It’s not as if Mark Walter was invisible.
But for almost a full hour Tuesday afternoon, as fans excitedly made their way through the Dodger Stadium entrance at the left field loge level, the Dodgers chairman and controlling owner might as well not even been standing right there to at least get a gawky wave or shout of thanks.
Those who bit the bullet and committed hundreds if not thousands of dollars for tickets to witness the Dodgers’ eventual 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the 2017 World Series appeared to be far more focused on what was in front of them — getting their hands on a free blue towel with a gold replica of the championship trophy. Just a few feet away was the man who put up a majority of the cold, hard cash to make this day happen.
“We made it!” one shouted after getting cleared through security and having his ticket scanned — no counterfeit here.
“Twenty nine years!” another barked before taking the towel, snapping his friend, and then starting into a sprint as if he was a kid who just entered Disneyland for the first time and wanted to see the Matterhorn.
Related ArticlesEven when they ran out of the towels, the guy who perhaps could have fixed the issue was unaware of the issue. Walter shook a few more hands and headed out of the party with a single security guard, headed toward seats near more recognizable luminaries like Magic Johnson and Tommy Lasorda near the Dodgers dugout.
“I’m nervous,” admitted Walter, wearing a photo ID card around his neck that referred to him as a “Club Official,” when stopped for a comment.
“Of course,” he added. “Once we start, I’ll be fine. It’s really fulfilling to see the fans who’ve been with us the last five years get excited that we’re at this point, and rightfully so.”
Everything seemed right on this day. Even if it was 103 degrees at the first pitch, those who did get a hold of a towel could wave it around to try to stir up a breeze. Enough time and money had already been spent at every souvenir stand where a $44 blue L.A. cap with a white World Series patch sewn into the side seemed reasonably priced. So what was another $5 for a bottled water?
By the time Sharon Robinson, the widow of Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson, threw out the first pitch, and Joc Pederson’s brother, Champ, yelled out that it was “time for Dodger baseball,” and George Lopez and Rob Lowe climbed up on the dugouts to wave giant Dodgers flags, those 54,253 who filled the stadium didn’t need any prompting into the “Let’s Go Dodgers” chant.
The rightful roar that erupted after Clayton Kershaw struck out George Springer to start the game, or when Chris Taylor hit the first pitch that a Dodgers player saw into the left-field pavilion for a 1-0 lead, couldn’t be manufactured even by Hollywood.
Video: Recap & analysis of Dodgers Game 1 victory
It was 1988 redux, but with souped-up center field speakers that could handle the extra bass, more bone rattling and celebrity fortified. What fans could do now that they couldn’t in 1988 — take selfies and hold their smart phones on facetime and show friends and family what they were missing — made everyone feel involved.
Lady Gaga and Dustin Hoffman got the polite applause. But the authentic outburst came before the bottom of the sixth inning when Vin and Sandi Scully were shown on the screen. The retired Dodgers broadcaster put his hands together in a prayerful response.
Just in time, Justin Turner cleared the left-field fence for a two-run homer and went through a gauntlet of backslapping in the Dodgers dugout after producing a 3-1 lead that would be all Kershaw needed as he whipped through seven impressive innings before giving way to the bullpen. The season-long script didn’t need any rewrite.
As temps finally dipped to 99 degrees at 6 p.m., and stadium organist Dieter Ruehle deviated from playing “Heatwave” to a clever rendition of “99 Luftballons,” very few took the risk of missing another pitch, staying wedged in their seats.
Some in this crowd may be more conditioned into spending outrageous fortunes on tickets to the Pantages for the latest run of “Hamilton.” But the history playing out in front of them on an otherwise sticky Tuesday October evening was the real deal.
When Kenley Jansen knocked down the save and secure the victory, the thermometer dipped to 91 degrees, a tick below a typical Jansen’s fastball. Right now, things are just heating up.
Los Angeles’ Olympic legacy is traveling to Dodger Stadium, as the LA84 Foundation and the Los Angeles Dodgers will celebrate Olympics Night on July 20 as the Dodgers host the Atlanta Braves. The first 40,000 ticketed fans to the Dodgers’ game will receive a commemorative 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games coin, while the night will also feature Olympians and Paralympians, Olympic-themed events and Sam the Eagle, the official mascot of the 1984 Games. LA84 is also teaming with the Dodgers to bring 300 young athletes from the LA84-funded Woodcraft Rangers afterschool program to the game.
The game’s first pitch will be thrown out by four-time Olympic medalist Lisa Fernandez, who pitched Team USA to gold in the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Summer Games. Two-time Paralympic judo medalist Dartanyon Crockett will be playing the national anthem, while Olympians Tai Babilonia (’76, ’80), Adam Duvendeck (’04, ’08), Craig Lincoln (’72), John Moffet (’84), Rusty Smith (’02, ’06) and Katherine Starr (’84, ’88) will also be in attendance. The LA84 Foundation archives will also display artifacts and photos from Dodger Stadium’s time as an Olympic venue before the game, in an exhibition in the right field plaza of the stadium. A special event ticket package also includes a legacy LA84 Foundation cap.
Dodger Stadium is connected to Los Angeles’ Olympic history, having served as the host site for exhibition baseball at the 1984 Olympic Games. The 16-game tournament, which saw Japan defeat a United States squad of amateur players featuring future major leaguers Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire and Will Clark in the championship game. Dodger Stadium saw an average attendance of over 48,000, and baseball became an official Olympic event at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games. Baseball will be returning to the Olympic Games for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games after a brief hiatus. Softball was introduced as an Olympic sport in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.
The LA84 Foundation has impacted over three million LA youth since its inception in 1985, and has reinvested the surplus of the 1984 Olympic Games back in the communities of Southern California. Since 2003, LA84 and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation have partnered to build 47 Dodgers Dreamfields to provide baseball and softball fields as well as offer league opportunities through its Dodgers RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program. The LA84-funded LAUSD Beyond The Bell program also offers free-of-cost baseball and softball leagues for students in every LAUSD middle school.