols opened in 1975. It was also the home of the original Nuggets, who played in the NBA from 1948 to 1950.

It opened in 1908, and its seating capacity of 12,500 made it the 2nd-largest in the country at the time, behind the version of Madison Square Garden then standing. It almost immediately hosted the Democratic National Convention that nominated William Jennings Bryan for President for the 3rd time – although it’s probably just a coincidence that the Democrats waited exactly 100 years (give or take a few weeks) to go back (it’s not like Obama didn’t want to get it right the 1st time, as opposed 0-for-3 Bryan).

The Auditorium Arena hosted Led Zeppelin’s 1st American concert on December 26, 1968. It was demolished in 1990 to make way for the Denver Performing Arts Complex, a.k.a. the Denver Center. Theatre District/Convention Center Station on the light rail’s D-Line, F-Line and H-Line.

The Pepsi Center is across Cherry Creek from downtown, about 2 miles northwest of City Hall. The intersection is 11th Street & Auraria Parkway, but the mailing address is 1000 Chopper Circle, in honor of Robert "Chopper" Travaglini, the beloved former trainer (and amateur sports psychologist) of the Nuggets, who share the arena with the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. It is 1 of 10 current arenas that is home to both an NBA team and an NHL team.

Chopper was actually a Jersey Boy, albeit from Woodbury on the Philly side. He died in 1999, age 77, right before the new arena opened. Chopper Circle is an extension of Wewatta Street.

Pepsi Center/Elitch Gardens station on the RTD light rail. If you're coming in that way, you'll probably enter from the west gate, the Grand Atrium. If you're driving, parking starts at just $5.00. The rink is laid out east-to-west, and the Avs attack twice toward the east end.

In addition to hosting the Avs and the Nugs, the Pepsi Center has also hosted NCAA Tournament basketball games, the NCAA's hockey "Frozen Four," and the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The Denver area's Major League Soccer team, the Colorado Rapids, plays at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, about 8 miles northeast of downtown. They’ve won the MLS Cup since moving there, in 2010. The U.S. national team has played there 3 times: A 2009 win over Guatemala, and a 2013 win over Costa Rica, and a 2015 draw with Panama. The women's team has played there twice: A 2008 win over Brazil, and a 2012 win over Australia. It's also hosted football, rugby, lacrosse and concerts.

6000 Victory Way. If you're going in by public transportation from downtown Denver, Number 48 bus to 60th Avenue & Dahlia Street, then Number 88 bus to 60th & Monaco. Then they make you walk 10 blocks on 60th to get to the stadium.

The Beatles played Red Rocks Amphitheatre in suburban Morrison on August 26, 1964. It is still in business, and a Colorado Music Hall of Fame is a short walk away. 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, 10 miles west of downtown. Sorry, no public transportation.

Elvis played 2 shows at the Denver Coliseum on April 8, 1956, and 1 each on November 17, 1970 and April 30, 1973. Built in 1951, it still stands, seating 10,500, and is best known for concerts and the National Western Stock Rodeo. 4600 Humbolt Street at E. 46th Avenue, off Interstate 70, 3 miles northeast of downtown. Apparently, no public transportation to there, either.

Denver has some renowned museums, including the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (their version of the Museum of Natural History) at 2001 Colorado Blvd. at Montview Blvd. (in City Park, Number 20 bus), and the Denver Art Museum (their version of the Metropolitan Museum of Natural History), at 100 W. 14th Avenue Parkway at Colfax Avenue (across I-25 from Mile High Stadium, Auraria West station on the C-Line and E-Line).

Denver’s history only goes back to a gold rush in 1859 – not to be confused with the 1849 one that turned San Francisco from a Spanish Catholic mission into the first modern city in the American West. The city isn’t exactly loaded with history.

There’s no Presidential Library – although Mamie Doud, the eventual Mrs. Dwight D. Eisenhower, grew up there, and her house is now a historic site. Mamie and “Ike” were married there, their son John (a future General, Ambassador and military historian) was born there, and the Eisenhowers were staying there when Ike had his heart attack in 1955. The house is still in private ownership, and is not open to the public. However, if you’re a history buff, or if you just like Ike, and want to see it, it’s at 750 Lafayette Street, at 8th Avenue. The Number 6 bus will get you to 6th & Lafayette.

After his heart attack, Ike was treated at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in nearby Aurora, 12 years after Senator John Kerry, nearly elected President in 2004 and now Secretary of State, was born there. It’s not a Presidential Birthplace, because Kerry narrowly lost. It is now the University of Colorado Hospital. The Fitzsimmons Golf Course is across Montview Boulevard – it figures that Ike would be hospitalized next to a golf course! 16th Avenue & Quentin Street. Number 20 bus from downtown.

The University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts hosted a 2012 Presidential Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. 2344 East Iliff Avenue, about 5 miles south of downtown. H Line light rail to University of Denver Station.

Denver doesn't have as many tall buildings as the nation's bigger cities, nor are they as interesting, architecturally. The tallest building in the State of Colorado is Republic Plaza, 714 feet high, at 17th Street & Tremont Place downtown.

The University of Colorado is in Boulder, 30 miles to the northwest. At Market Street Station, 16th & Market, take the BV Bus to the Boulder Transit Center, which is on campus. The ride should take about an hour and 20 minutes. Colorado State University is in Fort Collins, 65 miles up Interstate 25 north, and forget about reaching it by public transportation. The U.S. Air Force Academy is outside Colorado Springs, 60 miles down I-25. As with Fort Collins, you'd need Greyhound. Unlike CSU, you might not be able to just go there: Some of the area is restricted.  It is, after all, a military base.

A few TV shows have been set in Denver, but you won't find their filming locations there. The old-time Western Whispering Smith and the more recent one Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman were set in old Colorado, but filmed in Southern California.

Probably the most famous show set in Colorado is South Park, and that's a cartoon, so forget seeing anything from that. Not quite as cartoonish was Mork & Mindy, set in Boulder. The McConnell house actually is in Boulder, at 1619 Pine Street. But don't try to copy the opening-sequence scene with Robin Williams and Pam Dawber on the goalposts at the University of Colorado's Folsom Field. You could fall, and end up saying, "Shazbot!"

The most famous show ever set in Colorado was Dynasty, ABC's Excessive Eighties counterpart to CBS' Dallas, starring John Forsythe as Blake Carrington, an oilman and a thinly-veiled version of Marvin Davis, who nearly bought the Oakland Athletics from Charlie Finley in 1978 with the idea of moving them to Mile High Stadium, but the deal fell through. Right, you don't care about Blake, all you care about is the catfights between the 2nd and 1st Mrs. Carrington's: Krystle (Linda Evans) and Alexis (Joan Collins). The Carrington mansion seen in the opening credits is in Beverly Hills, but the building that stood in for the headquarters of Denver Carrington is at 621 17th Street, while the one that stood in for Colbyco is at 1801 California Street.

Movies set in Denver or its suburbs include The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the original Red Dawn, and, of course, Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead. Films involving skiing often take place in Colorado towns such as Aspen or Vail. City Slickers, a film with loads of baseball references, has a cattle drive that ends in Colorado, but there's no indication of how close it is to Denver. Flashback takes place on the Pacific Coast, but Denver's Union Station stands in for a train station in San Francisco.

*

Denver had been considered a potential destination for Major League Baseball many times: The Continental League planned a team for there for 1961, it was a finalist for expansion teams in 1969 and 1977, and, as I said, the A's came within inches of moving there for the 1978 season. When they finally got a team in 1993, they were embraced as perhaps no expansion team has ever been embraced -- even more than the Mets themselves in 1962. And, the way it's worked out, the Rockies' 1st-ever game was against the Mets (a Met win at Shea), and their 1st game at Coors Field was against the Mets (a Rockies win in 14 innings).

The Rockies have seen the bloom come off the rose, but they've also seen some real success. The experience of Coors Field should be a good one. Have fun!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

This Is Getting Pathetic

Maybe the Yankees are just bad. Or maybe Joe Girardi is an idiot. Or maybe Brian Cashman has failed to properly replace the old and/or oft-injured.

