When you talk about venerable major-league ballparks, a short list must contain Dodger Stadium. Built in 1962 by the O’Malley family and designed by Emil Praeger on the hillside of Chavez Ravine, Dodger Stadium for many years was the gold standard in ballparks, the facility by which all other ballparks were compared.
Year Opened: 1962
Owner: Los Angeles Dodgers
Cost: $23 million
Architect: Emil Praeger
Dimensions: 330L, 383LC, 400C, 385RC, 330R
Playing Surface: Grass
League: National League
Other Names: The ballpark opened as Dodger Stadium. When the American League’s Los Angeles Angels played there, their announcers would take great pains to call the ballpark Chavez Ravine and not Dodger Stadium.
Other Tenants: None currently. The Los Angeles/California Angels played at Dodger Stadium from April 17, 1962 to September 22, 1965.
First Game: On April 10, 1962, Kay O’Malley tossed the ceremonial first pitch to catcher John Roseboro to open the new ballpark. The Dodgers lost to the Reds 6-3, with Cincy’s Wally Post hitting the first homer. Though there were some early problems (there were only two working water fountains on Opening Day), overall Dodger Stadium was well-received by the local sporting community.
Landmark Events: Dodger Stadium has hosted eight World Series, with the Dodgers winning four (1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988). In 1963 the Dodgers swept the Yankees 4-0 behind Sandy Koufax, who three complete games in Games One and Four (striking out 15 in Game One). In 1965 the Dodgers needed seven games to dispatch the Minnesota Twins, winning all three Series games played at Dodger Stadium. In 1981 the Dodgers once again faced the Yankees, coming out on top four games to two: this Series may be better remembers for Yankees reliever George Frazier losing three of the four games. The 1988 World Series had one of the more memorable moments in World Series history, when pinchhitter Kirk Gibson homered off Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley to give the Dodgers the win in the opening game. The real hero for the Dodgers, however, was pitcher Orel Hershiser, who won Games Two and Five in complete-game performances. The 1980 All-Star Game was played there was well, with the National League winning 4-2. Steve Stone threw three shutout innings, but the Senior Circuit took the lead for good when Phil Garner scored on a Willie Randolph error. Ken Griffey Sr., who homered off Tommy John, was named MVP. Also, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass there in 1987, and the Three Tenors reunited there in 1994.
Parking: There’s plenty of parking in the Dodger Stadium lot for $15. Forget about parking outside the ballpark and walking in.
Address/Directions: 1000 Elysian Park Av., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Chavez Ravine is northeast of downtown Los Angeles. As multiple freeways converge near Dodger Stadium, there are multiple routes to the ballpark, and most of them are visibly marked with signage. From I-101: Exit Alvarado, go north, then turn right on Sunset. Go approximately one mile and turn left on Elysian Park Avenue. You will run into Dodger Stadium. From I-110: Take the Dodger Stadium exit and go straight off the off-ramp. You will run into Dodger Stadium. From I-5 Freeway South: Exit Stadium Way, then turn left and follow the baseball signs until you enter Dodger Stadium. From I-5: Exit Stadium Way and turn left on Riverside Drive. Turn left onto Stadium Way and follow the baseball signs until you enter Dodger Stadium off Academy Road.
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Best Sections to View a Game: There are not many bad seats in Dodger Stadium; conversely, most of the seats are really great as well. Obviously you’ll have the best views between the bases (and you’ll pay for the privilege of being close to the field; the loge boxes are not cheap), but Dodger Stadium was designed solely for baseball and the seat orientations reflect that.
Best Cheap Seats: In general, the Dodgers offer a wide array of affordable seats. We’re partial to the $10 Top Deck seats, located behind home plate: from there you can see the on-field action from a great vantage point as well as take in the lovely California sunsets. The $17 Left Field Pavilion seats are a great buy as well. Sadly, the Dodgers converted the right-field Outfield Pavilion seating to a more expensive, all-you-can-stuff-in-your-face feeding trough and raised priced accordingly.
Seats to Avoid: Really, we can’t think of any. Dodger Stadium features a slight horseshoe shape, so any seats down the lines will be oriented to the infield as the grandstand curves in. One can argue the Club Level is a little overpriced at $64 (the views are great behind the plate, but the amenities are lacking when compared to club levels in other MLB ballparks), as are the infield loge boxes at $55, but in general there are very few seats to avoid in Dodger Stadium.
