It's Time for Dodger Baseball... at the Coliseum

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET
  • Ken Levine Emmy-Winning Writer/Director/Producer, MLB Announcer

115,300 people filed into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Saturday night to watch an exhibition baseball game between the LA Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, setting a world record and requiring 115,300 designated drivers. Fans started tailgating at 8 a.m. By noon they were hammered. Guys in blue face-paint and beer is not a good combination. But for the most part the crowd had a ball and behaved themselves. There were isolated fights but if you jam 115,000 people into a Barbra Streisand concert you're going to have violence.

I was there for almost twelve hours, hosting pre and post game radio shows on 790 KABC and avoiding the nimrod dressed like Fred Flintstone in a Dodger helmet toting around a stuffed animal. I'd bet my house he's one of my regular callers.

The event was a one-day return to 1958 when the Dodgers first arrived in Los Angeles. They played in a football stadium for their first four seasons. The dimensions were wacky as a result. Left field was insanely short and right field was larger than Rhode Island.

All proceeds went to "Think Cure", a new charity the Dodgers are instituting to battle cancer. The game took in over a million dollars and the McCourts (Dodgers owners) matched it. So the event was a huge success even before the first pitch (although by that time half the crowd was so blitzed they thought they were at a Raiders game).

I arrived at noon for a 7 p.m. start. I wanted to check out the scene and soak in the color before my 4 p.m. three hour broadcast. The festivities began with "Fan Fest" -- baseball related games and booths. There was a moon bounce for kids and anyone who could pass a Breathalyzer test. My station, KABC hosted a pitching booth featuring a great prize. If you hit the target you got a weekend show. Oldtime players were available for autographs and who wouldn't want their picture with Jerry Reuss?

Music was supposed to be from the 50s but I guess that meant 50 Cent. I don't recall the Platters ever singing "The Realist Niggaz".

My broadcast partner, Josh Suchon and I checked out the press box and walked down to the field. Seemed like a real good idea, take pictures, stand at home plate. Then I discovered there's no elevator back to the press box. Just a thousand stairs. By the time I reached the booth I wanted to plant a flag.

Back down to "Fan Fest". It was now 3 p.m. and I was famished. Almost fainting six times builds up a hunger. Surprisingly, there was not much there to eat. One Carl's Jr. roach coach with a mile long line. No way I'd make my show doing that. The only alternative was a KFC across the street. Sometimes a man is faced with a tough decision. Just how starved was I? Plus, I knew if I didn't eat now I wouldn't have another chance for four hours.

I passed.

The team buses arrived. I don't want to say the Coliseum's clubhouses were wanting but the players all came in uniform.

Found our broadcast location. It was right next to the row of porta-potties. Thank God there was no wind. I co-hosted the show with KABC's morning man, Doug McIntyre. Like me, Doug is also a TV comedy writer so we bonded over people we hate. This was the highlight of the day for me -- getting to interview former Dodger greats from my misspent youth. Carl Erskine, Wally Moon, Tommy Davis, Ron Fairly, Roger Craig, Chuck Essegian, and even Joe Pignatano stopped by. And of course I don't have to tell you who any of them are.

How L.A. is L.A.? Roger, a Dodger peanut vendor has an autobiography out.

The gates were open an hour early and fans were able to watch both teams take batting practice. Since the Coliseum was renovated once in last fifty years the dimensions were even more absurd. Only 200 feet to left field, which is like the length of a stretch Hummer, with a 60-foot screen. So essentially a high pop fly that didn't come straight down was a home run. The hitters were having a field day. Boston catcher Jason Varitek took one look at the configuration and said, "Final score, Dodgers 85, Red Sox 81."

Traffic was horrendous. In addition to this event there was a Clippers game (accounting for twelve additional cars) and the Wiggles at the Nokia Center. (I wonder how many fights there were at that show?)

After signing off I made my way up to the press box, which in the spirit of the evening was not behind home plate but way up the right field line. We had a better view of the liquor store robbery on Hoover than the game. But again, that was part of the charm.

I will say this, the pre-game ceremony was spectacular, especially the Vin Scully tribute. Vin was honored for his fifty years of broadcasting Dodger baseball and being the most beloved figure in Los Angeles since Zorro.

The Coliseum may not have had an outfield but it did have Hollywood stars. Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, and Bing Crosby were regulars at the ballpark. Today's equivalent was in attendance -- Pamela Anderson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Yankee DH Billy Crystal.

When it was time to "Play Ball" a hundred thousand flash bulbs started popping. Picture Britney Spears getting out of any car. The game itself was utterly ridiculous. The Dodgers didn't even play a left fielder. The shortstop handled that. A Red Sox player tried to steal second and was tagged out by the Center fielder. When have you ever seen a 2-8 caught stealing? As expected there were a few cheap homes over the screen. Manny Ramirez didn't play. Too bad. He could have hit two home runs in the same at bat. I was also disappointed a pitcher didn't play a ball off the screen.

Boston won 7-4. They should be ashamed of themselves.

I left early, hustling back to the station in time for Dodger Talk. According to the callers everyone had a great time. Even Fred gave the evening an enthusiastic "Yabba dabba doo!"

Congratulations to the Dodgers for organizing and pulling off such an enormous undertaking. It was like staging the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, the Oscars, and the Matthew Levine bar mitzvah all at once.

I hope they don't wait 50 years to do this again. Do it in 37.