Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Baseball In The Hollywood Hills

California Dreamin'

Dodger Stadium
Los Angeles, CA
July 30, 2016
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

"Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you, wherever you may be. It's time for Dodger baseball! "  --- Vin Scully

July 29th, 2016: East Meets West

I rarely sleep the night before we leave for another of our adventures. It's a combination of excitement, worry about whether we have packed everything we'll need, worry about whether we've packed too much, and/or worry about being on time for our flight, and tonight was no exception. I finally gave up attempting to sleep and got out of bed, as the last thing I wanted to do was wake Nicole, who would kill me if I did, again.

After a quick shower I sat down in the living room and rechecked my to-do lists, while watching MLB Network, for the last night's scores. I smiled to myself when I realized the West Coast games were about to be the "normal" games and the East Coast games would, most likely, be over by the time we took our seats for the games in California.

I got Nik and the boys up over the next hour and slowly the house started to come alive. Everyone was excited to start another trip, but this one was a little different. Rob, who had been with us from the outset, was not coming this summer, but Nicole, Brendan and my "nephew," Kevin, were joining us on our grand adventure. Not only that, but we were going to be joined by my cousin Christine, her husband Jimmy and their daughter, Felicity, while in Los Angeles.

The first to arrive were Kevin and his father, Andy. Andy and I have known each other since I was in second grade (he, being two years older, was in fourth) and we have been intertwined ever since. We went to school together (all the way through college), have played sports together, vacationed together, and even had families together. Our eldest sons were born two days apart, while our youngest are less than six months apart in age. To say we are close is an understatement and we treat each other as extended family, which is why it was so exciting for Kevin to be joining us.

Limo Boys
Tony and Nick arrived shortly after and all four teenagers started excitedly talking about how we were going to be headed to the airport in a limo. Usually we have someone drive us, or take a car service, but since there were now seven passengers the only car available was a stretch limo and as there was no price differential (it's not what you know, but whom you know), there was no reason not to take it.

Andy said goodbye as the limo pulled up and I ducked into the garage to grab four beers. I figured if we were gonna travel like stars, we might as well act the part as well.

Limo Beers
The kids loved the limo, while Tony and I sat back with our beers, toasting the upcoming trip and calling people to tell them how we were traveling, while Nicole shook her head and laughed at all of us. The ride was uneventful, but fun, nonetheless, and we pulled into La Guardia Airport about an hour later.

Good To Go
After a brief wait for our plane, in what I can only describe as a third-world-hell hole," we boarded and got ready for the first part
of our flight, New York to Indianapolis. Now anyone who knows me, or has read of our tales, knows I don't like to fly, but I have gotten better at it. This trip was going to be the ultimate test, because not only were we flying to LAX, but we had to change planes in Indy, as well, which meant two take-offs and two landings. Tony got things started by ordering me a beer, "to help soothe my nerves," or so he said, but I'm betting he just wanted another beer for himself. Either way the first leg of the flight went off without a hitch and we pulled into Indianapolis in no time. The best part about it was that as we disembarked from one plane, we found our next gate was the very first one we saw when we entered the terminal.

Kids Love Planes
After a 45-minute wait, which gave us all a chance to hit the bathroom, grab a small snack and a drink, we were back on board for the second part of the journey. We flew over the Rocky Mountains and into the afternoon sunlight of Los Angeles, without a hitch. I couldn't be sure if the kids were impressed or annoyed that I handled the flight so well, but either way I had the last laugh.

Hello, LA
After landing, we quickly grabbed our luggage and took the shuttle bus to pick up our "home-on-wheels" for the next ten days. As with the limo, we needed to go bigger since we had more people than ever before, so we had reserved a twelve-person passenger van. I was very impressed with the comfort level in such a big vehicle, as I slid behind the wheel and headed to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency, at LAX, on West Century.

Rob helped us book this place, through family connections, and it was amazing. Size, luxury, comfort - it had everything and was central to everywhere we wanted to visit over the next four days. We ran into Christine, Jimmy, and Felicity as we checked in - they'd taken an earlier flight and had been in town since noon - and after dropping our bags off in the rooms, we were back out and headed for dinner, on Santa Monica Pier.

I was behind the wheel and immediately was faced with the nightmare that is LA traffic, on the 405. Nothing was moving, and when it did it was under 35 MPH. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. If there is one thing I detest more than's being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

"You want me to drive?" Tony offered.

"No," I snapped back.

"The only thing that makes him crazier than driving in traffic, is being a passenger in it," Nic said.

"This could be a long trip," Tony laughed.

I muttered something underneath my breath, as Tony and Nicole quietly conversed. Little did I know, but they were already making plans that would only allow me to drive when there really wasn't any other words, early in the morning, late at night, or on the highway above, or below, Los Angeles.

We pulled into Santa Monica about 7:30 p.m., but our bodies were already telling us it was 10:30, due to the time differential. Brendan and Nicole were starting to drag, but it was very apparent that Felicity, at five- years old, wasn't going to be long for the evening. This poor little one was trying so hard to keep up and stay awake, but she was completely shot and Christine had to carry her pretty much everywhere.

Santa Monica Pier
Soon the world-famous Santa Monica Pier sign was in view, so we had to stop and take pictures. It was here that we caught our first glimpse of the Pacific and we couldn't have asked for a better sight. The sun was starting to go down, so the beach, the surf, and the sky all seemed to blend into one and the colors could literally take your breath away. We walked down the hill, onto the pier, itself, and just stood there, immersed in what was going on all around us.

Santa Monica Pier is actually two adjoining piers, built in the early 1900's. Municipal Pier, which opened in 1909, was constructed with the intent of running "treated" sewage out to the ocean. It was the first concrete pier built on the West Coast, due to the fact that the traditional wooden piles, of other piers, would not hold up to the sea conditions of the area. Pleasure Pier was built in 1916, by Charles Looff, who was an amusement park builder, on the south side of Municipal Pier, creating two piers in one.

The area was deemed perfect, as it had access to the trolley that ran from Santa Monica to Venice, and it quickly became a favorite spot for fishermen and those looking for a fun time alike. The initial amusement ride was a carousel, which became so popular another row of wooden animals was added, and from there a roller coaster, a bowling and pool hall, as well as a fun house were constructed.

In 1919 a scare arose, when the concrete pilings began to crumble and the pier actually dropped two feet, towards the sea. The pier was reconstructed, between 1919-1921, using the newest technology, creosote-treated wooden piles, and driving these piles through the deck.

By the mid-1920s the Santa Monica Amusement Co. bought the pier from the Looffs and upgraded the rides. At this time a 15,000-foot structure, known as the La Moncia Ballroom, took over the western-most end of the pier , which packed the crowds in, but it, too, was short-lived, thanks to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The Pier did, however, become "the spot" for water sports of all kinds, from the mid-1930s through the 1950s. There was swimming, paddle-boarding, surfing, and yachting at the pier and locals and tourists alike took pleasure in the warm waters of the Pacific, just off the pier.

In 1943 Walter Newcomb purchased the pier and was planning to update the rides and attractions, for after the war ended, when he imagined there would be a greater need for recreational opportunities. When he died, a year later, his wife, Edna, took over the day-to-day operations of running the pier, for the next 26 years.

The Pier, Today
By 1974 the pier had seen better days and was considered, by many, to be an eye-sore. There was a brief time when there was consideration given to razing the pier and making it part of a causeway, between Santa Monica and Malibu. Thankfully that did not happen, due to a "Save the Pier" campaign run by the local community.

In 1983 winter storms destroyed nearly one-third of the pier and a complete restoration was needed. This restoration was completed by 1990 and when finished the "new" pier contained an amusement park, fishing decks, restaurants, arcades, and booths for both food and games.

Nicole and Me, On The Pier, At Sunset
Today the iconic pier is world-renowned as a spot that houses something for everyone. There is a beach area, for those who want to take a dip in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean; a boardwalk, where vendors sell their wares; the amusement area, which includes an assortment of rides, games, and a carnival-like atmosphere; fishing locations, for those who are interested in some relaxing quiet time; and restaurants, for those who would like to sit down and enjoy a meal, either inside, or outside beneath the stars, with the smell of salt water all around.

My first thought, as we walked onto the pier, was that it resembled the Jersey Shore's boardwalks, at Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant Beach. There were the swimmers, in the ocean, just off to our right, as well as the carnival-like atmosphere that only a boardwalk can bring about.

"This reminds me of back home," Ryan said, just as I was thinking it.

"Yeah, but there are no Guidos running around," Brendan shot back.

"They've been replaced by these dolts playing Pokemon Go," I replied, annoyed, as one ran into me.

Pokemon Go, for those who are lucky enough to not know, is a game that swept the nation's brain-dead, where kids tried to capture a Pokemon character, by using their iPhones in a treasure hunt-like manner. Not only were they wrapped up in this "game," but they were oblivious to those around them, whether it were other people, cars, trains, etc... and it made for quite the annoying time, while out in public.

"Watch where you're going," I scolded the 13-year-old kid who just took me out at the knees.

"I'm looking for a Pokemon," he shot back, rudely, as if I was the one who'd just knocked him over.

"You'll be looking for a hospital, if you do that again," Ryan stepped in.

"This little one's not worth the effort," I laughed and thanked him for his concern.

As we walked the pier we came to a sign that told us we had just come to the end of the iconic American highway, Route 66.

Rt. 66 Final Stop

"I didn't know this was the end point of Rt. 66," I said, aloud, to no one in particular.
"Maybe it's the beginning," Tony laughed and playfully shoved me.

"No, it's the end point," Nicole told us, emphatically.

"How can you be sure?" Jimmy laughed.

" Because when my husband and I drive this highway, once the kids are in college, we won't be ENDING our trip in Chicago."

"She's planning your future, buddy," Jimmy laughed.

"It's what she does," I said, shaking my head.

The Sun Setting, Over  The Pacific
We walked a little farther down the pier, passing the amusement area on our left, stopping to admire the beautiful sunset over the Pacific and the cliffs of Malibu, to the north. Everyone just stood staring, or taking pictures, as the sky turned bright yellows and oranges, as if the sun were being extinguished by the ocean, itself.

"Is it time to eat, yet?" Ryan wanted to know, breaking the serenity enjoyed by the adults.

"Go figure, Ryan's hungry," Kevin said, shaking his head.

"Me, too," Tony exclaimed.

"Where are we having dinner?" Christine and Nicole wanted to know.

"That place at the end of the pier," I pointed. "Mariasol Cocina Mexicana. Uncle Z said the food was good and the prices were better. I figured it would be a perfect first night's dinner."

We walked to the end of the pier and I went inside, while the others milled about or walked behind the restaurant to see what the fishermen at the end of the pier had caught.

I came outside, a few minutes later, mumbling and grumbling to myself.

"Problems?" Nicole wanted to know.

"Yeah, a 90-minute wait," I told her.

"I'm not going to make it that long," Brendan moaned.

"None of us are," Christine chimed in. "Especially Felicity."

I looked over and saw Felicity, almost sound asleep on Chris' shoulder.

"Okay, this isn't going to work," I told the group. "Let's find a Mexican restaurant nearby."

"I was hoping you wouldn't say that," Tony rolled his eyes. "My nose was enjoying the fresh air and I would hate for you to pollute it, after eating Mexican."

"Uncle Jim can clear a room," Kevin laughed.

"I don't know what you think is so funny," Nicole poked him. "You're sharing a room with him."

The Hotel California

We wandered around the area, but found nothing to our liking. Everything was the fast-food version of Mexican, or it was more "upscale" than we were looking for. We did, however, find the "Hotel California," which prompted Ryan to start singing the song, for the next hour or so.

Eventually we gave up, got back in the van and started looking for something on the way back to the hotel, but even that was a bust, as everything was either packed, or not what we were looking for.

By the time we got back to the hotel, Felicity was sound asleep, so Jimmy and Christine took her upstairs and agreed they would get something from the hotel restaurant, but we still had four hungry teenagers to feed. We quickly noted that there was an In-N-Out Burger, about a mile from the hotel, so we decided to hoof it down Sepulveda and grab a quick meal.

We had all heard good things about In-N-Out, and I was intrigued. The place was MOBBED, both the drive-through and the actual restaurant, so we figured it would live up to all the hype...We were sadly mistaken.

We walked into a mad-house, though I just suppose it was due to the fact the restaurant was located so close to LAX, so it made for an easy in-and-out (no pun intended), on the way to, or coming from, the airport. We quickly surmised there was no room inside, so Nicole, Ryan, Brendan, Kevin, and Nick went outside to grab some picnic tables, so we could sit down.

Ordering was a lot harder than it should have been; the girl at the counter couldn't figure out why we would order some burgers with their special sauce, some without, some with pickles, others without, and it became a giant shit-show.

"You know they're better with everything on them?" she tried telling me.

"Only if everyone likes what's on them," I laughed.

"Why wouldn't they?" she wanted to know.

"Do you want me to bring everyone back in, one at a time, to explain why they don't want something on their burger?" I said, getting testy.

"It would just be easier, to order them that way," she informed me.

"That makes YOUR life easier, not MINE," I told her.

We finally got our order, went outside to meet the others, and sat down to eat. I can honestly say I have no idea what all the hype was about, but I was unimpressed. I looked at Ryan, as if to say "what do you think?" and he just shrugged and rolled his eyes. At least I knew I wasn't alone in my assessment.

We discussed the food on the walk back to the hotel.

"What did you think?" I asked everyone.

Ryan, of course, had the best response.

"The best thing about that meal was being so close to the airport, and the planes about 150 feet over our heads as they were coming in."

No one disagreed, so I can only assume they were as underwhelmed as I was.

We quickly made our way back to the hotel, changed into pajamas and quickly fell asleep. It had been a very long day.

July 30, 2016: Surf, Sand, and Baseball:

I woke up a lot earlier than I wanted: we all did. Our internal clocks were all fouled up, thinking it was three hours earlier than it actually was and no one could sleep. The only difference was that they weren't going to give up trying and I knew there was no way I was going to be able to fall back asleep, so I did the only thing that made sense: I kept the room as dark as possible and headed downstairs for coffee.

By 6 a.m., LA time, I headed back upstairs and made sure everyone was awake. They weren't going to be happy, but they had to acclimate to Pacific Time and the sooner that was done, the better. To  my surprise, everyone was up and watching TV. I told them to get dressed and we'd be headed out as soon as I made sure Christine, Jimmy, and Felicity were awake.

Twenty minutes later, the kids had hit the breakfast bar, for some fruit bars, water and juices, and then we all packed into the van, headed towards the morning's destination...the Pacific Ocean.

Manhattan Beach, From The Pier
The closest beach to our hotel was Manhattan Beach, which was about a fifteen-minute drive, and we couldn't have picked a more perfect location, had we wanted to. The town was a trendy little beach community, which the locals break into different sections depending on where they are located. We went through the heart of the community, known as the "Downtown Section," where all the local shops, restaurants, watering holes, and gathering spots are located. Our final destination was the "Sand Section," known for its quiet neighborhood and a beach-side bike path, which winds through the community, along the ocean, and some of the most expensive real estate in the country overlooks the breakers. There is also a pier, which contains an aquarium at the western-most end. Brendan was already excited, as zoos and aquariums are to him what ballparks are to Ryan and me. We promised him he could go out to see the aquarium, but first we were heading to the water.

Baywatch Boys?
We had barely gotten our towels laid down before the boys, myself included, were off like a shot, to the water. Only Christine had ever swam in the Pacific before (she had live out west, for a while, many years ago, when her dad, my uncle, was stationed in the U.S. Navy), so the rest of us were all pretty excited. For the next two hours we swam, dunked one another, body surfed, and created as much general mayhem as possible. Everyone was having a blast, including Felicity, who took to the water like a fish and continuously edged further and further out into the waves, until Jimmy and Christine made sure she stayed a little closer to the shore.

Bren, At The Aquarium
Nik and Bren, On The Pier
After a while Nicole and Brendan went for a walk and visited the aquarium, much to
Brendan's happiness. He was definitely in his element and studied everything he saw as if he were preparing for a college final exam. Eventually Nicole dragged him out, but not before he was satisfied he'd seen everything that interested him, and they rejoined the rest of us, for one last romp in the surf, before heading back to the hotel, to get ready for the Dodgers game.

California Baseball:

After a quick stop at a local bagel place (they're NOT as good as New York bagels, no matter what you're told by the locals), we got back to the hotel, showered, back in the van, and able to grab some beers and soda, for a celebratory tailgate, in under 90 minutes. The game had an interesting start time, 6:10 p.m., and since we like to wander around both outside and inside of a park we have never been to, we wanted to make sure we weren't going to be pressed for time.

I had heard nightmare stories about the drive to Dodger Stadium, but it really wasn't that bad. Maybe it was the time of day, maybe it was because it was a sunny, summer Saturday, but whatever the reason, we had no issues. In fact, we got there so early we had to wait in line, as the gates to the parking lot were not yet open to the public. This worked out perfectly for me, as I was about to give everyone a Dodgers history lesson, which is something Ryan and I do before every game, but I was going to shorten (glossing over the Brooklyn years), so as not to put anyone to sleep.

Dodgers History:

The Dodgers have a long and storied history, dating back to their inaugural season of 1884, when they ruled New York's borough of Brooklyn, as the Atlantics. Over the next almost 50 years, the team would have nine names: Atlantics (1884), Grays (1885-1887), Bridegrooms (1888-1890), Grooms (1891-1895), Bridegrooms (1896-1898), Superbas (1899-1910), Trolley Dodgers (1911-1912), Superbas (1913), Robins (1914-1931), and, finally, settling on Dodgers in 1932. They would also have a myriad of homes for a portion of this time, all over the borough. There was Washington Park I (1884-1890), Ridgewood Park (1886-1889, for Sunday games only), Eastern Park (1891-1897), Washington Park II (1898-1912), and Ebbets Field (1913-1957), until they fled New York for Los Angeles.

Ebbets Field
Though they had many homes between 1884 and 1912, the ballpark that became synonymous with the club was Ebbets Field. Constructed by owner Charles Ebbets, as a permanent home for his team, the park opened up in 1913 and quickly became a fan favorite, because of its great sight lines and the proximity of the fans to the field of play. Known as a bandbox, because of its dimensions (348' to Left Field, 351' to Left-Center, 395' to Center, 344' to Right-Center, and 297' down the Right Field line) and the fact that at its peak (1937-1945) it never held more than 35,000 fans.

The team, itself, was not very good until the 1940s, though they did manage to win the pennant in 1890, 1899, 1900, 1916, and 1920, but were never good enough to capture a true championship. For the most part they were thought of as second-rate, mostly because they were, but their fans loved and supported them as if they were perennial World Champions. Between 1900 and 1940 the team only finished in first place twice (1916 and 1920) and in second place twice (1902 and 1924); otherwise they were relegated to the bottom of the league.
Dem Bums

During this time the Dodgers were known as "The Daffiness Boys," for their inability to play ball as a major league team should have been able to. In one such instance outfielder Babe Herman hit a triple, with two runners on base. The problem was that all THREE runners stopped at third, with the first two, Dazzy Vance and Chick Fewster, being declared out and Herman being credited with a double. It was also at this time that the nickname "Dem Bums" was given to the team, because a sports-cartoonist, Willard Mullin, taking a cab from the ballpark one day, was asked "How'd dem bums do dis afternoon?" Mullin liked the moniker and decided to pen a cartoon, featuring circus clown Emmit Kelly, in the paper and the name and the cartoon stuck.

