When you come to Chavez Ravine, the ballpark embraces you and makes you think of the memories you made here as a boy. You have children of your own now. You sit them in the same creaky blue seats and watch them marvel at those incredibly clean white jerseys bouncing on that incredibly green grass.
By Chris Umpierre
I can go years between visits but when I return she is always the same.
Still beautiful. Still inspiring. Still venerable.
She is 54 years old now, but she doesn’t look it. She wears all of today’s state-of-the-art amenities and technological advances. The updates are nice and all, but they are ancillary to what she is all about.
Sightlines, world-famous hot dogs, a perennial winning team, history and views make her one of a kind. Just pause for a moment and take a look at that skyline poking behind the left field pavilion.
Dodger Stadium — that famous Los Angeles ballpark built on a hill – is like family to me and thousands of Angelenos. When you come to Chavez Ravine, the ballpark embraces you and makes you think of the memories you made here as a boy.
You have children of your own now. You sit them in the same creaky blue seats and watch them marvel at those incredibly clean white jerseys bouncing on that incredibly green grass. Your kids giggle as they eat those famous Dodger dogs. They smile as they watch the Dodgers. They stare at that city skyline behind left field.
Vin Scully. Dodger dogs. Jackie Robinson. There are so many things that make the Los Angeles Dodgers special. But it all begins and ends with Dodger Stadium.
Dodger Stadium, which opened in 1962, is MLB’s third oldest venue behind only Fenway Park (1912) and Wrigley Field (1914).
Through the years, different Dodgers ownership groups have modernized Chavez Ravine. Today, ridiculously expensive luxury boxes sit behind home plate. New roomy seats sit along the foul lines. The ballpark is now emboldened with state-of-the-art WiFi, luxurious home and visitor locker rooms and two large jumbotrons.
The new amenities coupled with its views make Dodger Stadium the best venue in sports. Did you know? When Dodger Stadium was being built (it only cost $23 million to build!), the stadium was actually carved into the Chavez Ravine, a shallow L-shaped canyon in Los Angeles. That’s why it has its incredible views of the city.
But Dodger Stadium is not all about the views. The ballpark is special because it brings families and friends together. It’s the site of marriage proposals, major concerts, father and son moments and more.
My 10 Trips to Chavez Ravine
My Little Brother “Catching” a Devon White Home Run Ball
I secured seats to the 1999 Opening Day by calling the Dodger ticket line, oh, about 10,201 times. I got tickets in the first row in the left centerfield pavilion. I was proud.
As the game got closer, we realized this would be a national game. Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson would pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks; Kevin Brown for the Dodgers. They were two of the most dominant pitchers at the time.
Both pitchers had just received MAJOR deals in the offseason. Johnson inked a $52.4 million, four-year contract. Brown became baseball’s richest player when he signed a $105 million, seven-year deal.
Johnson pitched better on April 5, 1999 (two runs allowed in seven innings), but the Dodgers won 8-6 in 11 innings. Dodgers outfielder Raul Mondesi won the game on a two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the 11th.
But the biggest play, at least for us, happened in the fourth inning when Dodgers centerfield Devon White hit a long fly ball to left centerfield. The ball went over the fence and crashed into the chest of a cameraman adjacent to our seats. The ball bounced down and four Dodger fans, including my brother, raced down the steps.
My brother somehow got the ball. I can still remember the look on his face as he raced up the steps with the ball held high in his right hand. We jumped up and down and celebrated. The fans around us congratulated my brother. We were on the jumbotron! It was like WE had won the World Series!
At the height of our celebration, we looked up and saw Dodgers security. We had to leave the stadium, he said. Why? Dodgers security thought we had jumped into the camera well to get the ball. The Dodgers had confused my brother for another fan. Jumping into a camera well is a fast way to get ejected.
We told security they were mistaken. Other fans argued for us. My brother got the ball by sticking his hand through the bottom of the chain-link fence. We were vindicated! We went back to our seats, and celebrated some more.
I recently looked at the newspaper clips from the game, and smiled when I saw this:
“For the most part, I felt like I pitched pretty well,” Johnson said. “I went seven strong innings. The only pitch I wish I could have back was one to Devon White. It was a breaking ball and I didn’t think he hit it that well. But obviously, he did.”