Or maybe Yogi Berra really was the good luck charm all along.

Last night, the Yankees made it 8-15, including 6 straight losses. Luis Severino didn't pitch badly, but, again, the attack was insufficient. They were 1-for-7 with men in scoring position, 8 men left on base.

Orioles 4, Yankees 1. WP: Chris Tillman (3-1). SV: Darren O'Day (2). LP: Severino (0-4).

Look at these OPSes: Starlin Castro, .815; Brian McCann, .798; and then, a dropoff to Brett Gardner, .734; Alex Rodriguez, .719; Carlos Beltran, .715; Mark Teixeira, .680; Jacoby Ellsbury, .659; Didi Gregorius, .583; Chase Headley, .400. That's not an on-base percentage or a slugging percentage: That's OBP and SLG combined, .400.

This is getting pathetic. And it gets worse (or does it?), as a strained hamstring puts A-Rod on the Disabled List.

Something has to be done. Say what you want about the pre-1990 George Steinbrenner, but he would have done something about it by now.

The series continues tonight. CC Sabathia starts against Tyler Wilson.

And the Yankees better get some runs.

*

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series of the season: 2, this Friday night, at Yankee Stadium II.

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 2, this Friday night at 7:00, away to Orlando City.

Days until The Arsenal play again: 4, this Sunday, 11:00 AM our time, away to Manchester City, in a game that may be crucial to both teams' European hopes for next season.

Days until the Red Bulls play a "derby": 9, a week from next Friday night, May 13, against D.C. United (a.k.a. The DC Scum), at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington. They next play New York City F.C. (a.k.a. Man City NYC and The Homeless) on Saturday afternoon, May 21, at Yankee Stadium II. They next play the Philadelphia Union on Sunday night, July 17, at Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park) in Chester, Pennsylvania. And the next game against the New England Revolution is on Sunday night, August 28, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

Days until the 2016 Copa America kicks off in the U.S.: 
30, on Friday, June 3. Just 1 month.

Days until Euro 2016 kicks off in France: 37, on Friday, June 10. Just 5 weeks.

Days until Arsenal play as the opponents in the 2016 Major League Soccer All-Star Game: 85
, on Thursday night, July 28, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California, home of the San Jose Earthquakes. Just 12 weeks. Three days later, Arsenal will play C.D. Guadalajara, a.k.a. Chivas, one of the biggest clubs in Mexico, at the StubHub Center, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy, in Carson, California. This will be just 2 years after The Arsenal came to America to play the Red Bulls in New Jersey. I went to that one. I don't think I'll be going to either of these: Even if I could get a game ticket, paying for a plane ticket would be difficult.

Days until the 2016 Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 93
, on Friday, August 5. Just 3 months.

Days until the next North London Derby: Unknown, but at least 108. The 2016-17 Premier League season is likely to open on Saturday, August 20, but it's unlikely that Arsenal will play Tottenham (a.k.a. The Scum) in the opener.
 
Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 
122, on Saturday, September 3, away to the University of Washington, in Seattle. Just 4 months.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 128, on Friday, September 9, probably away, since, while the 2016 schedule hasn't been released yet, the Big Green opened last season at home.


Days until the New Jersey Devils play another local rival: Unknown, but at least 
156. The schedule for the 2016-17 season has been announced as being released on June 22. The new season is likely to being on the 1st Friday in October, which would be October 7. But they're not likely to play either the New York Rangers (a.k.a. The Scum), the New York Islanders or the Philadelphia Flyers (a.k.a. The Philth) in the opener.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 194
, on Thursday morning, November 24, at the purple shit pit on Route 9. Under 7 months.

Days until Alex Rodriguez' alleged retirement becomes official: 
545, as his contract runs out on October 31, 2017. Or at the conclusion of the 2017 World Series, if the Yankees make it. Whichever comes last. A little over 18 months.

Days until the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia: 
771, on June 14, 2018. Under 26 months. Of course, at the rate manager Jurgen Klinsmann is going, the U.S. team might not even qualify.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How to Be a Met Fan In Los Angeles -- 2016 Edition

Next Tuesday, the Mets go to Los Angeles to play one of the teams whose place in New York they took, the Dodgers.

Perhaps Met fans should be glad that the Dodgers left Brooklyn after the 1957 season, and that the Giants left Manhattan at the same time.  After all, if they hadn't, the Mets never would have been created, and the fans of the 2 former clubs, the Capulets and Montagues of baseball (or the Hatfields and McCoys, if you prefer), would not have been united in the love of a new club, the canonization of the National League, and hatred of the Yankees.

Before You Go. Unlike the Seattle and San Francisco Bay Areas, the Los Angeles area has very consistent weather. It’s a nice place to visit. If you don’t mind earthquakes. And mudslides. And wildfires. And smog. Check the weather forecast on the Los Angeles Times' website before you, so you'll know what to bring. Currently, projections for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are in the high 60s in daylight, and the mid-50s at night.

Los Angeles is in the Pacific Time Zone, which is 3 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets.  With basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson having bought the Dodgers, settling their ownership situation, and injecting some much-needed cash into what had been one of the wealthiest baseball teams from their last few years in Brooklyn until owner Frank McCourt's spectacularly messy divorce, the Dodgers are again perennial Playoff contenders.

And, as in days of old (specifically, the 1960s through the 1980s), they again have the best attendance in baseball, averaging 46,479 fans per home game last season, at the stadium with the largest current capacity in the major leagues, an even 56,000 seats. (In recent times, there have been a few stadiums with larger capacities that hosted Major League Baseball teams, including the old Yankee Stadium, but all have been replaced, except for nearby Anaheim/Angel Stadium, which has been remodeled and now has a much lower capacity.)

So getting tickets could be tough. But compared to most teams, including the Angels down the freeway, they're relatively inexpensive. Infield Boxes are $92, Infield Loge Boxes $68, Preferred Loge Boxes (down the baselines) $50, Infield Reserve $29, Preferred Reserve $21, Pavilion (what they call Bleachers) $28. The top deck -- infield-only seats, although they may be the highest in baseball history, even higher than the upper decks at the old Yankee Stadium and Shea -- go for $21.

Getting There. It’s 2,779 miles from Times Square in New York to City Hall in downtown Los Angeles, and 2,789 miles from Citi Field to Dodger Stadium. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.

After all, even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

But, if you really, really want to drive... Take Interstate 80 West across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Just before leaving Nebraska for Colorado you’ll get on Interstate 76, and shortly before reaching Denver you’ll get on Interstate 70 West. You’ll take that all the way to its end in Utah, where you’ll take Interstate 15 South. You’ll go through a short strip of Arizona before getting into Nevada (where you’ll see the Strip, Las Vegas), before getting into California.

Assuming you're not going to a hotel first (and you really should), either in Los Angeles or near the stadium or Disneyland in Anaheim), you’ll get off I-15 at Exit 109A, and get on Interstate 10 West, and almost immediately onto U.S. Route 101 North, the San Bernardino Freeway.  Take that road's Exit 3 to State Route 110, the Pasadena Freeway, and Exit 24 will drop you off at Dodger Stadium.



Given an average speed of 60 miles an hour, you’ll be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5:15, Nebraska for 6 hours, Colorado for 7:15, Utah for 6 hours, Arizona for half an hour, Nevada for 2 hours, and California for 3 and a half hours hours; for a total of 46 hours and 30 minutes. Factor in rest stops, you’ll need more like 3 full days. And, remember, that’s just one way. And if you end up using Las Vegas as a rest stop, well, you might end up missing the series and end up, yourself, as what “stays in Vegas.”

That’s still faster than Greyhound and Amtrak. Greyhound will take about 68 hours, changing buses twice, $438 round-trip. The station is at 1716 E. 7th Street, at Lawrence Street.

If you go by Amtrak, it's about 85 hours. You'd leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM Eastern Time on Friday, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time on Saturday, transfer to the Texas Eagle at 1:45 PM, and arrive and Union Station in Los Angeles at 5:35 AM Pacific Time on Monday. It's $418 round-trip, Union Station is at Alameda & Arcadia Streets).