By the 1940s the team was poised for some success, but no one could ever imagine the excitement, and heartbreak, they would be in for, over the next decade and a half. The tide began to turn in the late 1930s, when Larry McPhail, the team's general manager, started compiling talent, and by 1941 the team made it to the World Series for the first time since 1920, when they were the Brooklyn Robins. Led by manager Leo Durocher and players Joe Medwick, Billy Herman, and future captain, Pee Wee Reese, the team took on their cross-city rivals, the New York Yankees.

Mickey Owens Dropped Third Strike
With the Yankees ahead, three games to two, the Dodgers took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning of Game 4.With two outs and two strikes on Yankees batter Tommy Henrich, in the ninth inning, Dodgers catcher Mickey Owens failed to corral strike three (Henrich swung and missed) and Henrich reached first. The Yankees would go on to score four runs, winning the game, and taking the Series the next afternoon, in front of a devastated Ebbets Field crowd. It would be the first time, but not the last, that the Yankees would break the hearts of the Brooklyn faithful.

Over the next six years the team would flirt with the pennant, but not win another until 1947. During this time two men who would shape the future of the organization would be brought aboard. One was a baseball man, Branch Rickey, most noted for his time in St. Louis, where he built the Cardinals into a powerhouse team, introducing a farm system for collecting and training players. The other was a New York attorney, named Walter O'Malley, who was named Dodgers counsel in 1942 and bought a 25% stake in the club in 1944. These men couldn't have been more polar opposite had they tried, and their inability to co-exist would, eventually, seal the team's New York fate, many years down the road.

The Shot Heard ' Round The World
By 1947 the Dodgers were on the verge of becoming a National League powerhouse. Between 1947 and 1956 the team would win six pennants (1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956), while missing out on the flag in 1950 and 1951 in dramatic playoff losses, including the famous 1951 series against their arch rival, the Giants, on Bobby Thompson's famous "Shot Heard 'Round the World" home run."

Led by players such as Jackie Robinson (whom Rickey had chosen to break the color barrier, in 1947), Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Andy Pafko, Carl Furillo, Don Newcomb, Bobby Thompson, Carl Erskine, Preacher Rowe, Jim Gilliam, Johnny Podres, and a young Sandy Koufax, the team reached the Series in every one of the above-listed years, only to lose at the hands of the hated New York Yankees. The only time Brooklyn won a World Series was 1955, when Johnny Podres pitched the team to its first-ever championship against the "Boys From the Bronx." This era came to be known as "The Golden Age of Baseball," and has been chronicled in many stories, books, and films, most famously in Roger Kahn's classic work The Boys of Summer.

Walter O'Malley
Despite all the team's success, the back-biting and behind-the-scenes-fighting between Rickey and O'Malley set the stage for Rickey's exit. Rickey was a baseball man and could never work alongside O'Malley, who was a shrewd, no-nonsense, businessman. When one of the Dodgers co-owners died, in 1950, O'Malley convinced the widow to turn over her shares in the team to the Brooklyn Trust Company, which O'Malley controlled. With Rickey's contract set to expire, after the 1950 season, O'Malley thought to buy him out and offered a lowball amount. Rickey balked and worked hand-in-hand with his friend, real estate magnate William Zeckendorf, to "hold up" O'Malley for almost a million dollars. O'Malley replaced Rickey with Buzzy Bavasi, so Rickey could only watch from his new baseball city (Pittsburgh) as the team he had built contended for the World Series, year after year.

By 1955 O'Malley was looking to move out of the team's home, Ebbets Field. He claimed the ballpark had grown old, obsolete, and was unable to turn a profit, despite being the best team in the National League for years, because the fans were moving out of the city, to the suburbs, and the infrastructure of Brooklyn was unable to get these fans to and from the ballpark. O'Malley started buying up land, in hopes of building his new "Ebbets Field," on the sight of the Atlantic Rail-yards, which would allow easier access to the borough from the outlying areas. What he didn't figure on was the city's Construction Coordinator, Robert Moses.

Moses was not about to allow O'Malley to develop the land he so coveted, preferring the Dodgers to look to build their new ballpark in the outlying borough of Queens (the eventual location of Shea Stadium). O'Malley flatly refused, saying his team was the Brooklyn Dodgers, not the Queens Dodgers, and a stand-off occurred between these two powerful men. Moses wanted a city-built, city-owned ballpark, which was greatly at odds with O'Malley's vision, so he started looking at the possibility of relocating the team.

Go West, Young Man:

The seeds of the Dodgers' move had been planted during the 1956 World Series, when officials from Los Angeles were looking to woo a team westward. The Dodgers weren't their initial target - they were hoping for the Washington Senators - but O'Malley, who could read the writing on the wall, let them know the Dodgers "MIGHT" be interested in the City of Angels. LA gave O'Malley something concrete he could use to try and leverage Moses, and the city of New York. They offered him the land to build his park, as well as complete control over all the revenue streams from that park. O'Malley's plan was now almost in place. The last thing he needed was a "partner-in-crime," to put him in the driver's seat, and that would be provided by the Dodgers oldest and bitterest rival.

At the same time the Dodgers were going through the machinations for getting a new ballpark, the Giants were having the same issues. Horace Stoneham, the owner of the Giants, was facing an older ballpark, with a dwindling fan base and a shrinking revenue stream. His first desire was to remain in New York, but when it looked as if that wasn't going to be able to happen, he turned his attention to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
O'Malley, shrewd businessman that he was, knew Major League Baseball was never going to allow the Dodgers to move to Los Angeles and be the only team that far west of the Mississippi. There would be no cost-effectiveness to have clubs come out to the Pacific for a three-to-five-game series; there would have to be, at least, one more team to make the travel cost-effective for other teams. It was then he turned the Giants on to the possibility of San Francisco.

Goin' To California
By the beginning of the 1957 season O'Malley took his "threat" to Moses, who was quite ready to call his bluff. In his thinking there was no way both the Dodgers and the Giants would leave New York, but he underestimated O'Malley. When the Dodgers owner got nowhere with his plans for a new Brooklyn Stadium, it was announced, on May 28, 1957, that Major League owners had unanimously voted to allow both teams to leave New York, for California.

The fans were stunned; they had figured there was no way the Dodgers would ever leave Brooklyn. They were ingrained into the borough's fabric; they were a part of the Brooklyn community. Rallies were held, City Hall was petitioned, politicians were besieged, but in the end there was nothing that could be done. The die had been cast, the Rubicon had been crossed, there was no going back. The Dodgers would be moving to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.

The team played its final game at Ebbets Field on September 24, 1957, against the Pittsburgh Pirates, in front of a scant 6,702 fans. The Dodgers beat the Pirates, 2-0, but the funereal atmosphere that enveloped the ballpark made for quite a dreadful two hours and three minutes. By the end of the ninth inning the fans rushed the field, to claim whatever "souvenir" they could get their hands on, as the organist played dirges, signifying the somber mood of the crowd.

Baseball in the City of Angels:

LA Welcomes The Dodgers

During their first year in LA the Dodgers finished under .500 (71-83), for the first time since 1944. A lot of Brooklyn fans speculated that it was because their heart was back in New York and while that may have been partially true, their heart really wasn't into baseball after losing their three-time MVP, Roy Campanella, to a horrific car accident.

Campanella was returning to his Glen Cove home, on the night of January 28, 1958, when his car skidded on an icy road, less than a mile from his house, crashed into a telephone pole, and flipped. Campanella suffered a severe spinal cord injury (fracturing the 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae), which left him paralyzed from the shoulders down and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The good feeling about moving to Los Angeles was wiped away before the team even got there, and the shock hovered over the team all season.

LA Coliseum
While the Dodgers waited for their new home to be constructed, in an area known as Chavez Ravine, the team would play its home games at the spacious Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Coliseum was commissioned and constructed in 1921, being finished inside of 16 months, and opened its doors, for the first time, in May of 1923. Built as a memorial to LA veterans of World War I, the Coliseum was the home of the 1932 Summer Olympic Games, the USC Trojans, the UCLA Bruins, the NFL's Los Angeles Rams and the All America Football Conference's Los Angeles Dons, before the Dodgers arrived.

The building was not suited for baseball, having terrible sight lines and strange playing field dimensions (301' feet to Right Field, 420' to Center and 250' to Left), which led Commissioner Ford Frick to order a 42-foot-high screen in the outfield to ensure pop flies didn't become home runs. The newspaper writers started calling the Coliseum "The House That Charlie Chan Built" and referring to home runs to either field as "Chinese Home Runs," much to the chagrin of the Chinese community.

By their second year, 1959, the Dodgers seemed free of the "black cloud" that had followed them from Brooklyn and were back playing good baseball. The team finished the season twenty games over .500 (88-68) and winning the pennant, after defeating the Milwaukee Braves 2-0 in a best-of-three playoff.

The team was headed back to the World Series for the first time since 1956 and would meet the Chicago White Sox, led by Louis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, and Early Wynn, who were also known as the "Go-Go Sox," because they were built on speed. This would be the South Siders' first pennant since they were known as the Black Sox, for throwing the 1919 World Series in a gambling scandal that rocked baseball to its core.

The Sox seemed to be the team more ready to play, when Game 1 rolled around, trouncing the Dodgers 11-0, behind Early Wynn's eight-inning shutout and Ted Kluszewski's two home runs. The Dodgers, however, bounced back the next afternoon, when the hero of the 1955 World Series, Johnny Podres, beat Bob Shaw to even the series out at a game each.

The Dodgers, who had future Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Duke Snider in the line up, were looking to become the first West Coast Champion of the Major Leagues, when announcer Vin Scully opened Game 3 with the line "What a change of scenery!" Gone were the gray skies and chilly winds of New York City, replaced by a sunny, puffy-cloud-filled sky and palm trees.

A record crowd of 92,394 showed up to watch the Dodgers win the first-ever World Series game on the West Coast, 3-1, behind Don Drysdale. Drysdale was effective, though not overpowering, despite giving up 12 hits over eight innings of work. The Dodgers, however, made the most of their chances, with three runs on just five hits. The next day they took a commanding three-games-to-one lead in the series, as Sherm Lollar defeated Gerry Staley, to put LA one win away from a championship.

1959 World Series Ring, at Dodger Stadium
October 6 saw another record crowd turn out at the Coliseum (92,706), to try and will the Dodgers to a victory, but Sandy Koufax suffered what would become a very rare 1-0 loss, sending the Series back to Chicago, where the Dodgers would close it out in Game 6, 9-3, becoming the first-ever West Coast team to win the World Series. This produced much celebration in Los Angeles, while back in Brooklyn it caused even more heartache, for what had been lost.

A New Decade, A New Home:

The Decade of the 1960s dawned on the country with the Dodgers being World Champions, again. What had taken them so long to accomplish in Brooklyn, was done in just two years in Los Angeles, and the crowds were packing the Coliseum (1,845,556 in 1958 and 2,071,045 in 1959), as they couldn't get enough of their new heroes. The Dodgers, however, stumbled over the next three seasons, finishing fourth, second and second, despite winning 102 games in 1962 and further cemented the hatred between them and the Giants (who beat them out in 1962), and now brought the New York-based rivalry to California.

Opening Day, 1962
1962 also saw the team move into their new home, Dodger Stadium, which opened on April 10, 1962, when the Dodgers took on the Cincinnati Reds, in a game seen by 52,564 people. The first hit came off the bat of Duke Snider, while the first RBIs were delivered by Ron Fairly, when he doubled in Jim Gilliam and Snider, but the Reds would end up winning, 4-2, giving Johnny Podres the loss. With the opening of their new ballpark, the team would have their best season in LA., to date, winning 102 games, but would finish in second place, one game behind the Giants. In fact, the Dodgers were eliminated in eerie fashion, losing the third game of a playoff series, in the ninth inning, 11 years to the day after these same Giants had beaten them on Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World," back in New York's Polo Grounds.

Return To Dominance:

The Dodgers may have been kept from the 1962 pennant, but nothing was going to stop them in 1963 and for the next couple of years. Starting in 1963, the Dodgers would finish first and go to the World Series in three of the next four years, with 1964 being the lone exception.

Drysdale  and Koufax, The Dynamic Duo
In '63 the team won fewer games, 99, than 1962, but it was six more than the second place team, St. Louis, and the Dodgers captured their second pennant since moving west. The team was led by future Hall of Fame pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, who were both about to go on a run of being the most dominant in the sport, as well as Johnny Podres, and everyday players Maury Wills, Bill "Moose" Skowron, John Roseboro and Jim Gilliam. The big "spokes in the wheel" were, no doubt, Koufax and Drysdale, who would combine to win four of the next five Cy Young Awards, winning 209 games (Koufax: 111, Drysdale: 98), between them. During this time Koufax may have put together the greatest five year stretch of any pitcher in baseball history. He WAS the Dodgers and the Dodgers were him.

The 1963 World Series saw the Dodgers face off against a very familiar foe; the New York Yankees. These teams may have been on opposite coasts, but the hatred for the other team still burned bright and the majority of the players could remember the inter-borough battles and the history between the two clubs.

The Yankees were almost at the end of their historic run (having been to the World Series in 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, and 1961, and winning nine of those contests), though it was not yet known. Game 1, in Yankee Stadium, featured a marquee match-up of Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax, and the Bronx Bombers were predicted to make short work out of their old rivals. Unfortunately for New York, someone forgot to tell the Dodgers that.

The Dodgers took Game 1, 5-2, behind Koufax's dominant performance. He struck out a World Series record 15 batters, fanning the first five hitters of the game. The Yanks wouldn't get on the board until the eighth inning, when they scored two, but the Dodgers had long since taken control of the contest, jumping on Ford for four in the third and another in the fourth.

After such a dominant performance, many thought the Dodgers could not replicate it in Game 2, but Johnny Podres held the Yanks to one run, as he bested Al Downing, 4-1.

1963 World Series Ring, at Dodger Stadium
Games 3 and 4, back in L.A. saw more of the same, this time with Drysdale shutting out the Yanks in Game 3, 1-0 and Koufax beating Ford, once again, this time 2-1, to win the Series back in Los Angeles.

The pitching was so dominant that the Yankees never knew what hit them. Over the course of the four-game sweep, Dodgers pitchers only allowed four runs on 22 hits. Sandy Koufax won the MVP. and was given a new car for his eforts. In true New York fashion, a police officer ticketed the car, not knowing the owner, while the presentation was being made at the luncheon.

1964 was a down year for the Dodgers, as they seemed to suffer a World Series hangover, winning only 80 games and falling below the .500 mark (80-82), which put them in sixth place, but they were back in the thick of things the next season, in an attempt to right the ship.

There were six teams that all had a legitimate chance to win the pennant (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia) in '65, and everything was still up for grabs as September rolled around. The Dodgers, however, got hot at the right time, winning thirteen in a row and fourteen out of fifteen, to close the season in first place, two games ahead of the Giants. Led by Maury Wills' 94 stolen bases and, once again, by the pitching tandem of Koufax (26-8, 2.04 ERA) and Drysdale (23-12, 2.77), Los Angeles was headed back to the World Series, this time to face the Minnesota Twins, in an epic seven-game series, which would come down to the arm of Koufax.

The Twins were a powerful team, led by offensive force Harmon Killebrew, Cesar Tovar, and Tony Oliva. Their pitching was just as steady, anchored by Jim Kaat and Jim "Mudcat" Grant. They would win 102 games that season, outdistancing the Chicago White Sox by seven games.

Game 1 was supposed to be a pitchers' duel, featuring Koufax and Mudcat Grant, but Koufax refused to pitch as the game fell on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. It caused quite a fuss around the country, but the Dodgers felt they had a pretty reliable "back-up," in Don Drysdale.

The Twins jumped Drysdale, scoring seven runs in the first two innings, and chasing the big right-hander from the field, en route to an 8-2 victory. Things didn't get much better in Game 2, as the Twins, and Jim Kaat, did the unthinkable, out-pitching Koufax and winning 5-2.

The Dodgers, however, grabbed a three-games-to-two lead back home, as Claude Osteen, Drysdale, and Koufax stymied the Twins, winning 4-0, 7-2, and 7-0, respectively, sending the Series back to Minneapolis, needing only one win to close things out.

The Twins fought back, winning Game 6, 5-1, behind Mudcat Grant's second win of the series, setting up a decisive seventh game.

With a do-or-die situation at hand, Dodgers manager Walter Alston was torn between starting Drysdale on normal rest or Koufax on two days, but figured he would go with the horse that got him there and be able to use Drysdale in relief, if needed. It would not be needed, as Koufax would go the distance, giving up no runs on three hits, and striking out ten. The Dodgers scored two in the fourth and that was all they needed, as Koufax did the rest. Los Angeles was World Champions for the second time in three years.

1966 saw the Dodgers, once again, on top of the National League, with a record of 95-67, finishing 1.5 games ahead of the Giants. The team was working within the same model as previous years (great starting pitching, lots of speed on the base-paths, and an above-average defense), but they needed every day of the season to secure the pennant, winning it on the next-to-last day when Koufax beat the Phillies in the second game of a double-header (the Dodgers lost the first game) to secure the top spot. Had the Dodgers lost the second game, the Giants would have had to fly to Cincinnati to play a make-up game, as they would have been one-half games back and that game would have been necessary to determine if a playoff would be needed, again, between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Once again the pitching would be the difference in the season, but that was only after a near-disaster was averted before the regular season, as both Koufax and Drysdale held out, together, in a celebrated contract dispute. Eventually the club came to terms with both, and Koufax didn't seem to be affected, going 27-9 with a 1.73 ERA, but Drysdale had an unseemly year, at 13-16 and a 3.42 ERA. Thankfully Claude Osteen has his best year, so far, winning 17 games, and Don Sutton chipped in 12 wins, as well.

On October 5, the Dodgers found themselves in their third World Series in the last four years, this time against the Baltimore Orioles, who were led by future Hall of Famers Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio, and Jim Palmer.

The teams seemed evenly matched, as the O's finished with two more wins than the Dodgers (97), but Baltimore had more offensive firepower at their disposal and dispatched LA in four straight, 5-2, 6-0, 1-0, and 1-0.

The 1966 World Series was the end of the first bit of Dodgers history, since moving to L.A. Between 1959 and 1966 they had been to four World Series, winning three and finished second twice, having lost once in a playoff series. A gradual decline in championship caliber teams is expected, as the players grow older, get traded, or retire, but the Dodgers fell off the table and it started immediately after the 1966 World Series, with the shocking announcement that Sandy Koufax was retiring because of an arthritic left arm.

Koufax was the team's "golden boy," having been with the club since making his MLB debut in June of 1955, for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Brooklyn native was signed by the club after having been invited to a try-out at Ebbets Field, where scout Al Campanis told people "...there are only two times in my life that the hair on my arms stood up: The first time I saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the second time, I saw Sandy Koufax throw a fastball." Ironically, the Dodgers could have lost him to Branch Rickey and the Pirates, as he had tried out for them earlier in the week, bu the Dodgers were the first to offer the contract.

The Dodgers offered Koufax a contract for $6,000 and a signing bonus of $14,000, which made him a "Bonus Baby," because MLB stipulated that any player signing a contract, including a bonus over $4,000, could not be sent to the minors for two years. This likely stunted Koufax's development, as he was kept with the big club, but not really used, and when he was put on the mound he had terrible periods of wild inconsistency.

The Left Arm of God
That all changed, beginning in 1960, as Koufax "suddenly" found his control and became the most dominant pitcher in baseball, over the next seven seasons, even though his last two (1965 and 1966) were pitched in constant pain. This started in 1965, when he woke up to find his left arm was completely black and blue, from internal bleeding. He was told by Dr. Kerlan, the team's physician, that he would be "lucky" to be able to pitch once a week, and risked losing use of the arm if he kept up. Koufax would get through the next two seasons by taking painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and using Capsolin ointment ("lovingly" called atomic balm, by players), during the games and soaking his arm in buckets of ice afterwards.

