(Above: Dodger Stadium, circa 1995, and the long walk from a familiar parking spot tucked against the edge of Chavez Ravine).
I’ve been blessed to serve behind a microphone for 15 years in hockey.
But like many who do this for a living, or even the garden variety sports fan, we have supplemental indulgences in other sports (hey, as the old saying goes: “variety is the spice of life.”). Baseball was my first gateway sport before the hockey bug bit me.
So, the night of Tuesday, Oct. 27 in front of LG 48-inch 4K television will be a scene to never forget:
Julio Urías delivered an 0-and-2 fastball on the inside black to Willy Adames, who took strike three. I know millions of Dodgers fans across the globe jumped three feet in the air to finally celebrate the exorcism of 32 years of frustration.
How emotional could it be?
My oldest son Lukas, age 5 (who now wants a Cody Bellinger jersey for Christmas), was with me on the couch for every pitch starting in the seventh inning. He insisted on grabbing a Dodger helmet as the finishing good luck charm – so as he jolted over to me give a “double high five,” I reached in and said, “give me a hug.”
I flashed back to all the October shortcomings, September playoff drive sucker punches, banged trash cans, promising seasons that flopped by May, “Buffalo Bills” comparisons and remembered – how many times did I envision not only experiencing this night in my mind, but sharing it with my offspring?
It happened, and it was too much. I didn’t let go of that hug for 30 seconds, and broke down into tears.
“They did it. They finally did it,” I said.
I’m not sure my oldest son yet understands the context of a “happy cry.” We’ll keep talking about this night as he gets older.
(Even my wife, Amy, helping settle our two year old to bed – unsuccessful because of the party that was launched in the living room – brought him back out after he wanted to give “Da-da kiss” after she whispered, “the Dodgers won!” Countless phone calls with family and childhood friends followed to soak in the emotion of the moment.)
Trophy lifting: it was time to enjoy Clayton Kershaw, who will go to the Hall of Fame upon first ballot eligibility, checking off one last box of his career with an overdue championship ring. It was time to enjoy Urías, who etched his name into folklore as the man who drove the final nail into the coffins of the NLCS and World Series from the mound. It was time to enjoy Corey Seager, elevated to bonafide breakout star with a postseason for the ages. It was time to enjoy Mookie Betts, a reincarnated Kirk Gibson whose leadership, defense, base running, and timely hitting put the Dodgers over the top.
It was time to enjoy a team for the ages – who only needed 43 wins in 60 games to get to the postseason with their eighth straight division title – but also overcame a neutral site location, strict COVID-19 maneuvering routines, and demands on their schedule, health, and environment completely out of their norm. For the first time ever in World Series history, the winning team had to reach the top while unequivocally out of their element. No asterisk needed on this one. Case closed.
I know. A drought of 32 years doesn’t touch the Cleveland Indians (72 years), Texas Rangers (60 years), or even the Seattle Mariners (who have yet to reach the World Series, period). But enduring countless heartbreak when the end goal is so close in sight, brings a tidal wave of relief, reconciliation, closure, and unbridled joy.
I hope Dodger fans far and wide felt the same thing.
So, along the way to the ending of a path lasting 32 years in the baseball wilderness – if you care to keep reading – were the top Dodger games I’ve seen in person, from the seats. I’ve lost count at how many I’ve been to in my whole life. Not each game is listed. Heck, there are a few I know that I’ve been to, but completely fail to recount the date. Another did you know (while young, too expensive and into my career: the hockey schedule overlaps): I’ve yet to see a postseason game in person. But I’ve “been there”, either by television or radio (or, GameCast: the Max Muncy World Series walk-off homer vs. Boston in game 3 came with the Silvertips on a bus, en route to Swift Current).
Our family moved from Seattle to Los Angeles in the late 1980’s: so while my father brought his Mariners fandom with a stuffed U-haul and packed GMC Safari mini-van, and raised me on the M’s as my “AL allegiance,” a blank slate still existed to create with baseball loyalty while living in the southland for the next two decades. The Dodgers took that top honor.
