Keith Thursby: Dodgers Wrap It Up at the Coliseum

Sept. 22, 1961, Coliseum Sept. 21, 1961

The Dodgers ended their fourth and final season in the Coliseum with a 3-2, 13-inning victory over the Chicago Cubs. According to the Times’ coverage before and after the game, the Dodgers left their first Los Angeles home without shedding a tear. The paper even said so in headlines, twice.

 

“It was never a hitter’s park,” the Dodgers’ Gil Hodges told columnist Jim Murray. “If you pull your head off the ball, which I do anyway, you cannot pick it up again. The background is bad in daylight; the lights are bad at night.  … You’ll see a much better baseball club in Chavez Ravine.”

That of course was a reference to Dodger Stadium, where the Dodgers and the expansion Angels would start playing in 1962.

Murray wrote that the Dodgers “came into the Coliseum with one of the great young pitching staffs and one of the all-time great left-handed home run hitters. The park balked the pitchers and short-circuited the power.”

The historic stadium, home to Olympic Games, the Rams and college football, was not the Dodgers’ first choice for a home in Los Angeles. But it became famous for its quirky field and huge crowds. The Dodgers even won a World Series during their stay there, beating the Chicago White Sox in 1959.

Among the Coliseum’s weird features was left field, where a tall screen was supposed to somehow compensate for the short distance from home to the left-field stands.

According to Dodger statistician Allan Roth, Duke Snider and Charlie Neal led the Coliseum Dodgers each with 38 home runs at home during the four seasons.

The opponent with the most homers against the Dodgers in L.A. was Ken Boyer, a St. Louis third baseman who hit 17 from 1958 to ‘61. He finished his career with the Dodgers.

As for the final Coliseum game, watched by only 12,068 fans, the Dodgers didn’t exactly wear out their bullpen. Sandy Koufax pitched all 13 innings for the victory, striking out 15.

Murray provided some perspective.

“The Coliseum never was a baseball park. But there is nothing sacred about baseball. It can be played behind a barn, on a Class C sand pike in New Mexico or even on an aircraft carrier if you want.”

–Keith Thursby

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1961, Baseball, Columnists, Dodgers, Keith Thursby and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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