At his career-ending press conference he told reporters:

 "...I don't regret one minute of the last twelve years, but I do believe I would regret one minute too many. … I don’t know if cortisone is good for you or not. But to take a shot every other ball game is more than I wanted to do and to walk around with a constant upset stomach because of the pills and to be high half the time during a ball game because you’re taking painkillers … I don’t want to have to do that...I've got a lot of years to live after baseball and I would like to live them with the complete use of my body."

Koufax Plaque, at Dodger Stadium
With that being said, Sandy Koufax walked away from the game that he loved, at the age of 30. He would leave baseball as a seven-time All-Star (1960-1966), a three-time Cy Young Award winner (1963, 1965, and 1966), a four-time World Series Champion (1955, 1959, 1963 and 1965) a two-time World Series MVP (1963 and 1965), a three-time MLB Wins leader (1963, 1965, and 1966) and a four-time MLB Strikeout leader (1961, 1963, 1965, and 1966), with a lifetime record of 165-87, 2,396 strike outs, four no-hitters, a perfect game, and an ERA of 2.76. He would be a first ballot Hall of Famer, in 1972.

Koufax was not the only player to leave the organization after the 1966 World Series; Maury Wills was traded to the Pirates, Tommy Davis was sent to the Mets, and Jim Gilliam also announced his retirement. Drysdale did, however, stay around, but there was little he could do. The Dodgers slipped to eighth in 1967 and seventh, in 1968, with the most excitement coming when Drysdale threw a then-record 58 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

The team was building something, down on the farm, as the 1960s became the 1970s, but they would alsways finish just a little short, though reaching as high as second in 1970, 1971, and 1973, while finishing third in 1972. By 1974 they were ready to be the "Dodgers of old" again.

During this time, in 1970 to be exact, Walter O'Malley turned over the presidency of the Dodgers to his son, Peter, although Walter would remain as the Chairman until he passed in 1979.

Back on Top:

From L - R, Cey, Russell, Lopes and Garvey
By the summer of 1974 the Dodgers were, once again, charging through the National League. Now led by players who would become the core of the next "dynasty," such as Tommy John, Steve Yeager, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Lee Lacy, Davey Lopes, Jerry Royster, and Bill Russell, the team would capture their first pennant since 1966, finishing with a record of 102-60 and outdistancing the Reds by four games, to win the National League West and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, three games to one, in the Championship Series, before meeting the Oakland A's, in an All-California World Series.

The A's were no pushovers, having won the World Series the last two years and being led by a pitching staff of Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Ken Holtzman, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, and Blue Moon Odom and position players, such as; Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Phil Garner, Gene Tenace, Billy North, Joe Rudi, and superstar, Reggie Jackson. They had finished the year 90-72, twelve games behind the Dodgers, but were battle-tested and knew what it took to win.

That teams split the first two games, 3-2, with the A's taking Game 1 and the Dodgers winning the second, in Los Angeles, but the A's showed the reason they were two-time defending champions, back home in Oakland. Games 3, 4, and 5 all went to Oakland (3-2, 5-2 and 3-2), with Hunter Holtzman and Odom bringing home the A's third consecutive championship. It was the first time a team had won three straight since the Yankees did it in the 1950s, and while it did come at the expense of the Dodgers, they were a young team that would be back...though not right away.

The 1975 and 1976 Dodgers would find themselves battling the Cincinnati Reds for the NL West and coming up short each year, finishing in second place. In 1975 the Reds outdistanced LA. by 20 games, even though the Dodgers won 88, while in 1976 they would win 92 games, but still finish ten games back. This was no knock on the Dodgers; the Big Red Machine was the best team in baseball (some might argue they were among the top three teams all-time) and won the World Series in both of those years.

Lasorda Takes Over
1977 saw another change in the Dodgers' dugout, this one being the manager himself. After 23 straight seasons behind the bench, Walter Alston was stepping down. He would leave behind a record of 2040-1613 (a winning percentage of .558), with seven pennants, four championships, six Manager-of-the-Year awards, and having managed nine All-Star squads to seven victories. He was the third longest-tenured manager with one club, behind only Connie Mack (A's), and John J. McGraw (Giants), in a time when multi-year contracts were being handed out, Alston was known for having worked on 23 consecutive one-year deals.His replacement would be a 49-year old coach named Tommy Lasorda.

Lasorda was a baseball lifer, having signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, as an undrafted free agent, in 1945. He missed the 1946 and 1947 seasons due to military obligations, but returned in 1948 to pitch for a Phillies farm club, where he garnered the attention of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who drafted him away. He would win a World Series ring with Brooklyn, though he didn't play in the Series, in 1955, and was subsequently sold to the Kansas City A's, in 1956, before being traded to the Yankees in mid-1956. By 1957 his career came full circle when he was sold back to the Dodgers. He only played in the minors for the Yankees and the Dodgers, after 1956, and was released by Los Angeles, in 1960.

From 1961-1965 he was a scout for LA and in 1966 he was named to manage their Triple-A, Pacific Coast League team, the Spokane Indians. He would stay on as manager after Spokane moved to Albuquerque, in 1972, and became the Dukes, where he would win the 1972 PCL Championship. He would also be the manager of the 1972 Caribbean World Series winning Tigres del Licey, of the Dominican Winter Baseball League.

In 1973 he would be named to Walter Alston's staff, as the third base coach, and would stay on, for almost four seasons, even when he was offered other MLB jobs as a manager. After the 1976 season his loyalty was rewarded, when the Dodgers named him manager, after Alston retired. He would stay on for 30 years, becoming the "face" of the franchise and synonymous with LA Dodgers baseball.

When Lasorda took the field in 1977, he had inherited a team that was overflowing with talent. His pitching staff was anchored by Burt Hooton, Tommy John, Don Sutton, Charlie Hough, Doug Rau, Elias Sosa, and Doug Rau, while his infield was manned by Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, and catcher Steve Yeager, (this infield would stay together for eight years, a MLB record). His outfield was manned by Dusty Baker, Rick Monday, Lee Lacy, and Reggie Smith, all of whom were capable of starting on any other team, at any given time.

The Dodgers would breeze through the N.L. West, winning the division by ten games over the Reds, who were the two-time defending World Series Champions, and taking on the Phillies in the NLCS The Phils would take Game 1, 7-5, but the Dodgers roared back to win the next three, taking the series in four games, and heading back to the World Series, for the first time since 1974. Their opponent would be a familiar one, the New York Yankees.

The Yanks had won the American League for the second consecutive year, beating out the Kansas City Royals in the process (also for the second straight year), and would be heading back to the World Series, where they had been thumped the year before, by the Reds. New York was a formidable team, led by the likes of Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, and pitchers Ron Guidry, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Sparky Lyle, Ed Figueroa, and Mike Torrez. Though they were known as "The Bronx Zoo," for their constant turmoil and dysfunction, this was a very formidable team, which took their cue from their feisty manager, Billy Martin.

The teams would split the first two games at Yankee Stadium (4-3, New York, and 6-1, LA), before heading back to Dodger Stadium for the next three.

The Yankees, in front of  a screaming slew of Dodgers fans, would take the first two games (5-3 and 4-2) and put themselves on the verge of a championship. The Dodgers, however, had other thoughts, winning Game 5, 10-4, to send the series back to New York, for an historic performance, back at Yankee Stadium.

The Dodgers would strike first, on a Steve Garvey two-run triple in the first, but Chris Chambliss would tie it, on a two run homer in the second. The Dodgers went up 3-2 in the third, but in the bottom of the fourth Reggie Jackson would put the Yanks up with a two-run homer of his own, on the first pitch he saw. New York would extend the lead to 5-3, when Lou Pinella added a sacrifice fly later in the inning. Jackson came to the plate in the fifth, again with a man on, and promptly hit another two-run homer, on the first pitch he saw, and for good  measure, he hit a solo shot in the eighth (again on the first pitch), to become the first man since Babe Ruth (in 1928) to hit three homers in a World Series Game. Reggie's feat might have surpassed even the Babe, as he had hit one in his final at-bat of Game 5, meaning he had hit four home runs, in four consecutive at-bats, on four consecutive pitches, off four different pitchers (Sutton, Hooton, Sosa, and Hough). The Yanks took the game, and the Series, sending the Dodgers back to Los Angeles vowing retribution.

In 1978 the Dodgers, again, won the N.L West, besting the Reds, again, this time by 2.5 games, having the best record in the National League (95-67) and waltzing back into the World Series after having defeated the Phillies, again, three games to one. Much to their happiness, the opponent would be the Yankees (again).

The Yankees, themselves, had a harder time making it back to the Series. The team imploded early on, due to the previous-year's dysfunction, which never got better and caused the firing of Billy Martin, and injuries, which took their toll. Martin was replaced by Bob Lemon, at a time when the club found itself fourteen games behind the Boston Red Sox, but Lemon's calming influence allowed them to come sprinting back to catch, then overtake Boston for the American League lead.

When the season ended, however, they found themselves tied with Boston and after winning an historic playoff game, at Fenway Park, the Yankees, once again, defeated the Royals to return to the World Series.
The Dodgers easily handled the Yankees, in LA (11-5 and 4-3), and went east full of confidence and ready to take the crown from New York, but Graig Nettles had something to say about that. The Yankees' All-Star third baseman played the best defensive game in World Series history, easily saving five or six Dodgers' runs, with his diving, acrobatic gems, and the New York walked away with a 5-1 victory, very much alive.

LA looked to shake off the Game 3 loss the next night, but the Yankees overcame an early 3-0 deficit to knot the series at two, with a 4-3, extra-innings win, when Lou Pinella drove in the winning run in the tenth.
The Yanks would then go on to take Games 5 and 6, easily, by the score of 12-2 and 7-2, the finale coming back at Dodgers Stadium, on October 17th. Just like that, the season was over, again at the hands of the hated Yankees. Though they were still competitive,the team fell to third place (79-83) in 1979 and second place (92-71), one game behind Houston, in 1980.

Flying High in the 80s:

In 1979 the Walter O'Malley Era came to an end, as the 75-year old Chairman passed away of congestive heart failure, while being treated for cancer, at the Mayo Clinic, in Minnesota. Though he still remained a pariah for moving the Dodgers out of Brooklyn, and robbing the borough of its cohesiveness and identity, he did change the demographic of baseball, by bringing the Major League to the West Coast. Prior to O'Malley looking west, the western-most boundary was St. Louis, and by the time he died there were teams in Minnesota, Kansas City, Texas, California, and Seattle. That didn't change old feelings and some folks celebrated his death, as they thought of him as one of the worst villains of the Twentieth Century.

1981 was a strange year for baseball, as the season was interrupted by a labor dispute, which began in June and didn't end until early August. It was decided the season would be treated as two "mini-seasons" and the winners of each "mini-season" would make the playoffs. Based on this, the Yankees, Brewers, A's, and Royals would represent the American League, while the Dodgers, Astros, Phillies and Expos would be the National League's participants.

The Dodgers would play the Astros in the Divisional Series to determine who would represent the NL West in the Championship Round, against either the Phillies or the Expos, who were battling it out for the Eastern Division.

The Dodgers would have home field advantage, but in this new format the series would start with two games in Houston, which, as some players grumbled, was hardly a home field advantage. The Astros promptly won the first two games (3-1 and 1-0, in 11 innings), before the Dodgers came storming back to sweep all three games, in Los Angeles (6-1, 4-1 and 2-0) and move on to face the Expos, for the N.L. Championship.

The Expos were coming off a series win over the Phillies, three games to two, in their first-ever playoff appearance. They were a tough, scrappy team, led by Gary Carter, Warren Cromartie, and Tim Raines. A lot of pundits thought them to be up-and-coming, but not quite there yet. The teams would split the first two games in L.A., with the Dodgers taking the opener (5-1) and Montreal evening up the series with a Game 2 victory (3-0). For Games 3 and 4 the order reversed, with the Expos taking the first game back home (4-1) and the Dodgers tying the series, the next night (7-1). This brought everything down to a winner-take-all Game 5, to be played in Montreal.

Fernando-Mania Hits LA, 1981
The Expos would score first, in the first inning, but that is all they would get off the brilliant pitching of rookie phenom Fernando Valenzuela. Valenzuela would take MLB by storm that year, bursting on the scene as a 21-year-old from Mexico, who would win his first eight starts (five by shut out), finishing the strike-shortened season with a 13-7 record and winning both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Awards.

Valenzuela would shut the door and the Dodgers would tie the score, on an infield ground-out in the fifth. The game would stay knotted until the ninth, when Rick Monday homered, with two outs, off Expos ace Steve Rogers. When the Expos failed to score in the bottom of the inning, the Dodgers had won the game, and the Series, on what would forever be known as "Blue Monday." They were headed back to the World Series to take on a familiar foe: the Yankees.

Old Foes
New York had won the American League's Eastern Division, for the first half of the 1981 season, and had then defeated Milwaukee and Oakland to return to their fourth World Series since 1976. Some of the names had changed (Dave Winfield had been added, along with former Dodger Tommy John and newcomer Dave Righetti, while others had departed, such as Mickey Rivers, Roy White, and Thurman Munson, who had died in a plane crash in 1979), but the team's core (Reggie Jackson, Graig Nettles, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Bucky Dent, and Rich "Goose" Gossage) was still intact and ready to, once again, rumble with their oldest foes.

Games 1 and 2 were in The Bronx and, once again, the Dodgers found themselves a punching bag to their arch rivals. The Yanks swept the first two games, 5-3 and 3-0, once again behind the stellar play of their third baseman, Graig Nettles. Nettles was putting on a repeat performance of the 1978 Fall Classic, with timely hitting and tremendous defensive play, but unfortunately for him, and the Yankees, he would fracture his thumb in Game 2, which would completely turn the tide.

Once back in LA, the Dodgers regrouped, and though the Yankees had leads in Games 3, 4 and, 5, the Dodgers never gave up, fought back, and eked out all three games, 5-4, 8-7 and 2-1, to send the Series back to New York, up three games to two.

1981 World Series Champs Photo, in Dodger Stadium
The Yankees, once again, grabbed an early lead, on a Willie Randolph home run in the third, but the Dodgers buried them with eight runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. They would go one to win the game, 9-2, and win the series, four games to two. It was a complete reversal of 1978, when New York came back from a two-games-to-none deficit; it would be the last time a team would win the World Series after losing the first two games on the road, and it would also be the last meeting of a NY and LA team, in a championship game, until the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers in the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately for the Yankees, it would be their last trip to the World Series until 1996...fifteen long, long years.

The Dodgers would still be successful over the next few years, finishing second, one game behind the Atlanta Braves in 1982, and back on top of the Western Division in 1983, but losing to the Phillies in the NLCS. In 1984 they dropped to fourth in the division, but came back to win it in 1985, by 5.5 games over the Reds. They drew the Cardinals in the Championship Series, but bowed out in six games to the eventual World Series runner-ups.

In 1986 and 1987 the team finished with identical records of 73-89 and in fourth and fifth place, respectively. It would be two difficult years, but would eventually pave the way back to the playoffs in 1988.
1988 turned out to be a magical year for the franchise, as they were picked to finish fourth in the division and on the outside of the playoffs, but led by pitchers Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela, Don Sutton, and John Tudor, along with Rick Dempsey, Mike Scioscia, Steve Sax, and fiery newcomer, Kirk Gibson, the team would finish in first place, 94-67, seven games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds.

Orel Hershiser
Hershiser would be "The Man" that summer, leading the team with a 23-8 record, a 2.26 ERA, and fifteen complete games. Beginning in September, Hershiser would start a scoreless innings streak, which would eventually finish at 59. He would throw complete-game shut outs on September 5, 10, 14, 19 and 23, along the way to breaking Don Drysdale's record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings.

The Dodgers would take on the powerhouse New York Mets in the NLCS and immediately be classified as underdogs. The Mets, having finished the year at 100-60, were led by a pitching staff of Dwight Gooden, Bob Ojeda, Ron Darling Sid Fernandez, and David Cone, while Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez, Wally Backman, Gregg Jefferies, Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson, and Darryl Strawberry all made opposing pitchers cringe. The team was a year removed from being World Champions, but a lot of pundits felt this team had dynastic capabilities.

The teams would split the first six games, with  the Dodgers winning Games 2, 4, and 5 (6-3, 5-4 in 12 innings, and 7-4), while the Mets took Game 1, Game 3, and Game 6 (3-2, 8-4, and 5-1), to tie the series up and force a decisive Game 7, which would be played in Dodger Stadium.

Mets manager Davey Johnson was sure the Mets were going to win Game 7, due to the fact the Dodgers had, as he put it, "overused Hershiser all season long." It was the Mets, however, who looked tired and confused, as the Dodgers scored six times in the first two innings, as Hershiser cruised to a 6-0, complete-game shut-out, putting the Dodgers back into the World Series.

The NLCS victory did not come without a cost, however, as Gibson tore up his hamstring and banged up his knees and was not going to be available for the World Series, where the Dodgers would be taking on the 104-win Oakland A's.

The A's were the talked-about team in 1988, skippered by manager Tony LaRussa and led by home run hitters Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, also known as "The Bash Brothers." The duo had combined to hit 74 home runs and drive in 223 RBIs between them. The rest of the team were no push-overs, either, as Dave Henderson, Don Baylor, Walt Weiss, Terry Steinbach and Carney Lansford terrorized opposing pitchers, while Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Rick Honeycutt, and Dennis Eckersley scared the hell out of those digging in at the plate. This was not supposed to be a competitive series, and when the A's came out flying, in Game 1, it looked over before it started.

The Dodgers scored two in the first, but the A's doubled that up in the second and by the time the game reached the ninth inning they had a 4-3 lead and the best pitcher in baseball coming in to close the game out.

Dennis Eckersley had come into his own as a closer that year, appearing in 60 games and sporting a 4-2 record, with 45 saves and a 2.35 ERA, which was minuscule in this era. He had only allowed 52 hits in 72.2 innings, and had struck out 70. He was thought to be invincible; it turned out he wasn't. The first two Dodgers batters, Scioscia and Jeff Hamilton, were quickly put to rest, before Mike Davis walked on five pitches. Lasorda then called upon his hobbled superstar, Kirk Gibson, to pinch hit for Dave Anderson. Gibson had been taking practice swings in the batting cages, under the stadium, for the last two innings, and could be heard grunting with every swing. He had told Lasorda, earlier, that he had "one good swing" in him, and Lasorda needed that swing now.

Gibson's Dramatic Walk-Off Wins Game 1
Gibson hobbled to the plate, took his stance and quickly fell behind 0-2, even being forced to "run" out a foul dribbler. He put together an historic at bat, bringing the count back to 3-2 and forcing Eckersley to work on every pitch. Gibson remembered the scouting report, which said Eck liked to go to his backdoor slider on 3-2 counts and was waiting on that pitch, which he deposited in the right-center-field bleachers, winning the game with a walk-off home run.

The crowd went crazy, and the call was immortalized by Vin Scully who put forth the soon-to-be-famous quote:

 "...All year long they looked to him to light the fire and all year long he answered the demands. High fly ball into right field...she is GONE! In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."

The improbable would continue, as the Dodgers, having shocked the A's to their core, would go on to win Games 2, 4 and 5, (6-2, 4-3, and 5-2), stunning the baseball world and becoming world champions. Gibson would never play a minute in the field, or take another at bat, during the Series, but his dramatic homer set the tone, made the world take notice, and showed the Dodgers they could beat the A's, regardless of what the pundits thought. To this day, Gibson's at-bat is credited for turning that whole series around, as well as being mentioned routinely among the Top 3 Playoff Home Runs of All Time.

