Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Hate L.A. I Hate Not Hitting. And I Hate the Transfer Window.

Randy Newman has written a lot of great songs, and the score for The Natural.  So as far as I'm concerned, at least professionally, he can do whatever he wants.

But he can start by taking his song "I Love L.A." and shoving it.

Yeah, I know, it doesn't put Los Angeles in a great light.  But I still hate L.A.

I hate the Dodgers and I hate the Lakers and I hate the Kings.  When the Raiders were there, I hated them, too.  (I still do, although I don't hate Oakland as a city.) I hate the city's superficiality and the fact that, until the early 1990s, they refused to acknowledge that not everybody had a car and that a subway system was needed.

That the Dodgers have been in L.A. for more than half a century is a slap in the face to everyone who ever loved them in their Brooklyn phase -- and, while you've got to be at least 65 years old to really remember those days well, there are still lots of people who cared about Brooklyn fans, and the very existence of the Los Angeles Dodgers is an affront to them.

Did L.A. deserve a Major League Baseball team? Certainly.  But they should have gotten their own.  If Walter O'Malley is to blame for moving the Dodgers out of Brooklyn (and he is, don't let these revisionist bastards tell you otherwise, look at the facts), the City of Los Angeles is also to blame for giving him the easiest means to do so.

*

But, putting aside my irrational reasons for not liking Los Angeles, the Yankees needed a win last night.  And got the necessary pitching.  But, once again, they didn't hit.

Don't tell me that Zack Greinke is a great pitcher.  His career record, counting last night, is 99-81, a winning percentage of .550, an ERA of 3.75, a WHIP of 1.246.  In contrast, last night's Yankee starter, Andy Pettitte, has a record of 252-150, a WP of .627, ERA 3.87, WHIP 1.352.  And Greinke has pitched a grand total of 16 2/3 postseason innings.   Andy pitched more than that in the postseasons of 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2009.  He's proven himself a great pitcher.  Don't tell me Greinke has a Cy Young Award: Much better pitchers than Greinke don't, and some forgotten names do, like Dean Chance, Mike McCormick, Mark Davis.

Don't tell me that Greinke is a great pitcher.  The Yankees have hit better pitchers than Greinke is many a postseason.  The Yankees should hit anybody.

Greinke pitched 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and no walks.  Pettitte pitched 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 8 hits and no walks.  Their starts last night, in the same stadium, off the same mound, in the same weather conditions, were functionally the same.  Greinke is 29, so he should be at or near his physical peak.  Pettitte is 41, and has thrown over 3,500 innings in his career, counting the postseason, and by nearly every measure we usually see, should be done.

The Yankees got a solo home run from Lyle Overbay in the 2nd (his 12th homer of the season), a leadoff double in the 4th, by Alfonso Soriano that led to a wild pitch and an RBI groundout by Overbay, and a one-out double by Ichiro Suzuki in the 7th.  But that was pretty much it.  The Yankees didn't even really strand all that many runners.

David Robertson pitched a perfect 8th, but Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect 9th for the Dodgers.  Shawn Kelley got the first out in the bottom of the 9th, but allowed a single to Andre Ethier.  Kelley struck out Juan Uribe, who had homered earlier, but Ethier stole 2nd, and Mark Ellis singled him home.

Dodgers 3, Yankees 2.  WP: Jansen (4-3).  LP: Kelley (3-1, and he didn't deserve it).

The Red Sox and Rays both won last night, so the Yankees are now 8 1/2 games out of 1st, 8 in the loss column.

The trading deadline is this afternoon at 4:00.  And to make matters worse, the Sox pulled a 3-team trade that brought in former San Diego Padre ace Jake Peavy, who seemed to be wasted with the Chicago White Sox.  The Scum have improved for the stretch run; the Yankees, Soriano aside, have not.  And, as of this writing, they have a little over 6 hours to do so.

The brief 2-game series with the Bums concludes tonight, wit Hiroki Kuroda going against Clayton Kershaw -- at this point, each team's ace.  Not quite a classic Dodger Stadium matchup of Sandy Koufax vs. Juan Marichal or Bob Gibson, since they didn't have Interleague play in those days.  But it will have to do.

*

In case you're wondering, I'm not going to do a post on the A-Rod situation until I know what that is: How long his suspension is, and precisely why.  I want to know what MLB has on him, and whether the punishment fits the crime -- or the "crime," as the case may be.  Until then, it's all just speculation, and to comment on it makes a blogwriter look like one of these yutzes yammering about European soccer's transfer window.

Which is currently ongoing, and, no, Arsenal haven't signed a "big name striker" yet, nor should they, because they don't need one.  And even if they did, none of the available strikers is worth the money and/or the aggravation they'd bring.  So forget Wayne Rooney and Luis Suarez.  Let those overrated troublemakers go elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How To Be a New York Fan In San Diego -- 2013 Edition

As with the Dodgers, the futzed-up schedule means the Yankees will go to San Diego to face the Padres before the Mets do.

Unlike the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Padres are an expansion team with no connection to New York.  They've never even played the Mets in the Playoffs -- but they have played the Yankees in the World Series.  (The Chargers have played the Jets.  San Diego has no NHL team, and have only had an NBA team briefly and not currently.)

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, but like the Los Angeles area, the San Diego area has very consistent weather. It’s a nice place to visit, and there's little threat of earthquakes, mudslides and smog -- but there have been wildfires, including one that led to a Chargers home game being moved to Phoenix a few years ago.

The website of the San Diego Union-Tribune (yet another paper that, not that long ago, used to be two separate papers), is predicting mid-70s by day, mid-60s by night, and, as you might expect for San Diego, no precipitation for the entire weekend.  A short-sleeve shirt should be enough, no jacket necessary.  Just in case, you may want to bring sunscreen.

You should also be aware that San Diego International Airport is now in the final stages of a major construction project, which might make air travel problematic.  It's not going to be as bad as it would have been last year.

