August 07, 2008
Apologies for the delay in the Big Ballpark Review series, but it's been a busy month. We continue our trip around America with a trip down to SoCal, where Dodger Stadium continues to look much younger than its almost 50 years. For our intro, let's check in with one of my college friends and perhaps the biggest Dodger fan I know: Mr. Micah Bycel.
“It's a stadium designed for the fan," writes Micah. "It was designed to not have a single
unobstructed seat in the whole place. Generally, it’s easy to get in and out of the aisles, and easy to get around. The Dodgers still have an organist — Nancy Bea Hefley — and they do two rounds of 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game'. If you give yourself enough time to get there, it is one of the most relaxing sporting events. Just drive up, get out of your car and take in one of the most spectacular baseball settings in the country."
And now it also has Manny.
For an insider's look at visiting Dodger Stadium, follow the jump. To submit tips on your home ballpark, e-mail 'Duk at email@example.com.
Facts and figures (More at Ballparks.com)
Address: 1000 Elysian Park Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, (323) 363-4377
Cost: $23 million
Dimensions: Foul lines: 330; power alleys: 385; center field: 395; backstop: 75
Biggest moment: On Oct. 15, 1988, Kirk Gibson hit a two-out, two-run homer off Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 of the World Series.
Fun fact: Dodger Stadium is given a new coat of paint every offseason.
How to get there
"Give yourself the same amount of time you'd take going to work in LA (what you hope for plus 1 hour), and you'll be at Elysian Park in no time." — Sung Ahn, San Diego
"When the concierge at the Standard Hotel on Sunset tells you that Dodger Stadium is only 20 minutes away, remember that another 17 million people live in southern California and they might be driving somewhere as well." — Micah Bycel
|AL EAST||NL EAST|
|N.Y. Yankees||N.Y. Mets|
|AL CENTRAL||NL CENTRAL|
|Chi. White Sox||Chi. Cubs|
|AL WEST||St. Louis|
|L.A. Angels||NL WEST|
"The best way to get there is by car, which makes sense given Los Angeles is a drive-your-own-car town. However, the truth of the matter is that the expansive parking lots surrounding Dodger Stadium are part of the master plan of Dodger owner Frank McCourt to bilk fans $15 per visit (parking was $8 per car when he bought the team) ... Preferred parking monopolizes the interior loop, leaving day-of-game fans to walk 10 minutes just to get to the gates (bring comfortable shoes). The trek is worth it, but I have to think that there are hundreds of middle-class families (particularly those with small kids) who can't afford the trek and/or the parking toll, and forgo a visit altogether." — SOSG ‘Steve Sax', Sons of Steve Garvey
"As of the All-Star Break, the City of LA is sponsoring a free shuttle from Union Station, where many commuter trains come together, right in downtown. It'll continue depending on ridership, so tell your friends. Please!" — Cisco Rivera, Los Angeles
"People who aren't from LA love to complain about Dodger Stadium. You can't really take public transportation to get there. Parking is a 'nightmare.' Dodger Stadium isn't near downtown, so there aren't any good bars across the street. Blah blah blah. These are all valid complaints from any other city. But lets be clear. Real Los Angelenos never complain about any of these things." — Josh Barkin, Los Angeles
Before/after the game
"I've always been partial to Olvera Street and getting some bad-for-you, but delicious fast Mexican food from any of the stands. It's just a stone's throw from Union Station. How convenient for the shuttle riders." — C.R.
"Before the game, the hopping place in town is Philippe's, the birthplace of the French dip sandwich and a Los Angeles institution. Here, a diverse group of fans feast on juicy sandwiches, coleslaw, and potato salad, in an unpretentious environment welcoming of Dodger fans of all types (they serve 10-cent cups of coffee along with $80 bottles of Silver Oak Cabernet). But save room for the Dodger Dogs, of course." — SoSG
"Tailgating isn't allowed at Dodger Stadium — city statute, not Dodger policy — so Philippe's is your best bet if you're normally a tailgating type." — J.B.