Fall from Grace:

As stunning as the 1988 World Series victory was, it was even more shocking when the Dodgers didn't win another post season game until 2004. The team would spend the years in between finishing in second, third, fourth, or sixth place. They would win the NL West twice, in 1994 and 1995, but the 1994 season was cut short by a work stoppage and in 1995 the Dodgers were swept out of the playoffs by the Reds.

Mike Piazza
The team would have a lot of talented players during these years, led by Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo, Kevin Brown, Shawn Green, Adrian Beltre, Eric Gagne, and Chan Ho Park, but none could lead the team over the hump, into the playoffs and collect a win. The greatest of those players was, undoubtedly, Mike Piazza, who rose from being the last player picked in the 1988 MLB Draft (he was chosen by Lasorda as a favor to Piazza's father), to a perennial All-Star and, eventually, a Hall of Famer.

Unfortunately he was traded to the Florida Marlins, in 1998, as he and the Dodgers hit a contract impasse and the team was afraid they were going to lose him to free agency, later that year. Piazza would go on to become the greatest offensive catcher of all time, and the Dodgers ended up with egg on their face.

Lasorda Plaque, at Dodger Stadium
Another notable departure, after the 1996 season, was Lasorda, himself, who retired after spending twenty years in the Dodgers dugout. He would finish his career with a .526 winning percentage (1599-1439), a two-time World Series Champion (1981 and 1988), two-time Manager of the Year (1983 and 1988), and would have his Number 2 retired by the Dodgers; he was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1997. To this day, one cannot think of the Los Angeles Dodgers without thinking of Tommy Lasorda. He would be replaced by one of his former players, Bill Russell.

Perhaps the biggest change during this time was that of ownership. In 1988, after a failed attempt to get the city of Los Angeles to approve an NFL team, and stadium, at Chavez Ravine, the O'Malley family sold the Dodgers to news magnate Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Thus ended almost half a century of stability in the front office and the dugout, as the team had been owned by one family since 1950 and managed by two men from 1954 -1996.

Trying to Rebuild:

By 2004 News Corp had sold the team, this time to a Boston real estate mogul named Frank McCourt. His first order of business was to hire Paul DePodesta as his general manager. DePodesta had been an Assistant GM, under Billy Beane, in Oakland, and relied heavily on the statistical analysis, known as Sabermetrics. This approach had many in the industry believing McCourt was unwilling to open his wallet and pay for top-flight talent.

DePodesta had the team flying high through the 2004 season, through shrewd trades and player acquisition, and they would finish atop the NL West, by two games, over the Giants. In winning their division, the Dodgers returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1995, but it was short-lived, as they were beaten in four games by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Joe Torre Joins The Dodgers
The team continued its overhaul after the 2004 season, but that did nothing to help them; in fact it set the team back, as they would finish in fourth, second, and fourth place, over the next three years and sport a record of 241-245. This would lead to the removal of DePodesta as the GM and Jim Tracey as the manager. Newly-hired Ned Colleti (GM) and Grady Little (manager) fared little better and by the end of the 2007 season Grady Little was replaced by former Yankees manager Joe Torre.

Back In The High Life, Again:

Torre worked his magic during his three-year stint  as manager (2008-2010), winning the West twice (2008 and 2009) but finishing fourth in his final year. In 2008 the team would have a magical summer, bolstered by the trade for Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, finishing with a record of 84-78 and making the playoffs. They would sweep the Cubs in the three-game divisional series, but lose to the eventual World Champion Phillies, in the Championships Series, four games to one. Regardless of the outcome, Torre had helped put the Dodgers back on the map, winning their first playoff series since 1988 and capturing the imagination of Los Angeles along the way. Also that season the Dodgers would see the emergence of a left-handed-rookie pitcher, who would become the face of the franchise and, eventually, the best pitcher in baseball: Clayton Kershaw.

Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw was drafted seventh overall, in 2006, but quickly climbed the ladder and found himself in the
Dodgers rotation, making his MLB debut on May 25, 2008. The big lefty hailed from Texas, but he had that blond-haired blue-eyed surfer look, which made him a natural fit for the Southern California lifestyle. Though he was laid back off the field, between the lines Kershaw was/is as dominant as they come and had a desire to win which proved second to none. At the end of his rookie year, he sported a 5-5 record, with a 4.26 ERA in 21 starts. He would also pitch in the playoffs and did not disappoint. Big things were expected from this young man.

2009 got off to a rocky start, as Manny Ramirez tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended for 50 games, but Torre showed why the Dodgers had hired him, by guiding the team to a 95-67 record, which was, again, good enough to take the National League flag, by three games, over the Rockies. The team once again charged into the playoffs, sweeping the Cardinals in the Division Series, but once again falling short in the Championship Series, once again to the Phillies. The next step, so everyone thought, was a return trip to the World Series, but it was not to be.

Despite Torre's managerial genius, he could not guide the team back to the post season in 2010, as they finished in fourth place, with a record of 80-82, 12 games behind the San Francisco Giants. Torre would choose to retire after the season, being replaced by his long-time bench coach, Don Mattingly.

The team was constantly in the papers for the next few seasons, but for all the wrong reasons. This year it was not Ramirez's PED usage that caused the commotion (he had been traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2010), but, rather the nasty, contentious divorce of the McCourts, as well as a legal situation that proved their undoing.

Frank and Jamie McCourt announced they were getting divorced after the 2009 season, but Frank assured MLB, and the fans, that it would not affect the team in any way. Unfortunately that was not a promise he could keep, and when things deteriorated the Commissioner had to step in and appoint a representative to oversee the team, due to concerns about the day-to-day operations and finances. Before all was said and done, the team filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and was, eventually, sold to a group of investors, known as the Guggenheim Group, led by Mark Walter, Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, and Peter Gruber, for over $2 billion.

Also during this time there was a police investigation hanging over the team, and MLB, when a Giants fan named Bryan Stow was attacked by a group of Dodgers fans in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium and left with life-threatening/changing head injuries, on Opening Day 2011. Many complaints had been lodged about the need for more security at Dodger Stadium, but this pushed the issue to the forefront of the national news. Eventually two men were caught, convicted, and sent to prison for the attack, but that did nothing to change the injuries Stow sustained, which have left him permanently disabled.

During these years the team was steadily improving; led by the pitching staff, which was anchored by Kershaw, they would finish in fourth, then third, then second place between 2010 and 2012. Though they would not get back to the playoffs, they would be setting themselves up for the future, which started in 2013.
With the new ownership group showing they were not afraid to spend money, and the on-field talent meshing nicely with Mattingly's managing style, the Dodgers once again won the Western Division, this time with a record of 92-70. They would face the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, beating them three games to one, and find themselves back in the Championship Series, against the Cardinals. The Cards were the better team, finishing the year with a record of 97-65, and the Dodgers quickly found themselves down, three games to one in the series. They would win Game 5, but that only delayed the inevitable, as they lost Game 6, 9-0.

The team would once again finish ahead of the pack in 2014 and 2015 (94-68 and 92-70, respectively), and win the N.L West, but they continued to stumble in the playoffs, never being able to get over the hump and return to the World Series. In 2014 they would lose to the Cardinals, this time in the Division Series, three games to one, while dropping out in 2015, again in the Division Series, this time to the New York Mets, in five games.

Dave Roberts
By 2016 the ownership group had seen enough and felt a change was needed, so Don Mattingly was shown the door and a former Dodger, Dave Roberts, was brought in to steer the ship. Roberts quickly put his stamp on the team and though they responded well enough, they were beset by injuries, including a two-month stint on the DL for Kershaw, due to a back issue. The team was still in the thick of things, looking for its fourth straight division title, as we pulled up to the Dodger Stadium gates and got ready to park.

Making Friends:

View of Downtown, From The Dodger Stadium Parking Lot

Chavez Ravine is a unique area, in that the stadium sits blow the ravine's lip and you have to walk down to get to the ballpark. We parked on the "outer rim," having a great view of downtown Los Angeles, which I was sure would be all the better after dark.

Quickly the adults cracked a beer, even though there was a sign that said "NO TAILGATING," and toasted the first game of our trip.

"When are we going to go home?" Felicity asked Jimmy and Chris, who nervously looked at me and laughed.

"We just got here, sweetie," Christine told her. "We're not going to be going home for a while."

I'm not sure she appreciated that answer, but she accepted it, none-the-less.

"Um, Uncle Jim," Kevin said, poking me in the back. "Look at that guy over there."

"Where?" I answered, sleepily, enjoying the sun's warmth and the ice cold beer in my hand.

"Right next to us," he said, in a tone so chock full of disbelief, I was shaken out of my daze.

"Holy crap on a cracker," Ryan chimed in, only to be reminded we had a five-year-old with us.

"What Ryan said," was all I head from Brendan.

I turned to my right, looked out the window and saw a bald man, whose head was completely painted white, with baseball stitches painted up the sides of his skull and Dodgers-logo sunglasses on his head.

"I have GOT to get a picture with that guy," I said, grabbing the camera and jumping out of the van.

"Please don't start anything," Tony laughed as I pulled on my Yankees hat and walked over.

East Meets West, at Dodger Stadium
After a brief introduction, an explanation of where we had come from and what we were doing (I could see Nick rolling his eyes, inside the van), I had Brendan come out and take our picture. We quickly shook hands, he told us to have fun, and we were on our way, to see the outside of the stadium.

"Could that have been any more perfect?" I asked Ryan. "Yankees and Dodgers fans, existing in harmony, all these years later."

"You're such a nut," Nicole said, shaking her head.

"Yeah and he wasn't the embarrassing one with his head painted as a baseball," Jimmy chimed in.

"Bah," I laughed at them and started down to the ballpark.

Dodger Stadium:

The View From Our Seats
Dodger Stadium is located on a parcel of land known as Chavez Ravine, inside Solano Canyon, in the Elysian section of Los Angeles, about three miles from the downtown section of the city. This allowed for fantastic views of the city, to the south, as well as the Hollywood Hills of Elysian Park and the San Gabriel Mountains, to the north and east. Eminent domain had been used to secure the spot, but that was for a housing project, which fell through when a new mayor was elected, in 1953, and, eventually, proposed as the site of the new ballpark. This land was then promised to O'Malley, in order to lure the Dodgers westward, back in 1956-57.

It was not an easy process to get the homeowners in the area to agree to sell, especially since the longer they held out, the less they were offered for their property. This struggle became known as the "Battle of Chavez Ravine." The process came to a favorable conclusion by June of 1958, when the final tenants had been bought out and the voters approved the "Taxpayers Committee for Yes on Baseball" referendum, and the Dodgers took control of the land.

The cost, at completion, was $23 million, which translates into about $182 million in today's funds, and the ballpark became the first since Yankee Stadium to be built with 100% private financing. When one understands exactly what was needed to create this ballpark, it's amazing the costs remained that "low."

Becoming Dodger Stadium
Construction began in the fall of 1959 and took, about two-and-a-half years to complete. The main "issue" with construction was the grading of the land to accommodate the ballpark and about eight million cubic yards of earth needed to be moved in order to do so. The first part of the construction was to remove the tops of the local hills, to level the area for the parking lots and the stadium itself, before the actual ballpark construction could begin. In the process two other ravines, Sulpher and Cemetery, were filled in and an elementary school was actually buried whole, near the site of the third base parking lot.

Dodger Stadium was one of the last baseball-only ballparks built before the advent of the multi-purpose stadiums and, today, is the third-oldest park in the Major Leagues (Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are older), as well as the oldest in California. It was built near the convergence of four major highways (the Hollywood Freeway, the Santa Ana Freeway, the Arroyo Seco Parkway and the Harbor Freeway), to help alleviate traffic, but that was wishful thinking, as the population growth of Southern California has created major traffic issues, as we were ourselves observing finding out. It was also built to be earthquake-proof, a major consideration when building in California, and has withstood many quakes, over the years.

The park was built for 56,000 fans, but the Dodgers had originally planned to make it expandable to 85,000 seats, by moving the extending the upper decks out over the pavilion, in the outfield, but the Dodgers have never pursued that and the capacity still sits at 56,000, today. This makes Dodger Stadium the only park that has never increased its seating capacity since being built, and with the "retirement" of the original Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium is now the ballpark with the highest seating capacity in Major League Baseball.

The Dodgers made more than their share of money back that first year, as the city's other baseball team, the Los Angeles Angels, would start their "baseball lives" by playing in Dodger Stadium until their ballpark could be constructed in Anaheim. The Angels would be the Dodgers' tenants until after the 1965 season.

Cy Young Wall
MVP Wall
The land surrounding the ballpark was, as expected, quite hilly. I had been warned there would be a lot of steps to climb and descend to circumvent the outside of the ballpark, but I wasn't quite prepared for this. We walked to the outfield gate and took a quick look inside the park, seeing the iconic Dodgers logo painted on the concrete barrier that stands atop the stadium, above the home plate area. We thought we should go in, through the outfield gates, and walk around the stadium for a bit, checking out the outside on the way out, but quickly found we could not get in at that gate, as our seats were not in the outfield section, so we took some pictures of the outfield plaza (which included walls that bore the likeness, and the years, that Dodgers' pitchers had won the Cy Young Award and players had won the MVP Award), and decided to walk around the outside of the park now, as opposed to later.

Bobblehead Boys

Amusement turned to annoyance, at least for some, when they saw we actually had to walk UP a huge flight of steep stairs to get to the next level, where we were able to see the life-sized Dodger bobbleheads, which the kids grudgingly took pictures with. Nicole was not amused by the amount of steps she was encountering and, I'm sure, was rethinking her desire to be on this least for this game. I promised her whatever she wanted, once we got into the stadium, and we kept moving around the outside of the ballpark. To be honest, even I was surprised at the terrain we encountered.

Future Gold Glove Winners?
Some of the other "memorabilia" we found outside the park, as we circumnavigated the outside, were giant replicas of the rings that had been given to the World Series Championship teams, a giant Rawlings Gold Glove, inscribed with the names of all the Dodgers' players who had won the prestigious award, as well as a "Learn Dodgers' History, from Vin Scully" spin-wheel. This interactive "game" allowed you to test your knowledge of Dodgers' history and when you wanted the correct answer, you pushed a button and the Dodgers' Hall-of-Fame broadcaster would give it to you. The kids loved this, so we spent a bit of time here and the adults got to "rest" from all the walking.

Surprisingly, there was no real "Home Plate Gate," as there are in other stadiums, which is generally located at what would be considered the front of the ballpark, so I found a Dodger Stadium logo, as close to what would be considered "the front" and took a picture of that.

Ryan, Kevin and Nick in the HoF Plaza
Jackie Robinson's Retired # 42
The final stop in our "around the outside of the ballpark stroll" was the Hall of Fame Plaza, located at the Top Deck Level, near the Dodgers Team Store. This plaza is an open-air concourse, ringed by the native Southern California palm trees, containing over-sized uniform numbers that have been retired by the team. Each number has a red front and a blue back (the red signifying the color of the numbers on the front of the jersey, with blue being the color of the numbers on the player's back), with a plaque detailing the history of the player in the Dodgers' organization. As of today, there are only ten retired numbers: Pee Wee Reese (#1), Tommy Lasorda (#2), Duke Snider (#4), Jim Gilliam (#19), Don Sutton (#20), Walter Alston (#24), Sandy Koufax (#32), Roy Campanella (#39), Jackie Robinson (#42), and Don Drysdale (#53).

Of course I had to get pictures of everything, which made me persona-non-grata, as the heat of the late afternoon was starting to become an annoyance to some, who shall remain nameless (cough, cough, Nicole) but put up with me anyway.

As I walked around taking pictures, Ryan followed close behind, making sure to read and review all he saw.

 I loved that he was taking in every bit of the history and making sure to look closely at everything and read every word, about every player. He truly is a mini-me.

For Grandpa
"Has Grandpa ever been out here?" Ryan asked me.

"Not that I know of," I told him, having to think about it.

"Make sure you get plenty of pictures. The Dodgers were his favorite team, growing up."

"Do you remember who his favorite player was?" I kidded him.

"Of course," he shot back. "It was Duke Snider, but I bet he knew Mantle was better."

"Yeah, but a Dodgers fan was never going to admit that," I said, playfully tussling his hair.

The Duke's Plaque
It never ceases to amaze me how much Ryan pays attention to what's going on around him. Even when he looks preoccupied, and lost in his own little world, he always hears, sees, and listens to things others may just let pass by...especially when it comes to his family. I mean, honestly, how many other kids know who their grandfather's favorite boyhood baseball player was, and would be concerned about taking some pictures, so he could see something he may never have seen before? He is a special kid and I love everything about him, even though he'll drive me bat-shit crazy at times.

The Lefty's Legacy
We spent about 20 minutes wandering around, reading and taking pictures of all the "monuments," making sure to get shots of all the Brooklyn players - for Grandpa, as well as a picture with the big # 32, for Sandy Koufax. He was, quite possibly, the most dominant pitcher in baseball history, and even though he gave my Yankees fits in the 1963 World Series, he is baseball royalty.

It was finally time to go inside, so we wandered over to the gate closest to where our seats were located (you can only enter the park on your seat level) and made our way through the turnstiles, collecting our Dodgers tote bags along the way. It's always fun to go to a ballpark on a "giveaway day," regardless of what the item actually is. We have gotten some really nice things, over the years, such as player bats (Yankees), travel kits (Mets), beer steins (Nationals), team t-shirts (Cincinnati and Pittsburgh), bobbleheads (Cleveland and Kansas City), cooler bags (Detroit), wine bottle koozies (Cubs), and now Dodgers tote bags. Some may look at it as more clutter for their house, but Ryan is already planning a "man cave," for his future home, and will be putting all these items on display.

Brendan and Koufax, Two Lefties
Immediately upon walking in, we saw a giant replica baseball, autographed by Sandy Koufax. Brendan,
being a lefty pitcher himself, naturally had to have his picture taken with the ball, which was almost as tall as he was.

"Is it time to get a Dodger Dog?" I heard from behind me, knowing exactly who was saying it.

"Yeah, Dodger Dogs," Brendan chimed in.

"I'm ready to eat, Kevin added."

"Not yet," I said, laughing. "I want to check out the rest of the ballpark, first."

"I don't think Felicity is up for any more walking," Christine whispered in my ear. "We're gonna stay here."

"You sure?" I asked, disapointedly.

"Yeah, we should let her rest or she could be grumpy later."

"Okay," I gave in.

Jimmy and Chris took Felicity one way while we headed over to the souvenir stand, to get a program and to ask the best way to get to the main level.

I got the program, but the guy at the stand told me we would not be allowed off the level where our seats were, which brought back bad memories of being at U.S. Cellular Field, in Chicago, where we had the same issue. Thankfully, after hearing our story, this vendor, like the one in Chicago, gave us an "inside tip" on how to get down to the Dodgers "museum level," as well as the field level, where we could wander around and take pictures.

"Tell them you want a kosher dog," he offered up.

"What?" I replied, in disbelief.

"Tell them you want a hot dog, but it has to be kosher," he repeated again.

"Okay, how is a kosher dog going to get me on field level," I had to know.

"They cannot deny you the kosher dog, if you insist that's all you can eat, and the only place they sell them is on field level," he laughed.

"Oy, I think I'm in need of a kosher dog," Tony laughed, doing his best Jackie Mason impersonation.

"Me too, or I'll be getting verklempt," I joked right back.

"Oh good God," Nicole rolled her eyes, while the boys wished they were anywhere else.

I said we'd check out the main level first, then head back to the "club level" to see the "Dodgers Museum." That way we'd get our pictures, look around and have plenty of time to see the memorabilia and, more importantly, hang out in the air conditioned room. It was getting HOT outside and there was not even the slightest breeze to be had, anywhere.