Flights will be more expensive, and you'll almost certainly have to change planes at least once, probably in Chicago or Dallas. But if you play your cards right, you can get a round-trip flight for a little over $500. The LAX2US bus will take you, as its name suggests, from Los Angeles International Airport to Union Station, taking 45 minutes and costing $8.00; from there, bus and subway connections can be made to downtown. 

Once In the City. Los Angeles was founded in 1781 by Spain as a Catholic mission, and means "The Angels" -- and so, that was the name of the Pacific Coast League team, and the subsequent American League team: The Los Angeles Angels. The city continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and is now just under 4 million people, making it the 2nd-largest city in North America, behind New York. (Unless you count Mexico, and thus Mexico City, as "North America" instead of "Central America.") The metro area has about 18.3 million people.

The "centerpoint" of the city, where east-west and north-south addresses begin, is 1st Street and Main Street. Numbered streets are east-west.

The Los Angeles Times is the leading (most-circulated) newspaper in the Western United States, and has long been known for a great sports section. The legendary columnist Jim Murray has been dead for some time now, but if you watch ESPN's Around the Horn, you'll recognize the names of Bill Plaschke and J.A. Adande.

The sales tax in the State of California is 7.5 percent, in the City of Los Angeles 9 percent. A single ride on a bus or subway is $1.75. A 1-day pass is $7.00, and a 7-day pass (which might be a better value even if you're only staying for the 3 games of the series) Is $25.

Yes, L.A. has a subway now, the Metro, with Red, Blue, Green, Gold, Purple and Expo lines. (Expo? It goes from Los Angeles all the way to Montreal? No.)
Going In. The official address of Dodger Stadium used to be 1000 Elysian Park Avenue. In honor of the legendary broadcaster, now calling his 67th and final season with the franchise, an all-time major league record, it has been officially changed to 1000 Vin Scully Avenue.

It's about 2 miles north of downtown, in the Elysian Park neighborhood. Public transportation in L.A. is a lot better than it used to be, with the addition of the Metro -- and now, the Dodger Stadium Express bus. It will pick up fans at the Patsaouras Bus Plaza adjacent to the east portal of Union Station and continue to Dodger Stadium via Sunset Blvd. and Cesar Chavez Avenue. Service will be provided starting 90 minutes prior to the beginning of the games, and will end 45 minutes after the end of the game. Service will be provided every 10 minutes prior to the start of the game and run approximately every 30 minutes throughout the game. Dodger tickets will be honored as fare payment to ride the service. Those without a ticket will pay regular one-way fare of $1.75.

Thankfully, Dodger Stadium is not one of those 1960s or '70s stadiums that was built as a multipurpose facility for any event promoter willing to pay Walter O'Malley's rent. But a major similarity it shares with those stadiums is that it is an island in a sea of parking. Parking will cost you $15 at the gate, but only $10 if you purchase online.

Dodger Stadium points away from downtown, but -- all jokes about L.A.'s infamous smog aside -- on a clear day you'll get a view of the San Gabriel Mountains. It was built in 1962 and is thus more than half a century old -- meaning it has now lasted longer than Ebbets Field, which hosted 45 seasons of baseball. But its age is hidden well, with its architectural style (that zig-zaggy roof over the bleachers can be seen on a few New Jersey public schools built in the JFK years) giving it away much more than its condition.
The Dodgers have usually been nuts on maintenance, including cleanliness. The old saying is, "You can eat off the floor at Dodger Stadium." Begging the question, "Even if you can, why would you want to?"

You’ll most likely be going into the stadium through the home plate entrance. From this angle, the stadium may look odd, due to not being very tall. This is an illusion, as it was built into the side of Chavez Ravine. Along with the Oakland Coliseum, up the coast, this is the only active MLB stadium where you can walk in the front gate and go downstairs to your seat. (Ironically, this was once true for the Dodgers' arch-rivals: It could be done for Giants games at the Polo Grounds.)
The home plate entrance. Note the flags
representing the home countries of the players
that the Dodgers had at the time.

Being in the California sunshine, the natural grass field has nearly always looked good. But Walter O'Malley's old policy of no advertising inside the stadium, save for the two Union 76 logos (for the gasoline station chain now owned by ConocoPhillips) on the scoreboards, is long gone. It doesn't make the place look tacky, though. (Tommy Lasorda can do that, if he shows up.)

The field points northeast, and is symmetrical: 330 feet to the poles, 360 to "Medium Left-Center" and "Medium Right-Center," 375 to "True Left-Center" and "True Right-Center," and 400 to center -- although that 400 mark is not shown, instead there are 395s to either side of dead center.
For a long time, the stadium's status as a pitcher's park, aiding such stars as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Tommy John, Don Sutton, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser, led to suggestions that the Dodgers were cheating: That the pitcher's mound was really closer than the required 60 feet, 6 inches, perhaps as much as 4 feet closer.

This has never been proven, and the fact that the Dodgers' pitching hasn't been as good the last 25 years (until Clayton Kershaw came along, that is) suggests 1 of 2 things: Either something happened to change the park's conditions to make it less unfriendly to hitters (what that would be, I don't know); or the Dodgers realized that, sooner or later, someone was going to prove the too-close-mound claim, and the game was up, and they had to move it back.

Oddly, from the park's opening in 1962 to 1970, there were 5 no-hitters pitched there, 3 by Koufax, and all by home pitchers (including Angel Bo Belinsky in '62 and Dodger Bill Singer in '70); from 1971 to 1989, none at all, in spite of all the good Dodger pitching, from 1990 to 1995, 5 more, 3 by Dodgers (Fernando, Kevin Gross and Ramon Martinez) and 2 by opponents (Dennis Martinez and Kent Mercker). Then, none until June 18, 2014 (Kershaw), and another on August 30, 2015 (Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs).

In spite of its pitcher's park status, 4 home runs have been hit completely out of the stadium. Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates did it twice, in 1969 and 1973, the 1st of these measured at 507 feet, still the park's longest. Mike Piazza hit one all the way out in 1997, and Mark McGwire roided one out in 1999.

Because of its proximity to Hollywood, Dodger Stadium can be seen in lots of movies, including Superman Returns, where the Big Red S safely deposits a distressed airliner on the field. (A skyline for Metropolis was CGI'ed in behind the bleachers, where one would normally see the San Gabriels.) A space shuttle wasn't so lucky in The Core, crashing into the stadium.

But while it filled in for Anaheim Stadium in The Naked Gun (Reggie... must kill... the Queen), Rookie of the Year had a scene set at Dodger Stadium, but because they were filming all in Chicago, they used the White Sox' U.S. Cellular Field as a stand-in for Dodger Stadium.

It hosted an NHL Stadium Series game on January 25, 2014, a local rivalry game, with the Anaheim Ducks beating the Los Angeles Kings 3-0. In 2013, it hosted games of the International Champions Cup soccer tournament, featuring hometown team Los Angeles Galaxy and renowned European soccer teams Real Madrid (of Spain), Everton (Liverpool, England) and Juventus (Turin, Italy). London's Arsenal hasn't played there, but in the film Rock of Ages, set in L.A. in 1987, Tom Cruise played the lead singer of a band named Arsenal, who played the stadium in the film's closing scene.
Landon Donovan playing for L.A. Galaxy in 2013

The Beatles played their next-to-last concert at Dodger Stadium on August 28, 1966, before concluding their last tour up the coast at Candlestick Park the next night. It didn't host another concert until 1975, when Elton John sold it out on back-to-back nights (wearing a sequined Dodger jersey designed by Bob Mackie), and then not again until the Jacksons' 1984 Victory Tour. Pope John Paul II delivered a Mass there in 1987, and the Three Tenors held a concert there, telecast worldwide. During a 2008 concert, Madonna brought on Britney Spears (they didn't kiss this time) and Justin Timberlake as guests.

Food.  The Dodger Dog has long been renowned as one of the best hot dogs in baseball. (You are, of course, free to disagree. Personally, the best hot dog I've ever had at a ballgame was at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.) In 2013, they introduced the Brooklyn Dodger Dog. After what O'Malley did to Brooklyn, the natives old enough to remember 1957 could say, "Youse got some noive, pal!" (Translation: You are showing a considerable about amount of nerve, sir.) This variation has lots of garlic and spices, so an Italian Brooklynite (or otherwise New Yorker, or New Jerseyan) could appreciate it.

