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Dodgers Reach for Golden Era

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Dodgers 50th Anniversary Party a real success!

By Gary Montgomery

Staff Writer

Coliseum viewed from high above third base during Saturday's historic game.
For most of us our fiftieth celebration of anything would be a subdued affair at best filled with a day of mixed emotions and reflections, likely surrounded by a few close friends to ceremonially mark the moment and give it honorary reverence. Not so for the Dodgers.  The team threw itself a party honoring the fiftieth anniversary of its move to Los Angeles like nothing ever seen before in the generally conservative world of major league baseball. 

The Dodgers held an all day party complete with celebrities, VIPs, legendary players and, oh yes, an announced 115,300 fans. It was an electrifying evening in the grandest of all venues, the historic Los Angeles Coliseum.  Saturday's bash also set a new record for attendance at a baseball game, surpassing the previous estimated record of 114,000 attending an exhibition game between the Australian national team and the American services team during the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia on Dec. 1, 1956.

Joe Torre gestures to Dusty Brown during Saturday night's game.
The Dodgers already hold the Major League record for single game attendance set on May 7, 1959 when 93,103 fans filled the Coliseum for an exhibition game in honor of Roy Campanella. The game was highlighted by an infamous moment in which Pee Wee Reese pushed Campanella out to the field in a wheelchair as the fans lit matches in tribute.

Rumors of Saturday's game started to swirl late last season.  The word was that the Dodgers were working on the plan to play one of their pre-season contests at the Coliseum, returning to the original site where the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers called home after their arrival in Los Angeles in 1958. As more details began to surface the buzz continued to grow. The possibility of baseball returning to the Coliseum seemed intriguing to Dodgers' fans old and young.

There are lots of fans around who remember attending Dodger games in the Coliseum. Many could be spotted in Saturday's crowd with grandkids in tow assuring that they did not miss this historic moment.

Celebrity fans- Pamela Anderson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Antonio Villarogosa and Billy Crystal all threw out a first ball to begin each inning.

Shuttle buses started rolling from Chavez Ravine around 11 a.m. and by noon the Coliseum grounds were swollen with thousands tailgating and waiting for the gates to open at 4:00 pm. At first glance, the Coliseum grounds' looked as if USC football was underway, but a closer look revealed nothing but blue Dodger jerseys and caps with an occasional Red Sox fan in sight.

The excitement surrounding Saturday's game shows just how much fan support still exists for the Dodgers. Surprisingly for a team that has had little to celebrate in decades.  In fact it has been 20 years since Kirk Gibson's dramatic pinch hit homerun scored the winning run in the 1988 World Series, the last great Dodger Moment.

Since 1988, the Dodgers have made only two playoff appearances and have failed to win a playoff series.

Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. after performing the National Anthem.

New Dodger owners Frank and Jamie McCourt have increased attendance each of the four years they have owned the team with clever marketing and public relations outreach projects. But, nothing tops Saturday's "Return to the Coliseum" game. It was an absolutely brilliant idea that got even better when implemented to perfection. 

Some of the legendary Ex-Dodgers off hand included Bobby Castillo, Tommy Davidson, Ken Landreaux, Don Miles, Wally Moon, Don Newcombe, Jerry Reuss, Steve Sax, and  Duke Snider.

Although the Dodgers lost the game, returning to the original ballpark with the short left field screen that created the famous Moon Shots perfected by Wally Moon and with so many legendary Dodger players not only reenergizing the fans but also motivating the current team, the new Dodger owners are committed to developing a winning team. With their tireless efforts and bold moves like hiring Joe Torre it's only a matter of time before Dodger Blue returns to Glory.

Gmontgomery can be reached at sports@blackvoicenews.com

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