"But when are we getting the kosher dogs," Tony wanted to know, in his Yiddish accent.

"We'll be getting them soon, keep your pants on" I Yiddish'ed right back at him.

"Knock it off, both of you," Ryan said. "You're embarrassing."

"All we want is a kosher dog and he's embarrassed by our quest," I said, looking at Tony.

"For such a youngster, he's so meshugganah," was his reply.

"You're not going to stop, are you?" he asked.

"They might, if you'd stop feeding into them," Kevin chimed in.

"The red-head, he's the smart one," I said, still using the accent.

Everyone just shook their heads as we took the elevator down a level, and then two escalators to the field level.

As we walked out of the tunnel, and saw the field for the first time, all I could think of was "I'm finally AT Dodger Stadium." I don't know why it crossed my mind now, we had been at the park for over an hour, but just seeing the field, from behind home plate, for the first time, evoked memories of my childhood. This was the place I had seen, on TV, the Yankees winning the first World Series of my lifetime. It was, somehow, always the national game of the week, and I'll never forget watching the 1988 World Series with my dad, as a 19-year-old, when Kirk Gibson hit the walk-off home run, which helped propel the Dodgers to another championship. There was just something "magical," for me, about this place, though until now I had never been there. I stood there, taking it all in, smiling like an idiot and reminiscing.

The field was just as I remembered seeing it, on TV; the Santa Ana Bermuda grass of the infield and outfield; the wavy rooftop, which serves no purpose, over each of the bleacher sections; the bullpens, which divide the bleachers from the main sections of the stadium; the two giant scoreboards, over the bleacher sections (the right field one displays in-game information, while the left field one shows the out-of-town scores, as well as other messages); and the "famous" Phillips 76 gas marker, high above the scoreboard, in left. There are also smaller out-of-town scoreboards located on the left and right field walls, in the field of play.

View To Left Field
View To Right Field
Dodger Stadium has always been thought of as a "pitchers' park," but the dimensions don't play that theory out. It is 330 feet down the left and right field lines, 360' to medium-right and left fields, 375' to true-right and center fields, 395' to center and 400' to dead-center field. The park is actually very symmetrical (after Shea Stadium was torn down it's the only symmetrical field in the National League, and one of four in MLB, (Oakland, Toronto, and Kansas City being the others), but the cooler ocean air, especially during evening games, seems to "weigh down" the ball and keep it from going out. There have been 12 no-hitters, two perfect games, and five home runs hit out of the stadium (Willie Stargell twice, Mike Piazza, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mark McGwire) in the ballpark's history, while only two players have ever hit for the cycle here, which also feeds into the "pitchers' park" belief. There is a lot of foul ground on either side of the diamond, which allows for more infield foul outs than some other stadiums, as well.
Home Plate View
Aside from the Dodgers, there have been other memorable events held here, as well. There have been many concerts, (including Elton John, The Jacksons, The Three Tenors, Bruce Springsteen The Rolling Stones, Madonna, The Police, and Dave Matthews, to name a few), movies filmed (including Better off Dead, The Naked Gun, The Fast and The Furious, and Superman Returns), as well as a Papal Mass (1987) and assorted sporting events, which include a Harlem Globetrotters game, boxing, a ski-jumping event, soccer games, an NHL game (between the Kings and the Ducks), and Olympic and World Cup of Baseball events, too. Dodger Stadium might be the most "used" ballpark, for things other than baseball, since the old Yankee Stadium came down, after 2008.

After taking our pictures, wandering around and finding my way back from the inner recesses of my memories, it was time to retreat back upstairs and take a look at the memorabilia, in the "museum," on the club level.

"What about your kosher dog?" Brendan wanted to know, laughing at Tony and me.

"Don't get them started, again," Nicole said, playfully smacking her youngest in the head.

"Oy, I'd rather have a Dodger Dog," I told him.

"Dodger Dogs are the only thing to have, at Dodger Stadium," Tony countered. "Oy, what were we thinking."

Brendan got the look of death from everyone else.

Upon arriving at the club level, we were belted by a blast of cold air, which was both refreshing and invigorating. I hadn't realized how hot it had actually become, but this felt good.

I REALLY Wanted To Go In
"Look," Ryan said, in a reverential tone, pointing to a large sign. "It's the Vin Scully Press Box."

"You think he's there now?" Nick wanted to know.

"We should just go ask, maybe see if he wants a kosher dog," Tony told him.

"Don't you dare," was all could get out, before I started walking over.

"Get back here," Ryan hissed at me.

"I just wanted to talk to Vin," I pleaded, to no avail.

If there was any baseball fan in America who didn't know who Vin Scully was, 2017 surely changed that, as he had announced his retirement after 67 seasons of broadcasting Dodgers baseball. Beginning in 1950, when the team was still in Brooklyn, Scully was hired, at the age of 22, to be the radio voice of the team. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles he continued broadcasting the team and a whole new group of listeners were charmed by the soft-spoken New Yorker, who just let the game breathe and knew, perfectly, how to let the action speak for itself. He was the youngest person to ever call a World Series game (25 years old), a record that still stands today, and he has become synonymous with some of the biggest moments in MLB history. His opening lines of every Dodgers' telecast, "It's time for Dodger baseball!!! Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon/evening, to you, wherever you may be," were the sign that it was time to sit back, relax, let all your cares melt away, and enjoy the ballgame. For millions of baseball fans, he is/was/always will be the voice of the game.

Vin's Jersey
Sadly, the security officers weren't going to let me into the "Vin Scully Booth," but I tried, much to the kid's unhappiness. Though I did call them all over to see the Dodgers jersey, with SCULLY written on the back, signed by some of Vin's "close friends" in the baseball world.

There was plenty to keep us occupied, despite the fact that I was annoyed Ryan wouldn't let me try to sneak into the booth and talk to Vin, so we wandered about the floor, reading and taking pictures of everything.

It was a veritable cornucopia of Dodgers memorabilia, which told the story of the team, from its earliest days in Brooklyn to the present day.
Ebbets Field Lantern

The first thing we saw was a lantern, which was used to light the way around Ebbets Field, when night baseball finally came to Brooklyn, in the 1930s. It was small and boxy and I couldn't believe it would have given off much of an illumination, but apparently it did the trick, way back when.

The next thing we saw were the old equipment trunks, which were used by the club when they went on the road. They were battered and beaten, but clearly stated what they were and what they were used for. I couldn't imagine hauling those around, especially after knowing how "streamlined" the travel process is, in today's MLB.

"Hey daddy," I heard Brendan call, from over my shoulder. "Do you think Grandpa ever sat here?"

I looked over and laughed.

"I would bet he did," I told him. After all, he spent a lot of time at Ebbets Field."

Bren, Ry and Kevin, in Seats From Ebbets Field
Brendan and the rest of the boys had found seats that had been taken from Ebbets Field and transported all the way across the country, when the Dodgers came to Los Angeles. Someone had the foresight to save, and preserve, these relics, thinking they would be perfect to showcase Dodger history, from the New York era. I could close my eyes and see my father, as a kid, munching on a hot dog, sipping from a soda and cheering on Newk, Duke, Jackie, and Pee Wee, as he sat in the stands at Ebbets Field, as I now do with my boys, at Yankee Stadium. It made it even more special that my kids were imagining the exact same thing and brought about a touch of melancholy that my dad wasn't out here with us. I made a mental note to get back, with Ryan and Brendan, some time in the not-so-distant future.
1955 World Series Champs

There was also memorabilia from the first-ever Dodgers World Championship team (Brooklyn, 1955), such as newspaper clippings, team photos, and 1955 World Series paraphernalia. It was nice to see that even though the team left New York, they never forgot their roots and heritage, which is probably why they still have a loyal fan base on the East Coast, to this day.

Campanella Collage

Roy Campanella Night
The bridge between the two cities was Roy Campanella, the three-time MVP catcher whose car accident after the 1957 season left him a quadriplegic and kept him from playing one game in Los Angeles. To honor this great man, the Dodgers had a collage of pictures from his days in Brooklyn, which concluded with the moving ceremony he was given in the Coliseum when the team had moved to LA On May 7, 1959, 93,000 fans came to celebrate Campanella's life and legacy, in a moving ceremony, that provided necessary funds for his medical treatment. The iconic picture, which forever captures the magnitude of the moment, is one of Campanella being wheeled onto the field, in a pitch-black stadium, lit only with matches, lighters, and cigarettes, as the Dodger and Yankee teams watched, with tears in their eyes.

Home Plates From Ebbets and The Coliseum
As if to make the transition to their new home, the Dodgers had, mounted on a wall, behind glass, the actual home plates from the final game in Brooklyn, as well as the first one in Los Angeles and next to these was a picture of the team's first-ever game in the Coliseum. It is in this picture that you can see the Coliseum was ill-suited for baseball, as the field just didn't "fit" into the venue and made for very "interesting" playing dimensions and seating.

No Thanks, We'll Walk
The last two items that drew our attention were the old bullpen car and the new clubhouse lockers. The bullpen car was a throwback to the mid-1970s, when relief pitchers came into the game and were driven from the pen to the mound. Yes, you read that right, I saiddriven. Unlike the Yankees, who used an actual car, other MLB teams, including the Dodgers, used a golf cart, which was decorated as a baseball. Brendan, of course, thought this was a great idea and wanted to know if we could buy one, while Ryan, Nick, and Kevin just shook their heads, in disbelief.

Brendan, in a Locker

The locker was a replica of the lockers the players have, in the Dodger Stadium clubhouse, today.

Obviously it didn't have any gear in it, but it was double-wide and had more than enough room for anything the player might want to bring with him to the ballpark. Brendan climbed inside and decided we had to have a picture of him, sitting in the locker.

"Okay, c'mon, I'm hungry," I heard someone say, behind me.

I didn't even need to hear the voice to know who it was.

"You want a kosher dog?" Brendan asked his brother?

"Shut up. Don't get them started again," Nicole scolded him, after pointing to Tony and me.

"I don't vant a kosher dog, anymore," I said to Tony. "How 'bout choo?"

"No, I vant a Dodger Dog, now. Let's head back upstairs," he replied.

Nicole, Ryan, Brendan, Kevin and Nick, got away from us as fast as they could, as Tony and I chuckled.


As with every other ballpark, there is a plethora of food for those who are hungry, and Dodger stadium is no exception. Creatively the Dodgers have found a way to blend the past with the present, as they have designated certain things with a "Brooklyn" title, such as, Brooklyn Dogs, Brooklyn Pizza, and "Trolley Treats" (funnel cake, churros, donuts, deep-fried Twinkies, deep-fried Oreos, candy apples, ice cream and other desserts), as well as a nod to the Elysian section of the city, where the ballpark now sits, with the Elysian Park Grill. There are also stands named after former Dodger greats, such as Campy's Corner (frozen cocktails and beer, in honor of the liquor store Roy Campanella owned and operated, back in Harlem) and Tommy Lasorda's Trattori, where you can sample some of Tommy's favorite Italian foods. There are also plenty of Los Angeles cuisines to be found around the park, such as Asian Bowls (Teriyaki Chicken, Vietnamese Rice Noodle, and Kalua Pork), Mexican, (La Taqueria), and a sushi stand, with freshly made sushi rolls.

While all of the above is well and good, it should be noted that any trip to Dodger Stadium, without having a Dodger Dog, is a failure. That is not because the dog is so good (I was underwhelmed), but because it is THE signature food of Dodger Stadium.

Kevin and His Dodger Dog
The Dodger Dog was created, in 1962, by Thomas Arthur, who was the concession manager at Dodger Stadium from 1962-1991. The 10-inch pork hot dog is served one of two ways - steamed or grilled - and is delivered in a warm, steamed bun. The grilled dog is considered to be the "classic" version and this hot dog seems to have a loyal following, both in Los Angeles and around the country, though I cannot figure out why. I tried both versions, steamed and grilled, and found the steamed version to be bland and tasteless, while the grilled one seemed better, but only because it was "burnt," so it was more flavorful. The kids, Nicole, and Tony weren't that impressed either, but no one was sending it back. Personally, I didn't see what all the fuss was about; it wasn't better than any other hot dog I have had at a ballgame, though it was behind quite a few.

Having choked down one Dodger Dog, I decided I needed a beer to go with the other, so I wandered down to the stand, outside our section. JACKPOT. The 24-ounce beers being sold were only $5, which is about $10 less than at Yankee Stadium - and this was not Bud Light or Coors Light, but were QUALITY beers (for a ballpark, anyway). I had decided to go with something I had never had that was "indigenous" to the folks of Los Angeles and I figured  I would decide what that would be when I got to the front of the line, but I never got that far.

"Why are you wearing THAT hat," I was asked, by someone with a rough voice and a Hispanic
accent, behind me, as a tattooed arm clapped down on my shoulder.

"Huh?" was all I could stammer, turning around.

"That Yankee hat, why are you wearing it HERE?"

I turned around and came face to face, with what I can only describe as the scariest-looking man with whom I have ever made eye contact.

"Because I'm a Yankees' fan," I said, after gulping hard.

"How do root for the Yankees in Los Angeles?" he then wanted to know.

I figured now was NOT the time to be a typical wise-ass Yankees fan.

So I explained who I was with, what we were doing, where we were going, how my dad grew up a Dodgers fan and how this was my first time at Dodger Stadium. He took a step back, eyeballed me up and down as if to figure out if I was telling the truth, and, finally, broke into a big smile and clapped me on the shoulder...again.

"Anybody that is doing all of this, with his family, for baseball, can't be bad at all...even if he is a Yankees fan," he laughed.

I wasn't sure what to do, so I nervously laughed as well.

"Good thing you weren't a Giants' fan," he said, turning seriously. "We might have had to cut you."

My eyes must have widened, because he started to look "concerned."

"I wouldn't have cut" He laughed, again. "I would have found you in the parking lot."

I let out another nervous laugh and tried to change the subject, by asking what beer I should buy.

"You're not buying any beer." He said, getting serious again. "Anyone who is doing what you're doing is getting a beer bought for you. Have you ever had a Modelo?"

"No," I told him. Feeling faint.

"I'm buying, gringo. So don't even think of taking out your wallet."

Yes, sir," I thanked him, as we got to the front of the line.

"Give this gringo Yankees fan a Modelo," he loudly told the man at the stand.

"Remember, ONLY Modelo tonight," ee said, as I thanked him and walked back to my seats. "I better not find you with another."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I just raised my beer and walked back to the group, only to notice he was following me.

"I need to see where you're sitting," he said, serious again.

I pointed up the stairs, not knowing if I was being smart, but not wanting to piss him off, especially after he just bought me a beer, and thanked him again.

"See you later, gringo," he laughed and walked away.

"Aw, did you make a new friend?" Nicole laughed.

"I'm not sure," I told her, truthfully. "Let's just watch the game."

Starting Lineup:
Back: Jimmy, Christine, Nick, Ryan, Kevin, Me, Tony
Front: Felicity, Nicole, Brendan

Jim Kulhawy
Nicole Kulhawy
Ryan Kulhawy
Brendan Kulhawy
Kevin Johnston
Tony D'Angelo
Nick D'Angelo
Jim DeYuliis
Christine DeYuliis
Felicity DeYuliis

Ryan Had No Issues With His Dog
Dodger Dog and a Modelo
The sun was starting to go down, but not fast enough. Our seats were just to the first base side of home plate and the sun was going down to our left. It was both blinding and uncomfortably hot, compared to what I had expected. There were no cool breezes, and there was no beautiful sunset (as in Colorado), only the scorching-hot ball of fire, raining sweat-inducing rays down on us, as we waited for the game to begin. The boys were finishing their Dodger Dogs. Mine was long gone, washed down with two gulps of the Modelo I had been bought by the "friendly" gentleman I had met on line. Now I was anxiously waiting for the first pitch, or the sun to go down and save us from the inferno that was Dodger Stadium.

Sunset at Dodger Stadium
There were palm trees that ringed the stadium and the hills behind the ballpark were being cast in the shadows as the sun, mercifully, was sinking into the western sky, though not fast enough. I did notice an unusual amount of traffic outside the ballpark, but then remembered that the knock on Dodgers fans was that they, supposedly, showed up by the second or third inning and were gone by the seventh. This was a foreign concept to me, as I am usually the guy that's at the ballpark two hours before first pitch. I was learning just how laid back everything was out here, and I wasn't sure I could ever learn to come to grips with it.

The Game:
First Pitch

Finally the game began, as Scott Kazmir finished his warm-up tosses for the home team. Kazmir, once a promising pitcher, had been relegated to journey-man status, as he was now on his sixth team since beginning his career with the Tampa Bay, back in 2004.

We didn't have to wait long for some action, as Jean Segura drove Kazmir's third pitch of the night (on an 0-2 count) deep into the left-center field bleachers, for his ninth home run of the year. 1-0 Diamondbacks.

"You have got to be kidding me," Ryan muttered, looking over at me.

I shrugged, trying to remind him that it was still early, but he wants no part of excuses when first inning runs are given up...unless it's to the Yankees.

Kazmir settled down, getting through the rest of the inning unscathed, and leaving the field down only 1-0. Unfortunately the Dodgers couldn't capitalize on a Justin Turner double and a Adrian Gonzalez walk, when Howie Kendrick grounded out, leaving two runners on.

I felt good; the Dodgers had showed some "life," putting two on and making Braden Shipley work, but that was short-lived, as Kazmir immediately found himself in trouble, again, the next inning.

It started right away, again, with a double off the bat of Yasmany Tomas. He went to third when Jake Lamb grounded out to short and then came home when the next batter, Chris Owings, doubled as well. After the pitcher struck out (big surprise), Jean Segura doubled Owings home, for a 3-0 Arizona lead.
"FFS," I heard Ryan say, as the inning concluded with a Drury line-out to center.

"What did you say, kiddo" Nicole asked him.

"Nothing," I quickly told her, not wanting to escalate an already cranky kid.

He wasn't any happier when the Dodgers went down 1-2-3, in the bottom of the inning.

Kazmir, In Action
For the next four innings the teams traded scoreless frames, with the Dodgers getting three hits, while Kazmir limited the D-Backs to one. The game was moving along, but it wasn't as exciting as it should have been, due to the fact that the Dodgers were down 3-0, with little-to-no offense to excite the crowd. In fact, Nicole and Brendan were busy taking pictures of everything around them - the hills outside the ballpark, the setting sun, the palm tree that towered over the stadium - anything but the game. I couldn't say I blamed them; it was a bit boring, so much so that Jimmy and Christine had taken Felicity to the kids' playground out in the concourse to keep her occupied. This game was definitely not for a five-year-old.

Bren and Nik, Rooting For The Dodgers
Kazmir returned to his first/second inning form, in the seventh. After getting two quick outs, Phil Gosselin, who was pinch hitting for Shipley, doubled to right field. He was originally called out on a tag, but the call was overturned upon review, which kept the inning alive. Kazmir was then lifted for Pedro Baez, who promptly hit Segura, putting men on first and second, with two outs. There was still had a chance to get out of the inning unscathed, but that went out the window when Drury singled, scoring Gosselin, making it 3-0, Arizona.

"For the love of God," Ryan started out.

"And all that's Holy," Brendan and Kevin finished his thought, making him even more annoyed.

I started to laugh, until I heard a familiar voice, off to my left.

"Hey gringo."

"What now? I thought.

"You're bringing us bad luck, wearing that Yankees hat and because you don't have a beer. So I bought you another one."

My buddy was back, with another Modelo, which I gladly accepted and thanked him for.

"We need more offense," I started to say.

