Dodger Stadium 50th Anniversary: Ranking 25 Greatest All-Time Stadium Moments

Matthew SeukunianCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2012

Dodger Stadium 50th Anniversary: Ranking 25 Greatest All-Time Stadium Moments

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    Dodger Stadium, often called Chavez Ravine, has been home to the Los Angeles Dodgers since 1962. The stadium was constructed from 1959 through 1962 at a slim (in today’s standards) total of $23 million. Today, it is the third oldest ballpark in the major leagues behind icons Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago.

    Since the Ravine opened its doors to Angelinos on April 10, 1962 it has earned a reputation amongst sports fans and baseball purists (especially baseball purists) as being one of the best places to see a game.

    Famous for its iconic backdrop (rolling hills and a “THINK BLUE” sign), it’s greener than green grass and of course the Dodger Dog, Chavez Ravine has grown into its own these past 50 years. It now transcends baseball. It has become a television, film and pop culture star (in some respects) and has hosted hundreds of unique events that at the time seemed larger than life.

    Here, in chronological order, are the 25 best moments in the history of a truly historic arena. 

April 10, 1962: Opening Day

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    When Chavez Ravine opened its doors that day, it became only the second privately-financed Major League stadium to open since the original Yankee Stadium did so in 1923. That was a sign Day 1 of how truly special a stadium it would grow to be.

    The Dodgers trotted Johnny Podres onto the mound that day to face the Cincinnati Reds. Podres would throw the first pitch in the stadium, Cincinnati Reds’ shortstop Eddie Kasko would record the first hit in the stadium, and just like that, we were off.

    Duke Snider became the first Dodger to record a hit in the building, appropriately. Although they did not get the win that day (they lost 6-3), they recorded the first single, double and triple (leaving the home run for the next day) in the stadium's history.

    The next day, as appropriately as Snider was getting the first hit, Dodger legend Sandy Koufax would become the first pitcher to win a game for the team at home.

    It was the first of many magical moments to be shared by 50,000-plus. 

May 5, 1962: Bo Belinksy Throws the Stadium's First No-Hitter

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    The modern day Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have had a long history of name changes. In 1962, when Dodger Stadium opened, they were the Los Angeles Angels, and for the stadium's first four years (1962-1965), they shared it with the Dodgers.

    On May 5, the Baltimore Orioles came to town for a series, and the Angels had Bo Belinsky on the mound. Belinksy would go the distance on that day, fanning nine Oriole batters en route to throwing the first no-hitter in the stadium's illustrious history.

    Belinksy was masterful throughout the afternoon, allowing just one of his four walks after the fifth inning. The Angels would go on to win the game with a final score of 2-0. Despite the no-no coming in front of a crowd of less than 16,000, Bo had good timing. Being the first in history means his performance will never be forgotten.

March 21, 1963: Luis Rodriguez vs Emile Griffith

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    The Dodgers were ambitious from the start when handling their new home. Their second season in the Ravine had not yet begun when Luis Rodriguez and Emile Griffith met somewhere near the pitcher’s mound with the Welterweight Championship of the World at stake.

    Luis Rodriguez would defeat Emile Griffith in 15 rounds taking away Griffith’s The Ring, WBC and WBA World Welterweight titles.

    Today, Rodriguez and Griffith are both members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. When both men retired from the sport they had a combined record of 192-37. They were both truly special fighters, champions of their time, and they fought a truly special fight on a truly special stage. 

Oct. 6, 1963: Game 4 of the World Series

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    It is still unthinkable to me, when trying to imagine what the atmosphere must have been like in the ballpark that day, that in the team’s second season in their new stadium, they won it all.

    The Dodgers went into that game up 3-0 in the series. Koufax won Game 1 followed by brilliant performances by Johnny Podres in Game 2 and Don Drysdale in Game 3. Going into the fourth, and potentially final, game of the series, it was Koufax facing off against Whitey Ford. A matchup fit for the gods.

