Baseball and the Coliseum
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:
TOP SINGLE-DAY PERFORMANCES IN COLISEUM
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)
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
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
TOP CAREER PERFORMANCES IN COLISEUM
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
Don Drysdale 451 Sandy Koufax 367 Stan Williams 304 Johnny Podres 281
Team Batting Averages
Pirates .279 Giants .261 Dodgers .260 Overall .256
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!