"And better pitching," Ryan grumbled, over my shoulder.

"I like how you said 'we,'" he laughed, "and the big guy knows his baseball, our pitching sucks, tonight."

I thanked him, again, for the second free beer of the night, as he walked away.

"Have a great trip and remember your friends in LA," he told me, as he walked out of sight.

"I never imagined the day I'd meet a beer-buying gang banger, at a ballpark," I said to Kevin.

"I'm just glad you made friends," he whispered back.

"I'm a friendly guy," I said, feigning hurt feelings.

"Sure, when you're not being a wise ass," he laughed and went back to watching the game.

As the bottom of the inning started, I saw the place was emptying out.

"It's true," I said to Ryan. "They do get here late and leave early."

That started a "BEAT THE TRAFFIC (clap, clap, clap, clap, clap), BEAT THE TRAFFIC," chant from my eldest, who was finally showing a smile and that he was enjoying himself.

"He's definitely YOUR son," Kevin turned back to me and said. "Mini wise-ass."

"Everybody's got their specialty,"Ryan chimed in, before going back to picking on those leaving for the night.

The bottom of the seventh started out with a Yasmani Grandal strikeout, an Andrew Toles walk, a Joc Pederson fly out and a passed ball, which moved Toles to second. Scott Van Slyke then singled, scoring the runner and making it a 4-1 game.

"EPIC COMEBACK STARTS NOW!" Ryan shouted to the crowd, who looked at him like he was nuts.

"We're not in The Bronx, are we?" I asked him.

"I'm not even sure we're in a ballpark, these fans SUCK," he replied, again shaking his head.

The D-Backs went down in order in the eighth, while the Dodgers threatened, by putting runners on first and third with two outs, but nothing came of it and the game went into the ninth, with the Dodgers down by three.
The Diamondbacks threatened to add another run, in the top of the ninth, but David Peralta's two-out triple went nowhere when Segura flied out to center and the Dodgers came to bat, hoping to somehow tie the game.

The Dodgers did next to nothing in the bottom of the ninth, as Grandal flied out and Toles grounded out, to start the frame. Things got a little more spirited when Joc Pederson hit his 15th home run of the season, but it was short-lived as Scott Van Slyke struck out to end the game.

Final Score

Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 2
Shipley (W) 1-1
Kazmir (L) 9-4
Barrett (S) 3

Post-Game Wrap-Up:

"Well that's a crappy way to start the ballgames," Ryan said, to no one in particular.

"It's one loss," Nicole sighed, shaking her head.

"It's a loss," Ryan countered.

"It's not even your team," Jimmy laughed at him.

"It was tonight," Ryan shot back.

"Give it up guys, you know how much he likes to lose," I laughed.

"Like I said, before, he's your son," Kevin reminded me.

"Kevin, have I ever told you how much I love you," Nicole asked, putting her arm around him.

"Thanks, Aunt Nicole," he said, sticking his tongue out at Ryan and me.

"Time to head to the team store," I reminded everyone. "Kevin wants a Dodgers shirt."

"Don't forget, Jimmy and Christine took Felicity back to the car and they're waiting for us," Nicole said.

"I know, but there's one more stop to make...for your favorite kid," I said, jokingly.

Kevin just smiled.

We made our way through the crowd, getting a few parting pictures, and found our way to the clubhouse store.

Once inside I was a little taken aback. I am used to team stores having t-shirts, or other paraphernalia, with the names and numbers of their all-time greats for sale, but not here. I was disheartened to learn I could only buy a shirt with the name of a current Dodger player on it. There was no Koufax (which I would have bought), Drysdale, Reese, Garvey, Lopes, Sax, Valenzuela, or even a Jackie Robinson. What's more, the t-shirts they did have were too expensive to even think of buying one. Kevin found something he liked, but immediately put it back when he saw it was $50. I told him we'd find one for him, tomorrow, in downtown Hollywood, which would be a lot cheaper, so we left as we came in, empty-handed.

By the time we got back to the van, Felicity was fast asleep. We were as quiet as possible, but with four teenagers the quiet wasn't going to last long.

City at Night
The drive back to the hotel took no time at all and after parking the van, no one was in the mood for much of anything else. The jet lag had caught up to us and our bodies were screaming for sleep, so we all went our separate ways and headed for bed. The next day was going to be just as long, if not longer, as Tony and Nick had arranged to meet up with some friends and play softball, before coming back and going sight-seeing with the Nicole, the boys and me, while Jimmy and Chris were taking Felicity to Disney. Now, however, it was time for shut-eye and the three boys were out before Nicole and I could turn out the lights.

July 31: Hello Hollywood!
A Picture of the Famous Hollywood Sign,
Taken from the Hollywood and Highland Center

Nicole and I were the first to awaken, so we decided to let the boys sleep while we went down to the coffee/breakfast bar/lounge area, on the first floor. It was quiet, after all it was a Sunday morning, so we could relax, talk about what we had enjoyed so far, discuss the upcoming days and what we hoped to see/accomplish and just be alone for a while.

Early Morning Swim. We're Livin' the Life
Tony and Nick were off, early, to play in a pick-up ball game they were asked to participate in by one of Tony's friends they had hooked up with the previous night at the stadium, so the boys and I decided for an early morning swim. The weather was LA-perfect and the pool was all ours, as no one else seemed interested in the idea of a 9 a.m. swim, so we made the most of it, laughing, joking, throwing one another around and causing general mayhem, while Nicole watched, happily far away from the "splash zone."

Once Tony and Nick got back, showered and cleaned up, we were on our way out for the day. It had been decided we would start our sightseeing with one of the many "Hollywood" cemeteries, though we would not be going to pay our respects to a movie star, or politician, but rather a budding Rock & Roll star whose life had been snuffed out at the age of 17, in an Iowa corn field, in 1959.
Ritchie Valens

Ritchie Valens , born Richard Stephen Valenzuela, was a California kid of Mexican descent, who was born and grew up in the San Fernando Valley. He learned to play guitar at an early age and  was "discovered" by Bob Keane, of Delphi Records, in May of 1958. Known as the "Little Richard of the San Fernando Valley" for his performance-style, Valens changed his first name to Ritchie because he was convinced there were too many Richards out there and his last name, from Valenzuela, because he didn't want to be thought of as "too ethnic."

Over the next eight months Valens and Keane produced quite a few hits, such as "Donna," La Bamba," "Come On Let's Go," and "We Belong Together." In the fall of 1958, Valens quit high school to concentrate on his career and made appearances all over the country, even though he hated to fly, on "American Bandstand," as well as a concert in Hawaii and shows in New York City, promoting Alan Freed's "Christmas Jubilee" concert.

The Marker Where Holly, Valens, and Richardson died.
Taken when we visited Clear Lake, in 2014.
In the winter of 1959, Valens agreed to join the "Winter Dance Party" tour, which was headlined by himself, Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. The tour party would travel by bus and make various stops throughout the Midwest. Unfortunately it was one of the coldest winters in recent years and the bus was constantly breaking down, had no heat, or both. By the time the group pulled into Clear Lake Iowa, on February 2, Holly had chartered a plane for his group, so they could fly ahead to the next location (Fargo, N.D.) and spend the night in a warm bed and wake up relaxed and refreshed. Richardson and Valens begged Holly's band-mates (Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup) to give up their seats, which they did (Valens "won" his on a coin toss from Allsup), and later that night the plane crashed, killing all three stars, and the pilot, and changing the course of music history, forever.

San Fernando Mission Cemetery
Rob, Tony, Nick, Ryan and I had visited the Surf Ballroom, in Clear Lake, where the three stars had last performed, as well as "toured" the crash site where they died, so it seemed only fitting that we pay our respects at Ritchie's grave, which was about 25 miles from our hotel.

San Fernando Mission Cemetery is located at 11160 Stranwood Ave, in Mission Hills. It took us a little longer than the 45 minutes we expected, as the 405 was a little crowded, but we weren't in a hurry, so it was a nice drive. The kids played a game Ryan had invented (assigning points for a car's color, with the first one to 25 winning), so they were kept busy. The day was warm, not yet hot, so we had the windows open, letting the cool breeze run through the van and just relaxing.

As we pulled into the cemetery we saw the old Spanish-style mission architecture at the front gate, which is shown at the end of the movie La Bamba, as the funeral procession leads Ritchie to his final resting place. The next thing we had to do was find Valens' grave, which we did with the help of the internet and the map of the cemetery we had procured at the office. Unbeknownst to any of us, there were quite a few stars, besides Valens, buried here. Had we wanted to sight-see the graves we could have visited with Bob Hope, William Frawley (I Love Lucy), Chuck Connors (The Rifleman), Ed Begley, Walter Brennan (The Real McCoys), George Gobel and Clarence Nash (the voice of Disney's Donald Duck), as well as more than a few others.

Finding Valens was not easy and we drove around the cemetery for about ten minutes before locating him, in Section C, between curb numbers 235 and 247. Once we parked the van, we found him three rows up, just off the street, near a lone cypress tree.

Valens' Grave Marker
The grave marker is cast in black marble, with the name VALENZUELA (his real name) atop it, and a cross with flowers, down the middle, dividing the maker in half. On the left side is a picture of his mother, Concepcion, with her birth and death dates listed, as well as a musical scale and the name of one of Ritchie's hits, "La Bamba," beneath it. On the right side is an etched picture of Ritchie, himself, with his guitar etched to the right, as well as his birth and death dates, another musical scale and the name of another of his hits, "Come On, Let's Go," below.

"It's a lot nicer than where he died," Ryan said, quite solemnly.

"I would hope so, since he died in a frozen cornfield, in the middle of winter," I replied.

"So young," I heard Nicole say, to no one in particular.

"Seventeen," Kevin replied, softly.

"Are we going to try see Holly and the Big Bopper, too?" Tony wanted to know.

"That's my plan," I told him. "We spend time in their birth city, saw their last concert venue, the crash site and their final resting place. Seems kind of fitting, no?"

"I'd like to make that work, if possible," he replied.

"Holly is in West Texas, so it's out of the way, but we're going there. I need to see if we can squeeze the Big Bopper in, it might be tough," I told him.

We stayed around for another five to ten minutes, taking it all in, snapping pictures, before getting back in the van and heading out of the San Fernando Valley and back into the city.

Bren, at The Tar Pits
Our first stop, once we got back to the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, was the La Brea Tar Pits.
This attraction was added to the itinerary with Brendan in mind, as he is our dinosaur kid and wanted/needed to see the world-famous attraction he's heard and read so much about. Needless to say, he was thrilled.

Located at 5801 Wilshire Blvd, in downtown Los Angeles, the tar pits are part of Hancock Park, which was built around them as an attraction. The pits are composed of an oil product known as gilsonite, which has come up through the ground as oil and, eventually, over the years, becomes natural asphalt, also known as pitch, or tar. Once at the surface, the oil formed pools at several different locations around the park, where animals and organisms would get caught and be unable to escape.

The tar pits that are seen today have been brought about by excavation, which started in the early 1900s, and produced over 100 different pits. The centerpiece of the park is called the Lake Pit, which was once an asphalt mine. There are still excavations today, which continue to produce more fossilized animals and organisms, and can be viewed by the public, as they walk through the park.

Brendan was hyper-charged, as we parked the van and got ready to explore, while everyone else was enjoying watching his excitement. I'm not sure, exactly, what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I found...except for the smell, which hit us the moment we stepped out of the van.

"Good Lord, what's that smell?" I said, wrinkling my nose and waving my hand in front of my face.

"It smells like they are paving the street," Kevin chimed in.

"That's just the tar, boiling at the surface, due to methane gas and bacteria," Brendan told us.

"How does he know that?" Nick asked Ryan.

"Knowledge is power," Brendan laughed.

We all just shook our heads and walked into the park.

The Lake Pit
Mammoth Caught In The Lake Pit
Our first stop was the Lake Pit, which is the largest of the pits in the park. This pit is huge and can still ensnare animals, or people that aren't careful, today, so it is fenced off. It is a complete recreation, in flora and fauna, of what you might have seen eons ago, when mammoths and saber-toothed tigers roamed the area. There are different sections of the Lake Pit, but the main attraction is a statute of a mammoth, stuck in the tar, while two others watch from the shore, as the trapped animal desperately tries to free itself.

The Three Sloths
Just beyond the Lake Pit is a large building, which houses a museum-like history of the tar pits, including fossilized remains of animals that have been excavated from the tar. You can climb up the sides of the building and look through the open roof, into what resembles a rain forest exhibit. The view of the surrounding park is also well worth the climb, as it provides a view of the park unlike any other.

Mini Tar Pit
As we walked around the park we were able to take pictures with a sloth, as well as other animals that were indigenous to the area, a long time ago. There were many "mini-pits" that we had to watch out for, as a few were not cordoned off, but the one thing that never changed was the smell. I don't know if the others got used to it, but I certainly didn't.

Workers, at Project 23
The last thing we wandered through was Project 23, which is a newly discovered area (2009) where the skeletal remains of a saber-toothed tiger, dire wolves, a ground sloth, bison, an American lion, and a mammoth were uncovered. These remains were removed and today the area is a working site, for researchers to look for more finds. The city knows that as they keep extending the subway line (Purple) more findings will be unearthed, so the site will constantly be evolving.

It was after 2p.m.; by now we were a little tired, and starting to get hungry.

"Who's ready for lunch?" Nicole asked the boys.

In a flash, all four turned around with eyes wide open and hands in the air.

"Why do you ask questions you already know the answer to?" Tony wanted to know.

"I was just surprised we hadn't heard about it, yet," she laughed.

"I'm thinking it's time for Pink's," I said, knowing full well they'd agree.

"MMM, special hot dogs," was Ryan's response.

"You vant to have a kosher dog?" Tony asked.

"Not again," Kevin rolled his eyes.

"Don't start that again," Nicole warned him, half-jokingly.

"Okay, okay, no vun vants a kosher dog," he said, feigning exasperation, as we got in the van.

Time For Lunch
Located at 709 N. La Brea Ave., just down the block from the tar pits, Pinks is the ultimate in Hollywood "food culture." Opening as a small push cart, operated by Paul and Betty Pink, in 1939, the franchise is still going strong 77 years later. Known for their variety of hot dogs and hamburgers, Pinks usually has lines that stretch around the corner, being visited by tourists, L.A. citizens and celebrities alike. In fact stars such as Orson Wells, Marlon Brando, Jay Leno, Steve Martin, Betty White, Aretha Franklin, and many others have chowed down on some of Pinks famous dogs.

Pink's Hot Dogs
When we got there the line was small, or so we were told, but it didn't look that way to me. It was two-to-three deep and stretched up the block. We figured it was about a 20-25-minute wait to order, so we grabbed some menus and relaxed. I couldn't believe what I was reading, as there seemed to be more than 30 kinds of hot dogs and that didn't even touch on the burgers, chili, onion rings, and fries I saw. My mouth was watering from just reading the menu, and I was sure I would never figure out what I wanted, but there was plenty of time to decide.

Kevin's "Poli Bacon Burrito Dog"
Ryan's "Bacon Burrito Dog"
The line moved quicker than I anticipated and soon we found ourselves ordering. We agreed to each order something different and share with anyone that wanted a bite, so we decided on a "Lord of the Rings Dog" (a nine-inch hot dog, sitting in onion rings and topped with barbecue sauce), a "Mulholland Drive Dog" (a nine-inch dog, with grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, nacho cheese and bacon), a Pastrami Burrito Dog (two hot dogs, pastrami, Swiss cheese, chili and onions, wrapped in a flour tortilla), a Bacon Burrito Dog (two hot dogs, cheddar cheese, three slices of bacon, chili and onions), a Poli Bacon Burrito Dog (a Polish sausage, cheddar cheese, onions, 3 slices of bacon, wrapped in a flour tortilla), a Philly Cheesesteak Dog (a nine-inch dog, with grilled steak, grilled peppers and onions and Swiss and American Cheese), a Bacon Chili Cheese Dog (a nine-inch dog topped with three strips of bacon, tomatoes, mustard and onions), an order of chili, two orders of fries (one with bacon and nacho cheese, another with guacamole and bacon), and an order of onion rings.

Nicole, With a "Mulholland Dog"
Brendan's "Lord of the Rings Dog"
After paying for our feast, we found a table out behind the "restaurant" and proceeded to start mowing down. I can honestly say these were, possibly, the best hot dogs I have ever eaten. All of the dogs had the necessary "snap" when you bit into them, which is the quality of a good hot dog, but each one had something that set it apart from the others. The Lord of the Rings Dog had the sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, which mixed perfectly with the "bite" of the onion rings, while the Mulholland Dog had the perfect mixture of cheese, bacon, mushrooms, and onions (Ryan likened it to a salad on a hot dog). The Philly Cheesesteak Dog had an interesting blend of hot dog and steak, but the peppers, onions, and the two kinds of cheese made it seem as if I had been transported to South Philly, while trying a new sandwich. The Bacon Chili Cheese Dog was like a good chili cheese coney, but with the bonus of bacon flavor, and we all know that bacon makes everything better. All the dogs listed above were amazing, however the last two (the Pastrami Burrito Dog and the Poli Bacon Burrito Dog), in my opinion, were just a cut above.

Pastrami Burrito Dog

First off, each had TWO hot dogs, wrapped in the warm tortilla, but that's
Tony and Nick, Mowing Down
where the similarities ended. The Poli Bacon Dog did have cheese, onions, and bacon, which all melded amazingly, but the Pastrami Burrito Dog had Swiss cheese, chili, onions, and pastrami, which, when combined, made it the winner, in a split decision. There was the crunch of the dogs and the onions, the melted cheese, and the salty pastrami, covered in the house chili, that just seemed to complement each other and make this the perfect meal, for a hungry traveler.

The fries were very good, I am not a french fry connoisseur, but I definitely enjoyed the bacon and cheese fries. In all honesty, who doesn't love bacon and cheese on anything, but there was something completely "Californian" about guac and bacon as a topping, as well. Either way, no one was comfortable after chowing down on all that food, and it was only slightly after three o'clock. We still had more sights to see, but I didn't even want to think about walking, right away, so we opted to drive up into the Hollywood Hills and try to catch a glimpse of the iconic sign, which has become a world-wide landmark.

Griffith Observatory

We had heard the best location to take pictures of the sign, as well as downtown LA, was from Griffith Observatory (known as "Southern California's Gateway to the Cosmos"), located at 2800 East Observatory Rd, in the Hollywood Hills, so we started driving those twisting, turning, roads, that would lead us far above the city streets.

Unfortunately we never got to our destination, though not from lack of trying. On this beautiful Sunday afternoon, it seemed everyone had the same idea as we did and the streets, and parking spots near the observatory, were packed full. The one-lane road was so over-full that we couldn't find a place to park, or make a u-turn, so we passed the observatory and came down the other side of the hills, back into the city.

I'm not sure we were completely up to doing the "Hollywood Walk of Fame," after still being so full from lunch, but we needed to get out and stretch our legs and work of some of those calories. We found a parking spot and got out, to see the beginning of the "Stars" on the pavement, which would lead us throughout the city.

"The Hollywood Walk of Fame" is comprised of 1.3 miles of Hollywood and Vine Streets, and pays homage to a variety of stars from the entertainment industry, who have made the town famous. As of 2016 there were over 2,600 stars on the walk, which began with Stanley Kramer's, in 1960.

