Foul Territory

By the second inning of last Friday’s Dodger shutout against the Padres, my neck and back were starting to turn numb. Certainly not out of boredom. Derek Lowe’s pitching was stellar. So were the back-to-back homers by Kent and Bradley.

At least that’s what I was told. My problem was that even though my sister, nephew and I had plunked down the $300 face value for a trio of those new field-level baseline seats, we couldn’t see the game. We were no more than 10 rows off the field and just a few rows behind first base, but every time I tried to follow the ball, the bald spot of the guy in front of me kept blocking my view.

Seems like new Dodger owner Frank McCourt was in such a hurry to cram 1,600 of the pricey new seats into former foul territory that he didn’t have anyone figure out the physics. The new seats are only slightly graded upward and bolted down in a straight line, so when I sat back comfortably I found myself staring out, literally, into left field.

There we were for 2 hours and 15 minutes, forced to sit on the edge of our seats, our bodies twisted at a 45-degree angle, our necks craned to the left and chins uplifted trying to peer over the row in front of us. Fortunately, the two seats to our right were unoccupied. If they had been filled, we would have had to lean back out of courtesy, and thereby seen even less.

Not able to see the game very much in any case, my eyes were free to wander the rest of the stadium most of the evening. Where the outfield once sported only that landmark 76 Union logo on top of the Diamond Vision, there is a now a clutter of a dozen or more ads on the walls, the bleachers and the scoreboards.

And when I was able now and then to glimpse a look at the mound between the bobbing heads in front of me, an 1,100-foot-long, 6-foot-high brightly lit LED ribbon running along the base of the loge level was digitally prompting me when and what to cheer, all while hawking the merits of Ameriquest, Bank of America, Carl’s Jr., Disneyland, Epson, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, MasterCard, Subway, Verizon, Warner Bros. and other Dodgers sponsors. Only way down at the end of the ribbon was the box score of the game we were supposedly following.

The evening was, nevertheless, infused with nostalgia. On the 58th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut, the Dodgers were all wearing special Brooklyn jerseys. And when Robinson’s widow addressed the pre-game crowd and spoke out for racial justice, a tangible wave of emotion swept the stadium, lifting us to a standing ovation.

After that moment, however, my nostalgia was only for Dodger Stadium as it used to be — before the takeover by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Sports Enterprises in 1998. I had been hoping that new owner McCourt would reverse the slide into excessive commercialism, but no way. Besides the outfield clutter and over-priced seats, spending an additional $88 on Dodger dogs, suds and Cracker Jacks didn’t do much to alleviate the evening’s frustration. A $400 tab for a ball game that gave you bursitis is something to remember.

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