"I recommend the dim sum at The Empress Pavilion. It's about as close as you can get to Dodger Stadium and has excellent dim sum (not the very best in LA, but the best I know of in Chinatown). There is an affordable parking structure (I'm very cheap) underneath. As for breakfast, go to the Original Pantry. I've had better breakfasts for twice the price (or more) but not much better at this price. Best cole slaw I've ever tasted, great fresh sour dough bread, super fast service if ordering something that's precooked (steaks and chops are all cooked to order, but I often order the roast beef), lots of food, and a total dive. Open 24/7 since 1924, and I'm not sure it has ever been painted; it's like stepping back in time. It's also two blocks from Staples Center and about 10 minutes driving from Dodger Stadium." — Richard Aronson, Los Angeles
"If you're lucky enough to be on field level you can experience the new wider concourses (which are indeed nice) and a good range of dining establishments like Canter's Deli (another LA institution, which brought its pastrami sandwiches and other treats to the Stadium just this year). Upper-level tiers don't have the same breadth of options so it pays to get there early before the ushers segregate people to their respective levels." — SoSG
What to eat
"It's a must to buy a bag of peanuts from Roger Owens the Peanut Guy. He might toss a bag behind the back or knuckle it into your face." — S.A.
"There are lots of food choices at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers have recently installed a Canter's Deli concession stand on the field level, as well as stands that sell Philly steak sandwiches (in LA?), fancy sausages, Mexican food, frozen yogurt... the list goes on. But the classic is always the Dodger Dog.
"You should know that Dodger Dogs are not big, plump all-beef frankfurters. They're a different kind of dog, a mostly-pork extra-long wiener that's always been made by Farmer John, an LA-based meat purveyor. Even if you're not a fan of these type of hot dogs, you have to appreciate the fact that Dodger Stadium has used the exact same hot dogs since the place opened, and that the Dodgers support local business." — J.B.
"Of course, one has to eat a Dodger Dog, grilled if at all possible. They are the perfect blend of salty (wiener) and sweet (white bread), and go well with tons of mustard and onions (you gotta eat your vegetables). One thing that I believe is unique to California ballparks (statewide) is that they don't serve beer at your seat — meaning that you've got to get up from your seat and stand in a line to fetch your own $12 large cup of Bud Light, which is also wrong in so many ways." — SoSG
"There are lots of concession stands that sell Dodger Dogs in the stadium. But be picky. You want a stand whose awning advertises "GRILLED" Dodger Dogs. A lot of the stands sell steamed Dodger Dogs, which are simply second rate. If you're not sure, ask the friendly concessionaire if they're selling grilled or steamed dogs at their stand. Walk away if they answer, "steamed." Trust me. Walk away." — J.B.
"I'm a fan of Camacho's Nachos. As opposed to most nachos that are just cheese dip and pre-packaged chips, these are loaded and a meal. The Carnation chocolate malts used to be something, but now they're whipped and far from as rich as they used to be. And for god's sake don't buy a CPK pizza from the guys going up and down the aisles. Garlic fries should only be eaten by Giants fans." — C.R.
Where to sit
"If you want to be among the stars and the sons and daughters of upper class Los Angeles suburbia, sit on the lower level near the Dodger dugout Field seats used to be $12 back in 1992. Now they're $130 on game day. Groan." — S.A.
"Dodger Stadium was pretty avant garde in that its sightlines have held up despite its relatively old age. Almost every seat is a pretty good view. But field level, between the base paths, can't be beat-you're so close to the action that you feel like you're right in the game. On a warm summer night in Los Angeles, underneath the stars and beneath the Think Blue sign on the hill over center field-there really is no nicer place to spend an evening." — SoSG
"Maybe it's because this is where I started sitting as a kid, but reserved level, third base side. Great price, great view of the park, Dodger Vision, the scoreboard and the mountains. If it's a day game, the shade will come to you." — C.R.