Most Underrated Sections: The Left-Field Pavilion seating area is only $17, and you feel like you’re in your own separate little ballpark. Actually, you are: you can’t enter the Dodger Stadium grandstand with a Pavilion ticket (similarly, those with tickets to grandstand seating can’t enter the Pavilion), and that section features its own concessions and restrooms; the only drawback is the limited view of DodgerVision scoreboards. Similarly, we think the Top Deck seats are underrated: since they rarely sell out, you can stretch out and have a great view of the ballpark and the game.
DODGER STADIUM: THE BLUE STANDARD
Many in baseball revere Dodger Stadium as representing all that’s right with baseball. At a time when ballpark designers are straining to confer a sense of history with retro designs, historic credibility is automatically part of the Dodger Stadium experience.
Dodger Stadium is a gorgeous and classic ballpark set on 300 acres, an oasis in the midst of Los Angeles. It’s interesting that the ballpark, now the second-oldest facility in the National League, was designed by Captain Emil Praeger (not known as a ballpark designer), who toured several ballparks while designing Dodger Stadium and decided not to copy any of them, preferring instead for what critics today would call an organic architecture. The ballpark is built into the side of Chavez Ravine, more like a classic auditorium built into the side of a hill than a ballpark springing from the ground. In theory, this allows you to just walk off the street (so to speak) and be directly in your section without needing an elevator or escalator – even the upper deck. The formula gets screwy these days because you’re not allowed to park where you want: the parking-lot attendants force you to the parking area of their choice, and if you must walk up the side of a hill to enter in your assigned section, so be it. (In the past you matched the color of the baseball on the parking-lot light pole with the color of your ticket. That format has been dumped.) Given that there are 16,000 parking spots in the 21 Dodger Stadium lots, not allowing you to park close to your section is simply criminal.
Let’s start out by your first exposure to the ballpark: parking and finding an entrance.
Dodger Stadium is one of the most restrictive ballparks we’ve seen when it comes to moving around the ballpark. For starters, you can enter only through the gates next to your ticket location, no matter where you park. (Or, rather, where you are directed to park. Despite having a sea of parking, the Dodgers direct you to park in specific spots; the better for traffic management, we suppose, but still annoying when you arrive early to a game and are shunted to the far reaches of a parking lot when closer spots are open.) Let’s say you’re directed to a parking lot outside of center field, but your tickets are for a Loge Box seat. You cannot enter in center field and walk through the ballpark to your seat. Instead, you must schlep along Chavez Ravine, outside the ballpark and up the hill, until you get to the gate to your section. Not the most scenic of routes.
You had better like your seat, as there’s no way to wander the ballpark. The Dodgers expect you to stick to your assigned seat and assigned section for the entire game. You cannot move between sections — unless you want to go to the upper deck, and even then you’ll get hassled, even on a night when the park is only half full. Now, granted, most fans will want to stay in their seats anyway. But there are those of us who like watching a game from multiple angles; we’re probably a little on the restless side, but walk through any MLB or MiLB park and you’ll see we’re not the only ones.
Now, in the Dodgers’ defense, there are some practical considerations in limiting fans to their section. Almost all MLB ballparks have some exclusive club level open only to ticketholders, and we don’t have a problem with that. Our issue stems from being denied entry to the outfield bleachers in the bottom of the eighth inning; we had purchased on our own spendy tickets to the game, and we wanted to see the action from the almost-empty bleachers. No way, said the guard.
His fellow guard asked him why not, pointing out the game was almost over and there was almost no one left in the bleachers.
Because we don’t, he replied.
Now, good customer service would dictate you allow someone holding a ticket to an expensive seat to move to a less expensive seat in the bottom of the eighth inning. This wasn’t a matter of crowd control, nor was it a matter of someone trying to squat a great seat in the second inning. Welcome to today’s Dodger Way.
Which is a shame, because I drove up to Dodger Stadium expecting — indeed, wanting — to be blown away by the experience. And there really is something very special about Dodger Stadium; it is certainly of the three most historic ballparks in the majors (only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field surpass it, and they each have 50+ years in head starts). It just reeks of California in a way that Angel Stadium can only dream of. With the palm trees and idyllic panorama in the background and Hollywood stars occasionally in the stands, Dodger Stadium seems to exist in its own little world. And it certainly is an oasis: the area surrounding Chavez Ravine is more than a little rundown (like most of Los Angels is these days), but enter the grounds of Dodger Stadium and things change for the better.
Mostly. But any front office wanting to preserve the historic nature of Dodger Stadium would have known enough not to install ribbon displays on the facade above the main seating bowl. Some readers of this site have derisively dubbed them “NASCAR strips,” more applicable to a gaudy racetrack than to a classic ballpark.