Getting There. It’s 2,803 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown San Diego, including Petco Park.  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're too late to see the whole thing.  So, for future reference... You’ll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take it to Exit 14, to Interstate 78. Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation’s first superhighway, opening in 1940.

The Turnpike will eventually be a joint run between I-76 and Interstate 70. Once that happens, you’ll stay on I-70, all the way past Pittsburgh, across the little northern panhandle of West Virginia, and then across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, into Missouri.

At St. Louis, take Exit 40C onto Interstate 44 West, which will take you southwest across Missouri into Oklahoma.  Upon reaching Oklahoma City, take Interstate 40 West, through the rest of the State, across the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico, into Arizona.  At Flagstaff, take Interstate 17 South, which will take you into Phoenix.  Take Interstate 10 West to Exit 112 for Arizona Route 85 South, to Gila Bend, right on Arizona route 238 West, which will flow into Interstate 8 West.  This will take you across Arizona and California to San Diego.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and 15 minutes in New Jersey, 5 hours and 30 minutes in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in West Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Ohio, 2 hours and 45 minutes in Indiana, another 2 hours and 45 minutes in Illinois, 5 hours in Missouri, 6 hours in Oklahoma, 3 hours in Texas, 6 hours and 15 minutes in New Mexico, 6 hours in Arizona, and 3 hours in California.

That’s about 45 hours and 30 minutes. Counting rest stops, you're probably talking about 57 hours.

That’s still faster than Greyhound (64 hours, 25 minutes, changing buses anywhere from 2 to 4 times, $538 round-trip, station at 1313 National Avenue at Commercial Street -- 3 blocks from the ballpark!) and Amtrak (71 hours, 40 minutes, $776 round-trip, Santa Fe Depot at 1050 Kettner Blvd. at Broadway). But flights, usually changing in Chicago, will be a lot more expensive.  (And, due to various reasons that I won't get into here, even if you left on the next possible bus or train, you wouldn't make it in time to see the entire series.)

Public transportation in San Diego is pretty good, with buses, trolleys and light rail readily available.  Petco Park is accessible on the Orange Line at Gaslamp Quarter station, and on the Orange and Blue Lines at 12th & Imperial Transit Center station.  The fare is $2.50.

Tickets.  The Padres are averaging 26,651 fans per home game, at a park with a seating capacity of 42,524.  They get that many despite the Padres being well out of the Playoff hunt already.  So getting tickets could be tough.

The most expensive seat in the house is a Field VIP for $103.  Most tickets are a lot cheaper.  Aside from the preceding, you can probably get in the lower level for $48 or less (for the Met series -- for the Yankee series, prices are considerably jacked, so expect $103 for any Field level infield seat), and $40 or less will get you into the upper level.   There's an All-You-Can-Eat section for $32.

Going In.  San Diego was founded by Spain as a mission in 1769, and well into the 19th Century was larger than San Francisco, and even at the dawn of the 20th Century was larger than Los Angeles.  Being (just about literally) tucked away in a corner of the country, it was pretty much bypassed, but World War II led to the U.S. Navy base being built there, and its population took off again, to where it was major-league capable by the 1960s.  Today, 1.3 million people live within the city limits, and 3 million in the metro area.  Front Street is the delineator between streets with East and West as prefixes, while Broadway is that for those running North and South.

PETCO Park (yes, the ALL CAPS is correct), named for the San Diego-headquartered chain of pet and pet supplies stores, has an official address, with the name and uniform number of the greatest Padre of them all (so far), of 19 Tony Gwynn Drive.  It is bounded by 7th Avenue/Gwynn Drive on the 3rd base and home plate sides, Park Blvd. on the 1st base side, 10th Avenue on the right field side, and K Street on the center field side.  It points north, with a good view of the downtown skyscrapers.

The Gaslamp Gate and the Downtown Gate are in left field.  The Balboa Park Gate, the East Village Gate (not to be confused with Lower Manhattan's East Village or the Broadway's Village Gate Theater) and the Park Blvd. Gate are in right field.  And the Home Plate Gate is, well, you can probably guess.

Being in the California sunshine, the field has nearly always looked good.  The left-field corner has the former Western Metal Supply Company warehouse, built into the stadium complex, as was the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad warehouse into Camden Yards in Baltimore.  Unlike Baltimore, however, seating sections were built into this warehouse.

As with most of the "retro ballparks" built in the 1990s and 2000s, the field is not symmetrical.  The left field pole is 334 feet from home plate, straightaway left is 367, left-center is 390, center is 396, right-center is 391, straightaway right is 382, and the right-field pole is a deceptive 322.  This is a pitcher's park, although a placement hitter like Gwynn or Dave Winfield would have been fine with it.  The longest home run at the park is 458 feet, by Adrian Gonzalez, then with the Padres, in 2009.

Food.  Being just 15 miles from the Mexican border, you might expect Petco Park to feature Mexican and Southwestern-style food.  Your expectations would be fulfilled: Behind home plate, on the Field Level, there is Bull Taco and La Cantina Bar; in the Upper Level, another La Cantina Bar is in left field and the Padres Mexican Cafe is in right field.

Team-themed stands abound: Friar Franks are all over, a health-food Friar Fit stand is at Field Level behind
home plate, and the PCL Club (named for the city's old-time home, the Pacific Coast League) is at Field Level behind 1st base.  On Terrace Level, behind 1st base, are Club 19 (for Gwynn) and Randy Jones BBQ (a variation of the Baltimore Boog Powell and Philadelphia Greg Luzinski theme).  And the Hall of Fame Bar & Grill is on Terrace Level in left field.

There are also stands with local flavor: Anthony's Fish Grotto, home of the Padres' famed fish tacos, is behind home plate on both the Field and Terrace Levels.  The Brickhouse Deli is on Field Level in left field, inside the warehouse.  The Harbor Grill is on Terrace Level behind home plate, the Trolley Station Grill is on Terrace Level behind 1st base, and the Bayview Grill is on Upper Level behind home plate.