Keeping with the "Dodger Blue" motif, they also have the Big Blue Burger. Despite the name, there isn't bleu cheese on it. Rather, it has tomatoes, caramelized onions (so far, so good), chipotle aioli and pasilla chili peppers (you had me, and then you lost me). They serve classic grilled cheese, and "Street Style Carne Asada Tacos" (presumably in the style of L.A. taco trucks).

As for team-themed stands: Campy's Corner (named after Roy Campanella) is behind Section 4, Think Blue at 5, Brooklyn Dodger Pizza (because you can't get a decent pizza in L.A., "California Pizza Kitchen" be damned) at 8 and 130, and Dodgertown Deli (named for their longtime spring training home in Vero Beach) at 47. Tommy Lasorda's Trattoria is on the right field concourse: As the man himself says, his favorite food is "anything ending in a vowel."

Fast-food chain Carl's Jr. is at 10 and 140. And while their arch-rivals, the Giants, were the first to sell them at a ballpark, the Dodgers have stands seling garlic fries. As you might imagine in California, they have Veggie Dogs at Sections 22, 23 and 108, and Healthy Cart at 30.

Roger Owens has been a peanut vendor for the Los Angeles Dodgers for as long as there's been a Los Angeles Dodgers, starting at the Coliseum in 1958 and having been at Dodger Stadium since it opened in 1962. He is renowned for his accuracy in tossing peanut bags, still managing to toss a bag 30 rows despite his age.

When the stadium opened, O'Malley had it built without water fountains, so there would be no free water. The old bastard didn't want to give anything away. The team website says that they have been installed since.

Team History Displays. The facade of the upper deck in left field has notations for the Dodgers' retired numbers: 1, Harold "Pee Wee" Reese, shortstop, 1940-58; 2, Tommy Lasorda, pitcher, 1954-55, and manager, 1976-96; 4, Edwin "Duke" Snider, center field, 1947-62; 19, Jim "Junior" Gilliam, 3rd base, 1952-66, and coach, 1967-78 (making him the 1st black coach in MLB); 20, Don Sutton, pitcher, 1966-80 (with a brief comeback in 1988); 24, Walter Alston, manager, 1954-76; 32, Sandy Koufax, pitcher, 1955-66; 39, Roy Campanella, catcher, 1948-57; 42, Jackie Robinson, 2nd base (mostly), 1947-56; and 53, Don Drysdale, pitcher, 1956-69. The Dodgers do not have a team Hall of Fame.
Note the difference in Robinson's 42,
showing its universal retirement.

Although Jackie's Number 42 was retired for all of baseball on April 15, 1997, the 50th Anniversary of his major league debut, in a game at Shea Stadium between the Mets and the Dodgers, his number was previously retired by the Dodgers, on June 4, 1972 (as it turned out, not long before his death), along with Campy's 39 and Sandy's 32, the 1st such ceremony by the Dodgers.

(For perspective, the only numbers already retired in MLB at that point were: 3, 4, 5, 7 and 37 by the Yankees for Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Casey Stengel; 37 by the Mets for Casey; 4, 11 and 24 by the Giants for Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell and Willie Mays; 36 by the Phillies for Robin Roberts; 21 and 41 by Atlanta for Warren Spahn and Eddie Mathews; 20 by Baltimore for Frank Robinson; 1 by Cincinnati for Fred Hutchinson; 5 and 19 by Cleveland for Lou Boudreau and Bob Feller; 32 by Houston for Jim Umbricht; 1, 20 and 33 by Pittsburgh for Billy Meyer, Pie Traynor and Honus Wagner; and 6 by St. Louis for Stan Musial.)

Jackie grew up in nearby Pasadena, but he never actually played for the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Neither did Campy, who was paralyzed in a car crash in the off-season when the move happened, although he was kept employed by the Dodgers until his death in 1993. Reese barely played in L.A. But Snider, born in L.A. and raised in adjoining Compton (that's right, the Duke of Flatbush was straight outta Compton), was a member and indeed a key cog of their 1959 World Championship team in his hometown, as were Brooklyn "Boys of Summer" Gil Hodges and Carl Furillo.

Aside from Gilliam, who died while he was their 1st base coach (they wore black Number 19 patches on their sleeves in the 1978 World Series against the Yankees), all of these men are in the Hall of Fame. Aside from team owner Walter O'Malley (at least part-owner 1942-79, sole owner 1950-79), all of the Dodgers' Hall-of-Famers from the Los Angeles move onward have had their numbers retired.

This could be why they have not officially retired Number 34 for Fernando Valenzuela (pitcher 1980-91, number not issued since), or Number 6 for Steve Garvey (1st base 1969-82, only briefly issued since, including for Joe Torre while he managed the Dodgers), neither of whom is in the Hall, and to be fair each is at least a step short of it. Oddly, while 23 is not retired, Don Mattingly chose to wear 8 instead when he became a Dodger coach under Torre -- presumably, in Yogi Berra's honor -- and continued to wear it as a manager (and still does, now that he manages the Miami Marlins). 

The Dodgers' 6 World Series Championships are shown on the facade of the right field Stadium Club: 1955 (in Brooklyn), 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988. As with the Yankees, Pennants and Division titles without going all the way are not shown; unlike their rivals up the Coast, the Giants, they do mention a World Championship won in New York.
Robinson and Koufax were named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. The same year, they, Snider, Campanella, and 1890s Brooklyn star Willie Keeler were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players. At 5-foot-4 and maybe 140 pounds, Wee Willie was the earliest and smallest player so honored. In 2006, Robinson, despite not having played for Los Angeles, was chosen by Dodger fans in the DHL Hometown Heroes poll.

When the 1st All-Star Game was played in 1933, only 1 Dodger was selected: Tony Cuccinello. This was after Dazzy Vance, their great pitcher of the 1920s, was traded and before their stars of the 1940s arrived.

Stuff. The Dodgers have a "Top of the Park Gift Store" in the upper deck behind home plate. On non-game days, it's open 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Contrary to its image as a city whose "idea of culture is yogurt," there is a Los Angeles literary tradition. Much of it is in the "hard-boiled detective story," as pioneered by Raymond Chandler through his creation of the private eye Philip Marlowe. Writers influenced by the city include Nathanael West, Charles Bukowski, James Ellroy, Michael Connelly, Walter Mosley and Bret Easton Ellis. And the Los Angeles Times has produced many fine sportswriters. But as for books about the Dodgers? Uh...

Lasorda and Scully recently collaborated on The Dodgers: From Coast to Coast, as they are 2 living links to the club's Brooklyn days. (Lasorda pitched for them there, although not well; and Scully began at Ebbets Field in 1950.) Plaschke wrote I Live For This: Baseball's Last True Believer for Lasorda. Robinson (I Never Had it Made), Campanella (It's Good to Be Alive), and Drysdale (Once a Bum, Always a Dodger) all wrote good memoirs, although you should remember that Jackie and Campy never played for them in Los Angeles.

Arnold Rampersad's Jackie Robinson: A Biography is highly regarded, and Jane Leavy's Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy is fantastic. So is Tom Adelman's Black and Blue: The Golden Arm, the Robinson Boys, and the World Series That Stunned America, which covers the 1966 season (and its leadup), culminating in the shocking World Series upset of the defending World Champion Dodgers by the then-upstart Baltimore Orioles, and is an excellent examination of both cities in that turbulent time, and is nearly as superb as Leavy's work in its discussion of Koufax. (In this case, "the Robinson Boys" has nothing to do with the already-retired Jackie: They were the Orioles' Brooks Robinson, the white 3rd baseman from Little Rock, and Frank Robinson, the black right fielder born in Texas and raised in Oakland, who showed a racially-divided city that they could get along and win.)

