On his last day of work, they came for him in an ambulance, the old usher being carried out the same back exit of Dodger Stadium where he had once stood guard.
For 55 years, Ira Hawkins had patrolled the Coliseum, then Chavez Ravine, for late hours and low pay in sweaty conditions. For more than half of his long life, he had labored in virtual invisibility, standing guard for those who walked past without looking, attending thousands of baseball games he could never watch.
Yet in the end, during a May 11 game against the Miami Marlins, they came for him in an ambulance because he wouldn't leave on his own.
"Don't let them take me," Hawkins pleaded with a co-worker before his weary 91-year-old frame was carried from his beloved home. "Please, don't let them take me."
They are more than just the people who haul away the beach balls.
They are more than the arms that direct you to your seat, or the body that stands in front of the elevator line, or the legs that hustle past you through the stands when somebody in the front row is hit by a foul ball.
The Dodger Stadium ushers are real people. with real lives, who often go to great lengths to fulfill what they consider their duty to Los Angeles and each other. They are among the longest tenured group in baseball, many of whom have spent every adult summer at Dodgers games, sharing lockers and meals and stories, a deep-rooted family.
In many ways, Ira Hawkins was the leader of this family. He wasn't big, he wasn't loud, and, in the end, he became so frail he walked in baby steps. But for longer than any other usher in Dodgers history, he was there, and he was huge.
"He was shrewd, smart, a real institution around here," said fellow longtime usher Rick Angona. "He was The Hawk."
He grew up in Los Angeles' boardinghouses during the Depression, became a UCLA all-conference baseball player, spent three decades working as a supervisor for the U.S. Postal Service, and then made one decision that would forever alter his life.
Hoping to remain close to his sport, he reported for work at the Coliseum as an usher on April 18, 1958. It was the first Dodgers game in Los Angeles. He never again left their side.
He wore straw hats and ties, then polo shirts and khakis. He directed traffic on all levels, finding lost kids and pointing to bathrooms and even helping to guard President Reagan.
He hung out with All-Star teams and church groups, Vin Scully and a guy bringing five kids on cap night. He was the veteran perspective sitting in front of locker 215 in the usher's room, and the calm director of those huddled masses lost between the upper deck and reserved.
"And he always had a story to tell; about an old ballplayer or some great game," said James Harvey, another fellow usher. "You could not walk past him without stopping to hear a story."
In the end, who would have thought the best story would be his own?
Ira Hawkins was a Los Angeles fixture who didn't even live in Los Angeles. He lived by himself in a modest Lake Arrowhead home. To even show up for work, he performed the baseball equivalent of stretching a single into a triple.
At the start of each homestand, he would drive to town in a 40-year-old Ford Econoline van. For the duration of homestands he would stay in a Motel 6 in El Monte. He didn't have a computer or cellphone, so before games, to save money, he would park the van at Phillipe's downtown and conduct his personal affairs on a nearby pay phone.
During the homestands he ate virtually every meal at Subway, ordering a footlong turkey sandwich on wheat with tomato, lettuce and olives. He would carefully cut the sandwich into four parts and eat one for breakfast, one for lunch, one for a snack, and one for dinner.
He would drive the van with his laundered uniforms and sandwich to Dodger Stadium two hours before his scheduled 5:10 reporting time. Then, sometimes he would sit in front of his locker and sleep. His three children lived out of state, so this was his family. The Motel 6 was temporary, so this was his home.
Where once Dodger Stadium needed the old usher, now it was the old usher who needed Dodger Stadium.
"My father valued working, he valued family, and the Dodgers were all that for him," said daughter Irana Hawkins. "He just wanted to keep going and going and going."
The years passed, and The Hawk slowed, but the Dodgers were never going to release him. He endured open-heart surgery at 88 and still finished the season. Perhaps the oldest man in the park on this year's opening day was a guy who worked there.
"A great man like that, we would never tell him to leave, we would let him tell us when it's time to leave," said Sara A. Guzman, the Dodgers' manager of guest services. "He loved the people, and the people loved him."
For the last several years he was given a quiet spot on the eighth floor, allowed to sit in a plastic blue chair just inside the players' parking lot. He would direct fans navigating the nearby stairwell while giving a special greeting for the players' families as they arrived for the games.
"They're waiting for you," he would always say with a soft smile, the ultimate Dodgers host.
"He was the sweetest man in the world," said Ellen Kershaw, wife of pitcher Clayton Kershaw. "He was such a warm, welcoming person."
There was a moment last season when Hawkins wondered if that welcome was being returned. A pregame ceremony honoring longtime employees ran too long, and ended before his name was announced. But the minute Stan Kasten heard about it, the Dodgers president scheduled a special ceremony for Hawkins and another snubbed usher later in the season.
Hawkins was quietly rejuvenated that day with more stories, more smiles, and by the promise that he could do this forever.
"He did so much for us, I'm glad we could do something for him," Guzman said. "It was like we kept him going, kept him alive."
Indeed, after the old usher was taken from Dodger Stadium in May, he never returned. Less than a month after learning that his heart problems would cause him to miss work, he died at 91. His final correspondence with the team was a voice mail in which he apologetically called in sick.
At his funeral, the team answered that call, as more than two dozen Dodger Stadium ushers showed up in full uniform, bringing the family to tears.
"It was a huge surprise, a real sight to see," said his son Ira. "All these ushers came ready for a game."
The Dodgers honored the legend with a moment of silence, but his memory is going to last longer than a moment. The plastic blue chair on the eighth floor has not been moved. His locker has remained unopened. There are tentative plans to name the area near his final post the Ira Hawkins Memorial Hallway.
"Don't let them take me," the old usher pleaded.
Turns out, they didn't.