Every Dodger game you watch on television starts with an aerial view of the park, with palm trees to the north and downtown to the south, and then Vin Scully or Dan Shulman or Bob Costas regaling us with the majestic beauty and unparalleled views and the perfect day/night for baseball. Unfortunately, 70 percent of Angelenos cannot see that aerial view on a regular basis (thanks, Time Warner and the Dodgers for not stepping in to try to resolve that issue); and for those who can, it is significantly better to watch the games from the comfort of your living room. Because, once you pull through Elysian Park or off the 110 or through the Sunset Gate, the fan experience comes to a screeching halt.
Dodger Stadium is the third oldest ballpark in baseball. But that statistic is a bit deceptive. Fenway Park is 104 years old; Wrigley Field is 102 years old. Dodger Stadium is, by comparison, a mere pup at 54. And, like many things in L.A., it looks considerably better from afar. Get too close, and you may not like what you see, what you hear, or how you feel.
The Dodgers have done a nice job of making the ballpark more inviting. They have beer gardens in the outfield and two new concession stands: a BBQ joint and an Italian restaurant (?) (more about those below). But, the bread and butter (pun intended) of Dodger Stadium is, was, and always will be the Dodger Dog. So, guess what, that is essentially all you can get as you circle the ballpark.
Head upstairs to where the proletariat sit, and the options get less and less; Until you are at the Top Deck where you have your choice of the aforementioned two types of Dodger Dogs, French fries, and soft serve ice cream in a helmet.
The Dodgers thought they were classing the place up a few years ago when they opened the Think Blue BBQ and Tommy Lasorda’s Trattoria. Each has roughly five items on their menus. Compare that with the full BBQ pit at Anaheim Stadium. Compare that with the North Beach stand at AT&T Park.
Last weekend I was in DC at Nationals Park. I walked around the field level three times trying to decide which delicious food item I wanted to eat. My options seemed unlimited; I am hard-pressed to think of something that wasn’t on offer. To take that to its illogical conclusion, the Nats have a stand called “Taste of the Majors,” which has food from various major league parks.
Later that night I was at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. I ended up making the same three rotations before I landed. I was torn between Bull’s BBQ (owned and overseen by the great Greg Luzinski) and Tony Luke’s (considered by many locals to be the best cheesesteak in town).
Remind me what local fare are on offer at Chavez Ravine? Is it too much to ask to get a Felipe’s window? Would anyone object to an El Cholo stand? Randy’s Donuts wouldn’t be right at home behind homeplate? No one would eat a Canter’s corned beef or a Langer’s pastrami sandwich?
No mascot. No in-game traditions (and no, I don’t count the “under which hat is the ball located” game a tradition). No more Nancy B. I will give them that they have improved the replays on DiamondVision (a little throwback phrase), but those still pale in comparison to other parks. The new scoreboard is definitely an upgrade over the one they had in place since the ‘60s, but it doesn’t compare to what is out there.
When I hear the Rams’ new stadium and what it will have for their fans, when I see what is available at the Big-A, when I visit Staples Center and get a full immersive experience, I simply feel cheated in Chavez Ravine.
I am left to believe that the vast majority of the three million people who roll into Dodger Stadium each season simply haven’t had the good fortune of visiting other parks. They have not tasted the crab cakes at Camden Yards; they haven’t watched the Phillie Phanatic do his thing at Citizens Bank Park; they haven’t enjoyed the carnival atmosphere on Yawkey Way; they haven’t eaten the garlic fries at AT&T; they haven’t watched the train circle Minute Maid Park; they haven’t heard a local celebrity belt “Take Me Out of the Ballgame” at Wrigley Field; they haven’t been to the Shake Shack at CitiField; they haven’t played on the diamond at Petco; or ridden the merry-go-round at The K; or watched Bernie the Brewer slide into a beer mug after a dinger at Miller Park; or had a Ted Drewes at Busch Stadium; or rooted in the President’s Race at Nats Park. Again, this list could go on and on . . .
When one of your owners is the man who coined the phrase “Showtime”, you expect more.