Mel Brooks
The concept began in 1955 when E.M. Stuart, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president, and Harry Sugarman, a chamber of commerce member and president of the Hollywood Improvement Association, set forth a plan to honor the "glamour and excitement of the community, around the world." The final design was a coral-pink, five-point star, rimmed in brass, with a charcoal-colored background. Each star would be represented by an icon, which would show the area of entertainment the name represented, of which there are five: Motion Pictures (classic film camera), Broadcast Television (TV Receiver), Audio Recording/Music (phonograph), Broadcast Radio (Radio Microphone) and Theater Performance (comedy/tragedy mask), which would be spaced out at six-foot intervals, along the walk. Of all the stars, to date, 47% represent motion pictures, 24% in television, 17% in audio recording/music, 10 % in radio and less than 2% in live performance; about, 20 new stars are added each year.

Vin Scully
Walt Disney
We spent almost an hour walking up and down the streets, looking for famous names that we knew. Over the course of the afternoon, we found Walt Disney, Ann Margaret, The Doors, Jim Henson, Vin Scully, and many others . Along the way we also stopped into a Hollywood souvenir shop, where Kevin was able to find nearly the exact same Dodgers shirt he'd seen the previous night, for about half the price, which made him a happy kid.

After a while we were all tired and thirsty and had discovered another spot to take a photo of the famous Hollywood sign (at the Hollywood and Highland Center, at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard), so we decided to stop in, find something to drink and get some pictures.

This center is really an entertainment complex and shopping mall, which stands five floors tall and opens to a massive courtyard, which was inspired by the film Intolerance. It houses over 70 shops, 25 restaurants, a bowling alley, and two theaters (Grauman's Chinese, as well as the Dolby - formerly the Kodiak - where the Academy Awards are held) and was once the site of the famous Hollywood Hotel, where the legendary stars would stay when making a movie. It is, possibly, one of the most visited tourist spots in Hollywood.

After grabbing a drink and relieving ourselves we headed to the top floor, where we were able to take some great shots of the sign, as well as a much needed breather, for a few minutes.

"Did you know the Hollywood Sign didn't always say Hollywood?" Ryan asked all of us.

"Do tell," I encouraged him, though I already knew the answer.

"Yeah, the sign originally read Hollywoodland," he proudly told us.

"Really? What happened?" I asked him.

"Not sure, I'll look it up and get back to you," he told me. "After I borrow Mr. D's phone."

He borrowed the phone, read a while, and then got back to us all.

A Picture of the Original Sign,
Hanging in The Hollywood and Highland Center
"Apparently the sign was used as a billboard for a real estate development, back in the 1920s. It is on Mount Lee, in the Hollywood Hills section of the Santa Monica Mountains. The letters were 30 feet wide and 43 feet tall, so it could be seen for quite a distance, and had to be hauled up to where it was placed on dirt roads. It was lit by over 4,000 lightbulbs and would blink...first on the 'Holly' then on the 'Wood' and, finally, on the 'Land.' It was only supposed to be there for about a year, but it's still standing, all these years later. In the late 1940s some drunk guy drove his car into the letter "H" and destroyed it and when it was rebuilt they decided to remove the 'LAND' portion of it. By the 1970s it had to be repaired and reconstructed and was unveiled on a date that commemorated Hollywood's 75th Anniversary, and it cost, almost, $250,000," he told me, proudly.

"Nice job," I said, in all seriousness. I was impressed he retained all of that from what he had just read, but apparently he had taken his "quest" very seriously.

After snapping off a few more pictures we headed back down to the main level, where we would exit and see one more Hollywood landmark; Grauman's Chinese Theater.

Grauman's Chinese Theater
Grauman's Chinese Theater (now known as TLC Chinese Theater) is an historic movie palace, along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard, in downtown Hollywood. It was conceived by showman Sidney Grauman, who had previously built Grauman's Egyptian Theater (also in Hollywood), but wanted a "movie palace", of oriental design. Grauman formed a partnership with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Howard Schenck, and started construction in 1926. The participants had to obtain permits from the United States Government in order to secure the Chinese artifacts (pagodas, stone-heaven dogs, and temple bells, among other things), which would creae an authentic Chinese look to the theater. Opening Night was May 17, 1927, with a showing of Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings, but it was only for the "Who's Who" of Hollywood; the theater was opened to the general public the following day.

Cary Grant
Over the years Grauman's became THE place for a movie to premier
and it has been continuously frequented by Hollywood Stars ever since. One tradition that has been continued, over the years is for a star to put his, or her, handprints, footprints, and signature into the concrete in the theater's courtyard. Many a performer has had this honor, such as Gloria Swanson, Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire, The Marx Brothers, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, George Burns, Clint Eastwood, and many others. Hand and footprints, however, were not the only thing "cast" in the concrete; Roy Rogers left the imprints of his guns, Betty Grable had her legs cast, while Groucho Marx left an imprint with his cigar.

Field of Dreams; My Favorite Movie
We spent twenty minutes wandering the courtyard looking for stars we knew and came across quite a few. Of course, since this was a baseball trip I HAD to find Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, and For Love of the Game), but we also stumbled upon Robert DiNero (Bang The Drum Slowly), Jack Nicholson (Ironweed) and Cary Grant (That Touch of Mink), to name a few others who had starred in baseball movies.

It was apparent the boys had had enough, so we decided to call it an afternoon and head back to the van. This time we walked on the opposite side of the street, in order to see more of the Walk of Fame stars, and also because it was shadier over there and the heat was making everyone a little cranky.

Rodeo Drive, in Beverly Hills
Twenty minutes later we were all comfortably lounging in our seats, as the air conditioning flowed over us at a cool 65 degrees. We took a look at what was going on that evening, in the Hollywood clubs and theaters, but decided no one was up for it and we would all just be better served by going back to the hotel and jumping in the pool. On the way back, however, we decided to drive through Beverly Hills, to show the boys "how the other half lives."

Beverly Hills is one of the richest communities in the United States, famed for the actors and celebrities who live there. It is known as being an affluent community, for its spacious homes, hotels, and shops, and has been portrayed as such, both in film (Pretty Woman, Beverly Hills Cop, and Clueless), as well as on TV (The Beverly Hillbillies and Beverly Hills 90210).

We wandered through the city, showing the boys the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and all the shops along Rodeo Drive, as well as all the fancy-dressed people, wandering in and out of the stores. We must have made quite the scene, seven of us in a 12-person van, cruising up and down Rodeo, laughing, pointing, and joking, but we were having a blast and couldn't have cared less.

The End of a Long Day
By the time we got back to the hotel, the boys had gotten their second wind and were clamoring to get in the pool. Nicole and Tony weren't really "feeling it," so I jumped in and the five of us played games, swam races and created mayhem, while Tony and Nik hung out on lounge chairs, laughing and shaking their heads at us. After about 90 minutes we all trudged upstairs, tired, but happy and hungry. We ordered a pizza from one of the local joints, but it was so God-awful even the kids didn't like it. They ate it though, because no teenage boy is going to turn down pizza, while watching a ballgame in bed. After about an hour they started to fall asleep, so Tony and Nick went to their room, while we brushed teeth and got ready for bed. Everyone was exhausted; it had been a long, full, day, but tomorrow was going to be just as busy, so we needed some sleep.

August, 1: Presidential Aspirations

Seal of The President of The United States
At President Reagan's Grave
Once again, Nicole and I woke first and headed down to our little coffee shop get-away. It was quiet, so we had a chance to talk, relax, and enjoy the early-morning quiet, without any distractions. We discussed what was in store for the day and planned out what we thought was the best course of action.

After an hour, it was time to go wake the kids, as well as Nick and Tony, who love their sleep. I wanted to get a move on, as I was both excited to see today's sights, starting with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and anxious about the hour-plus drive to get there. I had yet to tell everyone there was another stop I wanted to make, before getting to our initial destination, and figured I'd hit them with that one once we were in the car.

Nicole went to wake our kooks, while I headed over to wake Tony and Nick. On the way I ran into Christine and Felicity, who were surprisingly awake after a fun-filled adventure at Disney the day before. I had been hoping they would be joining us, but it really wasn't anything that would interest a five-year-old, and they had a flight to catch that evening, so they decided to stay behind and spend the day at the pool.

The drive up to the Reagan Library was going to be a scenic one, but first we had to stop in the heart of the city to "see" a landmark that was no longer standing; the Ambassador Hotel.

"Why are we going to see a hotel that no longer exists?" Nick wanted to know.

"Because that's where Bobby Kennedy was assassinated," I told him, cringing at what I knew was coming next.

"Stop making us LEARN, Uncle Jim," Kevin said, half-jokingly, from the back. "It's summer vacation."
"Would you prefer that I make you read something about it?" I asked my book-shy nephew, starting to Google the Robert F. Kennedy Assassination on Tony's phone.

"Um...nope. Seeing would be much better," he replied, quickly.

"I knew you'd see it my way," I laughed.

Mural of Kennedy, at the
Robert F. Kennedy Inspirational Park
On the Site of The Ambassador Hotel
The trip from the hotel to the site was supposed to take about 40 minutes, but that didn't take traffic into account, and so it took us nearly an hour. I wasn't thrilled, but I wasn't going to miss the chance to see this piece of American History, either. Ever since I was a little kid, I had been fascinated by the Kennedy family and Bobby had always been my favorite. Lots of people admired President Kennedy, but Bobby was the man BEHIND the man, helping call the shots, setting the policy, chasing the bad guys, and being his brother's keeper. He was a family man, first and foremost, with a ferocious loyalty to what HE believed to be right and wrong, but there was also a softer side, one that brought about an almost-tender appearance, which the downtrodden, for whom he'd fought so hard, came to love and believe in. After President Kennedy was assassinated, he lost his way, until he became the senator for New York and then ran for the presidency, in 1968. Kennedy was, I believe, the last Democrat who had a clue about how things needed to be run. He had an understanding of foreign policy, yet still believed in helping people "at home." He didn't believe in welfare programs, but in making people self-sufficient by giving them hope, education, and opportunities to better themselves, both within their communities and the country, in general. He was a Democratic "anti-liberal," as liberals have become known, today.

In June of 1968, Kennedy was running for the Presidency of the United States, and after having just lost the primary in Oregon, was campaigning in California. His base of operations was the Ambassador Hotel, at 340 Wilshire Avenue, in Los Angeles. This elegant 500-room hotel and nightclub opened in 1921, and was the choice for presidents, entertainers, and world leaders when visiting Los Angeles; it also hosted the Academy Awards twice.

"Now it's on to Chicago
and let's win there"
On June 4th, Kennedy had been all over California, doing last-minute campaigning for that day's primary, and had returned to his suite to await the returns. After midnight, it was announced that Kennedy had won, and that he would be giving a victory speech from the hotel's main ballroom. After his speech, which concluded with the now-famous line "So my thanks to all of you and now it's on to Chicago and let's win there." Due to the unexpected number of followers that had overflowed the ballroom, Kennedy detoured his exit through the kitchen, where he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan. He died the next day.

The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools,
As Seen From The Robert F. Kennedy
Inspirational Park
The decline of Ambassador started with the Kennedy assassination. The hotel "lived" on until 2006, when it was demolished (I had heard many times that LA never took its own history seriously, and this just proved it to me), though it was replaced by a complex of six public schools, named the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, which were modeled on a modern interpretation of the original hotel and looked strikingly similar.

Day of Affirmation Address
Day of Affirmation Address
The Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park stands at the front of the school and has a six-foot-tall 24-foot-wide steel entry-way, with its cutouts forming a "ripple of water," which is taken from his "Day of Affirmation Address," given in South Africa on June 6, 1966. The back wall of the "memorial" is eight feet tall, 110 feet long, and features a picture of Kennedy, along with some of the most memorable quotes from his speeches, as well as quotes that were spoken about him, by others.

To say the experience was moving, for me, was an understatement. I had always dreamed of visiting the Ambassador, just as I have in seeing Dealey Plaza (the spot where President Kennedy was assassinated), but I never dreamed it would be this "spiritual." No one in the park spoke; there was a hushed reverence, like being at his gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery, and it was very peaceful and reflective. I was glad my boys were there to see this spot and share this moment with me.

Visiting The Reagans

After getting back in the van, we headed up the 405, to the 101, relaxing in the mid-morning sunshine. We saw the Hollywood sign, off to our right, as we passed the hills, on our way north and pulled into the Reagan Library about an hour later.

Though it may be an hour from downtown LA., Simi Valley (where the library is located) is a world away. Gone are the freeways and tall buildings, nowhere to be found are the congested sidewalks, teeming with people, all in a hurry to get somewhere, replaced with lots of open space, clean air, and a desert-like atmosphere. It was stunning.

President Reagan Welcomes Us
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is located at 40 Presidential Drive, in Simi Valley, and is the largest of the 13 federally operated presidential libraries. Its address was chosen to commemorate Reagan's place in the presidential lineage, 40th. Construction was begun in 1988 and the library was open to the public in 1991. The dedication ceremonies were the first time in U.S. History that five living presidents (Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush) were together at the same time, along with six First Ladies (Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush), Former-President Kennedy's children (Carolyn Kennedy-Schlossberg and John F. Kennedy, Jr.), and descendants of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well.

The facility itself cost $60 million to build, all from private funds, and, at the time, was the largest of the presidential libraries; it holds thousands of audio and video recordings, 500,000 feet of motion picture film, 1.6 million photographs, and 50 million pages of documents. It also holds items from Reagan's years as the governor of California, as well as personal family artifacts, from his birth through his death.

Tomb of The President
and First Lady
Grave Marker
We kind of made a mistake upon entering the grounds, in that we went to the back of the library first, which is actually the end of the "tour." Here you get to see the gravesite where President Reagan and his beloved wife, Nancy, are entombed. The grave-site is a beautiful crescent-shaped memorial, made of stone and simply decorated, on the front, with the Presidential Seal. The back also has the Presidential Seal, along with an engraved quote, from the president, which reads:


At the base of the tomb is a marker, listing both the birth and death dates, for the President and the First Lady.

President Reagan's View
of The Valley
If you stand with your back to the tomb, you can look out upon the beauty that is Simi Valley. The site was chosen for this very reason, as President Reagan loved the view of the valley and wanted to be able to "look out on it for eternity."

We decided to take a closer look at the natural beauty, but as soon as I got close to the edge of the walkway, I quickly backed up.

"Whatsa matter?" Brendan asked, knowing full well what had spooked me.

I could only point to a sign that read "Warning Natural Habitat for Rattlesnakes."

"You know what's worse than rattlesnakes?" Kevin asked.

"Flying rattlesnakes," Ryan laughed, finishing his sentence.

All of a sudden I heard a rattling sound and felt something on my shoulder. I must have jumped three feet in
the air and four feet backwards, away from the signage. Everyone burst out laughing, Ryan and Kevin so hard they were doubled over. Apparently Ryan was making the rattle noise, while Kevin had snuck around back and tapped me on the shoulder.

"That's not funny," I snapped, trying to regain some composure.

Unfortunately no one was listening, as they were too busy laughing and making rattling noises.

We walked a little further into the "backyard" and found ourselves face-to-face with a section of the Berlin Wall, which had been donated as a remembrance of President Reagan helping to bring about the deconstruction of that "landmark." We stopped and took a few pictures "at the wall," especially one of Kevin, which he immediately sent to his father, whom we all wished could have been with us for this part of the trip.

Entrance To The Reagan Library
By now we realized we probably shouldn't have started our "tour" here, so we went looking for the front entrance, which we found about five minutes later. I don't know how we "missed" this, as it was literally in front of us as we came in from the parking lot. The museum is built to look like a ranch-house from the outside, as President Reagan fancied himself a throwback to the Old West, and is done in a beautiful southwestern motif, with a large, open courtyard, which contains a large fountain and a statue of the former president at the front door. We took some pictures and went inside to find an immense building, which was completely different from the world we had just left outside.

The First Couple Greets Visitors
We walked down a long hallway, where a statue of the First Couple was the first thing to greet visitors as they enter the gallery. The library is laid out in chronological order of President Reagan's life, so the first exhibits show him as a child, with his family, all the way through high school and college and into his early adulthood. It was here we learned he was born in Illinois and got his nickname, "Dutch," from his father, who insisted he resembled a "fat little Dutch boy." During his youth he was a quite interested in sports (swimming and football) and played throughout his educational years. His first job was as a lifeguard and he was credited with 77 saves.

Ryan's "In The Movies"
After graduating from at Eureka College, where he studied economics and sociology, Regan entered the entertainment industry, first as a broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs, which took him to California where he took a screen test and decided he was going to stay out west and work in Hollywood. He would spend the next 15 or so years, making movies and becoming the head of the Screen Actors Guild. As part of this exhibit we were able to view some of his best-known movie roles, as well as have our video taken, after having ourselves imposed on the screen alongside Reagan. Of course I chose to "mimic" his call of a Cubs home run, while Ryan decided he had to be "in the movies."

During this time, Reagan was married to Jane Wyman, who also was in the movie industry, but the marriage only lasted 10 years before the couple filed for divorce. It did, however, produce two children, Maureen and Christine (the latter only lived one day), while they adopted a third, Michael.

The next section of the library dealt with Reagan's political career, which started when he met, and married, Nancy Davis, with whom he would spend the rest of his days, and always call "the love of my life." Reagan would begin his political career as a Roosevelt Democrat, but would drift further and further to the right, until he became a conservative in 1962. By 1964 he had become the leading conservative speaker for the Barry Goldwater campaign.

Governor Reagan

By 1965 the conservative movement in California had tapped him to run for governor and, of course, there was an entire room filled with memorabilia from his successful run, through the eight years he spent at the helm of the state (1967-1975). In his first election he defeated San Francisco mayor George Christopher in the GOP primary, and then Pat Brown in the election, running on a promise to "get the welfare bums back to work," as well as to "clean up the mess in Berkeley." He would win a second term, in 1970, defeating Jesse Unrah, but did not seek a third term and was succeeded by the Democratic Secretary of State, Jerry Brown.

Unknown to a lot of younger people, Ronald Reagan challenged incumbent President Gerald Ford for the 1976 GOP nomination, but his attempt fell short at the convention and Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter in the general election.

1980 Presidential Nominee
By 1980, Reagan was the consensus nomination of the Republican Party and he won the nomination for the
presidency. It was in this portion of the museum I could see Ryan's interest really pick up. He was reading all the information we had seen, so far, but now he was spending more time studying what he was seeing. I decided to hang back and engage him, as the others seemed to move ahead.

"What's interesting, here?" I asked him.

"Well, I knew he took on Jimmy Carter, who I hear was a horrible president, but I didn't realize he beat him so badly. Do you remember that he won 51% of the vote and carried 44 of the 50 states?" he asked me.

"Wait'll you see the 1984 Election," I laughed.

"He also campaigned on a platform of states' rights, less government and a stronger defense force," he said. "Sounds like a pretty good plan to me."

"Yes, sir," I told him. Sounds a lot like what we need today, doesn't it?"

"Absolutely. More personal responsibility, smaller government and a strong military? I'm all for that."

"That's my boy," I said, smiling and rumpling his hair.

President Ryan

The next portion of the museum lent itself to President Reagan's first term, starting with the podium he used at his swearing-in ceremony, on Inauguration Day. I made sure to get plenty of pictures of all of the boys at the podium, joking that I would be a great vice-president. Not surprisingly, none of them took me up on my offer. I then decided I would have to challenge each, and any, one of them, so I made Nicole take a picture of me at the podium. Tony said he was voting for the kids; my political career was over before it got off the ground.

We spent the next 45 minutes going through President Reagan's first term, including an entire room dedicated to the failed assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. in 1981. Here we saw actual clothing worn by the people involved, detailed descriptions of what had happened, and why, as well as video from that event, which I remembered having watched live.

We also learned about "Reaganomics," the Air Traffic Controller's Strike, the rise of the economy, as well as the escalation of the Cold War, with Russia. There were also artifacts from the bombing of a U.S. Military base, in Beirut, which killed 241 servicemen and Operation Urgent Fury (Grenada).