Paul Haddad, who grew up in the Seventies and Eighties like I did, recently published High Fives, Pennant Drives and Fernandomania: A Fan's History of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Glory Years. He was referring to 1977 to 1981, including outfielder Glenn Burke and his claimed invention of the high five -- and Burke's struggle as the closest thing MLB has yet had to an openly gay player, drummed out of the team by Lasorda, who has never been Catholic enough to curb his foul mouth, nor Christian enough to accept that his own son, model Tommy Lasorda Jr., was gay, or that his son's death was due to AIDS.

If you read any of the books that try to justify O'Malley's move of the team out of Brooklyn, you have only yourself to blame when your head explodes due to the ingestion of bullshit through your eyes. The truth is, O'Malley did have a choice. If he was "visionary" enough to see that Los Angeles was a great baseball market, he wasn't the first to have that vision (though he was the first to truly act on it), and he should also have had the vision to get around New York's Mayor Robert Wagner and construction boss Robert Moses.

As for videos, of particular interest to Met fans is Gil Hodges: The Quiet Man, one of several hourlong videos about the Brooklyn Dodgers that were narrated by David Hartman, about the Dodger 1st baseman who became the Mets' first baseman and the manager who brought them the 1969 "Miracle." The Dodgers also have a collection of the official World Series highlight films of their 5 L.A. titles, a collector's edition DVD set of the 1988 World Series, which remains their last Pennant. (This drought, currently 28 years, is their longest period out of the Series since the Series began in 1903. The previous longest was 1920 to 1941.)

Los Angeles Dodgers: From Coast to Coast - The Official Visual History of the Dodgers is available on DVD. So are various pieces on Jackie Robinson, including the recent film 42 starring Chadwick Boseman as the pioneer and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. Ken Burns' new film Jackie Robinson should be available on DVD soon. However, as yet, there is no Essential Games of the Los Angeles Dodgers or Essential Games of Dodger Stadium.

During the Game. On April 3, 2016, Thrillist published an article titled, "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans, Ranked." To my shock, Dodger fans came in at Number 1 -- meaning they were the least tolerable fans in the major leagues.

I was flabbergasted. I thought Dodger fans were only bad when the Giants were in town, carrying over the rivalry from New York. Their fans go from laid-back Southern Californians to rabid dogs when the Giants are in town.

But they have no ill will toward the Mets. Sure, they want to beat New York. Los Angeles always wants to beat New York -- doesn't everybody? And it's been so long since their last World Series against the Yankees, in 1981, that the animosity of that time (which was quite real) has long since dissipated. So, I figured, "Just don't speak well of the Giants, or ex-Dodger owner Frank McCourt, and you should be fine."

Thrillist begs to differ:

Unlike a Lakers game, which is really just an excuse for plastic narcissist actors and the power grubbers who fund their films to figure out a different way to be on camera, Dodger Stadium is less about the flash, and more about two very real, very different elements:

A) The people in the expensive seats really do get there late, take off their shirts to reveal smaller, tighter shirts, stay four innings, knock around six to eleventy thousand beach balls they mostly bring in themselves, eat a crappy Dodger Dog, tell a made-up Vin Scully story they heard from their uncle, leave early, and listen to the You Must Remember This podcast on the way home instead of the game. And yes, we get that this is because the traffic is horrible, and parking at the stadium is an exercise in self-flagellation, and the entire idea of L.A. was founded on the idea that it would be a majestic series of villages for no more than 35 people with cars to travel around, but still, maybe just don't go?

B) The people in the cheap seats really do beat up opposing fans. Or call them horrible things until they leave. Every single person we talked to who is either a Dodgers fan, or has been to the game as a visitor, recalled some of the most uncomfortable, unprintable stories of fights, or things being poured on women, children, and the like, just to provoke a fight. Cool, guys. Way to show your passion.

Oh also: your beloved Dodger Dogs are basically limp, under-salted, un-snappy Slim Jims that no one would ever consider eating were they not trapped in an enclosed space four miles from their car surrounded by people hitting beach balls and trying to fight their children.


Indeed, after Game 1 of last year's National League Division Series, a Met fan living in Bakersfield was put in the hospital by a vicious beating -- allegedly, by not a father and son, but by a mother and son. And yet, it was reported that "Good Samaritans" were using the rally towels that the Dodgers had given out to stanch his bleeding.

So, now, I don't know who to believe. Well, you're New Yorkers, and, while they may be Southern Californians, they will almost certainly not be gangbangers from Crenshaw, Inglewood, Compton or Long Beach. If push literally comes to shove, I think you can take them. Then again, you're Met fans, so, who knows?

Listen, in spite of my usual view of Met fans' brainpower, I'm going to trust you to be intelligent for 4 days: The 1 on which you're reading this, and the 3 you're in L.A. So I need you to trust me, and follow the advice that I give to Yankee Fans going to Boston: If the fans around you are okay, and are willing to talk baseball with you, by all means return the favor; but don't provoke anybody. And if someone provokes you, walk away. It's better to be an uninjured coward than a hospitalized tough guy.

All 3 games of this series come with promotions. The Monday game is part of the Dodgers' retired number pin series. It will be a special one for New York fans, as it's Number 1: Pee Wee Reese, the last Captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was a part of every Dodger Pennant between 1920 and 1959. On Tuesday, they're giving out T-shirts in honor of the Vin Scully Avenue ceremony. And on Wednesday, they're giving out bobbleheads of new Dodger manager Dave Roberts. If you've got a friend who's a Yankee Fan, you can taunt him with it, as it's the same Dave Roberts who stole that base in 2004, the one that succeeded Jackie Robinson's steal of home plate in the 1955 World Series (also against the Yankees) as the most famous stolen base in baseball history.

The Dodgers hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. they don’t have a guy in a suit to act as a mascot, not even unofficially, as the Dodger Sym-Phony Band dressed like "Dodger Bums" in the last 20 or so years in Brooklyn. The Dodgers don't really need a mascot, as long as Lasorda is still alive.

Like the Yankees, the Dodgers play "God Bless America" before "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th Inning Stretch. In the middle of the 8th inning, they play "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. This pissed off Journey lead singer Steve Perry, who is from Hanford, about halfway between L.A. and San Fran, and is a big Giants fan. He got the last laugh, as the Giants invited him to sing the song during their 2010 victory parade.

After the Game. Because it's an island in a sea of parking, you won't be in any neighborhood, much less a bad one. That's the good news. The bad news is, if you're looking for a postgame meal, snack, or even a pint, you won't find any nearby, unless you want to count The Short Stop, at 1455 Sunset Blvd., half a mile to the west. At least, as I said, there will be cabs waiting in Parking Lot G.

In and around Los Angeles proper, there's some places that may interest you. A recent Thrillist article called Big Wangs the best sports bar in the State of California. In this case, "Wangs" is a countrified version of "wings," as in chicken wings. (Although a male rooster is sometimes called a "cock.") 801 S. Grand Avenue, downtown, near the Staples Center.

West 4th Jane is owned by a New Yorker and is an L.A.-area haven for Met fans. 1432 4th Street, Santa Monica. Bus R10. Rick's Tavern On Main is the home of the L.A. area's Yankees fan club. 2907 Main Street in Santa Monica, 2 blocks in from the beach. Bus 733 from downtown L.A. (While the 1970s sitcom Three's Company was set in Santa Monica, close to the beach, I cannot confirm that Rick's was the basis for the bar across from the apartment building, the Regal Beagle.)

O’Brien’s Irish Pub at 2226 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica is the home of the local fan club of the New York Giants football team. Bus R10. (Although it's also in Santa Monica, it's 3 miles in from the beach and Rick's.) On The Thirty is the home of L.A. area Jets fans. 14622 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Metro Red Line to Universal/Studio City, then transfer to Bus 150.

Sidelights. The Los Angeles metropolitan area, in spite of not having Major League Baseball until 1958, has a very rich sports history. And while L.A. is still a car-first city, it does have a bus system and even has a subway now, so you can get around.

* Site of Wrigley Field. Yes, you read that right: The Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels played at a stadium named Wrigley Field from 1925 to 1957, and the AL’s version played their first season here, 1961.

The PCL Angels were a farm team of the Chicago Cubs, and when chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. bought them both, he built the Angels’ park to look like what was then known as Cubs Park, and then named this one, and then the Chicago one, Wrigley Field. So this ballpark was Wrigley Field first.

