To my youthful eyes, the Coliseum, with its dull gray exterior and looming presence, didn't seem to offer much in the way of enjoyment when I first saw it on a sunny, summer day in 1958.
That quickly changed as my father led me up stairs that seemed to reach to the sky for my first Dodgers game.
I remember walking down the long, dark tunnel at the top of those stairs. There was light at the end of that tunnel, offering the promise of something special.
I had never been to a professional or collegiate game before in any sport, so this was a grand spectacle to me. The grass seemed so green, the Dodgers uniforms so white, the cavernous stadium so huge.
But in a way, although it was far more vivid and breathtaking than I had imagined, the whole scene also seemed quite familiar, sort of like watching a movie after having pictured the characters by reading the book.
My primer for Dodgers baseball was the words of Vin Scully.
I had watched the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League on our black-and-white television and loved Steve Bilko, the burly first baseman with the home run swing. Fifty-five home runs in 1956 and 56 in '57. He was my Babe Ruth. Who needed the big leagues?
When the Dodgers arrived in 1958, however, I was entranced by Scully.
You have to remember, back in those dark ages of telecommunication, the Dodgers televised only nine regular-season games, those played in San Francisco.
So radio was king and Scully quickly came to rule the L.A. airwaves, giving listeners a word's-eye view that captivated the city. His mastery of the language, knowledge of the game and attention to detail made you feel as if the Dodgers were a new family that had moved in down the block, one you rapidly came to know as if they were old friends.
Now I was seeing those friends in person. We sat in the upper reaches of the Coliseum down the right-field line. From there, the distance from home plate to the left-field seats seemed even shorter than advertised at 250 feet. The notorious left-field screen appeared higher than 42 feet. The vast territory in right and right-center looked like a cow pasture.
I didn't care. I ignored the baseball purists who labeled the setup -- a square baseball diamond in a football oval -- a joke. I wasn't concerned with Don Drysdale's anger over pop fly home runs to left or Duke Snider's frustration at towering drives that died in right.
What did I or my friends know? We had never seen Ebbets Field. Yes, baseball in the Coliseum was an adventure, but it was our adventure, our unique brand of baseball.
We had Wally Moon, who came along in 1959 and perfected an inside-out left-handed swing that could turn routine fly balls into home runs labeled "Moon shots."
Not in our box scores.
We had Sandy Koufax, who didn't worry about standing on the mound in the shadow of that screen. He just blew batters away, when he wasn't blowing the game because of his lack of control. It wasn't until 1962, when the Dodgers moved to Dodger Stadium, that he became The Sandy Koufax, a pitcher for the ages.
We had in excess of 78,000 fans come out opening day, more than 90,000 for each of three World Series games in 1959, and 93,103 for an exhibition game against the New York Yankees to benefit paralyzed former catcher Roy Campanella. It was the largest crowd to ever watch a baseball game until today.
So who cared if much of the rest of the baseball world disapproved of our wacky ballpark?
DODGERS 50TH ANNIVERSARY IN L.A.
Coliseum left a lasting impression
Games in the wacky layout of the Coliseum were a grand spectacle.
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