If you’ve gotten the idea we’re not fans of the way the Dodgers run Dodger Stadium, congrats: we’re not. Dodger Stadium is a treasure and should be treated as such. But fans should also be treasured and, give what the Dodgers get for tickets and parking fees, they should be treasured as well. Here’s hoping the new ownership regime will put work into upgrading the Dodger Stadium experience, starting by reimplementing the off-season paint jobs scrapped by the McCourt regime.
Like many transplants in southern California, the Dodgers carry some baggage from their former home. The name Los Angeles Dodgers is somewhat nonsensical: the original name of the franchise came from the practice of Brooklyn residents dodging trolley cars. To many, Brooklyn slid into irrelevancy when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles; it became just another borough.
But Brooklyn’s loss was Los Angeles’s gain. The site of Dodger Stadium was offered to Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley before he committed to move to Los Angeles: city leaders took O’Malley on a helicopter ride and showed him potential ballpark sites. Given the way Los Angeles was sprawling even in the 1950s, his choice of Chavez Ravine (at that time a working-class Hispanic area) was a curious one until you realize how many freeways intersected near the ballpark. At a time when baseball was fleeing to the suburbs, O’Malley chose to stay close to downtown Los Angeles – and a tangled Web of highways and freeways.
It took four years for the Dodgers to build Dodger Stadium, as lawsuits and landslides postponed construction several times. We don’t know whether Praeger intended on building a ballpark totally suited for pitchers, but he did. The ball doesn’t carry well in Dodger Stadium when compared to most major-league ballparks, and with the spacious outfield dimensions, Dodger Stadium is a ballpark that rewards moderately talented pitchers and penalizes power hitters. Despite the fact that many great sluggers have played in Dodger Stadium (like Duke Snider and Frank Howard), only one batter has ever hit the ball out of the ballpark: Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He did it twice: in 1969 he pulled the ball 506 feet over the pavilion roof, and he did it again in 1973, when the ball traveled 470 feet, bounced on top of the pavilion roof and then out of the ballpark.
The layout of Dodger Stadium is a familiar one: a field level is topped with a mezzanine level and an upper deck. The bleachers in the outfield have their own entrances and concessions – you instantly know you’re seeing Dodger Stadium when you see the pavilion roof over the bleachers in the outfield, the familiar palm trees beyond the line and the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. (In person the view is even more spectacular: you can see the downtown Los Angeles skyline as well.) There are two scoreboards in the outfield: the classic Dodgervision in right field and a newer, flashier video display in left. In 2005 the Dodgers added a “race-track” display strip on the façade between the upper and lower sections: it tends to distract when you first arrive, but then you tune it out. Despite Dodger Stadium’s urban location, it is the model of a bucolic California ballpark.
Dodger Stadium is a must-visit for baseball fans and ballpark fans. It’s too bad the fan experience doesn’t match the history of the ballpark.
Builders placed the foul poles in the wrong location when Dodger Stadium opened in 1962: they were totally in foul territory. The Dodgers received special permission from the National League office to play the season with the foul poles in foul territory. In the off season the Dodgers didn’t move the foul poles, but instead slightly moved home plate to place them in fair territory.
Food and Drink
Concession areas are located in back of the seating on a concourse level, both on the field level and in the upper deck. Alas, Dodger Stadium was built so compactly it’s hard to get a view of field while you’re walking on the concourse level, while the views of the field are completely cut off from the upper-deck concourse. So you can expect to miss some of the action when heading for concessions.
That’s OK, because the concessions are fairly limited at Dodger Stadium in terms of variety. Dodger Dogs are available everywhere, and you’ll want to try one: the franks are made by Farmer John specifically for the Dodgers, and having a Dodger Dog is a great Los Angeles tradition.
Your food selections are fairly limited. The Dodgers are heavy on branded concession stands – Subway, California Pizza Kitchen, Panda Express, Wetzel’s Pretzels, Carl’s Jr. – with only one truly local vendor: the ever-tasty Saag’s Sausage. Otherwise, you’ll find your basic ballpark staples: pizza, frozen yogurt, ice cream, nachos, pop, et al. Worth seeking out: the Gordon Biersch stands on the field and upper levels, where you can find the famous garlic fries.
Dodger Stadium opened in 1962 as the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Previously the team played as the Brooklyn Dodgers in Ebbets Field; when the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958 the Dodgers spent four seasons at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The ballpark also served as the home of the Los Angeles/California Angels from 1962-1965. Angels broadcasters were not allowed to refer to it as Dodger Stadium; they instead called it Chavez Ravine.
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