Thursday, July 25, 2013

How To Be a New York Fan In Los Angeles -- 2013 Edition

The Yankees will play the Dodgers in Los Angeles next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Due to the unbalanced schedule -- mentally unbalanced -- the Mets' first trip to L.A. won't take place until August 12, 2 weeks later.

Since when does baseball make sense?

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.

DISCLAIMER: I have never been to the Pacific Coast, so all of this information is secondhand at best, but much of it does come from the opposing team's website.

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. For the moment, the Times is suggesting that the weather will be in the low 80s in daylight at the start of the week, but that it will get steadily hotter.

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, well, in order to get there in time for this series, you may have to leave... right now. But in the future... 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.  The official address is 1000 Elysian Park Avenue.

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 (65 hours, 40 minutes, changing buses 4 times, $517 round-trip, station at 1716 E. 7th Street at Lawrence Street) and Amtrak (64 hours, 15 minutes, $839 round-trip, Union Station at Alameda & Arcadia Streets). But flights, usually changing in Chicago, will be a lot more expensive.

Public transportation in L.A. is a lot better than it used to be, but not to Dodger Stadium.  The Number 2 bus leaves Union Station and drops you off at Sunset Boulevard and Douglas Street, and then it's a 15-minute or so walk to the stadium.  The Number 4 bus leaves Pershing Square, downtown, and drops you off at the same intersection.  L.A.'s new subway and light rail service, for which a single ride is $1.50 and a day pass is $5.00, won't get you any closer to Taj O'Malley than that.  Taxis do go to the stadium, and will drop you off in Lot G, which is also where they will be waiting after the game.

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 in first place in the National League Western Division.  And, as in days of old (specifically, the 1960s through the 1980s), they currently have the attendance in baseball, averaging 44,229 fans per home game.

So getting tickets could be tough.  But compared to most teams, including the Angels down the freeway, they're relatively inexpensive.

The Dodgers use that awful "dynamic pricing" concept, changing ticket prices depending on the draw of the opponent.  For the Yankee series, except for Field Boxes, every seat in the park can be had for $118 or less (unless you go to a scalper).  Third deck seats can be had for $62, and 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 $36.

For the Mets series, most seats are $93 on down.  Second-deck seats are $68, third-deck for $37, fourth-deck for $30, and that top deck for $25.  Against lesser opponents, those can go for only $10.

Going In.  Los Angeles was founded in 1781 by Spain as a Catholic mission, and means "The Angels" -- hence 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 -- within 10 years, it will surpass Toronto as 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 million people, and may end up passing New York and all others in that regard.  The "centerpoint" of the city, where east-west and north-south addresses begin, is 1st Street and Main Street.  Numbered streets are east-west.

Dodger Stadium points away from downtown, but -- all smog jokes 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 the stadium was built into the side of Chavez Ravine.  Along with the Oakland Coliseum, up the coast, this is the only active ballpark 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.)

Being in the California sunshine, the field has nearly always looked good.  But Walter O'Malley's old policy of no advertising inside the stadium, save for the two 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 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 suggests one of two things: Either something happened to change the park's conditions to make it less unfriendly to hitters (what that would be, I dont 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).

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 first 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 plane on the field.  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.

Food.  The Dodgers' hot dogs, the Dodger Dog, is renowned as one of the best in baseball.  This season, they've introduced the Brooklyn Dodger Dog.  After what O'Malley did to Brooklyn, the natives old enough to remember could say, "Youse got some noive, pal!" (You've got some 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.

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.

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 said that they have been installed since.

Team History Displays. The outfield fence 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 first 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.

Robinson, who grew up in Pasadena, 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 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 still wears it as a manager.  The Dodgers do not have a team Hall of Fame.

The Dodgers' 6 World Series Championships are also shown on the outfield walls: 1955 (in Brooklyn), 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988.  Pennants and Division titles without going all the way are not shown.

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 AM to 5 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 the "hard-boiled detective story," as pioneered by Raymond Chandler and his 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, including the late Jim Murray, and ESPN Around the Horn mainstays Bill Plaschke and J.A. Adande.  But as for books about the Dodgers? Uh...

Lasorda and Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully recently collaborated on The Dodgers: From Coast to Coast, as they are two living links to the club's Brooklyn days.  (Lasorda pitched for them there, although not well; and Scully is the longest-serving broadcaster in baseball history, having begun 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 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).  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 1977-1981, 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.)