Team History Displays.  The Padres have 5 retired numbers, displayed in center field, atop the batter's eye wall.  They are: 6, Steve Garvey, 1st base 1983-87; 19, Tony Gwynn, right field 1982-2001; 31, Dave Winfield, right field 1973-80; 35, Randy Jones, pitcher 1973-80; and 51, Trevor Hoffman, pitcher 1993-2008.  Also mounted on top of the wall is Jackie Robinson's universally-retired Number 42.

The team has also honored, with notations painted in gold on the front of the press box, former owner Ray Kroc (1974-84) with his initials RAK, and broadcaster Jerry Coleman, the former Yankee 2nd baseman and broadcaster who has called games for the team since 1972 -- except for 1980, when he served as manager, with unsatisfying results, and returned to the booth in 1981.  Instead of retiring a number for him, or mounting an "SD" for San Diego or his initials JC (or GFC for Gerald Francis Coleman), they've hung a star, for his catchphrase for a home run or a great defensive play: "Oh, doctor! You can hang a star on that baby!"

The only Major League Baseball player to be a combat veteran of both World War II and the Korean War (Ted Williams served in both but not in combat in WWII), the former Marine pilot, and recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame's award for broadcasters, is still going strong as he approaches his 89th birthday.  The Padres have dedicated statues outside PETCO to Coleman and Gwynn.

The Padres have a team Hall of Fame.  I do not know if it is on display anywhere in the park.  In addition to Gwynn, Winfield, Jones, Kroc and Coleman (but not, as yet, Garvey and Hoffman), it includes Emil "Buzzie" Bavasi, the team's first president (1969-77, previously general manager of the Dodgers), 1st baseman Nate Colbert (1969-74), and manager Dick Williams (1982-85).  Why Colbert's Number 17 and Williams' Number 23 have not been retired, I don't know.

In addition to Gwynn, Winfield, Williams and Coleman, the players who have played for the Padres and been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York (but not based on what they did as Padres) are Roberto Alomar, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Willie McCovey, Gaylord Perry and Ozzie Smith.

The Padres have won National League Pennants in 1984 and 1998, and NL Western Division titles in those years, plus 1996, 2005 and 2006.  They have never reached the Playoffs by way of the Wild Card, although they lost a play-in game for the Wild Card to the Colorado Rockies in 2007.  I don't know if there is a notation (such as flagpoles with pennants or stanchions on the outfield wall) for these achievements anywhere in the ballpark.

The original Padres, Ted Williams' first pro team, won Pacific Coast League Pennants in 1937 (with Williams), 1954, 1962, 1964 and 1967.  There is no notation for them at PETCO Park.

Stuff. The Padres have a number of team stores, including their main one at the Gaslamp Gate in left field.  The good news is, they sell all kinds of Padres merchandise.  The bad news is, they sell ALL kinds of Padres merchandise, including the various uniforms the Padres have worn, ranging from the mustard-yellow and brown uniforms of the 1970s to the "camouflage" jerseys they wear on home Sundays in honor of San Diego's tradition as a military city.  Actually, it's a Navy city, not an Army city, so while wearing and selling jerseys that are navy blue in color makes sense, camouflage jerseys make no sense at all.

Although the Padres have been around for over 40 years now, and have some history, there aren't very many good books about the team.  Baseball in San Diego: From the Plaza to the Padres by Bill Swank, in cooperation with the San Diego Historical Society, is probably the best one, covering the history of professional baseball in the city from the 1899 San Diego Fullers of the Southern California League to the 2004 opening of PETCO Park.

Since the Padres have not yet won a World Series, there is no DVD collection of World Series highlight films; you'd have to, separately, get the 1984 (won by the Detroit Tigers) and 1998 (by the Yankees) films.  As of yet, the only team-history video available is Nineteen Summers: Padres 1969-1988 (which would actually be 20 summers), and if you want that, it's only available on Amazon.com on VHS, not DVD.  There's also a VHS tape titled Tony Gwynn: Mr. Padre that covers his entire playing career.  As yet, there is no Essential Games of the San Diego Padres DVD.

Of note is the fact that, assuming you count Johan Santana's highly asteriskable performance last season, the Padres are now the only team among MLB's 30 current that have never pitched a no-hitter.

During the Game. The Padres' greatest rivals, as you might guess, are the closest NL team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  (The AL's Angels are 30 miles closer, but Padres and Angels fans don't seem to care about each other or their teams.) But due to Fernando Valenzuela having made his name as a Dodger before his brief stopover with the Padres, when Mexican fans come over the border for Padres-Dodgers games, the cheering is about even when the Bums come to San Diego.  The Padres also have a budding rivalry with the next-closest team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.  But the locals do fit the reputation of the laid-back Southern Californian.  No one is going to fight you.

Ted Giannoulas, known in costume as The Famous Chicken, began as the KGB Chicken.  No, he wasn't a Russian spy, he was a student at San Diego State University, working for a San Diego radio station, KGB-FM.  (He can be seen in his original costume on NFL Films' production of the 1978 Charger-Raider "Holy Roller" game, passing out at the successful result of the Raiders' blatant cheating.) Following a contract dispute with the station, he got a new costume (one not copyrighted by the station) and was reborn, or rather hatched out of a giant egg, on the field at San Diego Stadium in June 1979 as "the San Diego Chicken."

Starting in 1981, he was part of the cast of NBC's Saturday pregame show The Baseball Bunch, starring Johnny Bench, where he was referred to as simply "The Chicken." He became so much in demand that he could no longer belong only to his hometown, and now goes everywhere.  He and the Phillie Phanatic have done more to elevate the baseball mascot to icon status than anyone -- even if they weren't the first guys in silly costumes to entertain at baseball games.  (Mr. Met was the first official such mascot, but even he was unofficially preceded by the Brooklyn Dodger Sym-Phony Band.)

