50th anniversary: Dodger Stadium debutsby Chris Jaffe
April 10, 2012
Today marks a memorable anniversary in the history of baseball stadiums. Exactly a half-century ago today, the Los Angeles Dodgers played their first game in Dodger Stadium at Chavez Ravine.
It was a breakthrough—the first of the modern stadiums. Dodger Stadium was the first place to try to get rid of obstructed seats. Up to that point, stadiums sought to maximize capacity (in frequently tiny stadiums) by putting the upper deck seats right over the lower deck, making it impossible for those way back on the lower level to follow the flight of the ball. Dodger Stadium moved the upper deck back a bit to lessen the problem.
Many older stadiums had minimal room for accommodations such as concessions stands. Dodger Stadium ensured there would be more concessions stands, allowing people to buy a wider variety of food and other items. That made the fans happy—and their spending money made the team happy.
Dodger Stadium was hailed as a step forward, and often considered a model for how to build a stadium. It remained that until Camden Yards came around 30 years later to invent a new model.
As of right now, Dodger Stadium is the third oldest stadium in baseball, trailing only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Personally, it’s odd for me to type that the third oldest stadium is only 50 years old. As a kid, there were four stadiums much older than that—Wrigley, Fenway, Tiger Stadium, and the eldest of them all, Comiskey Park.
Despite that, Dodger Stadium in many ways outdoes some of those more senior stadiums. Here’s an unlikely fact: Dodger Stadium’s overall official attendance in its history is greater than the overall official attendance of any of those other four places just mentioned. It’s true.
Officially, Dodger Stadium will have its 147,000,000th attendee of a regular season game this Opening Day. Those other places are all under 140,000,000; some well below. Comiskey Park’s 80 years of baseball had less than half Dodger Stadium’s overall total.
(Of course, if you want to go by stereotypes, you could quip that if you adjust by innings seen, Dodger fans fall below Comiskey Park, as LA routers are famous for showing up late and leaving early).
Well, that isn’t quite fair. After all, in the 1980s baseball switched from turnstile clicks to tickets sold when counting official attendance, so many of the Dodger Stadium faithful listed in attendance didn’t actually attend. But that doesn’t explain a two-to-one advantage over Comiskey. Part of it is also era, as the last 20 years of baseball have had far more fans per game than the 1910s-50s (when Comiskey exited but Dodger Stadium didn’t).
Let’s look this up. Below are the top ten stadiums in all-time regular season official attendance (all numbers prior to the 2012 season):
Stadium Attendance Yankee Stadium 151,741,771 Dodger Stadium 146,987,687 Fenway Park 139,452,863 Wrigley Field 135,210,452 Tiger Stadium 104,261,485 Angels Stadium 98,112,726 Shea Stadium 97,336,378 Busch Stadium 90,400,082 Comiskey Park 72,625,477 Veterns Stadium 66,709,435
For the record, I did remember to check stadiums that hosted multiple teams such as Sportsman’s and Connie Mack Stadiums. Overall attendance just wasn’t very high back then, so the places didn’t make the list.
These numbers aren’t perfect as some teams split their seasons in multiple stadiums. The Yankees split 1976 between Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium, for instance, and the Red Sox actually played in Braves Field a little bit way back when. But Dodger Stadium should end up in second place behind Yankee Stadium regardless of how you adjust it. In 2013, it should move up to be the all-time champion stadium in attendance.
Oh, and in that first game on April 10, 1962, the Dodger lost 6-3 to the Reds. That didn’t prove to be a harbinger of things to come. From 1962-2011, the Dodgers have a 2,272-1,714 record at home. That’s a .570 record, equivalent to a 92-70 season. Yeah, that’s a nice home record.
In 50 years, Dodger Stadium has packed them in like few other places in baseball history. Who knows how many will be counted in attendance there before its time is up.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate either their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim the list.
1,000 days since the Phillies sign Pedro Martinez.
2,000 days since the Cardinals top the Mets 3-1 in Game Seven in the NLCS. It’s the Yadier Molina home run game.
4,000 days since Geoff Jenkins hits three homers in one game. The Brewers top the Expos 8-4 with six RBIs for Jenkins.
4,000 days since the Reds reach their all-time peak franchise record of 408 games over .500 (9,173-8,765). They’ll tie it three days later but never better it. (This includes their AA days).
8,000 days since Tony Gwynn suffers his worst game according to WPA: -0.388 WPA. He’s 1-for-5 with a GIDP.
8,000 days since the Braves release veteran catcher Jody Davis.
8,000 days since Mark Clear’s last game.
8,000 days since Mark McGwire has his best game according to WPA: 0.968 WPA. He goes 3-for-4 with an IBB, double, two homers, and three RBIs in a 7-6 A’s win over the Indians.
15,000 days since Bill Mueller is born.
20,000 days since Ford Frick is elected to another seven-year term as commissioner when his then-current contract expires in 1958.
40,000 days since Ray Kroc, McDonalds dynamo and Padres owner, is born.
1897 Ross Youngs, Hall of Famer who died very young, is born.
1913 Bill Carrigan manages his first game. He’ll helm the Red Sox to two world titles.
1913 Branch Rickey manages his first game. He’ll last nearly a decade in the dugout before finding his true calling in the front office.
1913 On Opening Day in Washington, Walter Johnson begins a streak of 56 consecutive scoreless innings. He allows an unearned run in the first inning and then Washington beats New York, 3-1. This is also the first game New York plays as the Yankees. They’d been the Highlanders previously. President Woodrow Wilson throws out the first pitch.
1930 Frank Lary, pitcher, is born.
1932 Fred Pfeffer, infielder, dies.
1946 Bob Watson, scored baseball’s 1,000,000th run, is born.
1947 The Dodgers announce they’ve purchase Jackie Robinson’s contract.
1950 Ken Griffey Sr. is born.
1956 Ginger Beaumont, good player for turn-of-the-century Pirates, dies.
1959 Sparky Anderson makes his major league debut as a player. I bet he looked old even then.
1959 Nellie Fox goes 5-for-7 with a game-winning home run in the 14th inning for Chicago’s 9-7 Opening Day win over Detroit. Fox didn’t hit a single homer in 1958.
1959 St. Louis releases Sal Maglie.
1961 There are now 17 teams in the majors as the new Washington Senators lose 4-3 in their debut.
1962 Houston become the first new NL team in 70 years when they beat the Cubs 11-2 in front of the 25,271 fans in Texas.
1962 Dick Radatz makes his big league debut. So do Joe Pepitone and Cookie Rojas.
1962 Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey makes his big league debut. As often is the case with debuting umps, he works third base.
1963 Bill Rigney manages his 1,000th game. His record: 489-510.
1963 The Cubs become the first team to hire an athletic director when they peg ex-Air Force Col. Robert V. Whitlow for the job.
1963 Ray Culp, pitcher, makes his big league debut.
1963 The demolition of the Polo Grounds begin. The same wrecking ball that was used for Ebbetts Field is used here.
1967 Detroit signs free agent Johnny Klippstein.
1968 Don Money makes his big league debut.
1969 The Padres all-time franchise record peaks at three games over .500: 3-0. That’s not a bad start, given that they’ll lose 110 games on the year.
1970 Veterans Stadium, maybe the most widely maligned stadium of that generation of ballparks and home to the worst turf in professional sports, makes its big league debut. It’s the largest crowd in Philadelphia history, 55,352. The Phillies top the Expos, 4-1.
1970 Reds pitcher Don Gullett makes his debut.
1971 Willie Stargell swats his 200th home run. He hits three homers in the game for the third time in his career.
1971 Luis Aparicio sets a personal best with six RBIs in one game. He goes 2-for-5 with a double and homer but his Red Sox lose 11-10 to the Indians.
1973 Royals Stadium opens. It’s usually considered to be the best stadium to come out of the 1970s. The Royals top the Rangers 12-1 on a cold day (39 degrees).
1975 Mike Norris makes his big league debut.
1976 Atlanta signs Andy Messersmith.
1976 In the bottom of the ninth of a Yankee-Brewer game, Don Money hits an apparently walk-off grand slam home run for a 10-9 Milwaukee win, but it’s nullified because the first base umpire claims he called time just before the pitch was thrown. New York goes on to win, 9-7.
1977 The Red Sox and Indians combine to score 19 runs in one inning when Boston gets six and Cleveland 13 in the 8th. Cleveland wins, 19-9.
1977 Juan Bernhardt hits the first homer in Seattle Mariners history.
1979 The White Sox lose on Opening Day 10-2, and look so bad doing so—they walked 12 and made multiple defensive miscues—that team owner Bill Veeck offers free admission the next day to everyone at Comiskey on this day.
1979 J.R. Richard has a rough day, tossing six wild pitches.
1980 Harold Baines makes his big league debut.
1980 Milwaukee’s Sixto Lezcano hits an Opening Day walk-off grand slam. He becomes the first person to ever swat two Opening Day slams, as he’d also nailed one in 1978.
1980 Ron Guidry and Jon Matlack engage in a nice pitchers’ duel. They both throw nine shutout innings with zero walks and only five hits between them. (Guidry allowed two hits, three for Matlack). Texas wins in 12 innings, 1-0.
1981 Chili Davis makes his big league debut.
1982 Andre Ethier is born.
1982 Rick Wise, the first pitcher to beat all 26 teams, plays in his final game.
1982 Minnesota trades Roy Smalley to the Yankees for Greg Gagne, Ron Davis, and a third player.
1982 Wade Boggs makes his big league debut.
1983 Eddie Murray collects his 1,000th hit.
1985 On Opening Day, Cal Ripken, in consecutive game No. 444, sprains his ankle. He stays in the game and x-rays are negative.
1986 Bobby Witt makes his big league debut.
1987 Gary Carter’s longest hitting streak peaks at 16 games.
1987 The Dodgers release longtime workhorse Jerry Reuss.
1989 For the fourth time in his career and third time in his last four starts, Dave Stieb has a complete game one-hitter.
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. belts his first home run.
1993 Tom Kelly manages his 1,000th game. His record: 530-470.
1993 Fernando Vina and Robb Nen both make their big league debut.
1994 Gary Sheffield becomes the first person in 32 years to hit a double, triple, and two homers – but miss the cycle because he never got that single.
1994 Michael Jordan gets his first hit with the Birmingham Barons.
1994 Rick Helling makes his big league debut.
1994 Randy Johnson endures his worst Game Score: -4. He line: 2.1 IP, 8 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 6 BB, 2 K.
1995 Florida signs free agent Andre Dawson. It’ll be the last stop in his career.
1996 Roberto Alomar draws four walks in the game for the only time in his career.
1997 Ryne Sandberg suffers his only 0-for-4 with four Ks game. He has one other four-K game in his career.
1998 The largest crowd in the history of post-renovation Yankee Stadium—56,717—see the Yankees outslug the A’s, 17-13.
1998 Mike Piazza belts a grand slam for the second straight day.
1999 Jim Leyland wins his 1,000th game as manager. His record: 1,000-1,044.
1999 Carlos Beltran belts his first home run.
2000 Ken Griffey Jr. becomes the youngest person to ever get 400 career homers. He’s 30 years and 141 days. It’s been just under two years since his 300th home run.
2003 Colorado pulls off the firs triple play in franchise history.
2003 Craig Biggio sets an NL record with his 31st career leadoff home run.
2003 Tampa Bay signs controversial reliever John Rocker.
2005 John Smoltz ties a personal best by fanning 15 batters. He did it 13 years earlier. Today he needs just 7.1 IP to do it.
2006 Ex-Pirate Howdy Groskloss dies at age 100.
2007 Kenny Lofton hits his first leadoff home run in four years. It’s his 29th career leadoff homer.
2010 The Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia takes a no-hitter into the eighth until Kelly Shoppach singles off of him.
History instructor by day, statnerd by night, Chris Jaffe leads one of the most exciting double lives imaginable; with the exception of every other double life possible to imagine. Despite his lack of comic-book-hero-worthiness, Chris enjoys farting around with this stuff. His new book, Evaluating Baseball's Managers is available for order. Chris welcomes responses to his articles via e-mail. Oh, and now he's on twitter.