I was at Dodger Stadium last night, so I missed watching Rich Harden's near-perfect game. But rest assured I had one eye on the scoreboard the whole evening. Dodger Stadium out-of-town scoreboards show don't show hits, but they do which team is up. The Rangers' half-innings passed so quickly that I actually did wonder whether Harden might be throwing a no-hitter.
I'm a bit sorry I missed Harden's performance, but I'm sure I'll have another opportunity. With his stuff and his young age, he's probably more likely than anyone alive to throw a no-hitter in the future.
This was my first visit to Dodger Stadium. The thing that struck me is the contrast between the stadium and the city it represents. So much of L.A. is ugly, ugly, ugly: mile after mile of perfectly straight streets with nothing but man-made landmarks to guide you: freeways and apartment buildings and a gazillion mini shopping malls, each with a beauty salon, a donut shop, and a billboard for the latest motion picture. Our drive to the Dodger Stadium was something completely different: we avoided the freeway for the most part, and went through Griffith Park, a lovely area with trees and hills and small winding roads. At the end of one of these winding roads, we arrived at Dodger Stadium.
It became immediately clear what makes Dodger Stadium special for L.A. fans: it's beautiful. The trees, the hills, the flowers planted around ballpark, and the green grass of the field itself: it's a quiet oasis in a desert of noisy asphalt. What a relief this place must be for L.A. fans from the constant bustle of the valleys nearby.
And in that sense, the architecture of Dodger Stadium suits its surroundings. The design is remarkably simple; there are no artificial asymmetries calling attention to itself--it doesn't need them. It's surrounded by the asymmetry of nature itself.
My two companions who had grown up in L.A. both lamented how much advertising had creeped into the ballpark, but as a first-time visitor, I wouldn't have noticed it as anything unusual. The Coliseum and SBC Park both have far more ads. But after they mentioned it, the ads on the outfield wall did indeed seem to detract from the beauty of the park. They could have been placed more tastefully.
We sat in the third deck, between home plate and first base. We were up pretty high (and I can't imagine what it must be like in the deck above us), but the sight lines were good.
On the down side, the ballpark shows its age in several ways. The different seating sections are segregated, making it difficult to explore the ballpark. And the seats themselves were horribly uncomfortable.
They tell me that they're going to put in new seats next year, and honestly, it couldn't be too soon. I couldn't sit straight up in my seat. My seat had a downward slope, and not only that, but it was extremely slippery. It was like sitting on a slide. My butt kept slipping forward, which made me slouch backward and bend my neck almost to my chin to keep my eyes on home plate. I had to choose between this upper back pain and lower back pain: sitting on the edge of my seat without back support. I chose the lower back pain. Fifteen hours later, I can still feel it.
It didn't help that the leg room was minimal, too. I'm 5'10", and I felt like my legs were squeezed; I can't imagine the discomfort if I were 6'4".
On the recommendation of Jon Weisman, I tried both a Dodger Dog and a Super All-Beef Dodger Dog. The beef dog was nothing special. The Dodger Dog tasted very similar to the hot dogs they serve in Norway, but without the hard, crunchy skin. Blah. If you're going to eat a hot dog that tastes like that, you might as well have the skin. It was like eating an Eskimo Pie without the crunchy chocolate coating. The experience is missing something.
The game itself was fairly entertaining. It was a good pitching matchup, Jason Schmidt versus Brad Penny. Schmidt was obviously still not himself, throwing 90-93mph on his fastball instead of his usual 95-98. But he's a smart pitcher, and he knows how to get people out anyway.
I suppose the one thing I'll remember most about the game was Brad Penny getting thrown out of the game. He was safe at first on a bad throw, but got tagged out by Ray Durham after taking a step towards second base. I can't recall ever seeing that called in a major league game before. Penny threw a pretty good tantrum after he got thrown out. I only wish that Tommy Lasorda had been the manager to follow Penny's tirade. Jim Tracy doesn't do tantrums nearly as well. Managerial tantrums are becoming a lost art. Go kick dirt, dudes!
If I remember anything else about the game, it'll be that the Dodger fans put the kiss of death on their own team. Ken's Axiom #23: if you start the wave when the visiting team is batting, the visiting team will inevitably start a rally. All that noise makes any minor threat seem like a big one, it makes the situation seem more pressure packed than it is, and it gives the wrong team the psychological advantage. The Dodger fans got a really big wave going in the top of the 7th (a very impressive wave, actually), and sure enough, the Giants immediately started a rally. Omar Vizquel said thank you very much, and launched a home run that plunked right off the netting of the foul pole, and that was the difference in the game.
I'll post some pictures after I get home. I got some good ones of Jason Schmidt's delivery from above.