Since 1996, the Padres have made their Swinging Friar logo a live-action mascot, and he (sans bat) is the official mascot.  As I said earlier, like many cities in California, San Diego was founded by Spanish missionaries -- hence "Padres," Spanish for "Fathers," or priests, monks, friars.

The Padres don't have a special song to play along with "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th Inning Stretch, or a postgame victory song.  This could be due to the relative lack of songs about the city, or famous singers or bands from the city.  However, with the city's nautical tradition, a foghorn sounds after every Padre home run -- not common, as PETCO is one of the best pitcher's parks in the majors.

After the Game.  San Diego's Gaslamp District has plenty of nightspots, so finding a good place for a postgame meal or drink shouldn't be too hard.  And although the city has a reputation for gang violence -- as Met fans, you may have heard San Diegan Kevin Mitchell tell horror stories about it -- downtown is very safe.

If you're looking for New Yorker-friendly establishments, Henry's Pub, at 618 5th Avenue between G & Market Streets, is the home of the local New York Jets fan club, and they will be hosting a get-together this weekend in honor of the Mets-Padres series.  It is 6 blocks from the ballpark.  I have heard of 2 separate bars as being home of local Giants fan clubs.  The Knotty Barrel is at 844 Market Street at 9th Avenue, 5 blocks from PETCO.  And the U-31 Cocktail Lounge is at 3112 University Avenue at 31st Street, however, it is 6 miles northeast of the ballpark.  Even if the Knotty Barrel is not a Big Blue hangout, you'd be advised to choose that over the U-31.

Sidelights.  San Diego has produced more native sons (and daughters) who were great athletes than its teams have.  As a result, there isn't a lot of glory associated with these teams.  Some have suggested that there's a curse on the city, with the most common story being the selling of the city's first great major league star, Chargers receiver Lance Alworth, to the Dallas Cowboys.  Alworth, a.k.a. Bambi, won Super Bowl VI with the Cowboys, but no San Diego major league team has gone as far as the rules allowed them to do since Alworth and the 1963 Chargers, AFL Champions, who did not get to play that year's NFL Champions, the Chicago Bears, in a Super Bowl.

* Lane Field.  Home to the PCL Padres from 1936 to 1957, including the 1937 PCL Pennant that featured a 19-year-old San Diego kid named Ted Williams.  By the time the Padres won another Pennant in 1954, the 8,000-seat pitcher's park, on the waterfront, with a Spanish-style entrance and faraway fences except at the right field pole, was termite-ridden and had to be abandoned.  Broadway, Harbor Drive and Pacific Highway.  The Santa Fe Depot and the USS Midway Museum (a retired WWII-era aircraft carrier) are adjacent to the site.  Number 7 bus.  The Maritime Museum of San Diego is 3 blocks to the north.

* Westgate Park.  The PCL Padres' next home was in Mission Valley, at (appropriately enough) Friars Road and the Cabrillo Freeway.  This park seated only a few more than Lane Field, but unlike its predecessor, which had no roof to protect fans from the hot, nearly-Mexican sun, Westgate had a roof covering the entire seating area.

Supposedly, it was expandable to 40,000, in the event that San Diego could do what Los Angeles and San Francisco had done, and bring in a major league team, through move or expansion.  But the Chargers wanted a modern stadium, too, so one stadium was built for both teams.  The Padres won Pennants at Westgate in 1962, 1964 and 1967, their last season there.  The Fashion Valley Mall is now on the site. Fashion Valley Transit Center station on the Green Line.

* San Diego/Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium.  Since 1967, this has been the home of the Chargers and the San Diego State University football team, the Aztecs.  It was built to the east of Westgate, at 9449 Friars Road at Mission Village Drive, just off Interstate 15, 5 Green Line stops away from Westgate/Fashion Valley at what's now Qualcomm Stadium station.

Met fans, take note: It was beloved broadcaster Bob Murphy's brother, Jack Murphy, sports editor of the old San Diego Union newspaper, who advocated for the city as a major league sports site, and when he died in 1980, the stadium was named for him -- at least, until the city sold off the naming rights.  Statues of Jack and his dog Abe remain outside the stadium.  It's hosted the Holiday Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl, and has hosted 3 Super Bowls: XXII (won by the Washington Redskins), XXXII (Denver Broncos) and XXXVII (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

The Chargers have only reached the Super Bowl once, in the 1994-95 season, although they are usually in the Playoff hunt.  The PCL Padres played their last season here, 1968, and then in 1969 the NL Padres came in.  Holding 47,000 for baseball for most of its history, it was expanded to 65,000 by 1996, and during the 1998 World Series between the Padres and Yankees, the noise was remarkable for an open-air facility -- not that it helped the Padres.

The Padres moved out after the 2003 season, and the Chargers are looking to get out, hopefully into a downtown stadium.  If they can't, they may well move, possibly up the Coast to Los Angeles, from whence they came.

* Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.  After starting in the AFL at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1960, the Chargers moved to San Diego for 1961.  Barron Hilton, son of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton -- and the first brother-in-law of Elizabeth Taylor, and the grandfather of Paris and Nicky Hilton -- ran the Carte Blanche credit card company, and named the team after the card, sort of: The Chargers, although a horse (also a "charger") and a lightning bolt (which gives off a "charge") has always been the team's logo.  He's still alive, now 85, although he no longer has anything to do with the team, unlike his fellow original AFL owners Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills and Bud Adams of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans.

The existing Balboa Stadium, built in 1914 in Balboa Park (named for the Spanish explorer), was expanded to 34,000 seats for the Chargers.  While it had a lot of atmosphere, including a columned front gate, and was home to the Chargers' 1963 AFL Championship team, it was too small for the proposed AFL-NFL merger, so what's now Qualcomm Stadium was built.  In 1965, at Balboa, Jim Ryun became the first American high schooler to break the 4-minute mile.  On August 28, 1965, the Beatles played there.  The old stadium was demolished and replaced in 1978, and now hosts high school football and track.  Russ Blvd. & 16th Street.  