    The Dodgers would strike first taking a 1-0 lead in the fifth only to see Mickey Mantle tie it up in the seventh with one swing of the bat. In the bottom of the inning, however, the Dodgers would answer back taking a 2-1 lead, and with Sandy on the mound, that was all they needed to do.

    Koufax pitched his second complete game of the series, earning himself World Series MVP honors. To this day, that is the only time the Dodgers have won the deciding game of a World Series at home.

Sept. 9, 1965: Sandy Koufax Perfect Game

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    When Sandy Koufax took the mound that night against the Chicago Cubs, he must have known he was on his way to winning his second Cy Young in three years. What he didn’t know was that the cherry on top of that year’s resume would be a perfect game.

    Koufax would strike out 14 of the 27 opposing hitters he faced. It would become his fourth no-hitter (the most by any pitcher ever at the time) and would truly cement his legacy in the hearts of Los Angeles Dodger fans.

    The game was compelling for far more reasons than Koufax’s perfection. To this day, it is still the only nine-inning game in which both teams combined for just one hit and the game’s only run (the final score was 1-0) was unearned. 

Aug. 28, 1966: The Beatles Concert

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    Now that Chavez Ravine had checked “boxing” off its bucket list, it decided to check off “The Beatles” as well. In just the stadium’s fourth year, it saw the Beatles perform (what would be their second-to-last concert ever) in front of 45,000 screaming fans. The screaming “could be heard all the way to Sunset Boulevard”.

    Bob Eubanks, now 73, was the concert's promoter at the time and he recalled the night in a Los Angeles Times piece last August that he paid the band $120,000 for an 11-song, 30-minute set but that If they ended up with $4,000 apiece I'd be surprised,” citing their travel expenses and massive entourage.

    When the show ended, the band had to be whisked away by security thrown into an ambulance for their safety. Eubanks, when speaking of the night, said "The ambulance hit a speed bump on the way out of the parking lot and the radiator fell out.” The band was eventually put into an armored car that got escorted out of the parking lot by Hells Angels.

    The most expensive ticket for the concert that night was $6.

Aug. 6, 1969: Willie Stargell’s Home Run

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    What to the naked eye may seem like just another game between the Pirates and Dodgers during the dog days of summer, to baseball fans and sports historians is an infamous clash between bat and ball.

    Hall of Famer Willie Stargell stepped to the plate in the first inning with one man on and one man out to face Dodger starter Don Sutton. What happened next is one of the most infamous moments in all of baseball’s prolific history.

    Stargell crushed a Sutton pitch, hitting the ball clean out of the entire stadium. The home run was recorded at 507 feet, the longest home run ever hit at Dodger stadium to date. Looking back, I find it fitting that something of such caliber happened courtesy of a player as grand at Stargell.

July 8, 1980: MLB All-Star Game

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    Every All-Star game is truly special for the team, and city, that are hosting it that season however this was the first time the Dodgers were hosting the event in Dodger Stadium, making it an unforgettable experience for the franchise and its fans.

    The game would be won by the National League, 4-2, in front of over 56,000 fans. The combined rosters featured 17 players that have since been inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Some of the more memorable moments from the game were Steve Stone’s three perfect innings and three strikeouts, in addition to Jerry Reuss striking out the side in the sixth inning as well.

    This would also mark the first nationally-televised U.S. performance of "O Canada" after it had officially been designated Canada’s national anthem earlier that year. 

July 28 to Aug. 12, 1984: Summer Olympics

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    The 1984 Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles, California. Unlike most host cities, Los Angeles did not go out of their way to build new stadiums to host the events. They instead chose to use the Rose Bowl, The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Dodger Stadium, but added smaller venues for certain events.

    This was the first time the sport of baseball was officially included in the Olympics and Dodger Stadium, particularly Los Angeles, was lucky enough to host the event. The nations that participated were Chinese Taipei, Dominican Republic, Italy, The United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Nicaragua.

    Despite the U.S. team having Barry Larkin and Mark McGwire on the roster, Japan would beat the United States 6-3 in the final game taking home the gold.  

