SOME SPANISH LINGO
Baseball's association with Latin America goes back to the turn of the century. The expanding American Empire propped up so-called "banana republics" and brought baseball to those lands, but it was the Negro Leagues that truly popularized the game south of the border.
Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo invited barnstorming Negro stars to play in his country in order to divert the population from repression. According to legend he insinuated that if they lost any games they would be jailed . . . or worse. They went unbeaten. This barnstorming tour included trips to the island of Cuba, already a beisbol hotbed. One of the first great Cuban players was Havana-born Dolf Luque, who won 14 games for Brooklyn in 1930. In fact, there were some aborted early attempts to bring in black players under the guise that they were Cubans, a particular irony since in theory the game was willing to accept a black foreigner but not a man with the same skin color, who was an American citizen.
Al Lopez came out of Florida to play for the Dodgers from 1928 until 1935, and later became a big league manager. Branch Rickey of course brought black players into organized baseball. He also expanded the game into Latin America, first by sending his club to Havana, then through the scouting of talented stars. Brooklyn originally had Roberto Clemente, but Rickey was gone by then and the club failed to see Clemente's potential. In an act of "revenge," Rickey arranged for Clemente to come over to the club he took over, Pittsburgh. Rickey built the Pirates and later the St. Louis Cardinals into champions in large measure through talented Latino stars.
Sandy Amoros was a Cuban who made the famed catch of a slicing Yogi Berra fly to save game seven of the 1955 World Series, but oddly the Dodgers did not lead the way in Latin America after the club moved to Los Angeles with its huge Mexican-American population. The Giants were ahead of them, but the Dodgers caught up when they established an academy in Latin America, which was one of the big moves in developing the phenomenal talent that has followed in all the years since.
Fernando Valenzuela's huge debut in 1981 and great success in the early 1980s is credited with not only making the Dodgers more popular with Latinos, but in many ways repairing social rifts that existed with whites in L.A. It created paradigm social and political changes in the City of the Angels. Valenzuela was the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young award winner, and MVP in 1981, pitching Los Angeles to a World Series victory. He won 19 games in 1982 and had his best overall season in 1986 (21-11, 20 complete games). Pedro Guerrero was a slugger in the 1980s, part of a new wave of longball artists from Latin America, which heretofore produced stereotypical fast, wiry middle infield types. In 1985 Guerrero threatened to break Babe Ruth's single-month home record in June, and finished with 33 homers and a .320 average. Over time, the "Latino slugger" emerged.
Raul Mondesi was a "five-tool player" in the mid-1990s. He was the 1994 Rookie of the Year when he batted .306 with 27 doubles, and in 1995 slammed 26 homers with 88 RBIs. Ramon Martinez seemed headed for Cooperstown until arm problems shortened his career. Martinez was a 20-game winner with a 2.92 earned run average in 1990. Adrian Beltre was a major home run threat in the 2000s
"BUY ME SOME PEANUTS AND CRACKER JACK"
Naturally, the best hot dogs in baseball were sold in and outside Ebbets Field. After all, Brooklyn was the home of the famed Coney Island hot dogs. Kosher hot dogs preferred by the borough's Jewish folks were said to be so good because they "had to answer to a higher authority."
The popular Shaefer beer billboard in Brooklyn indicated fans' love for brew, which was an art form at the ballparks, taverns and living rooms of its denizens. With a large Irish and Italian Catholic population, it was not uncommon to see friendly priests quaffing cold ones in Brooklyn.
Rod Dedeaux, briefly a Dodger but a longtime drinking buddy of one-time Brooklyn manager Casey Stengel, famously stated, "No drinking before the game, but afterwards there's nothing like a tub a suds." Dodgers players were sober before the first pitch, but were known to shop and drink with fans at local pubs. Some would pick up a hot dog and cold beer outside the park on their way home. There was none of the velvet rope, cordoned-off world that "protects" modern players from their supporters.
Dodger Dogs in Los Angeles are legendary; long, thin dogs, lightly barbecued on grilled, fresh buns. Umm. Generations of kids fell in love with 'em. Arthur Smith, the creator of the Dodger Dog, passed away in June, 2006. The condiments at Dodger Stadium were kept clean and crisp for years when fans at other stadiums were given soggy buns and mushy relish on overcrowded, poorly arranged tables. Then there were Walt's Malts and Dandy Sandy's (ice cream).
For years Miller had the beer account at Dodger Stadium, and the corporate maneuverings by their competitors to break this stronghold are legendary in beer biz circles. Over time, Dodger Stadium kept up with the Jones's by expanding food and refreshment selections for an increasing health-conscious, eclectic fan base. With the influx of Japanese players and fans, sushi is now a popular item.
The stadium club has long allowed celebrities and the powerful to dine in comfort without being bothered by ordinary fans. Offering an unrestricted view of the stadium and game, the club offers five-star (albeit expensive) quality food, and a fabulous buffet. The unique Hollywood art form of avoiding paparazzi and screaming fans somehow has never had to be enforced to great extent at Dodger Stadium, however. Average Los Angelenos are used to star sightings and do not go overboard when they come in contact with the rich and famous. People watching is one of the favorite stadium activities with particularly cheering reserved for pretty girls.
