A visit to the nostalgic home of the less than artful Dodgers | Mudville | Chicago Reader

A visit to the nostalgic home of the less than artful Dodgers 

Dodger Stadium is about the only thing the Los Angeles Dodgers have going for them

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As the all-star game hubbub passes and the baseball season starts its second run, Los Angeles Dodgers fans can proudly raise a pair of middle fingers to the whining, woe-is-me bullshit of Cubs and Sox fans, because the Dodgers only have two things going for them now: Matt Kemp, who is just killing it, and Dodger Stadium.

When I visited southern California a couple weeks ago, one of my few checklist items besides lollygagging around überwealthy beach towns and stuffing my face with self-serve frozen yogurt was to take in a Dodgers game. Though I was raised a devout Reds fan, I've always appreciated the hell out of Wrigley Field's authentic, my-dad-used-to-take-me-to-games-here aesthetic, so I thought baseball's third oldest stadium (Fenway and Wrigley are first and second respectively) would make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

But with the Dodgers' recent, well-publicized shame spiral already out of control, the brilliant stadium was lifeless. Never mind the thousands of empty seats, lazy Monday LA evening, and ho-hum interleague game against the Tigers—the few fans in attendance were simply apathetic, and not in any mellow SoCal way. The club has compounded its embarrassment over the vicious Bryan Stow beating during the season opener (the San Fran fan's condition has recently been upgraded from critical to serious) by loitering around last place in the NL West (not your fault, Matt Kemp) and with the sideshow orchestrated by owner Frank McCourt that has pushed the team to file for bankruptcy protection. So it's not hard to understand why a team that went to the NL championship series in both '08 (sorry, Cubs fans) and '09 is now a shell of its former self.

The history of Dodger Stadium, though, is palpable even as you climb the hills of Echo Park to Chavez Ravine. The time capsule is filled with perfectly situated palm trees, lazy sunshine, and an air of vintage. It lacks the corporate tag applied to most modern-day stadiums even though it sits a little over five miles from the world's mightiest entertainment conglomerate. (It does, however, pay homage to the nostalgic Hollywood sign with its own iconic, mountainside creation that simply reads "Think Blue".) And during a series of renovations in 2005, McCourt gutted the seats and smartly replaced them with seats painted in the stadium's classic, less gaudy 1962 color scheme. The park is old-school in all the right ways. For someone who was camped in front of the TV when Kirk Gibson homered off Dennis Eckersley in '88 and has seen the highlight over and over, it was just cool being there, regardless of the proud franchise's current turmoil. As long as the club keeps sticking Tommy Lasorda's ageless talking head on the Jumbotron, everything will seem OK. —Kevin Warwick

E-mail Kevin Warwick at kwarwick@chicagoreader.com.

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