There are quite a few deep tracks to this album, so please enjoy the names if you have a chance to relate:
(All games at Dodger Stadium unless otherwise specified)
(Honorable mention, though they don’t count because they weren’t in the seats: a career-launching internship in college at Fox Sports West opened up three games to shadow Vin Scully in his booth.)
1989: Dodgers vs. Mets (5/26)
First time I ever saw the Dodgers in person, still a team in the afterglow of their previous title in ‘88, the first meeting between the teams in Chavez Ravine since Orel Hershiser ended the Mets season with a complete game in Game 7 of the ’88 NLCS, and the only time I ever saw Hershiser, Gibson, Marshall, in the same lineup together.
Welp. They got blown out, 8-2. All I remember was seeing them for the first time in a ballpark that seemed so pristine and new despite being nearly three decades old, and enjoying cotton candy from the first base line loge level.
1989: Dodgers vs. Padres (8/5)
Just a flat-out “meh” game. It was hot in the cheap seats. They were down 4-0 before a pair of consolation runs in the ninth.
1989: Dodgers vs. Phillies (8/25)
Until a game I went with my father to in 2017 on a family vacation, this was aruguably as close as we sat to the field: approximately five rows back. I hadn’t learned how to keep score yet and my feeble metric system was reduced to each box as “1”, “0”, “0” (did they score, or no?). Solid, close game – light hitting Jeff Hamilton went 3-for-4 and future ace Ramon Martinez went seven innings, but the Dodgers came up short (0-3 for my first full summer in L.A.) and we missed Mike Schmidt by three months – he retired in late May.
1989: Dodgers vs. Giants (9/25)
An ending to a frustrating season as defending Champs, it was the first time I ever saw the Dodgers win in person: and against their arch-rival, who would move onto the World Series. I learned how to keep score of a baseball game for the first time, our up-close and personal seats among the third base line were only several rows away from the grass, and my father caught a foul ball off the bat of Kevin Mitchell in batting practice. The game was on a Monday night in late September. We didn’t care that it was a school night. Solid outing.
1990: Dodgers vs. Braves (7/27)
First time I dragged my younger sister, Alyssa, to a game while we were chaperoned by our babysitter (parents were on an out-of-town commitment) – and we almost made it through the full 12 innings. The game lasted a swift five hours and three minutes. I was nine years old. She was seven. By the 10th inning, she had enough. We had to go home. At least “autographed ball night” was a swell takeaway (by the eighth inning, a chorus of high pitched squeaks were heard throughout Dodger Stadium – fans passed the time by taking the plastic, spherical case and rubbing the edges together just for kicks and giggles). Everyone was three outs away from going home happy in the until a Jay Howell blown save in the ninth, on a David Justice game tying dinger. Car time, two innings later. Oh well. At least it was nice reading about Mike Sharperson’s walk-off single in the paper the next day. This might be the reason why my sister never warmed up to baseball.
1991: Dodgers vs. Pirates (6/20)
Fresh out of school and ready to enjoy summer: my Dad was fully convinced this would be an NLCS preview (by two months later, I believed it too – and then the Braves happened). Ramon Martinez and John Smiley waged a pitching duel, Stan Javier shook off a Pirates rally with a go—ahead single in the eighth, and Brett Butler sprawled out for a run-saving catch in center field.
1991: Dodgers vs. Reds (8/12)
This one was cool. The NL West crown chase was getting serious. The defending World Champs were in town – still with a roster full of the previous October stars. All three “Nasty Boys” made an appearance, including Randy Myers, a newly converted starter (hey, let’s get weird). It didn’t last long – an injury forced him out of the game in the second inning. Eddie Murray slammed a homer halfway up the right field pavilion in the third inning. Rob Dibble came on in relief for the Reds in the ninth – and Juan Samuel put him to bed with a walk-off single into centerfield, after a gutsy Tommy Lasorda call to pull off a double steal with two outs in the ninth. Chavez Ravine was electric.
1992: Dodgers vs. Braves (4/17)
Just like a ’91 duel against the Reds, in came the Braves – who lost the ’91 World Series in seven games and in what’s argued as the greatest Fall Classic of all time. They got there because they knocked out the Dodgers in the last weekend of the ’91 regular season. This felt like a revenge tour game in a disappointing season. Only time I ever saw Darryl Strawberry homer in Dodger blue – and did it twice – once off Tom Glavine in the third, and a walk-off against Alejandro Peña in the ninth.
1992: Dodgers vs. Phillies (July doubleheader)
The only time I’ve ever seen a doubleheader in person (rescheduled after the April riots and civil unrest, following the Rodney King trial). Game 1 only needed two hours and 25 minutes to get through: Bob Ojeda (complete game) outdueled Curt Schilling after the 3pm start time. Following a 90-minute intermission of classic baseball highlights on the stadium Diamondvision, the legend of rookie Pedro Astacio was born: a complete game, 10-strikeout, three-hit shutout. Baseballpalooza ended at 9:30pm. Not bad for two games in five hours of action.
1993: Dodgers vs. Rockies (5/23)
First time visiting Dodger Stadium Picture Day (kid me: “they let you onto the field and let you visit the bullpen too? Sign me up!”), field level seats only five rows from the right field foul pole, the only time I ever saw Eric Davis homer in a Dodger uniform, and Martinez spun a complete game, three-hit shutout. First time seeing Mike Piazza live (2-for-4, not too bad).
1995: Dodgers vs. Mets (6/2)
First time back at a Dodger game in nearly two years (we spent previous summer funds visiting family in the Bay Area and Seattle) – and my first going with someone else aside from my family – I tagged along with a pal from junior high and his father. A fun milestone: Hideo Nomo outdueled Bret Saberhagen for his first career Major League win (Todd Worrell pitched a clean ninth inning for the save). We left with 31,000 fans amidst a chorus of “NO-MO! NO-MO! NO-MO!…”
1995: Dodgers vs. Marlins (7/13)
I didn’t pick this one well. Sitting behind the Dodger dugout as a Junior High graduation present from Dad, we had a terrific up-close view of Piazza, Karros, Mondesi, et al. The Marlins dinged them up though for four runs in the first inning. That was enough. My Dad presented an option a week before, for either game that weekend we’d attend in those up close seats. I declined a game on the following night. Bad decision: Ramon Martinez threw a no-hitter.
1995: Dodgers vs. Reds (7/30)
Back to another game and another Dodgers Picture Day with my graduating Junior High buddy, and Nomo on the mound again (he was good). This might be the hottest baseball game I’ve ever attended, with temperatures soaring past 100 degrees the entire day. Cheeky organist Nancy Bea Hefley serenaded the crowd at one point between innings with “Let It Snow” while the Diamondvision crew circulated video of ski jumps, luge, and snowman building competitions. Mike Piazza and Raúl Mondesi went yard, enough to hold off a Reds failed rally in the ninth.
1996: Dodgers vs. Cubs (4/29)
Garden variety mid-90’s Dodgers win: Piazza and Mondesi went deep. Footnote: Sammy Sosa had better days: 0-for-4, all on strikeouts. First time my father and I enjoyed from the cozy, press box adjacent “club” level.
1996: Dodgers vs. Padres (7/17)
First time seeing the Dodgers lose in person, in seven years (not a bad streak). Only a mere 10 feet off the left field foul pole: Piazza crushed an opposite field homer halfway up the pavilion, sizzling through the evening marine layer. Game was well in hand until a blown save in the eighth inning when the Padres scored three runs. Prize pick up and third baseman Mike Blowers blew out his knee sliding into home, was lost for the season, and never seen in a Dodger uniform ever again. Final game of the homestand, and Nancy Bea Hefley had a goodnight ditty with an organ cover of Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again.”
1996: Dodgers vs. Braves (8/2)
Pretty cool to see another win against the “defending World Champs,” (and I admit, the Braves were well on their way to “back to back” until the Yankees tripped them up down 2-0 in the World Series). Ismael Valdez outdueled John Smoltz (who went the distance). Billy Ashley’s homer stood as the game winning run and each time teen heartthrob catcher Javy Lopez came to the plate, it sounded like the Beatles just took the stage.
1997: Dodgers vs. Mariners (8/30)
This game had juice. Interleague play was born, opening the door for Piazza vs. Griffey in Dodger Stadium for the very first time. Fox national coverage had the 1:05pm first pitch. My Dad lives and dies with the Mariners. We had a fun family rivalry ignited during car conversation and walking into the stadium. The game wasn’t even close: the Dodgers blew it open to 11-1 by the sixth inning, while Piazza and Karros combined for a pair of homers and six RBI’s while we watched from club level seats. The game was so out of reach by the seventh inning stretch, I excused myself to take a tour (for the very first time) of the famous black-glassed, right field foul pole “Stadium Club,” look around, and maybe get a celebrity sighting. I walked in and immediately brushed shoulders with actor Gary Sinise.
2000: Dodgers vs. Marlins (4/29)
There was no three-year span of missing a game as this may suggest – a few after the Piazza trade were a blur. This one was not. Breezy three hour, 49-minute ballgame with 15 combined runs and a walk-off after taking (and blowing) a 10-0 lead. The Dodgers shook off a three-homer game from Derek Lee while Gary Sheffield left the yard twice with five RBI’s. A Karros walk-off single against Antonio Alfonseca ended the madness.
2001: Dodgers vs. Giants (4/8)
Sunday Night Baseball (ESPN) game with college buddies (they were all Giants fans, so you can imagine how the conversation went): falls in the “meh” category. 8-1 deficit by the seventh inning stretch. Eric Gagné’s short lived run as a starter didn’t go well that night. Barry Bonds went 0-for-5 and didn’t hear the end of it from fans in the left field seats.
2002: Dodgers vs. Braves (8/24)
For a team that was going on six years without making the postseason after high expectations and the Piazza trade, you could feel things begin to turn the corner on a day like this. They kept punching back on a very strong Braves squad, Shawn Green homered on a warm Saturday afternoon, and Gagné slammed the door as his (short) legend began to build.
2004: Dodgers vs. Cardinals (9/11)
Getting my feet wet in broadcasting meant little time to visit games in the seats by this point. If I could make it once a year, it was a good year. Minor league baseball was through after graduating from college and my maiden voyage in High Desert – and a visit to this one came last moment when my boss on an ESPN2 local southland sports show that I reported on, passed a pair of tickets for myself and a college buddy. An NLDS preview (with the Dodgers chasing their first postseason trip in eight years) made the place electric: tense, and a near sellout of 53,494. We spotted new owner Frank McCourt mingling with fans in the reserve level. Jim Edmonds and Steve Finley exchanged game-changing dingers, Cesar Izturis led a come-from-behind rally in the bottom of the eighth, and peak Gagné detonated the Cardinals in a 1-2-3 ninth inning after the trademark “Welcome to the Jungle” entrance. 53,000 fans sounded like 83,000. It was September, and felt like October.
2005: Dodgers at Reds (Great American Ballpark, 5/8)
I had no idea I’d be at this game until stepping off an airplane in Kentucky, an hour before first pitch after 13 hours of travel (in the rear view mirror: a rare weekend off while working in the midwest, to visit friends at Azusa Pacific’s graduation). Expecting a routine ride in the car back through Ohio with a pal and fellow work colleague, and full-scale dive into bed at about 6pm, he turned the tables and said “how’d you like to hit up Reds/Dodgers in an hour – I have tickets!” Let’s pound a Red Bull.
Sunday Night Baseball, and my first trip to Great American Ballpark, along the Ohio River: it’s a gem. A longer-in-the-tooth Ken Griffey Jr. and (#PitchersWhoRake alert!) Eric Milton took Jeff Weaver deep, but the Dodgers turned the tide for good on a Jason Phillips grand slam. It probably only took me 2 minutes to get to sleep when arriving back home.
2006: Dodgers at Giants (Oracle Park, 8/20)
Moving out west for hockey – and just over the Altamont in Stockton – delivered opportunities to check out another gem. While Oracle Park is home to the archrival, it’s a jewel in the landscape of baseball and America. I’ve never been to another ballpark with its striking and breathtaking views behind the outfield. I also never realized how many Dodger fans make it to a road game in San Francisco until that day, and pro-visitor moments (like a Nomar Garciaparra dinger) sounded like half the ballpark was pro-blue. Derek Lowe nearly went the distance, and Takashi Saito snuffed a Giants rally with a pair of strikeouts whilst bases loaded – and the winning run at the plate. The sounds of “BEAT LA” went to blue cheers in 0.5 seconds.
2007: Dodgers at Giants (Oracle Park, 7/15)
2-0 seeing the Dodgers at an archrival ballpark – and like 2006, tagging with an old college pal (who grew up pro-Giants, so the ribbing, back-and-forth, was non-stop). Not as eventful as the ’06 game, but as a footnote: Joe Beimel (labeled the “Bonds stopper”) struck out Barry Bonds as a potential go-ahead run on three pitches to snuff a rally in the seventh. A guy who may have heard of, Giants leadoff hitter Dave Roberts, went 3-for-5.
2008: Dodgers vs. Brewers (8/17)
Visited family in the southland during the hockey offseason for one of the most bonkers Dodger games I’ve ever seen in person, cover-to-cover: six combined homers between both teams. Matt Kemp had a leadoff bomb in the first. Three batters later, Manny Ramirez (whose Dodgers tenure was just two weeks old) hit a tape-measure shot halfway up the right-centerfield pavilion. It sounded like a rock concert. Some rookie named Clayton Kershaw struck out six Brewers in six innings and dropped an off-the-table curveball to fan Prince Fielder, ending the first. Back to the homers: Ryan Braun tied the game down to his last strike on a surreal, two-out grand slam in the ninth inning. Then André Ethier hit his second of two homers to win it, ten minutes later, in highlight-reel walk-off fashion.
2009: Dodgers vs. Giants (Camelback Ranch, circa March)
Preseason records aren’t heavily circulated so it’s tough to relocate the exact date and details, except this was the maiden voyage to the Dodgers new, fresh, and pristine Spring Training headquarters in Arizona (thank you to a Stockton Thunder off day in Phoenix, and gracious tickets through pal and former Dodgers radio pre-game host Josh Suchon). Ten rows behind the dugout to see Kershaw deal isn’t too shabby.
2010: Dodgers at Angels (Angel Stadium, 6/22)
Last thing Amy and I ever did together before successfully proposing to her two weeks later – she was off to a church missions trip while I stayed in L.A. to cover the NHL Draft with the Edmonton Oilers (the Taylor Hall one at Staples Center). Had a nice rendezvous with several college friends. Other than that, through Dodgers lenses: game was a dud. Rare Kershaw loss seen in person – a 3-0 lead went up in smoke on a Bobby Abreu three-run homer and the Angels cruised to a win on six unanswered runs. Bizarro world: seeing Garret Anderson in the lineup … as a Dodger (1-for-4).
2012: Dodgers vs. Reds (4th of July)
Mannywood was a thing of the past, Frank McCourt had just sold to Guggenheim Partners via bankruptcy, and the Dodgers were just looking to make noise in the NL West, before the big bombshell trade landing Adrián González, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford from the Red Sox, and beginning the ascent back to glory several days after this game. It was devoid of familiar faces, but hey – nice to enjoy the first one with Amy at Dodger Stadium as husband and wife (weeks past our one-year anniversary), and soak it in with parents. Nancy Bea Hefley churned soothing patriotic tunes before the postgame fireworks took over (at least one future star was already getting to work: Kenley Jansen closed it out in the ninth).
2013: Dodgers at Giants (Oracle Park, 7/7)
3-0 when seeing the Dodgers visit San Francisco. Anyone who hasn’t tried this, I encourage you: make friends with the fan sitting next to you in opposing team gear. You win more with honey rather than vinegar. Amy (who’s turned full-blown Giants fan by now just to add spice to our loving marriage) and I took in a conversation with an older couple, disregarding the colors we wore and just aimed to enjoy the humanity surrounded by baseball. By the 5th inning, the couple returned with a surprise snack for us. We were floored.
The baseball stuff: spine tingling game. Kershaw had entered his prime by now as a known commodity and spun a gem in eight innings against the defending World Champs. The Dodgers won 4-1, but it was down to the wire: A.J. Ellis sent thousands of visiting fans into a frenzy with a bases-clearing, tie-breaking, ninth inning double off Sergio Romo. Jansen closed the game out. Former ECHL colleague (now, voice of the Dallas Stars) and fellow Los Angeles resident Josh Bogorad was in the house with his wife, Andi, where we planned to meet briefly after the game before a swarm of fans outside the ballpark slowed our pace down – and we missed the meeting (the Bogorads had a Sunday night flight back home to catch). Still, the baseball date for Amy and me ended with dinner in little Italy. Chef’s kiss.
2015: Dodgers vs. Brewers (7/12)
Last game before the All-Star break and the first time visiting as our own “family” (Lukas, aged seven-and-a-half months, spent seven innings in Amy’s Graco carrying pouch, on my knee, or sleeping – he did wake up to an A.J. Ellis homer) – while my parents came along.
Brewers pitcher Will Smith (hey, there he is again!) entered the game with an ERA under 1.00 trying to protect a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the eighth. No dice. González belted a game-changing and eventual game-winning, two-run homer as the first batter Smith faced (does this seem familiar?). At seven and a half months, Lukas keep sleeping. LOL.
2017: Dodgers vs. Braves (7/21)
Family vacation see parents and to this date, last time I’ve been to Dodger Stadium under game conditions (we’ve visited on more recent occasions, but with the team missing on road trips). Five rows off the field with Dad, at the left field line, gave an up close glimpse of many faces that would surge to within a win of a world title before trash cans got in the way.
Results went sideways and quickly: the Dodgers struggled, at one point down 12-1 in the sixth inning (Braves starter Jaime Garcia even hit a grand slam – #PitchersWhoRake). Basically spent the last half of the game looking around the ballpark to reminisce kid stuff, and visit the new museum behind the press box where Vin Scully’s last broadcast artifacts rested.
2018: Dodgers at Mariners (Safeco Field, late August)
Two-game sojourn in a rare visit to the Pacific Northwest as another pennant chase heated up again: admittedly blessed through a connection for these tickets through work (10 rows behind home plate!), what lied ahead: two Dodger wins, 23 runs, seven dingers, and lengthy appearances up-close by Walker Buehler and Kershaw. For the only time seeing them en route to their second straight World Series appearance, they put on a show.
After a Friday night visit with a pair of college friends who lived in Seattle (third largest crowd in Safeco Field history), Sunday’s visit: one that many Dads will always remember. For my first “Lukas and Me” day, we made sure we got a good look at Kershaw mastering his craft just 110 feet away. The game was well in hand by the seventh inning stretch, a 9-1 blowout which only got larger – Lukas crawled around the centerfield playspace while we watched Kiké Hernandez slam a sixth inning bomb nearly off the scoreboard. Justin Turner teed off on another one by the time we got back to our seats. Zac Rosscup (deep track name alert!) pitched an immaculate ninth inning. “Kids Run The Bases” invited for Lukas’ very first trek on MLB dirt. My estimation of total time in the ballpark: five hours. And he complained when we had to leave. Looks like we got a new fan.
2020: World Series, Game 6 (Globe Life Field, 10/27)
(Hey, weren’t we all there?)
I look forward to watching this generation of greatness the next time out, and if you’re a Dodger fan and let it out on Tuesday night with exhilaration, ecstasy, or just flat out relief, I hope you will too.