Despite the excellent stadium club and refreshment stand offerings, the press box is notoriously crowded with below-par food offerings. Tommy Lasorda is known to speak in Spanish to the chefs and food servers, offering his Italian cuisine creds, but his expertise has not resulted in high quality for some reason. Lasorda also touts a nearby Italian restaurant (oddly located in Chinatown) called Little Joe's, but Little Joe's is overpriced with small portions of Denny's-quality fare. Take the time to drive west on Sunset and dine at Musso and Frank's instead.
BATTLE FOR THE CITY OF ANGELS, MISSION ACROSS TH E ORANGE CURTAIN, AND THE WAR OF NORTHERN AGGRESSION
The Dodger battles over the years have more often resembled the up-close fighting of Gettysburg, or perhaps even the more in-your-face struggles of the Spartans and Persians, than an air campaign or nuclear exchange.
Their "enemies" have always been just across the border. In New York, of course, these rivals included the Giants and Yankees, separated from Brooklyn only by Manhattan. In California, Big Sur divides Southern from Northern California. But since 1961, the Dodgers have shared close quarters with the Angels.
In 1961 the Angels played at Wrigley Field on Avalon, but when Dodger Stadium opened in 1962 they rented it from O'Malley. It was not a happy relationship. The Angels' ticket offices were placed in a hard-to-find area outside the stadium. Their clubhouse was crowded and offered none of the amenities the Dodgers enjoyed. O'Malley penuriously charged them for towels, toilet paper, soap and seemingly the air, which certainly did not engender friendship with the Angels' owner, Gene "the Singing Cowboy" Autry.
O'Malley was afraid the Angels would cut into his fan base. He brought in Leo Durocher as a "celebrity coach" in order to countermand press attention (while harassing Walt Alston) devoted to the Angels, and was apoplectic when in the summer of '62 an Angel rookie, Bo Belinsky, became the most publicized athlete in America. One of the most unique personalities in sports history, Bo was a Jersey pool hustler who held out for a few thousand dollars. When writer Bud Furillo inquired what he was doing, Bo said he was winning high stakes pool tournaments and "satisfying" the female population of Trenton. When Bo pitched a no-hitter for the Angels, he started squiring beautiful Hollywood actresses while hanging out with Walter Winchell, Frank Sinatra, Hugh Hefner and other gliterati.
The Angels seemed to lose much of their personality when they moved to Orange County, but the Dodgers found themselves in a constant war for fan, newspaper and media attention from the desert to the beaches. Eventually, a pre-season "subway series" was established, but the rivalry heated up in intensity when inter-league play began. Trips to Anaheim became hit 'n' run missions across the so-called "Orange Curtain." For years, the Dodgers held the edge on the field, their tradition far out-distancing that of the upstart Angels, but when the Halos won the 2002 World Series 14 years after L.A. captured their last title, all bets were off. When the Orange Countians took on the new name Los Angeles Angels, it was like Hannibal gathering outside the gates of Rome.
Obviously, the San Francisco Giants are the great rival of the Dodgers, and in large measure because of this, the city of San Francisco and indeed all of the Bay Area, and Northern California, considers itself a cultural and sports rival. This extends to the high schools, other pro rivalries like the 49ers vs. Rams (before their move to St. Louis) and in fierce manner, the colleges. California and Stanford think of UCLA, and particularly USC, as hated occupiers when they and their fans invade the Bay Area, representing smog, plastic-enhanced women, and so-called fakery of all stripes.
The Oakland A's were given second class status in the Bay Area, but quickly outdid the entrenched Giants by virtue of pure excellence. The A's might have been natural rivals of the Angels, but until recent years there was little real rivalry. It mainly consisted of the A's winning and the Angels not winning.
For many years in the 1970s and early 1980s the Dodgers hardly thought of the Giants as rivals. San Francisco's teams were bad, its stadium stank, the uniforms were garish, and their fans lacked class. Rivals? Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia; the clubs that needed to be beaten in order to get to the World Series. But the A's at one point dominated all of these powerhouses, beating Cincinnati in the 1972 Series en route to three straight titles. In 1974, the Dodgers played Oakland in the Fall Classic.
Los Angeles paid the classic price of respect. Despite the A's two world championships, the Dodgers thought of themselves as superior; their shrine of a stadium, celebrity fans, great weather and 102-win record compared to the A's blue collar supporters in a dingy stadium, odd-colored uniforms and long hair. Only Steve Garvey respected the A's who, led by such greats as Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers and Sal Bando, destroyed L.A. in five games. The final indignity came when Bill Buckner tried to stretch a no-out single-turned-into-an-error from two bases into three, only to be gunned down, a mental mistake more egregious than his 1986 grounder-under-the-legs error costing Boston the series against the Mets.
14 years later, the A's entered Dodger Stadium like Julius Caesar against a supposedly out-manned Dodger team, but this time Kirk Gibson's miraculous game one homer and the unworldly pitching heroics of Orel Hershiser returned the favor in five-game fashion.
A sense of common respect felt between the players and the fans, not unlike the relationship between Southern California and Notre Dame, has since pervaded the A's-Dodgers inter-league rivalry. There is a feeling that here are two of baseball's greatest historical franchises; each one a church with traditions to be adhered to.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism