I remember my first game at Dodgers Stadium. I was six years old in 1970. They played the Giants. I don’t remember the final score or who was pitching, playing or who might’ve hit a homerun or who won.
But I remember where I sat. The seats were level with the field, a few rows back halfway between home plate and the outfield wall down the first base side.
I remember my awe at the size of the place. I’d never been to anything so big.
I remember my amazement at the size of the crowd. I’d never seen so many people in one place. And I remember its deafening roars of approval and its thunderous boos of angry disappointment. It was kind of frightening at first and took a little getting used to.
I remember the baseball mitt I brought hoping to catch a foul ball. It was my Pee Wee League mitt for the team I played on in the park across the street from where I lived with my mom and a stray cat we took in named Puddy. The mitt was black and signed by Claude Osteen, who I didn’t know was a pitcher for the Dodgers at the time.
The only Dodger pitcher I knew was Sandy Koufax and I remember hoping he was pitching, and being very disappointed when told not only that he wasn’t pitching that night, but that he’d retired from the game a couple years earlier. Sandy Koufax was my idol not because I’d followed baseball — hell, at that young age I could barely follow the leader — but because he was left-handed like me, which I learned after my mom invoked his name to my team’s coach when confronting him for trying to convert me to right-handed.
She wondered to him if Sandy Koufax’s first coach had tried to change his throwing arm, to which the coach snorted and asked her if she thought I was the next Sandy Koufax. She said the point wasn’t who I might become, but that I was who I was and that included being left-handed and that if he did anything to change that she would make sure that who he would quickly become is my ex-coach.
After I then learned more about Koufax’s legendary pitching, a hero was born. And other than my mom, there were no other southpaws in my world so for a while I fully believed Sandy and I were related.
But most of all at the game, I remember the voice. It seemed to come from everywhere once the game started and the crowd settled in. It was on my left, my right, behind me, and in front. I didn’t know who it belonged to or where it came from. All I knew is it was a soothing, friendly voice that was describing whatever was happening on the field — almost as it happened; pitches, strikes, balls, hits, runs, fouls, ground outs, fly balls, catches.
I remember whipping around in my seat trying to figure out how this magic was hapening until my mom pointed out a transistor radio a couple rows in front of us, then one a few seats behind, and another a few seats to the left. Then I saw another. And another. It seemed as if more people had radios than didn’t.
“Who is he?” I asked.
She told me the voice belonged to Vin Scully, the game announcer.
And another Dodgers hero was born. One who remained a beloved and irreplaceable constant throughout my life and all of its subsequent Dodgers’ baseball until his retirement at the end of the 2016 season.
“Where is he?” I asked my mom and she pointed upwards over her shoulder towards the center of the stadium.
She targeted a span of brightly lighted booths about mid-way to the top.
“Not quite. The press boxes.”