But 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, about the Dodger first 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 (1959, '63, '65, '81 and '88), a collector's edition DVD set of the 1988 World Series, which remains their last Pennant.  (This drought, currently 25 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 this year's film 42 starring Chadwick Boseman as the pioneer and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey.  However, as yet, there is no Essential Games of the Los Angeles Dodgers or Essential Games of Dodger Stadium.

During the Game. The Dodgers' greatest rivals, in California as in New York City, are the Giants.  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.  Whether you're a Yankee Fan going next week, or a Dodger fan going the week after, most likely, they will not initiate violence against you.  Just don't speak well of the Giants, or ex-owner Frank McCourt, and you should be fine.

The Dodgers 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 recently got the last laugh, as the Giants invited him to sing the song during their 2010 victory parade.

Speaking of music, 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.

After the Game.  Dodger Stadium is one of those 1960s-70s suburban islands in a sea of parking, so you won’t be in any neighborhood, much less a bad one.  At least, as I said, there will be cabs waiting in Parking Lot G.

The closest thing I could find to a New York fan-friendly bar nearby is O’Brien’s Irish Pub, at 2226 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, which is the home of the local fan club of the New York Giants football team, but that's 17 miles west.  The local Jets fan club meets at the Federal Bar, at 5303 Lankershim Boulevard at Weddington Street in Sherman Oaks, 13 miles northwest.

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.

* 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’ PCL rivals, the Hollywood Stars, shared it from 1926 to 1935. Its capacity of 22,000 was too small for the Dodgers, and the AL Angels moved out after one season.

The Angels won 12 PCL Pennants, the last 5 at Wrigley: 1903, 1905, 1907, 1908, 1916, 1918, 1921, 1926, 1933, 1934, 1947 and 1956.  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. 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.  USC has played football here since 1923. UCLA played here from 1928 to 1981, when they inexplicably moved out of the Coliseum, and the city that forms their name, into 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 its 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 the modern history of baseball. 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, 115,300, for a preseason exhibition with the Red Sox on March 29, 2008, to celebrate their 50th Anniversary in L.A.

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 (when a game was played at the larger Estadio Azteca in Mexico City). Ironically, the first Super Bowl, held here on January 15, 1967 (Green Bay 35, Kansas City 17) was only 2/3 sold. Super Bowl VII (Miami over Washington) was sold out.  Officially, the Coliseum now seats 93,607, and would likely be a stopgap home for a new or moved NFL team until a modern stadium could be built.

* Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Next-door to the Coliseum, 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 there 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 American Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Stars from 1968 to 1970, the World Hockey Association’s Los Angeles Sharks from 1972 to 1974, the 1968 and 1972 NCAA Final Fours (both won by UCLA, even though it was USC's home court), 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 fight (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.”

3900 Block of S. Figueroa Street, just off the USC campus in Exposition Park. The California Science Center, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the California African American Museum are also there.  The Shrine Auditorium, former site of the Academy Awards, is but a few steps away. Number 40 or 42 bus from Union Station. Although this is 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 attack 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 SB XIV (Pittsburgh over Rams, the "home" field advantage not helping the Hornheads). 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 sides and support Ronald Reagan for Governor.

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; 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. On the way up Westwood Plaza, you’ll pass UCLA Medical Center, now named for someone who died there, Ronald Reagan. (Wooden, Michael Jackson and John Wayne also died there.) The UCLA campus also has a Dykstra Hall, but I’m 99 percent sure 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. Known from 1988 to 2003 as 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. Hollywood Park Racetrack is on an adjacent site. Metro Silver Line to Harbor Transitway station, switch to Number 115 bus. (Be careful, this transfer is in South Central.)

* Staples Center. Home of the Lakers, Clippers and Kings since 1999, and usually the home of the Grammy Awards. 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 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.  1111 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles. 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 NFL's Los Angeles 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.

* 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.). 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., Los Angeles. 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., Los Angeles. (Metro Silver Line to Figueroa/Washington, transfer to Number 81 bus; Elvis sang here on June 8, 1956.). 2002-present, Kodak Theater (which also hosts 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 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 stay away from 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).

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. (All year long, they are running commemorations of his 100th birthday this past January 9.) 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 (not 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.

Centennial celebrations were held in 2011 at Ronald Reagan’s Library 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. Nancy Reagan, now 92, still lives 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 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.

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So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Met (or, this year, Yankee) fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the Mets-Dodgers (or Yankees-Dodgers) matchup, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Southern California. In spite of the fact that these two weeks may be one of those rare occasions where New York’s weather will be just as good.

1 comment:

Bill Dodson said...

Do you know what hotel the yankees stay at when playing the Dodgers?