The Angels won 12 PCL Pennants, the last 5 at Wrigley: 1903, 1905, 1907, 1908, 1916, 1918, 1921, 1926, 1933, 1934, 1947 and 1956. Their rivals, the Hollywood Stars, shared it from 1926 to 1935. It hosted a U.S. soccer loss to England in 1959 and a draw vs. Mexico the next year.

Its capacity of 22,000 was too small for the Dodgers, and the AL Angels moved out after 1 season. Torn down in 1966, it lives on in ESPN Classic rebroadcasts of Home Run Derby, filmed there (because it was close to Hollywood) prior to the 1960 season. Mickey Mantle was a fixture, but the only other guy thought of as a Yankee to participate was Bob Cerv (then with the Kansas City A’s). Yogi Berra wasn’t invited, nor was Moose Skowron, nor Roger Maris (who had just been acquired by the Yankees and whose 61 in '61 season had yet to happen). And while Willie Mays, Duke Snider and Gil Hodges were on it, and all did briefly play for the Mets, the Mets hadn't gotten started yet, so no one on the show wore a Met uniform.

42nd Place, Avalon Blvd., 41st & San Pedro Streets. Metro Red Line to 7th Street/Metro Center station, transfer to Number 70 bus. Be careful: This is South Central, so if you're overly nervous, you may want to skip this one.

* Gilmore Field. Home to the Hollywood Stars, this 13,000-seat park didn’t last long, from 1939 to 1957. A football field, Gilmore Stadium, was adjacent. The Stars won 5 Pennants, the last 3 at Gilmore: 1929, 1930, 1949, 1952 and 1953. CBS Television City was built on the site. 7700 Beverly Blvd. at The Grove Drive. Metro Red Line to Vermont/Beverly station, then either the 14 or 37 bus.


* Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Probably the most famous building in the State of California, unless you count San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge or the HOLLYWOOD sign as "buildings." The University of Southern California (USC) has played football here since 1923. The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) played here from 1928 to 1981, when they inexplicably moved out of the Coliseum, and the city that forms their name, into the Rose Bowl, a stadium that could arguably be called USC’s other home field.

The Coliseum was the centerpiece of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games. It was home to the NFL’s Rams from 1946 to 1979 and the Raiders from 1982 to 1994, and to a number of teams in other leagues, including the AFL’s Chargers in 1960 before they moved down the coast to San Diego.

The Dodgers played here from 1958 to 1961 while waiting for Dodger Stadium to be ready, but the shape of the field led to a 251-foot left-field fence, the shortest in modern baseball history. They got the biggest crowd ever for an official baseball game, 92,706, for Game 5 of the 1959 World Series; 93,103 for Roy Campanella’s testimonial, an exhibition game against the Yankees on May 7, 1959; and the largest crowd for any baseball game played anywhere in the world, 115,300, for a preseason exhibition with the Red Sox on March 29, 2008, to celebrate their 50th Anniversary in L.A.
The 2008 exhibition game

A crowd of 102,368 on November 10, 1957, for a rivalry game between the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers, stood as a regular-season NFL record until 2005. Ironically, the first Super Bowl, held here on January 15, 1967 (Green Bay Packers 35, Kansas City Chiefs 17) was only 2/3 sold -- the only Super Bowl that did not sell out. Super Bowl VII (Miami Dolphins 14, Washington Redskins 7) was also played here.

It has hosted 20 matches of the U.S. soccer team -- only Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington has hosted more. The U.S. has won 9 of those games, lost 7 and drawn 4. In 1967, as 2 separate leagues bid for U.S. soccer fans, it hosted the Los Angeles Wolves and the Los Angeles Toros. Those leagues merged to form the original North American Soccer League, but the Coliseum only hosted that league in 2 more seasons, for the Los Angeles Aztecs in 1977 and 1981.

Officially, the Coliseum now seats 93,607, and will again be the home of the Rams for the 2016, '17 and '18 seasons, before their new stadium in Inglewood is ready. It would likely be a stopgap home for the Raiders or the Chargers if they should move back. Oddly, since both teams moved away after the 1994 season, the Oakland Raiders seem to be the most popular NFL team in Los Angeles County, but the much closer San Diego Chargers, 90 miles away, are the most popular team in Orange County.

* Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Next-door to the Coliseum, the Sports Arena it opened in 1959, and hosted the Democratic Convention the next year, although John F. Kennedy gave his acceptance speech at a packed Coliseum, debuting his theme of a "New Frontier."

The NBA’s Lakers played here from 1960 to 1967, the NHL’s Kings their first few home games in 1967 before the Forum was ready, the NBA’s Clippers from 1984 to 1999, the ABA’s Stars from 1968 to 1970, the WHA’s Sharks from 1972 to 1974, the 1968 and 1972 NCAA Final Fours (both won by UCLA, the former over North Carolina and the latter over Florida State), USC basketball from 1959 to 2006, and UCLA basketball a few times before Pauley Pavilion opened in 1965 and again in 2011-12 due to Pauley’s renovation.

Due to its closeness to Hollywood studios, the Sports Arena has often been used for movies that need an arena to simulate a basketball or hockey game, a prizefight (including the Rocky films), a concert, or a political convention. Lots of rock concerts have been held here, and Bruce Springsteen, on its stage, has called the building "the joint that don’t disappoint" and "the dump that jumps."

The Sports Arena will probably be torn down this year, so that a soccer-specific stadium for the new Los Angeles FC can be built on the site.

3900 Block of S. Figueroa Street, just off the USC campus in Exposition Park. The California Science Center (including the space shuttle Endeavour), the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the California African American Museum are also there, and the Shrine Auditorium, former site of the Academy Awards, is but a few steps away. Number 40 or 42 bus from Union Station. Although the Coliseum and the Sports Arena are on the edge of South Central, you will probably be safe.

* Rose Bowl. Actually older than the Coliseum by a few months, it opened in 1922 and, except for 1942 (moved to Durham, North Carolina for fear of Japanese attacks on the Pacific Coast right after Pearl Harbor), it has hosted the Rose Bowl game every New Year’s Day (or thereabouts) since 1923. As such, it has often felt like a home away from home for USC, Michigan and Ohio State. UCLA has used it as its home field since the 1982 season.

It hosted 5 Super Bowls, including the first ones won by the Raiders (XI) and Giants (XXI), plus the all-time biggest attendance for an NFL postseason game, 103,985, for Super Bowl XIV (Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Rams 19, the "home" field advantage not helping the Hornheads). And it hosted the 1983 Army-Navy Game, with Hollywood legend Vincent Price serving as the referee. The transportation of the entire Corps of Cadets, and the entire Brigade of Midshipmen, was said to be the largest U.S. military airlift since World War II.

It's hosted 18 games of the U.S. soccer team, most recently a loss to Mexico last October 10; and several games of the 1994 World Cup, including a Semifinal and the Final, in which Brazil beat Italy on penalty kicks. It also hosted several games of the 1999 Women's World Cup, including the Final, a.k.a. the Brandi Chastain Game. It was home to the Los Angeles Galaxy from their 1996 inception to 2002, including the 2000 CONCACAF Champions League and 2002 MLS Cup wins.

In NASL play, it hosted the Los Angeles Wolves in 1968, and the Los Angeles Aztecs in 1978 and 1979. They played at Weingart Stadium at East Los Angeles College in 1974, their 1st season, when they won the NASL title; and Murdock Stadium, at El Camino Junior College, in 1975 and '76. Yes, the defending champions of America's top soccer league played at a junior college. This was what American soccer was like in the Seventies.

Rose Bowl Drive & Rosemont Avenue. Number 485 bus from Union Station to Pasadena, switch to Number 268 bus.

* Edwin W. Pauley Pavilion. Following their 1964 National Championship (they would win it again in 1965), UCLA coach John Wooden wanted a suitable arena for his ever-growing program. He got it in time for the 1965-66 season, and it has hosted 9 more National Championships, making for 11 banners (10 coached by Wooden).