Dodger Stadium Tour with my Grandfather
The Dodgers offer a very cool stadium tour. It’s worth it. You get to walk through the VIP luxury suites, the press box, the dugout and more.
My grandfather came with us on the tour. My grandfather was a huge Dodger fan. We learned the game and our love for the Dodgers from him and my father. I can still remember the grin on my grandfather’s face when he sat down on the bench in the Dodgers dugout on that stadium tour.
My grandfather always preferred to sit as close as he could at Dodger games, and now he was sitting in THE Dodgers dugout. He pretended to be Tommy Lasorda and ordered some instructions to the mythical players on the field. It is these moments I remember when I think of my grandfather, who passed away in 2011.
Attending the first Jackie Robinson Day Game
We went to the first Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, 2009.
In an unprecedented move, Major League Baseball renamed April 15 as Jackie Robinson Day and had all players wear his No. 42 jersey. More than 330 players, managers, coaches and umpires wore No. 42 to honor Jackie Robinson on the 62nd anniversary of the day he broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier.
This, by the way, was my wife’s first game at Dodger Stadium. What an introduction.
Watching Yasiel Puig’s First Two Home Runs as a Dodger
We went to Puig’s second-ever game as a Dodger. It was June 4, 2013, and it was a night to remember.
Puig clubbed two home runs, including a grand slam, to lead the Dodgers to a victory. It was the start of Puigmania, which lasted for a couple years. The Dodgers might trade Puig in the offseason but we will always remember June 4, 2013.
Going on the Field on Meet the Dodgers Day
I had never been to a Meet the Dodgers Day so when I saw it on the schedule I had to schedule our vacation around it.
Before a day game, fans get to walk onto the field and take photos with Dodger players. The players come out one at a time and linger near temporary fences to sign autographs and snap photos.
My father loved it. He talked to every player he could. I remember talking up backup catcher Matt Treanor, the husband of famed beach volleyball player Misty May-Treanor. I don’t remember what Dad was talking to him about but I do remember Treanor’s look on his face. He was so focused on what Dad was saying.
I took advantage of the opportunity of being on the field to mimic catching fly balls over the outfield fence.
T-Bone Shelby Making a Local Appearance
OK, this wasn’t a particular game. It was just a memory of going to a youth baseball camp as a kid and meeting Dodgers outfielder John T-Bone Shelby.
Shelby was a key player on the Dodgers’ last World Series team in 1988. He made a great catch in the division series (see below).
When a big-league player talks to you as a Little Leaguer, it leaves a lasting impression. By the way, do you know why he was called T-Bone? They called him T-Bone because he was skinny.
“Catching” a Foul Ball after it Rolled into a French Fry Basket
I always wait for bounces whenever a foul ball comes near me. You never know which way the ball will bounce. One game at Dodger Stadium, a foul ball clanked in a row before me.
I jumped down and stuck my hand under the seat. I pulled out the ball. And there it was, covered in ketchup! The ball had rolled into a French fry basket. It didn’t care. I had a foul ball!
Fireworks on the Field
This one happened on our most recent trip to L.A. in August 2016.
I assumed fans wouldn’t be allowed on the Dodger Stadium field for the post-game fireworks. I was wrong. Sure, the Dodgers set up barricades but the fans were allowed on the field.
It was pretty cool to watch the fireworks from centerfield.
Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa Putting on a Show
Ah, the summer of 1998. MLB players were on steroids but wow, did they put on a show. I remember watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa clout some massive home runs during batting practice at Dodger Stadium.
I caught one of Sosa’s batting practice homers. Still have it.
Barry Bonds getting Showered with Boos
Barry Bonds was another show. Yes, he likely used steroids but man, could he hit. The San Francisco Giants and Dodgers are fierce rivals, but Bonds got most of the vitriol.
Today, Bonds is a hitting coach with the Miami Marlins. We saw baseball’s home run king* at a pre-season Marlins event last year. He’s significantly skinnier. I think I actually saw the famously mercurial Bonds smile.