Balboa Park is also home to the San Diego Zoo.  My mother says her favorite day in her life was the day she spent at the Zoo.  Park Road & Zoo Place.  The Park is also home to the Timken Museum of Art, and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.  The Number 7 bus takes you to the Park and places you within a short walk of all its sites.

Adjacent is the Federal Building, which hosts the San Diego Hall of Champions, honoring area natives such as Ted Williams, Bill Walton and 1970s Yankee star Graig Nettles, as well as stars from area teams.  Padres honored are Nettles, Jones, Winfield, Fingers, Gwynn, Bavasi and Gossage.  Of additional interest to Yankee Fans might be Don Larsen, and the father-and-son combo of Ray and Bob Boone -- grandfather and father, respectively, of Aaron (and Bret).  But not, as yet, Larsen's fellow graduate of nearby Point Loma High School, and fellow pitcher of a perfect game for the Yankees, David Wells.

* San Diego Sports Arena.  Built in 1966, this was the home of the NBA's San Diego Rockets from 1967 to 1971, until they moved to Houston; the NBA's San Diego Clippers from 1978 to 1984, until they moved to Los Angeles; and the World Hockey Association's San Diego Mariners from 1974 to 1977.  It hosted the 1975 NCAA Final Four, which included John Wooden's last 2 games as head coach at UCLA, winning his 10th and final National Championship.  Elvis Presley sang here on November 9, 1970; April 26, 1973; and April 24, 1976.

The Arena was recently renamed the Valley View Casino Center, although it is not a casino.  3500 Sports Arena Blvd. at Kemper Street.  Blue Line light rail to to Old Town, then transfer to the Number 9 bus, which drops off outside.

San Diego isn't known for its skyscrapers, not for height (as is L.A.) nor for style (as is San Francisco).  The tallest building in town, and then just barely (2 others are within 3 feet of it) is One America Plaza, 500 feet even, at 600 West Broadway at Keltner Blvd. downtown.

There haven't been a lot of TV shows set in San Diego.  Most notable is probably Veronica Mars, unless you're a big Simon & Simon fan.  Because of the naval base and the Marines' Camp Pendleton in not really all that near Oceanside, San Diego has been the closest major city to Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and Major Dad (which, like Simon & Simon, had Gerald McRaney, but it transferred to Quantico, Virginia after just one season).  Fox tried to copy the success of the Wisconsin-based That '70s Show by setting That '80s Show in San Diego in 1984, the year the Padres first won the Pennant, but it bombed, worse than the Padres did in the World Series.

San Diego has been much more successful as a location for movie settings, especially military-themed ones: Sands of Iwo Jima (John Wayne's troops train at Pendleton), Hellcats of the Navy (the one and only film that Ronald Reagan and his wife, still billed as "Nancy Davis," ever made together), Top Gun and its parody Hot Shots!Flight of the Intruder and Antwone Fisher.  But the movie most associated with the city is Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, with Will Ferrell's signoff: "Stay classy, San Diego!"

If the Zoo wasn't enough for you, San Diego, like Orlando and San Antonio, has a Sea World.  500 Sea World Drive at Mission Bay Drive.  Green Line to Old Town Transit Center, then transfer to the Number 9 bus.

*

So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Met (or, this season anyway, Yankee) fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the matchup with the Padres matchup, and enjoy the sights and sounds of what former Mayor, Senator and Governor Pete Wilson called "America's Finest City." Even if the games aren't good, the weather will be.

Soriano's Return Prevents Sweep; George Scott, 1944-2013

Technical difficulties meant that I have been unable to post since Friday.  Fortunately, there was no Yankee game yesterday, so I only have 3 games to catch up on, not 4.

On Friday night, the Yankees came home from a roadtrip to sneak in a 3-game homestand, before flying out to California.  The opponent was the Carolina Rays.

Sorry, got a little bit ahead of myself there.  I mean, considering that they've been battling for first place almost continuously for 6 seasons now, and have made the Playoffs 3 of the first 5 of those years, and have even won a Pennant, they should be averaging more than 17,790 fans per home game -- next-to-last in the majors, ahead of only their fellow Floridians, the Miami Marlins, who are pathetic and averaging only 85 fewer fans.

To put that in perspective: CoolStandings.com says that the Rays are currently (as of this morning, July 30) on pace to win 96 games (I'm rounding off), the Marlins to lose 99; and that the Rays have a 90 percent chance of at least making the Playoffs, the Marlins less than 0.1 percent.  The Rays do not have an owner (or an ownership group) that seems to go out of its way to infuritate the local fans, while the Marlins do.  And yet, the Marlins have virtually the same attendance.  Indeed, the Houston Astros are on a pace to lose 106 games, which they've already done in each of the last 2 seasons (107 in one of them).  And yet the Astros are outdrawing the Rays by 1,446 fans per game.

Bill Foster, the Mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, said in August 2011 -- almost 2 years ago now, after the biggest plan yet for a new ballpark for the Rays fell apart:

At present, there is no plan by the city of St. Petersburg for the design and construction of a new baseball facility in Pinellas County, and no such discussions have occurred with the Rays since my becoming mayor. The city and the Rays are contractually obligated to Tropicana Field through 2027, and absent an addendum to this agreement, there can be no plan for a new facility...

With the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars by the people of St. Petersburg and Pinellas, and with 16 years remaining on our contract, one would be naive to believe that the city did not have a detailed plan to ensure that the Rays remain in St. Petersburg, or that the interests of our residents were being represented in earnest without regard to outside pressure from those who desire to subordinate the city's interest to those of the Rays or region.
So since the Rays are winning but still have pathetic attendance, and there is no new ballpark on the horizon to replace that hideous dome, and since the Marlins have proven in these last 2 seasons that a new ballpark is no guarantee of fans coming in bigger numbers anyway, especially in a messed-up State like Florida, perhaps it's time to move the Rays to a place that gives a damn.