The building was named for an oil magnate who was also a Regent of the University of California system, whose donation to its building went a long way toward making it possible. Edwin Pauley was a friend of, and appointee to several offices by, Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, but the student protests of the 1960s led him to switch parties and support Ronald Reagan for Governor.

Speaking of politics, Pauley Pavilion was the site of the 2nd debate of the 1988 Presidential campaign, where CNN anchor Bernard Shaw asked the question that shattered the campaign of Governor Michael Dukakis – not that the Duke helped himself with his answer. Oddly, Dukakis chose to hold held his Election Eve rally there, despite being a Bostonian. (In contrast, Boston’s JFK held his Convention in the Coliseum complex but his Election Eve rally at the Boston Garden.)


Metro Purple Line to Wilshire/Normandie station, switch to the 720 bus, then walk up Westwood Plaza to Strathmore Place. "Westwood" is the name of the neighborhood that UCLA is in, and Coach Wooden was known as "the Wizard of Westwood."


A few steps away is Drake Stadium, the track & field facility that was home to 1960 Olympic Decathlon champion Rafer Johnson and another UCLA track star you might've heard of, named Jackie Robinson. And also his brother Mack Robinson, 1936 Olympic Silver Medalist.

On the way up Westwood Plaza, you'll pass UCLA Medical Center, now named for someone who died there, Ronald Reagan. Wooden, John Wayne and Michael Jackson also died there. The UCLA campus also has a Dykstra Hall, but it wasn't named after Lenny Dykstra.

* The Forum. Home of the Lakers and the Kings from 1967 to 1999, built by their then-owner, Jack Kent Cooke, who went on to sell them and buy the NFL's Washington Redskins. From 1988 to 2003, it was named the Great Western Forum, after a bank. The Lakers appeared in 14 NBA Finals here, winning 6, with the Knicks clinching their last title over the Lakers here in 1973. The Kings appeared in just 1 Stanley Cup Finals here, in 1993, losing it to the Montreal Canadiens.

Now owned by the Madison Square Garden Corporation, thus run by James Dolan, which means it's going to be mismanaged. Elvis Presley sang here on November 14, 1970 and May 11, 1974. The Forum is not currently being used by any professional team, but was recently the stand-in for the Sunshine Center, the arena in the ABC sitcom Mr. Sunshine. 3900 W. Manchester Blvd. 


* City of Champions Stadium. This is the current name (which will almost certainly be tossed aside for a corporate one) for the project to build a new stadium for the Rams in Inglewood, on the site of the Hollywood Park horse racing track.

Set to seat 70,000, it will have a retractable roof, and be expandable to 100,000 for Super Bowls and NCAA Final Fours. It is scheduled to open for the Rams in time for the 2019 NFL season, and, by then, may host another NFL team as well. If the U.S. ever gets to host another World Cup (the next available one is 2026), it would likely be a site, possibly even for the Final (as the Rose Bowl was in 1994).

Prairie Avenue and Arbor Vitae Street, across Pincay Drive from the Forum. For both facilities, use Metro Silver Line to Harbor Transitway station, switch to Number 115 bus. (Be careful, this transfer is in South Central.)

* Staples Center. This new downtown arena has been home to the Lakers, Clippers and Kings since 1999. The Lakers have won 5 Championships here, to go with the 6 they won at the Forum, and the 5 they won in Minneapolis. The Clippers, as yet, have won 2 Division Championships, but have never reached a Finals in any city since their founding in 1970 (as the Buffalo Braves, San Diego or L.A.). The Kings finally won a Stanley Cup in 2012, although, as a Devils fan, I'm trying to put that fixed Finals out of my mind. They've now won another, although, if you're a Ranger fan, you may want to do the same.

According to a recent New York Times article, there is not one place where the Clippers are more popular than the Lakers. Not in the City of Los Angeles, not in the County of Los Angeles, not in Orange County, not even in the Clippers' former home of San Diego (City or County). In fact, there are places in Southern California where the Chicago Bulls, as a holdover from the 1990s, have almost as many fans as the Clippers -- but not, despite all that LeBron James achieved, the Miami Heat or the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Staples Center holds the Grammy Awards every other year (alternating with New York), and hosted the 2000 Democratic Convention, which nominated Al Gore. 1111 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles. The nearest Metro stop is Westlake/MacArthur Park, 8 blocks away.

(Yes, that MacArthur Park, the one where songwriter Jimmy Webb used to take the girlfriend who ended up leaving him and inspiring the song of the same title recorded by Richard Harris and later Donna Summer. Their relationship also inspired Webb to write "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Where's the Playground Susie" by Glen Campbell, and "The Worst That Could Happen" by Johnny Maestro's later group, the Brooklyn Bridge. The worst that could happen there now, you don't want to know: Since the 1980s the park has been a magnet for gang violence, although this was significantly reduced in the 2000s.)

* Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Home of the Angels since 1966, and of the Rams from 1980 until 1994, it was designed to look like a modernized version of the old Yankee Stadium, before that stadium's 1973-76 renovation. The football bleachers, erected in 1979, were demolished in 1997 and replaced with a SoCal-esque scene that gives the place some character. Unfortunately, the old "Big A" scoreboard that stood in left field from 1966 to 1979 was moved out to the parking lot, and now stands as a message board.

It was known as Anaheim Stadium from 1966 to 1997, and Edison International Field of Anaheim from 1998 to 2003. 2000 E. Gene Autry Way at State College Boulevard. Metrolink's Orange County Line and Amtrak share a train station just to the north of the stadium.

* Honda Center. Previously known as the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, it is across the railroad, the Orange Freeway and Katella Avenue from Angel Stadium. It has been home from the beginning of the franchise in 1993 to the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks – formerly the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, and I still tend to call them the Mighty Dorks and the Mighty Schmucks.

The Clippers, with their typical luck, had to move one of their few home Playoff games there in 1992 during the South Central riot. 2695 E. Katella Avenue. Anaheim Metrolink stop.

* Titan Stadium. On the campus of California State University, Fullerton, this 10,000-seat facility is better known for soccer, having been used for NCAA Tournament games, U.S. Open Cup matches by the Los Angeles Galaxy, and 8 games by the U.S. national team -- which is undefeated there, winning 4 and drawing 4. 800 N. State College Blvd. Metrolink Blue Line from L.A. to Buena Park, then Number 24 bus. Or Number 57 bus from Angel Stadium.


* StubHub Center. Formerly the Home Depot Center, this 30,500-seat stadium has been home to MLS' Los Angeles Galaxy since it opened in 2003, and Chivas USA from its formation in 2004 until it went out of business in 2014. The Gals (yes, their opponents call them that) have won a league-leading 5 MLS Cups: 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2014, all but the 1st while playing here. They were also the 1st U.S.-based team to win the CONCACAF Champions League, in 2000.

It's hosted the MLS Cup Final in 2003, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014. It's hosted 12 games by the national team, most recently a win over Canada this past February 5, winning 8, losing 2 and drawing 2. It hosted 6 games of the 2003 Women's World Cup, including the Final, in which Germany beat Sweden. 18400 Avalon Blvd. in Carson, adjacent to Cal State-Dominguez Hills. Metro Silver Line to Avalon/Victoria, then Number 130 bus.

* Hollywood Bowl. This 17,376-seat outdoor amphitheater in the Hollywood Hills, with the HOLLYWOOD sign in the background, is one of the best-known concert venues in the world. Opening in 1922, it should be familiar to anyone who’s seen the original 1937 version of A Star Is BornDouble Indemnity, Xanadu, and Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

The Beatles played here on August 23, 1964, and again on August 29 & 30, 1965. 2301 N. Highland Avenue. Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland Station, then walk almost a mile up Highland.

* Academy Award ceremony sites. The Oscars have been held at:

** 1929, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd. (Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland).

** 1930-43, alternated between the Ambassador Hotel, 3400 Wilshire Blvd.; and the Biltmore Hotel, 506 S. Grand Avenue, downtown.

** 1944-46, Grauman's Chinese Theater (more about that in a moment).

** 1949-60, Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd. (Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland).

** 1961-68, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium (which also hosted The T.A.M.I. Show in 1964), 1855 Main Street, Santa Monica (Number 10 bus from Union Station).