Inside The Oval Office
Oval Office Couches
The most impressive exhibit we had seen so far, in my opinion, came next. It was a full scale replica of President Reagan's Oval Office, right down to the minutest detail. The President's desk was faced so his back is to the windows behind him, while forward looks out into the room, with two white couches facing one another and the Presidential Seal, visible between them, on the carpet. There were personal touches, such as the paintings on the wall, nick-knacks on the tables, and even jelly beans on the desk, which gave a glimpse into who the "most powerful man in the world" really was.

As we walked away from the Oval Office, our next stop was the 1984 Presidential Election. It was here Ryan caught a glimpse of what I was talking about, before.

Reagan Crushes Mondale, In 1984
"Holy cow," he said, turning to me in amazement. "He crushed Mondale."

"How so?" I said, smiling and waiting for the numbers to roll off his tongue.

"Well for one thing, he won 49 of 50 states. The only one that Mondale carried was Minnesota, and that was his home state. He won 59% of the vote and buried him in a landslide. I guess it really was 'Morning in America, Again.'"

"That electoral map is something, isn't it?" I asked him.

"It's COMPLETELY blue. Mondale got a huge ass-kicking."

It was here the museum offered a "break," of sorts. The chronological tour of Reagan's life stopped and we walked into a giant pavilion, which housed the actual Air Force One, Marine One and a Presidential motorcade, along with facts and figures about each. There was also a cafe and snack stand, but those were for later. Right now we all had exploration to do.

Air Force One Pavillion
Our first stop was upstairs, as we were already on the second floor. We walked out into the "open air" part of the pavilion, which was really an aircraft hangar, and saw Air Force One, in all its glory. The plane was facing a large glass wall that looked out over Simi Valley, offering up the idea that it was ready to take off and hit the "wild blue yonder." It was HUGE and we were going to get to walk through it. First, though, we were going to learn a little bit about the plane the President called home, while traveling.

This particular Air Force One was an SAM 27000 Boeing Jet. It had served six presidents, starting with Richard Nixon and going all the way to George W. Bush. It was retired in 2001 and joined the exhibits at the Reagan Library in 2008. President Reagan used this aircraft more than any other president, logging over 675,000 miles in it, so it only seemed fitting that it now sits in his library.

President's Quarters
On Air Force One

We walked all through the plane, from the cockpit to the tail end, viewing the President's Quarters, the communications area, the reporter's area, the galley, and the meeting room. It was smaller than I would have thought, but I was reminded that it was commissioned in the early 1970s, when things, and people, were much smaller.

Marine One
From Air Force One, we walked downstairs and went inside Marine One, which is a Johnson-era SikorskyVH-3 Sea King Helicopter. This 'copter was originally designed for anti-submarine warfare, as well as search and rescue missions, medical evacuations, and disaster relief. The first use of helicopters, for the president, started in the 1950s, so President Eisenhower could more easily travel between Washington and his Gettysburg farm. Since then it has been used to transport a president when a car ride would be too far and a plane ride is too short.

I had no illusions about what the inside of this vehicle was going to be...tight. Then again it wasn't made for long trips and there weren't going to be a lot of people, besides the president, on board. We took a quick, really quick, walk-through and had pictures taken at the entry and along the side, as well as a few shots inside. In all honesty there really wasn't much to see, but it was interesting, anyway.

Presidential Limo

Our next stop was Reagan's 1984 LA Presidential Motorcade, which consisted of a Presidential limousine, a Secret Service car, an LAPD police car and two LAPD motorcycles, all in formation. You couldn't get inside the cars, or sit on the motorcycles, but it gave you a great idea of how the President was escorted around and what kind of protection he had, while "out on the town."

Toasting The President
We decided to sit down for a moment and grab a snack and some drinks. We were about half-way through the library and the kids were getting hungry. I wasn't planning on having anything...until I saw they served beer. It would be rude of us to come all the way to the President's "house" and not toast him, so Tony and I each had a local beer, sat down and offered up a toast to the greatest President in our lifetime, arguably the best save for Abraham Lincoln.

After finishing up our snacks we walked out onto the deck to get another view of the valley and take some more pictures. I can't even describe the natural beauty, which is exactly why this facility was built here. We took a lot of pictures and the kids were even mesmerized by the view...when they weren't trying to scare the crap out of me with their never-ending rattlesnake imitations. Eventually we had to press on, as there was an entire second term to get through and the kids had become excited to see "how this story ended."

Some of the things touched on in the "Second Term Area" included: Reagan's visit to Bitburg Cemetery in Germany, the loss of the space shuttle Challenger, the "War on Drugs," the AIDS epidemic, the bombing of Libya, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, and the Iran-Contra Affair, but the majority of the exhibit concentrated on the Cold War.

Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall
Starting with a recreation of the Berlin Wall, the library told the story of the beginning of the period that came to be known as the Cold War, through the use of audio, video, and documents, all the way to end, in the 1989, when the Berlin Wall was torn down. There was a special section dedicated to the relationship between President Reagan and Russian President Gorbachev, complete with a statue of the meeting between the two men, on how to "better the world," from that point forward. The apex of the exhibit came with a showing of Reagan's famous Brandenburg Gate Speech, when he implored; "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

I can't speak for all the boys, but Ryan and Kevin were transfixed on just about every aspect of this exhibit. They watched every film, looked at every article, and read every note (which is a huge deal, if you know Kevin) about this whole time period.
President and Mrs. Reagan

Finally we came to the end of Reagan's second term, though not the end of the museum. It was here we saw how the President lived out his post-White House years, with his beloved wife. There were long walks in the country, canoe rides on their private lake at the Reagan Ranch, as well as lots of horseback riding, for both. We were able to read the love letters he would write to Nancy, where it could be clearly seen how deeply he loved her, as well as the heartbreaking letter wherein he let the world know he was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, the most poignant section reading, as follows:

"I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease...At the moment I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things that I have always done...I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you my friends. May God always bless you."

"Sunset of My Life" Letter

After this section of the museum, we found ourselves in the Nancy Reagan exhibit, which showed us the life of the First Lady, both pre - and post - President Reagan. We were shown the inner workings of what she accomplished, how she carried herself with class and dignity, and how she loved her husband and carried on without him, once he passed. There was a section where we all sat down and were shown video clips from her funeral, earlier that year (March, 2016).

The President Being Led To The Capitol
The Funeral
The final section of the library was dedicated to the passing and funeral services for President Reagan, in 2004. There were large posters showing the funeral procession, the casket, lying in state, as well as all the mourners, who came out to pay their last respects. There were videos, news articles, sound recordings, and snapshots from those days, from all over the world, showing how the world came together for the man known as "Dutch." It was very moving, especially to someone who had lived through it, but I could see that the boys were affected by it as well. Ryan, again, was reading, and soaking up, absolutely everything, and couldn't be torn away, even after he had seen it all.
Final Goodbyes

"That was fascinating," he told me, as we were walking through the gift shop, on our way out. "Is there something I can read when we get home?"

"Absolutely," I told him. "We'll find you something."

"Wait, you WANT to read more?" Kevin asked incredulously. "That was a year's worth, in there, for me."

"Hush, you," Nicole laughed at him, "or I'll find you something tonight."

We all grabbed a few souvenirs on the way out, Kevin made sure to get something for his mom and dad, and then we piled into the car and headed back towards the city, but we weren't going back the way we came; we had decided to take the scenic route.

Canyons, Oceans and Beaches, Oh My:

We had decided we needed to see more of California than just the highways, and coming back from the Reagan Library gave us the perfect opportunity. We decided to take the scenic ride back, which would lead us through a California canyon, down to the Pacific Coast Highway, into Malibu, and finally ending in Santa Monica, where we would take the kids swimming, one last time, and spend our final night inLA., back on the Santa Monica Pier. This would, unfortunately, mean we wouldn't get to see Jimmy, Christine, and Felicity, but it was late in the day and there was no time to get back to the hotel, see them for a while, and still do all the stuff the boys wanted to do.

We stopped for gas, grabbed a drink, and headed off into the California brush country. We were taking the Decker Canyon Road (CA 23), which would wind through the Santa Monica Mountains and take us through orange groves and sandstone formations, before twisting and turning all the way to the Pacific Coast Highway (US 1), in Malibu.

Rock Formations in the Canyon
The Canyon Road
I am sure driving this scenic highway would be a lot of fun in a convertible, with the wind whipping through your hair and the car hugging every curve, but it was a LITTLE different in a 12-person passenger van.

Don't Look Down
The first part of the ride was scenic and we were able to see a lot of beautiful landscape, rock formations, and terrain that was foreign to us, but once we got up into the canyon itself, it became a little more interesting. Gone were the nice, flat stretches of road, which were easy to navigate. They had been replaced by the twisting, turning trails that seemed too narrow for horses, let alone motorized vehicles. It certainly didn't help that as we wound further and further into the canyon we were climbing steep inclines, which dropped off, sharply with no guardrails, for those souls who were unlucky enough to get too close to the edges.

Morbid humor was the running joke, though; truth be told, we never were actually in any danger of going over the edge. Tony was doing a great job, navigating the donkey, umm, I mean roadway.

"Where do you think we'd end up, if we went over the edge?" Kevin joked.

"At the crash site," Ryan called out, mimicking an old Ron White joke.

"Do you think we'd survive?" Brendan wanted to know.

"Uncle Jim better hope not," Kevin chimed in. "That canyon is probably filled with rattlesnakes."

This started Ryan in making the rattle-noise, and which the rest of them joined in, as well. Even Nicole and Tony got in on the act, as they found it as hysterical as the kids.

"You concentrate on the road," I told Tony.

"Make sure your door is locked," he warned me. "There's no guardrails, and I would hate for the door to pop open and for you to fall out."

A Home, In Decker Canyon
The one thing about going UP into the Santa Monica Mountains was that, eventually, we had to come DOWN from these same mountains. As we descended into the canyon, we came across some beautiful homes, though no one could actually figure out WHY someone would choose to live here. It was beautiful, that much was true, but there were no amenities within a 45-minute drive from where we were. There were no grocery stores, no shopping malls, no gas stations...nothing. I couldn't imagine living here, but I guess if peace, quiet, and emptiness were your thing, this would be perfect.

"Why are we going UP, again?" Nick wanted to know.

"Because that's where the road is taking us," Tony laughed at him.

For the next ten minutes we drove, up, up, up, on a steady incline, until it felt we were scraping the low-hanging clouds. When we reached the top, however, the clouds were nowhere to be found and an audible gasp could be heard throughout the van, as we all stared, open-mouthed, out the windshield and saw the Pacific Ocean, directly in front of us.

We parked the van, got out, and either took pictures or just started at the expanse of blue water before us.
The Pacific Ocean
Just two short minutes ago, we were looking at sage brush, rocks, and withered grass, and now we stared upon some of the bluest water I had ever seen. It was such a startling change in the landscape, it actually took our breath away. Far off in the distance we could see the beachfront homes of Malibu, which appeared not unlike tiny specks from our vantage point. Quickly we climbed back in the van and made our way down the other side of the mountain, towards the sand and the surf.

Malibu Coast
It took us about five more minutes before we reached the Pacific Coast Highway (California Rt. 1), which begins near Leggett (at its northernmost point) and winds down the California coastline for about 656 miles. Along the way it passes through the Redwood forests, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur, Ventura, Malibu, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Diego. It is known for its spectacular views of the coastline, as well as the cities it hits along the way.

"This is another trip we're taking, after the boys go off to college," Nicole told me.

"Looks like you're never coming off the road," Tony laughed.

"We're getting a convertible and doing the whole thing," my bride continued. "I've always wanted to do it and seeing this view makes me want to all the more."

"What about us?" Ryan and Brendan wanted to know.

"You'll be away at school," Nicole laughed, sending them into full-blown pout mode.

"Is anyone besides me hungry?" Nick wanted to know.

"I think we could all eat," Tony told him. "We'll find something in Malibu."

Beaches of Malibu
Much to the kids' unhappiness, we stopped a few more times to take pictures. I had never seen coastline like this and I had to make sure we got a lot of shots. The houses that lined the private beaches were mansions, unlike what we were accustomed to, along the Jersey Shore. The coastline wound in and out of the shoreline, which created coves and private beaches for the millionaires who lived here, so the pictures we were able to take were stunning. I could only imagine owning one of these homes, and having this kind of view right out my front door. It was all just so unreal.

As we wound our way south, we passed Pepperdine University, which looks out on the Malibu beaches.

"Okay, this is where I'm going to college," Brendan informed us.

"With all that blond hair and those blue eyes, you'd fit right in." Nicole told him. "But you're going to actually need to do your work, if you want to go there," she also said, only half-jokingly.

"I think that's now on my list too," Kevin said.

"I don't think they have a hockey team," Nicole told him.

"I don't care, but don't tell my dad," he laughed.

"Less school talk, more about food," Ryan countered from the back seat.

"Let's hit up the Malibu Pier," Tony said, pulling into the parking lot. "There's a restaurant right here."

Malibu Pier
Relaxing on the Pier
The Malibu Pier, unbeknown to me, is a historic destination and part of the California State Park system. It was originally opened in 1905 as a shipping hub and, later, as a public place for fishing. People have flocked to the pier for swimming, surfing, fishing, dining, or just a casual stroll for many years. We decided to take a walk out to the end, see what the fisherman were catching, take some pictures, and then come back to the "foot" of the pier and grab a bite at the restaurant.

The View Was MUCH Better
Than the Food
By the time we got to the restaurant, Malibu Farm, the kids were acting as if they hadn't eaten in a month. I took one look at the menu and warned Tony and Nicole it didn't look like there would be anything that would interest them, but I was told they weren't THAT picky. Besides, it was nice out, we could sit overlooking the surf, and everyone would be happy. They should have listened to me.

We were given a table with a beautiful view of the Pacific and I was trying a local craft beer, so I was happy...and then the kids saw the menu. I kept my mouth shut.

"What the hell is THIS?" Ryan wanted to know.

"This stuff seems real fancy," Kevin wrinkled his nose.

"C'mon, it's nachos and pizzas," Tony and Nicole told them," You guys love nachos and pizza."

"Who puts zucchini and cauliflower in the pizza crust?" Ryan wanted to know.

"Try it, I'm sure it's fine," Tony said, again.

I just sat back and sipped my beer.

When the order came, it didn't look like any pizza I had ever seen. The zucchini "pie" had a green crust, tomato sauce, and arugula, while the cauliflower one had a whitish crust, pesto, and mozzarella. The nachos didn't look much better, but I was keeping my mouth shut.

"What the hell is that?" Ryan wanted to know. "Why is the crust green?"

"Beause it's not pizza dough," I told him. "Those crusts are baked zucchini and baked cauliflower."

"I'm not eating that," he told me.

"Try it, before you condemn it." I said, shaking my head at my wife and Tony.

He took one bite and spit it out.

"That's disgusting," he gagged.

Kevin and Brendan had pretty much the same reaction.

"They couldn't possibly eff up nachos," the three boys all hoped.

Wrong again.

In the end, Tony and Nick ate just about everything, while Nicole picked here and there, but wasn't really thrilled, either.

"How is everything?" the waitress asked, bringing me another beer. "Did you like it?"

"No," I told her, flatly.

"Yeah, I didn't think the kids were going to like it," she admitted.

"Really?" I laughed, looking at Tony and Nicole, who were now giving me the stink-eye.

"To be honest, I don't eat here either. I don't like the food, but the tips are great."

We paid the bill and then walked across the street, to Jack in the Box, where I bought them burgers and fries, but even that was a chore, because there was mayo on the burgers (which isn't explained on the menu) and none of the boys would eat it that way.

All in all, I was glad to be heading back down to Santa Monica and away from Malibu.

Baywatch Babe
After fighting the traffic for the next thirty minutes, we were all glad to pull into the parking lot, in the beach section of Santa Monica. There were no bath-houses, so we took turns putting our trunks on in the van, except for Nicole and Tony, who decided they didn't want to go swimming, and headed out onto the sand.

For the next 90 minutes, the four boys and I swam, body-surfed, tackled one another, kept an eye on one another, and had a great time, while Tony napped and Nicole took pictures. We were having a blast as the sun was going down, and soon it was time for everyone to get out of the water, as the lifeguards were going off duty. I decided Ryan and I needed a picture with our lifeguard (after all, who wouldn't want a picture with a real-life Baywatch Babe?), so amidst Nicole's head-shaking we headed over to the lifeguard tower and had Brendan take a picture of the three of us.

After changing, back in the van, we headed back out to the pier for some dinner, carnival games and rides. I was finally going to get the Mexican meal I was waiting for (at the restaurant Rob had suggested), so I was happy. The boys were thrilled to just be getting fed, as the Jack in the Box burgers hadn't really filled them, and Nicole was all smiles since there was no wait this time.

Sunset, Over Santa Monica Beach,
 From Our Table
We were seated outside, right away, and ordered some beers, margaritas, and a few appetizers, so the kids had something to pick on. There was something to be said about dining al fresco, on Mexican food, while enjoying the sunset on the pier, that made the food taste all the better. Rob was right; the food at Mariasol Cocina Mexicana was very good. We ordered fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, quesadillas and table-side, guacamole and shared with each other. My favorite was the seafood enchiladas - of which there were two - one was stuffed with chicken, shrimp, mushrooms, and Jack cheese, while the other had crab meat, jalapenos, and corn, and both were covered in a lobster bisque sauce. The Carne Asada burrito was filled with refried beans, Jack cheese, cilantro, and onions, topped with red salsa and a cheese sauce; this came in a close second.

Mr. Stinky Joins Our Travelling Party
After gorging ourselves, we decided to wander back up the pier, playing a few of the "boardwalk games" and going on some rides. Nicole and I chose the Ferris wheel, as we both wanted to see the lights of the city from above the water, while Tony and the boys went on the roller coaster. Their ride ended before ours did, and by the time we were finished they had been playing carnival games and had won me a stuffed "poo," which they named Mr. Stinky, because they said it would be my alter ego after eating all the Mexican food.

We finally looked at the time and realized it was after midnight. No one wanted the time in LA to end, but we were heading down to Long Beach in the morning, then off to Anaheim that evening for an Angels game, before driving to San Diego to end the night. It was going to be a long day and we hadn't even packed, or cleaned up the room yet, and no one wanted to get up earlier to do that, so we headed back to the hotel, with four very tired boys.

We got back to the hotel, said good night to Tony and Nick, and started organizing the suitcases, getting the dirty laundry together, and taking showers, as there were none at the beach and we needed to get the sand and salt off before climbing into bed. Nicole and Brendan fell fast asleep, but Ryan, Kevin, and I stayed up, watching You Tube videos of Robert Kennedy's victory speech, from the Ambassador Hotel, just moments before he was murdered in the kitchen. I was very proud of these two, for having had an imprint made on them and asking to see what had happened that night, at a spot they had just visited. We watched the video, I played them another (his brother's eulogy for him), and, finally, one of the train that carried his body back to Washington and showing how it had affected so many people. We then discussed the repercussions on American history, until they were too tired to go on.

"See, history isn't so bad, during the summer," I joked.

"I wouldn't have chosen all that, but I am glad we did," Kevin told me. "I wish you were my history teacher, Uncle Jim," he said through a yawn.

That was all I needed to hear, to put a huge smile on my face.

"Okay, guys, time for bed," I told them.

Ryan's soft snoring told me I was just a little too late. I laughed to myself, rolled over, and fell fast asleep.

Next Stop:
Tuesday, August 2
Anaheim, CA
Angels Stadium
Oakland A's vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim