Baseball BeatMarch 24, 2008
Baseball and the Coliseum
By Rich Lederer

The Los Angeles Dodgers will host the Boston Red Sox in an exhibition game this Saturday. It's not just another spring training contest though. There are two unusual items about this tilt: (1) the Red Sox will be playing an "in-season" exhibition game and (2) the venue will be none other than the Los Angeles Coliseum. The game will mark the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers played their home games at the Coliseum from 1958-1961. It was nothing more than a temporary facility for the club that left Brooklyn after the 1957 season. The Coliseum was built in the early 1920s, and it has hosted the Summer Olympics in 1932 (and 1984), as well as the World Series in 1959, and the first NFL-AFL Championship Game (later renamed the Super Bowl) in January 1967 and a second Super Bowl in 1973. The Coliseum remains the only venue to host the Olympics, World Series, and Super Bowl.

Located across the street from the University of Southern California, the Coliseum has been home to USC football for more than 80 years. Cross-town rival UCLA played its home games at the Coliseum from 1928 until the Bruins departed for the Rose Bowl in 1982. The former Cleveland Rams of the NFL relocated to the Coliseum in 1946 and stayed there through the 1979 season (before moving to Anaheim and later to St. Louis).

The Coliseum was designed as a track and field and football stadium and was never meant to host baseball games. The field was squeezed into the closed end of the Coliseum with home plate located near the tunnel that serves as the runway to the locker rooms for home and visiting teams. The left field fence was only 251 feet from home plate and a 42-foot high screen was installed to limit the number of home runs.

Due to the subsequent elimination of the running track and the expansion of seats, the left field fence will be 200 feet for the Red Sox-Dodgers game on Saturday night. Attendance is expected to exceed 100,000, which will be the all-time record for any baseball game.

Although the largest regular season attendance at the Coliseum was 78,672 for the home opener against the San Francisco Giants on April 18, 1958, an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees in honor of Roy Campanella drew a still major league record of 93,103 on May 7, 1959. The three World Series games between the Dodgers and White Sox in 1959 exceeded 92,000, including 92,706 fans for Game 5, a current MLB record for a non-exhibition game.

Appropriately, former owner Walter O’Malley, who was responsible for moving the Dodgers to Los Angeles and the westward expansion of Major League Baseball, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee on December 3, 2007. The HoF induction ceremonies will be held on July 27, 2008 in Cooperstown, New York.

In four seasons at the Coliseum, the Dodgers posted a 330-288 record (.534), including the 1959 World Championship, their first of five titles in Los Angeles. Retrosheet's Dave Smith, who went to four games at the Coliseum (including his first MLB game), provided me with the following statistical information about the Coliseum:



Most Hits

Batter          Date      AB  H
Willie Mays     5-13-1958  5  5
Jim Davenport   8-10-1958  6  5
Maury Wills     9-15-1959  5  5 (10 innings)
Bob Lillis     10-01-1960  7  5 (14 innings)
Maury Wills    10-01-1960  8  5 (14 innings)

Most HR

Batter          Date      AB  H HR RBI
Don Demeter     9-12-1961  5  4  3   7
Bill White      7-05-1961  5  4  3   4
Lee Walls       4-24-1958  6  3  3   8
Don Demeter     4-21-1959  5  3  3   6 (11 innings)



Pitcher         Date
Sam Jones       6-30-1959
Juan Marichal   8-02-1961

Most Strikeouts

Pitcher         Date      SO
Sandy Koufax    8-31-1959 18
Sandy Koufax    6-22-1959 16
Sandy Koufax    9-20-1961 15 (13 innings)
Sandy Koufax    5-06-1960 15



Team ERA

Giants  3.91
Dodgers 3.92
Overall 4.14

Individual ERA (minimum 50 IP)

Ron Perranoski ( 50   IP) 2.34
Vernon Law     ( 78   IP) 2.42
Sam Jones      ( 72.2 IP) 2.72
Bob Buhl       ( 71   IP) 2.92
Don Drysdale   (528   IP) 3.14

Most Wins (with Losses)

Don Drysdale   36-25
Johnny Podres  29-18
Stan Williams  21-17
Sandy Koufax   17-23

Most Strikeouts

Don Drysdale  451
Sandy Koufax  367
Stan Williams 304
Johnny Podres 281


Team Batting Averages

Pirates .279
Giants  .261
Dodgers .260
Overall .256

Most At-Bats

Jim Gilliam 1019
Charlie Neal 919
Wally Moon   798

Most Home Runs

Duke Snider  38
Charlie Neal 38
Wally Moon   37
Gil Hodges   31

Most Stolen Bases

Maury Wills   42
Jim Gilliam   34
John Roseboro 16
Wally Moon    14
Charlie Neal  12

Top Batting Averages

Batter            AB   H   BA
Willie Mays      177  65 .367
Stan Musial      113  41 .363
Del Crandall     111  39 .351
Roberto Clemente 169  56 .331
Bill Mazeroski   166  54 .325
Wally Moon       798 256 .321
Orlando Cepeda   175  56 .320
Gene Freese      100  32 .320
Richie Ashburn   160  51 .319
Ken Boyer        166  52 .313

Let the Home Run Derby begin. Play ball!


I'm going out on a limb here, but I don't think Willie Mays' great numbers at the Coliseum were necessarily a byproduct of park effects.

Charlie Neal hitting 38 home runs at the Coliseum is another matter.

C John Roseboro third overall in steals??!

I remember that everyone thought that Campy(Roy Campenella) was going to break Ruth's record playing there but suffered his career ending paralysis accident before the season, we'll never know

Thanks for the memories. I saw my first big league games at the Coliseum and was there when they awarded Maury Wills second base(they actually pulled it out and gave it to him)in recognition of his stolen bases.

I also remember a bizarre contest where all of the outfielders from the Dodgers and their opponent (whom I don't recall) stood at the third base line and tried to throw the ball over the right field fence. The Duke was the only one to clear it that day. No way would they even try that today.