** 1969-87, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Avenue, downtown.

** 1988-2001, Shrine Auditorium, 665. W. Jefferson Blvd. (Metro Silver Line to Figueroa/Washington, transfer to Number 81 bus; Elvis sang here on June 8, 1956.)

** 2002-present, Kodak Theater (which also hosted American Idol), 6801 Hollywood Blvd. (Metro Red Line to Hollywood/Highland).

All of these still stand, except the Ambassador, demolished in 2005. The site of a legendary nightclub, the Cocoanut Grove, and filming site of a lot of movies, the last movie filmed there was Bobby, in honor of the building's real-life most tragic event, the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968. (Directed by Emilio Estevez, one of its stars was his father Martin Sheen, who may be the only actor ever to play both Jack and Bobby Kennedy, although he didn't play either in this film.)

In addition to the above, Elvis sang at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium on June 7, 1956, the Pan Pacific Auditorium on October 28 & 29, 1957; the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino on November 12 & 13, 1972, and May 10 & 13, 1974; the Long Beach Arena on November 14 & 15, 1972 and April 25, 1976; and the Anaheim Convention Center on April 23, & 24, 1973 and November 30, 1976. (The Kings had to play a few games at the Long Beach Arena in their 1st season, 1967-68)

The Los Angeles area is home to a few interesting museums, in addition to those mentioned at Exposition Park. The Getty Center is an art museum at 1200 Getty Center Drive, off I-405. The Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, was founded by the Singing Cowboy and Angels founder-owner to celebrate and study the Western U.S. and Native Americans. (Metro Red Line, Hollywood/Western.) Also at Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory, at 2800 E. Observatory Avenue, should be familiar from lots of movies (including Rebel Without a Cause) and TV shows.

The Hollywood section of town (not a separate city) has a few interesting sites, and the studio tours may be worth it, but do yourself a favor and skip the tours of stars' homes. You’re probably not going to see any of the celebrities. You've got a better chance of seeing one back home on the streets of New York.

And you don't need to see the HOLLYWOOD sign. You might remember the shot of it in the ESPN film The Bronx Is Burning, when the Yankees went out to L.A. to play the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series. Their shot of the sign was accurate: In 1977, it was falling apart, a genuine ruin. A year later, it was restored, but it’s still no big deal up close. It was meant to be seen from afar.

Grauman's Chinese Theater, with its cemented signatures and footprints of stars, is the centerpiece of the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the legendary intersection of Hollywood Blvd. & Vine Street (6931 Hollywood Blvd., also at the Hollywood/Highland Metro stop).

Jackie Robinson grew up in Pasadena, at 121 Pepper Street. In a bit of foreshadowing, Pepper Street and Claremont Street are connected by an alley named Progress Lane. Pepper Street extends from Sunset Avenue, and at its foot is Brown Memorial AME Church, which the Robinsons attended. Gold Line from Union Station to Del Mar, then Bus 260 to Fair Oaks & Claremont. Be advised that this is still a private residence, not a museum dedicated to Jackie, and the people living there now will not want to be bothered.

Casey Stengel, the 1st manager of the Mets and the greatest manager of the Yankees, retired to Glendale, in Los Angeles County, and after his death on September 29, 1975, he was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery. So was Don Drysdale, and early 1950s Brooklyn manager Chuck Dressen.

Also laid to rest there are Lou Gehrig's successor Babe Dahlgren, football star turned actor Johnny Mack Brown, 1930s boxing champion Jimmy McLarnin, Chicago Cubs owners William Wrigley Jr. and Philip K. Wrigley, Laverne and Maxene Andrews of the Andrews Sisters, James Arness, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Clara Bow, Lon Chaney Sr., Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Sr. and Jr. and Sammy's widow Altovise, Walt Disney and other members of his family (he was not cryogenically frozen), W.C. Fields, Larry Fine (the other members of the Three Stooges are buried elsewhere in Los Angeles County), Errol Flynn, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow, Rex Harrison, Phil Hartman, Michael Jackson, Ted Knight, Harold Lloyd, Chico and Gummo Marx (but not Groucho or Harpo), Aimee Semple McPherson, Tom Mix, Lone Ranger star Clayton Moore, Mary Pickford, Will Rogers, David O. Selznick, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, Red Skelton, Jimmy Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy. 1712 S. Glendale Avenue. Bus 90, 91, 92 or 94 from downtown.

Roy Campanella is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills. So is another Hall-of-Famer associated with the Dodgers, Leo Durocher. So is John Roseboro, who succeeded Campy as Dodger catcher. So are John Wooden, Gene Autry, longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Steve Allen, Lucille Ball, David Carradine, Bette Davis, Annette Funicello, Marvin Gaye, Andy Gibb, Batman creator Bob Kane, Buster Keaton, Jack LaLanne, Dorothy Lamour, Charles Laughton, Stan Laurel (but not Oliver Hardy), Liberace, Ed McMahon, Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Nelson, Ricky Nelson, Freddie Prinze, John Ritter, Telly Savalas, Lee Van Cleef, Dick Van Patten, Paul Walker and Jack Webb.

Despite his connections to L.A., Jackie Robinson is buried in Brooklyn, at Cypress Hills Cemetery, which is bisected by the Interborough Parkway, now named the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Gil Hodges is also buried in Brooklyn, at Holy Cross Cemetery. Pee Wee Reese is buried in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Duke Snider lived in Fallbrook, California during his retirement, and is buried there, about 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

If you’re interested in American history, especially recent history, Southern California is home to 2 Presidential Libraries. Richard Nixon's is not far from Anaheim, built adjacent to the house where he was born in 1913 at 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd. in Yorba Linda, Orange County. Metrolink Orange County Line from Union Station to Fullerton, then Number 26 bus to Yorba Linda.

Nixon's "Western White House" at San Clemente can be reached by I-5 or by Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner to San Juan Capistrano (the former Spanish mission where, as the song goes, the swallows return on the first day of spring), and then transferring to the Number 191 bus. However, the house, which Nixon called La Casa Pacifica, is privately owned (no longer by the Nixon family), and is not open to the public. So unless you're a major Tricky Dick fan, I'd suggest skipping it, as you'd only be able to stand outside it.

Ronald Reagan's Presidential Library is at 40 Presidential Drive in Simi Valley in Ventura County. (Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois, about 130 miles west of Chicago.) Unfortunately, the Reagan Library is next to impossible to reach without a car.

Reagan's Western White House, Rancho del Cielo outside Santa Barbara, is owned by a private foundation that can be contacted for tours. Until her death a few weeks ago, Nancy Reagan still lived at their post-Presidential home in the Bel Air section of L.A., and while I’m no fan of the Reagans, I’ll respect her privacy and not list the address (or how to get there) even though it’s been published elsewhere. It’s been remarked that the ranch was his home, whereas anyplace they lived in
"Hollywood" was hers.


The tallest building on the West Coast, for now, is the U.S. Bank Tower, formerly named the Library Tower. It stands at 1,018 feet at W. 5th Street & Grand Avenue downtown. The Wilshere Grand Tower will surpass it in 2017, at 1,100 feet -- unless a tower planned for San Francisco the same year ends up taller -- at 900 Wilshere Blvd. at Figueroa.

However, the two most famous tall buildings in Los Angeles are 444 S. Flower Street, at 5th Street, famous as the location for the law firm on L.A. Law; and City Hall, recognizable from LAPD badges, the early police series Dragnet, and as the stand-in for the Daily Planet building on the George Reeves Adventures of Superman series in the 1950s. 200 S. Spring Street at Main Street.

Did I forget anything important? Oh yeah, Southern California's original tourist destination, outside of the Hollywood studios. Most people I've talked to who have been to both Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Florida have said that the Florida one is a LOT better. Anyway, the address is 1313 S. Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim, and if you're staying in Los Angeles, just drive down I-5. Public transportation is possible, but it's a mile and a half from the closest bus stop to Disneyland's gates.

*

So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Met fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the Mets-Dodgers matchup, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Southern California. Just don't yell out, "Go back to Brooklyn where you belong!" After all, if the Dodgers had never left Brooklyn, there never would have been a New York Mets.