I joked "Carolina." But Charlotte is already building a downtown ballpark that will seat about 11,000 for its Triple-A team.  Chances are, it won't be expandable to the 35,000-plus it would have to be to bring in a major league team, moved or expansion.

Montreal?
*
On Friday night, Alfonso Soriano made his re-debut for the Yankees, wearing his old Number 12.

"Strikeout Soriano" didn't strike out.  Not even once.  But he went 0-for-5 and left 6 men on base.  He left six men on base all by himself.

Brett Gardner, Melky Mesa and David Adams each got 2 hits -- the latter 2 didn't even start the game.  CC Sabathia did... and had nothing, allowing 7 runs in 5 innings.  Adam Warren went the rest of the way, allowing 3 runs, so that's not much better.

So the Yankees got some runs, but no pitching.  Rays 10, Yankees 6.  WP: Jeremy Hellickson (10-3).  Because the Yankees did get close and threaten in the 9th inning, Fernando Rodney did come in for a save situation and convert it (his 25th).  LP: Sabathia (9-9).  Come on, Big Fella, we need you to snap out of it and get back to pitching like an ace.

Attendance: 44,486.  A crowd larger than would even fit into Torpor-cana Field.  And that's with fans being pessimistic about the Yankees, and with us not considering the Rays to be a real rival.  That, Rays fans, is how you support a team.
*
Saturday's game? Aesthetically, it was a whole lot better.  Competitively, it wasn't.

Ivan Nova pitched beautifully, going 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 6 hits and 3 walks, fanning 8.  David Robertson and Shawn Kelley each added a scoreless inning with 2 strikeouts, so that's 12 K's from Yankee pitching.

But Chris Archer went the distance for the Rays.  Here's all the baserunners he allowed: An error that allowed Ichiro Suzuki to reach 1st in the 4th, eliminated when he got Robinson Cano to ground into a double play; a single to Lyle Overbay in the 5th; a ground-rule double to Brett Gardner in the 6th.  That was it: 2 hits and an error.  Not even so much as a walk.  Only 1 guy got as far as 2nd base: It was like a church youth-group dance.

Rays 1, Yankees 0.  WP: Archer (6-3).  LP: Nova (4-4, and he's really deserved better lately).
*
Before the Sunday game, the Yankees honored Hideki Matsui, who signed a one-day contract with the club so that he could "officially retire as a Yankee." This was the team's 55th home game of the season, and Matsui wore Number 55, so they honored him on Sunday.  The first 18,000 fans to arrive got a bobblehead doll of "Godzilla" holding the 2009 World Series MVP trophy that he won.  Although his gifts included a framed Number 55 jersey, the number is not being retired.  (Overbay is currently wearing it, and Russell Martin also wore it since Matsui last did.) Nor is he getting a Monument Park plaque.  (Personally, I think he should get one.)

Matsui said, through a translator -- unlike Ichiro, he still doesn't speak English well...

I'd like to thank the Yankees organization, from the bottom of my heart, for giving me this opportunity.  I officially announced my retirement last year, but to be able to come back in this manner -- at the time, I never really imagined having this type of opportunity.  To become a member of the Yankees and retire as a Yankee, I'm just so humbled and honored...

I think this moment will be a moment I never forget.  To be able to retire as a member of the team I aspired to and looked up to, I think there's nothing more fulfilling than that.

(In a related story: Donovan McNabb, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, signed one with the Eagles, so he could formally retired with them, and they  have announced that they will retire his Number 5.)

I had heard all the hype in the 2002-03 off-season, and wondered if Matsui could live up to hit.  He sure did his damndest to do so, including the grand slam on Opening Day (the home opener, anyway) of that first season, all the way until a wrist injury sidelined him in 2006.  He was never the same after that, but his performance in the 2009 World Series, his last games with the club, is something to cherish.  That home run he hit in the clinching Game 6 is my favorite home run of all time -- not just because it gave the Yankees a World Series win after some nasty close calls, and not just because of who hit it, but also because of who he hit it off: Pedro Martinez.

Without getting into the whole A-Rod discussion (and I'm not going to discuss that controversy's current status in this post, it deserves a separate entry), Hideki Matsui is a Yankee Legend.  He is a True Yankee.
*
As for the Sunday game: When the Yankees are in a slump, it's a lousy thing.  When they snap out of it, it feels so good.

Derek Jeter returned from injury, batting 2nd against Rays starter Matt Moore after Gardner led off the game with a strikeout.  And on the first pitch he faced, Jeter did what he's done so many times before: Drive one to the opposite field.  In this case, out.  Home run, his 1st since September 9, 2012.

This was followed by a single by Cano, and another Soriano that got Cano to 3rd, a sacrifice fly by Vernon Wells that scored Cano, a wild pitch by Moore that got Sori to 2nd, and a single by Ichiro that got Sori home.

3-0 Yankees after just 1 inning.  This is how it's supposed to be (if not better).  This is what we have been missing.

But Phil Hughes didn't have it.  He allowed a run in the 2nd and 3 in the 3rd, and it was 4-3 Rays.  Oy.

But the old guys struck again the bottom of the 3rd.  Jeter led off the inning with a single, career hit Number 3,307.  (He needs 9 more to pass Eddie Collins for 10th on the all-time list; after that, 4 more to pass Paul Molitor for 9th.  That would make him 1st among all players whose careers began after the JFK assassination.) Cano flew out, but Soriano hit one out to make it 5-4 Yankees.  It was his first home run as a Yankee since October 19, 2003, Game 2 of that year's World Series.  (Other than that, he was just 4-for-21 in that Series, and that's one of the reasons he was traded for A-Rod.)