Sept. 16, 1987: Pope John Paul II Holds Mass

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    Preparation for the Pope’s mass at Dodger Stadium took several months, thousands of volunteers and a lot of dedication. There was a 90-minute “extravaganza” held before the mass that, according to the Los Angeles Times, had “a touch of Hollywood, a bit of the Olympics and emotional highs for some Catholic performers.”

    The production included 48 trumpeters, garland-bearing children, liturgical dancers and musical selections from religious stage presentations performed by notable Broadway actors and actresses of the time.

    The day was, of course, concluded by the Pope holding mass for over 40,000 attendees.

Oct. 12, 1988: NLCS Game 7

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    Going into the 1988 NLCS, the Mets were heavily favored. They had won 10 of their 11 regular season meetings against the Dodgers. Going into Game 7 (fresh off a 5-1 victory in LA), the Mets had countless reasons to be confident.

    Dodger starter Orel Hershiser had started Games 1 and 3 (not recording a win in either) and had saved Game 4. The Mets assumed, despite his immense talent, that he would be tired and fatigued. They were wrong.

    Hershiser pitched a complete game shutout of the Mets, allowing only five hits scattered throughout the night, and he capped the game off by striking out the last hitter he faced. He would earn NLCS MVP honors thanks to his gutty performances all series long.

Oct. 15, 1988: Kirk Gibson’s World Series Home Run

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    Kirk Gibson’s full-count, two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth walk-off home run off Oakland Athletics’ Dennis Eckersley is often considered one of the best home runs of all time, and is considered the greatest moment in L.A. sports history.

    Everything about the few minutes before and after the home run will never be forgotten. Beginning with Vin Scully’s famous “and look who’s coming up” to the fact that Gibson fell behind in the count 0-2, fought it back to 3-2 and, then with Mike Davis on second base, Gibson did the unthinkable.

    Few calls in the history of sports are as memorable as Jack Buck’s call that day. Buck’s call went like this, “... then you would run for Gibson and have Sax batting. But, we have a big 3–2 pitch coming here from Eckersley. Gibson swings, and a fly ball to deep right field! This is gonna be a home run! Unbelievable! A home run for Gibson! And the Dodgers have won the game, five to four; I don't believe what I just saw!”

    He would later add, “I have seen a lot of dramatic finishes in a lot of sports, but this one might top almost every other one.”

June 29, 1990: Fernando Valenzuela’s No Hitter

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    Fernando Valenzuela often goes unappreciated in the books of Dodger lore. “El Toro,” as he was called, was a transcendent figure that not only united a city every time he stepped onto the mound but deserves credit for bringing the Latin-American Angelino to Dodger Stadium (a large percentage of today’s fanbase that supports the team through thick and thin).

    One of Fernando’s most memorable moments came in the summer of 1990, his last season in Dodger Blue. The St. Louis Cardinals were in town as Valenzuela threw his best nine innings of work ever. He walked three guys, while striking out seven and of course allowed zero hits.

    Valenzuela was an instrumental figure in baseball and the Dodgers franchise, and nearly 25 years since his last performance as a Dodger, Fernando’s legacy will never die.

July 28, 1991: Dennis Martinez’s Perfect Game

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    A perfect game is one of the rare occasions when a stadium should be celebrated for something done by an opposing player. I don’t see how anyone can disagree given how rare, unique and remarkable a perfect game is.

    Montreal Expos pitcher Dennis “El Presidente” Martinez stepped onto the mound in the summer of ’91 and went to work striking out five Dodgers en route to perfection that day.

    Coincidentally, Dodgers starter Mike Morgan also went nine innings allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out five hitters as well. The game’s final score was 2-0 although both of Morgan’s runs were unearned. 

July 10, 1991: U.S. Olympic Festival Opening Ceremonies

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    The Olympic Festival is of course a much smaller, less grand event when compared to the Olympiad themselves, but Los Angeles, and Dodger Stadium, did well holding them nonetheless.

    The festival involved more than 3,000 athletes in 36 sports over the course of 10 days. The Opening Ceremony feature 1,000 choir members, 1,000 dancers, 700 musicians, sky divers, fireworks and more. It was a two-and-a-half hour production put on by Radio City Music Hall.

    Seven years after the much-celebrated 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium shined yet again as a multi-use venue that is always willing and able to please.

April 30 to May 3, 1992: Dodger Games Cancelled Due to Rioting

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    This moment in Dodger Stadium history should not be celebrated as the previous have been, but rather remembered as all tragic events in history should be so as to ensure they never happen again.

    After a jury acquitted three white and one Hispanic Los Angeles police offers accused in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, the city erupt into complete chaos. There was widespread looting, assault, arson and murder throughout the city and property damages topped roughly $1 billion. Fifty-three people died during the six days of rioting.

    As a result of such tragic and inhumane events, the Dodgers put their season on hold, cancelling four games and an entire three-game series due to the high risk and danger level involved. The games were made up later that season.

    Not one of the city, or franchise's finest moments, but one that should be remembered regardless.

April 23, 1999: Fernando Tatis’ Two Grand Slams in One Inning

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    Fernando Tatis’ career was nothing special. He was never a standout player, never an All-Star, and throughout his 13-year major league career he found himself playing for five different teams. He was a .265 hitter who hit a total of 113 home runs while driving in 448 runs throughout his career.

    He did, however, have a couple truly special at bats, nestled into the middle of a truly special inning. In the third inning of the game, Tatis’ St. Louis Cardinals romped off 11 runs, all being piled onto Dodger pitcher Chan Ho Park (only six of the 11 runs were earned).

    The highlight(s) of the 11 runs came on to Tatis swings of the bat. Both swings came with the bases loaded, and both swings resulted in home runs. Tatis set, and still holds the record, for most RBI in an inning and most grand slams in an inning.

May 12, 2003: The Juan Catalan Incident

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    On May 12, 2003, the Atlanta Braves beat the Dodgers 11-4. It was an ordinary game to everyone in attendance, including “average joe” Juan Catalan and Larry David accompanied by his "Curb Your Enthusiasm" television crew.

    Catalan was accused, charged and arrested later that day following the murder of a young girl that testified in a trial involving Catalan’s brother. The LAPD arrested Catalan citing an eye witness that put Catalan on the scene.

    He insisted he was innocent, saying he was at the Dodger game with his 6-year-old daughter. Catalan swore he had ticket stubs from the game and begged to take a lie detector test. In one of the LAPD’s darker moments, they ignored his requests and pleas and sent him away to prison awaiting further sentencing.

    After five-and-a-half months in prison, Catalan’s attorneys (with the help of HBO) used footage from the “Carpool Lane” episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" that had been filmed that day in May to free their client. There was clear-cut footage of Catalan and his daughter at the game, nearly 20 miles from the scene of the murder.

    This moment has nothing to do with the Dodgers, but is one of the more remarkable moments in the stadium's history nonetheless.

Sept. 2, 2003: Eric Gagne’s 55th Consecutive Save

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    Eric Gagne’s record 55th consecutive save came at home and on a four-out outing in typical Gagne fashion. It came in a 4-1 victory over the Houston Astros that, if not for the landmark performance by Gagne, would have wound up being just another game.

    Throughout the 2003 season, Gagne was perfect. He converted every save opportunity presented to him throughout the season, allowing only 16 hits and two earned runs (for an ERA of 0.38) all season long. Gagne’s tenure as a Dodger was too short, but definitely not too sweet.

    “Game Over” was the catch phrase that came into Dodger lore during Gagne’s reign, and those two words will forever resonate with me.

Oct. 2, 2004: Steve Finley’s Walkoff Grand Slam

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    In July of 2004, Steve Finley was traded to the Dodgers. The trade left a bitter taste in my mouth, and the mouths of most Dodger fans I’m sure, because Finley had been on the Padres and Diamondbacks the nine years prior.

    On Oct. 2, Finley took that taste right out of my mouth. The Dodgers entered the bottom of the ninth inning down 3-0 knowing that if they beat the Giants that day, they would win the division and be playoff bound for the first time since 1996.