"One place NOT to sit is the baseline club boxes, which have been redone twice in their short existence due to crappy sightlines. The McCourts' original attempt to fill Dodger Stadium's expansive foul territory with seats had to be completely destroyed, as people were looking straight into the backs of other fans' heads. Now that they've added tables and made boxed seating, it's a little better, but still not worth the premium." — SoSG
"The right field pavilion features all-you-can-eat food for a fixed price, but it's a poor place to watch a ballgame, and is only fun if you're really in the mood to gorge yourself on hot dogs and nachos." — J.B.
"For such a big stadium there aren't too many bad seats. I would avoid reserve and loge where the seats start to curve (Sections 47 & 161 and higher). The top deck isn't so bad, but you are restricted to just that area, so don't expect to sneak down to great seats in the sixth inning. For you big spenders, Dodger Stadium also has many different options for premium seating. The suites are said to be the nicest in baseball and they also have baseline seats where you have tables at your seat to eat your buffet food at a relatively cheap price." — Philousa
"I usually advise people to sit in the infield reserve section. The reserve level is the largest tier of the seating bowl, and if you sit in the cheaper reserve seats, you could find yourself pretty far away from the action. But the infield reserve seats are those few rows right behind home plate and they offer a great view of the game. If you can get a ticket in one of the first few rows, you're essentially sitting directly above the press box. If you're a baseball fan, these are the seats that let you really see everything. And they can be had for less than thirty bucks ($28 face, but you can frequently buy them cheaper if you take advantage of all the ticket promotions the Dodgers offer)." — J.B.
"If you're going to a night game, and you aren't frightened by steep stairs, I recommend sitting on the top level of Dodger Stadium. First of all, looking away from home plate, you can have an extraordinary view of Los Angeles, with City Hall, all of downtown, and, well, depending on smog I have seen reflections off the ocean way out there. Near sunset it can warm your soul about as much as any man-made vista can. It is also worth the elevator ride to the top to see it if you sit further down, and I must admit that the press box seats are excellent." — R.A.
"There's history here. It's a niche carved out of suburban sprawl with a view of the mountains on one side and a beautiful view of the skyline to the back as you leave the stadium. It's a retreat from the actual city, but right in the heart." — C.R.
"Hard core Dodger fans bring transistor radios to the game. There's a good reason. Most radio announcers describe the game for people who can't be there in person. Vin Scully is so good that he makes the game way better even for people who are already there. Vin Scully is the heart and soul of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He's been calling Dodger games since the team was in Brooklyn. He's been the Dodger announcer for my dad's entire life, for my entire life, and one day (God willing) for my children. If you're lucky to be at a game where they honor Vinny, be prepared for a 10-minute ovation and an embarrassed Vin (he's famous for his humility)." — J.B.
"Dodger Stadium is special because it's nestled in the mountains that overlook the Los Angeles basin. Because of that location, we get the best sunsets in baseball, and we get to look out on rolling hills and palm trees beyond the outfield walls. Sure, parking for $15 is a drag, but this is a city where you pay to park at the mall." — J.B.
"I've been to over 35 major league stadiums, including 25 current MLB parks, and the reason why I love Dodger Stadium enough to visit 20+ times a year is that the diversity of the crowd reflects the wonderful diversity of Los Angeles like no other venue. I haven't found another cause that can bring all ages, races, income levels, and backgrounds together like a game at Dodger Stadium. When the Dodgers score (which to be fair hasn't been that often this year), it's awesome to see the crowd erupt in harmony, all cheering in unison for their favorite team. And on a summer evening under a cloudless night sky in Los Angeles, along with 56,000 of your closest friends — there is really no better place to be." — SoSG
Have an insider's tip for Dodger Stadium that you didn't see listed here? E-mail it with your name and hometown to 'Duk at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in the post.
Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review is a continuing series and will feature all 30 MLB ballparks. It is based on recommendations from you, the reader. We welcome reviews for any ballpark. To do so, visit this post for submission guidelines.