But Hughes gave the one-run lead right back in the top of the 5th, allowing the Rays to tie it up, giving up a home run to Wil Myers, a guy so weak he's missing an L in his first name and possibly also an E in his last name.  Then Hughes walked Matt Joyce.  Joe Girardi had seen enough, and Hughes was out, to a chorus of boos.

Preston Claiborne came in and ended the threat, pitching a perfect 5th and a perfect 6th.  Naturally, Girardi chose not to send Claiborne back out for the 7th, even though he's been very effective this season, a nice surprise.  (It would be an even nicer surprise if he'd been able to do this to keep the Yankees in first place; then again, if the Yankees had been able to get into first and stay there, Claiborne might never have been called up in, well, the first place.)

Instead, Girardi sent in the Human Gasoline Fire, Boone Logan.  In a tie game.  Fortunately, Logan pitched a perfect 7th.  David Robertson pitched a scoreless 8th.  Ichiro led off the 8th with a single, but the Yankee emergency callups -- Brent Lillibridge, David Adams and Chris Stewart -- couldn't get him home.  In spite of it being a tie game, not a save situation, Girardi brought in Mariano Rivera to pitch the 9th, and the Sandman induced 3 weak groundouts.

Bottom of the 9th.  The Yankees need a win very badly, and doing it in walkoff fashion would sure lift the team.  Gardner led off with a walk.  Jake McGee was now pitching for the Rays, and he uncorked a wild pitch.  (You never see the word "uncork(ed)" unless you're talking about a bottle of wine, especially champagne, or a wild pitch.)

Jeter was the batter, and the fans were roaring, hoping that Captain Clutch could single home the winning run.  The Rays decided that, with McGee being lefthanded, and Jeter's run meaning nothing, it was better to walk him and pitch to Cano, who, however deadly, is a lefty.  Naturally, the fans booed, but it was absolutely the right call for the Rays.  Sure enough, McGee struck Cano out.

Soriano was next, and he singled to center, and Jeter came home.  Yankees 6, Rays 5.  Or, as John Sterling so eloquently put it, "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!"

WP: Rivera (2-2).  LP: McGee (2-3).  (I wonder if Gibbs gave McGee a headslap.)
*
Last night, the Yankees were idle, but the Rays went up to Fenway and beat The Scum, 2-1.  So now, the Rays are in first:

Tampa Bay 63-43
Boston 63-44 1/2 game back (1 in the loss column)
Baltimore 58-48 5
New York 55-50 7 1/2 (7)
Toronto 48-57 14 1/2 (14)

The Yankees have 57 games left.  Nine weeks.  We can do this.

*

Rest in peace, George Scott.  The native of Greenville, Mississippi was discovered by Ed Scott, who had also signed Hank Aaron to the Braves.  George (no relation to his discoverer) played 1st base for the Red Sox from 1966 to 1971, and was part of their "Impossible Dream" Pennant of 1967, batting .303 with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs.  (However, Bob Gibson struck him out on a high fastball for the Series' final out -- though the Sox' loss can be blamed a lot more on Gibson and Lou Brock than on anything they, including Scott, did wrong.) The Red Sox traded Scott, fellow '67 hero Jim Lonborg, and a pair of lesser brothers, Billy Conigliaro and Ken Brett, to the Milwaukee Brewers for Tommy Harper, Marty Pattin and Lew Krausse.

Bad move for the Sox, good move for "Boomer." Although he was no longer aiming for Fenway's Green Monster, his production actually went up.  In 1973, he batted .306 with 24 homers and 107 RBIs.  He led the American League in total bases with 295.  In 1975, he had an even better year, batting .285, and leading the AL in home runs with 36 (shared the lead with Reggie Jackson), 109 RBIs, and 318 total bases.  Had the Brewers been a better team at that point, he would have been a good candidate for the AL Most Valuable Player award.  (Instead, it went to Red Sox center fielder Fred Lynn.) But he also led the league in grounding into double plays for the 3rd time in his career, with 26.  Although he moved around 1st base pretty well, winning 8 Gold Gloves, he was putting on weight and did not run very fast.

In 1977, the Sox realized they'd made a mistake, and got Scott back from the Brewers, but compounded their mistake by trading away their current 1st baseman, Cecil Cooper, who became a star in Milwaukee, and Bernie Carbo, an outfielder who came up with some big pinch hits and whom the Sox really could have used over the next couple of years.

In 1978, the Sox led the AL East by 9 games at one point, with the Yankees 14 back.  Scott went into slumps of 0-for-21, 0-for-12, and 0-for-36 -- the latter including the "Boston Massacre" series of September 7-10.  When asked what was going wrong with the team as the Yankees went from 14 games down to 3 1/2 games up, Scott provided the word that has come to define the Red Sox ever since: "Some of these guys are choking, man." Including himself.  The Sox did manage to forge a tie on the last day of the season, but you know how that ended: Bucky Blessed Dent.  Scott finished the season batting .233.  (No, Brian Cashman, you can't re-sign him in the hope that he can make a comeback.)

Actually, the Yankees did sign Scott.  The Sox traded him to the Kansas City Royals on June 13, 1979, and they released him on August 17.  The Yankees signed him on August 26, and assigned him Number 41 -- he wore 5 during his first go-round with the Sox and with the Brewers, and 15 in his return to Boston, plus 0 (zero) in his brief Kansas City sojourn.  He didn't do all that badly in The Bronx, coming to the plate 47 times, batting .318 with a homer and 6 RBIs.  But by that point, the season was lost.  The Yankees released him in November, and he never played in the majors again.  He was 35, and ended his career with 271 home runs and a reputation as a sterling defender and a decent guy -- his September 1978 assessment of his teammates notwithstanding.

Scott managed in the minor leagues for a few years after his retirement, was elected to the Red Sox' team Hall of Fame, and died on Sunday, at age 69.  He had 3 children, and a grandson, Deion Williams, is now pitching in the Washington Nationals system.
Scott also appears to have been the first player who called home runs "taters." I have heard, but cannot confirm, that my man Reggie Jackson was the first to call them "dingers."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Strikeout Soriano Returns, Putting Damper On Fine Kuroda Performance

Once upon a time, the Yankees had a player named Alfonso Soriano.  He looked like the next great star.  He could hit for average.  He could hit for power.  He could run.  He was exciting.  He was going to be a part of the next Yankee Dynasty.  And he was only 28.