    After a furious rally at the beginning of the inning, the Dodgers tied the game 3-3, and with the bases loaded, Finley came up to the plate and hit arguably the most memorably grand slam in franchise history.

Sept. 18, 2006: Consecutive Homeruns

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    As eerie and unfathomable as the Kirk Gibson home run was in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series was, what transpired at Chavez Ravine late the night of Sept. 18 was just as eerie and unfathomable, if not more so.

    The Dodgers found themselves down 9-5 going into the bottom of the ninth inning, and then the Dodgers did something that had not been done since 1964. Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew opened the ninth with homers off Jon Adkins. After he was replaced by soon-to-be Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, the unexplainable continued to happen. Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson took Hoffman’s first two pitches deep, making it four consecutive home runs, tying the game.

    The game went into extra innings, and in the bottom of the 10th inning, Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run home run to give the Dodgers an 11-10 win and cement that game as one of the best in all of baseball history.

Aug. 1, 2008: Manny Ramirez’s Debut

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    July 31, 2008 was the happiest day in the lives of Dodger fans ages 13-21. Manny Ramirez was all of a sudden a Dodger. The famed hitter saw his romance with the Boston Red Sox fall apart piece by piece throughout the first half of the season, and before you knew it, he was wearing Dodger Blue.

    The Dodgers lost Aug. 1, and Ramirez grounded into a double play in the bottom of the ninth with a shot at winning the game, but in the grand scheme of things, none of that mattered. Manny went 2-4, but more than anything, united the city and fanbase. That brought hope back into the hearts of uncertain boys, girls, men and women.

    I was at Manny’s first game that night, and it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. He was an icon, a legend and a stud. He was mine, he was ours. Ramirez would take over the city and team for two years, two of the best years of my life.

June 6, 2009: Dodgertown Is Born

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    Vero Beach, Florida was once home to the Dodgers spring training facilities, known formally as Dodgertown. In 2009, Dodgers owner (whose name I normally try not to mention) Frank McCourt moved the spring training from Florida to Glendale, Arizona. As a result, the city of “Dodgertown” became free and vacant.

    The city of Los Angeles and the USPS decided in the spring of 2009 to move “Dodgertown” from Florida, to Elysian Park. Dodger Stadium and the surrounding area were given their own zip code, 90090. A move that may seem insignificant to most, but to true Dodger fans, it’s a token of appreciation to the team and the stadium the team plays in.

    Gregory Graves, the Postal Services district manager, cited his justification for the change saying, “Not only do more than three million citizens call Dodger Stadium their summer home each year but fans from all over the world send cards and letters to the Dodgers organization and their favorite players.”

July 22, 2009: Manny’s Pinch Hit Grand Slam

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    Allow me, if you will, to set the stage. Manny Ramirez has been a Dodger for nearly a season now. Home games are selling out like hotcakes. The Dodgers are winning games like they are the West Coast Yankees. The team hasn’t been this exciting since the ’88 season and it’s all thanks to Manny.

    July 22 was Manny Ramirez bobblehead night, a sure-fire sellout. Manny, however, was not in the starting lineup due to a bruised left hand suffered the night before. However, in the bottom of the sixth inning, with the bases loaded, and a 2-2 tie, Ramirez came up to the plate.

    He took that trademark “Manny being Manny” swing that looked like the purest cut in the history of the game, and the most lackadaisical, at the same time. The ball sailed down the left field line, landed a few rows back, and the rest is history. 

March 23, 2009: World Baseball Classic Final

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    The World Baseball Classic is one of the rare occasions that baseball comes together and unites for one common goal—to showcase the talent of the stars of the world on the biggest stage. The 2009 WBC featured 16 teams from five continents playing in 39 games over 19 days in front of nearly a million people.

    Much of the tournament was played internationally in Tokyo, Mexico and Canada. However, Dodger Stadium, having the reputation it has in its respective field (respected more than almost any other baseball stadium by fans and players), was given the honor of hosting the semifinals and the finals.

    Japan came out of the tournament victorious for the second consecutive time, defeating South Korea 5-3 in 10 innings in front of a crowd whose numbers went north of 54,000.