August 17, 1997
Dodger Dreams Pt. Two
Last week I brought you Part One of my trip to Dodger Stadium, with press box, field, and clubhouse access. Here is ... the rest of the story.
7:07pm – Hideo Nomo delivers the first pitch of the evening. It’s a strike to the Rockies Eric Young.
7:10pm – Local sportscaster Stu Nahan from Channel 5 (you’ve seen him as the ringside announcer in all the Rocky movies) plays baseball trivia with the troops in the press box. Tonight’s question: Name the five players in major league history who have hit more than 300 home runs, whose initials are "R.C." (See answer below!)
7:16pm – After trivia, the burning question among the press corps turns to a comparative analysis: Which was the stronger "mania," "Fernando-mania" or "Nomo-mania?" "Fernando-mania" is the consensus answer.
7:22pm – The Dodgers offense kicks into gear, with Eric Karros and Raul Mondesi hitting back to back homers.
7:41pm – More trivia: There are only two days during the year where there are no baseball, football, hockey, or basketball games. Does that make sense? On 363 days a year, there is at least one big league game in the all of the sports. What are the two "dead" days? (Answer also below!)
7:50pm – Another local sportscaster, Jim Hill, from Channel 2, shows up, and we juggle seats to accommodate him.
7:51pm – More on the big news of the night: The Dodger P.R. staff briefs us on the status of Ramon Martinez’s arm injury. It’s a small rotator cuff injury, which they’ll try to heal with rest.
8:10pm – There’s a routine established now; the print journalism writers sit near the front, keeping close tabs on the game, and updating their stories accordingly. Some of the early press runs begin soon, so they’ve got to file what they have. Their clacking keys can be heard quite clearly from my vantage point, in the top (third) row of the press box. Also, it’s interesting to watch P.A. announcer Mike Carlucci dart away between introducing players. "Now batting, number 31, catcher, Mike Piazza." Then he scampers off somewhere, and hopes Piazza doesn’t make out on the first pitch.
8:16pm – More cool things about the press box: Free popcorn, free iced tea, and no waiting for the clean restroom, located about 30 feet away.
8:29pm – Nancy Bea Hefley, Dodger Stadium Organist, voices the question thought by many Dodger fans: During a trip to the mound, what does Mike Piazza say to Hideo Nomo? Nomo still speaks with an interpreter, though the smart money says that’s just his way of keeping the media at bay.
8:41pm – Now available, in the press box dinning area, all the Dodger Dogs you can eat. The only bad thing: No Gulden’s spicy mustard, like you can find out at the concession stands. Admittedly, this is the lamest complaint ever.
8:42pm – One-time L.A. TV sports phenomenon Vic "The Brick" Jacobs is in the house. He’s doing sports on the radio now, after viewers apparently tired of his brick shtick.
8:45pm – "The Brick" kisses Nancy Bea. I wonder if she minds his bizarre mutton chops?
8:49pm – "Dodger Cooler Bag Night" is tomorrow night at the Stadium … so of course, we media types get our bag tonight.
9:01pm – Stretch time at the Stadium. Nancy Bea plays "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" for the umpteen-zillionth time.
9:13pm – The Dodgers are rallying, I’m helping myself to complimentary yogurt, and Hall of Fame broadcaster (and my lifelong idol) Vin Scully is standing about five feet away talking to the press corps while he’s taking a break from the broadcast.
9:19pm – People talk to Nancy Bea while she’s playing, asking her about song titles. There is the smallest of pauses in her tempo while she answers. For future reference, I make a note to listen for those pauses, and wonder what people are talking to her about when they occur.
9:44pm – It’s over. Dodger victory.
Post-game in the clubhouse
Apparently, after a Dodger victory, rocking Van Halen music is blared through the clubhouse.
Eric Karros talks about how the team has been doing, saying "we’re not going to be a horseshit team like you guys (the media) think …" Apparently, "horseshit" is still the preferred curse of baseball players. Jim Bouton first chronicled its extensive use in his groundbreaking book "Ball Four." I recommend that book; it’s a lot of fun, and contains a lot of inside the clubhouse, behind the scenes stuff that is unforgettable.
9:55pm – It’s not yet quite 12 minutes since the last out, and young outfielder Roger Cedeno is dressed and on his way out the door.
I slip in to manager Bill Russell’s office for his comments. From what I can see, the office has changed a bit since the Tommy Lasorda days. Gone are the celebrity photos, and now the office has a very muted, understated feel, much like the manager.
Nomo gives his post-game interview in jeans and a Polo shirt, using an interpreter. He says the Dodgers pitching staff consists of "men of destiny." This is either an odd translation, or a very Zen perspective about the club’s pitchers.
Raul Mondesi is chowing down a big post-game meal. Lots of chicken, lots of steak on his plate.
Chan Ho Park gives a high five to one of Todd Zeile’s kids, as Park leaves for the evening.
Mike Piazza is answering questions for one writer. I decide to join in, asking the All-Star catcher about the Dodgers tendency to get hotter in the second half of the season. Piazza says "We are a good team after the break. But we need to be able to get momentum. We need to stay aggressive and win games so we don’t have to come back later …"
10:32pm – I’m back out in the parking lot, having stalled with trips to the field and the water fountains for as long as I could. Now, it’s just me and a few stadium workers in Parking Lot Four, my usual lot. The stadium lights are still on, but all of the players are long gone, the game quickly fading into that place in your memory where old baseball games go. The glow of this night will take a little longer to fade than your usual game. My Dodger dreams came true.
The five "R.C." players with 300 career homers:
1. Ron Cey
2. Roy Campanella
3. Rico Carty
4. Roberto Clemente
5. Rocky Colavito
The two days with no major league sporting events: The day before and the day after the MLB All-Star Game.
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