(No, the cover in that photo is not a photoshop, reflecting what could happen over the rest of this season.  It's a real one, from 2002, and if you're wondering about the "strike" reference, a strike was very narrowly avoided on August 30.)

There were two problems: He struck out too much, and he couldn't field any position.

You think I'm kidding about the strikeouts? Okay, look at this:

Player A: 126, 125, 120, 113, 112
Player B: 171*, 161*, 156*, 142*, 141*
Player C: 160*, 157, 153*, 130, 130*

All 3 are players who played for the Yankees and were said to "strike out too much." These are their 5 highest single-season strikeout totals.  However, in seasons in which these totals were with teams other than the Yankees, I have put an asterisk.  If you including only their Yankee seasons, then...

Player A: 126, 125, 120, 113, 112
Player B: 133, 129, 122, 107, 82
Player C: 157, 130, 125, 15, 3

Suddenly, Player B looks a lot better -- although it should be noted that the 82-K season was strike-shortened 1981, so he was on pace for around 120.  You can also guess that player C was only a Yankee for 5 seasons, including 2 in which he spent most of the season in the minor leagues.

Player A is Mickey Mantle.  By today's standards, Mickey didn't strike out all that much.

Player B is Reggie Jackson.

Player C is Alfonso Soriano.

On February 16, 2004, the Yankees traded Soriano and a player to be named later to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez and a rejiggering of A-Rod's contract.

The PTBNL turned out to be Joaquin Arias, then a 19-year-old infielder in A-ball.  He was an infielder who wouldn't reach the major leagues until 2006, and had played only 41 big-league games by the end of the 2009 season.  No great loss, right?

Actually, he is now the backup 3rd baseman for the San Francisco Giants, and in 60 games is batting .282.  Maybe the Ynkees could use him now after all.

As of right now, Soriano has 389 career home runs -- as many as Johnny Bench, 1 less than Graig Nettles, and more than such legendary slugers as Frank Howard, Jim Rice, Ralph Kiner, Johnny Mize, Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio.  He also has 458 doubles, more than Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams and Don Mattingly ended up with.

But this season, Soriano is batting .254, with an OPS+ of 102.  That means that he's been 2 percent better than the average hitter.  Two percent.

He has 17 home runs and 51 RBIs -- on pace for around 25 and 75.  This was done while playing his home games at Wrigley Field, usually a hitter's park.

And he's 37 years old.  And he's already struck out 89 times -- on pace for around 135.  And he still can't play any position well enough to not DH him.

According to Mark Feinsand in today's Daily News, the Yankees will only give up a mid-level prospect for Soriano.

If this doesn't work, Brian Cashman should be unemployed by Halloween.

And in order for it to work, Soriano will have to put up a performance that will erase our last memory of him, the 2003 World Series, when he batted .227 and struck out -- how many times, Mr. Rooney? "Nine times!" After batting .133 and striking out 11 times against the Red Sox in the ALCS that ended with a home run by Aaron Boone, who was playing 3rd base, mainly because Soriano couldn't.

If this is the Yankees' only noticeable move before the trading deadline (this coming Wednesday), it could come back to haunt us.

*

Oh, there was a game yesterday.  And in it, again, the Yankees didn't hit much.

But this time, it didn't matter, because Hiroki Kuroda pitched like the ace of a contending team.  He went 7 innings (okay, maybe not an ace by the standards of my youth), 6 hits, 1 walk, and no runs (okay, that is an ace by anyone's standards).  David Robertson pitched a scoreless 8th, and Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless 9th.  In other words, what you would hope would be "the usual."

Austin Romine had the first 3-hit game of his career, including a double to lead off the 6th inning.  Ichiro Suzuki sacrificed him to 2nd, and Brent Lillibridge doubled him home.  With 1 out in the 8th, Robinson Cano doubled, Vernon Wells singled him over to 3rd, and Eduardo Nunez grounded into a forceout to get Cano home.

That was it.  But, this time, it was enough.  Yankees 2, Rangers 0.  WP: Kuroda (10-6).  SV: Rivera (33).  LP: Derek Holland (8-6, and if I didn't hate Dallas I'd say he deserved a better fate).  The 4-game series was split.

*

So with the Yankees 6 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox (6 in the loss column), the surging Tampa Bay Rays half a game back (even in the loss column), and the Baltimore Orioles 4 back, the Yankees come home to face the Rays, while the Sox visit the O's.

The Rays have won 8 o their last 10, but are only 26-23 on the road.  Granted, we're only 28-23 at home, but we should have the advantage.

Projected pitching matchups:

Tonight, 7:05: CC Sabathia vs. Jeremy Hellickson.  We need the Big Fella to be an ace again.

Tomorrow, 1:05: Ivan Nova vs. Chris Archer.  Nova has pitched pretty well lately, let's hope he can do it again.

Sunday, 1:05: Phil Hughes vs. Matt Moore.  Moore is 14-3, and a pretty good candidate for the Cy Young Award.  But Hughes has also snapped out of it recently and pitched well.

So all 3 of these games look winnable.

The Rays' website has the slogan "WELCOME HOME." As if they are desperate for fans to come to their games.  All that winning they've done since 2008, and they still can't draw flies to that stupid dome.

Well, they're on the road this weekend, so they can't do anything about it now.

*

Six and a half games back.  There are 9 weeks (plus this weekend) left in the regular season.  And there are 10 games remaining against the Sox.

It's not that hard.  We've come back to finish 1st before.  Especially against the Sox.

But is Soriano the answer? If so, Brian Cashman may not have heard the question correctly.

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.

*

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.