The Morning Column: October 20, 2021
There’s nothing like Dodger Stadium in late October and on Tuesday after one of the most improbable comebacks in Dodgers postseason history, Chavez Ravine was as loud as it has ever been.
That’s the way Dodger Stadium employees greeted fans when the auto gates and stadium gates opened shortly after 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
Game 3 of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves was scheduled to start at 2 p.m. forcing anyone who wanted to attend the weekday matinee to take the day off school or work. And since we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic, all attendees were forced to show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test as well as wear a mask during their time at the ballpark.
The latter is simply a way of life now but we all know at least one person who’s following the lead of Kyrie Irving instead of science when it comes to COVID-19.
Despite the early start time, the Dodgers drew an announced crowd of 51,307. It would have been a sellout in every other ballpark in Major League Baseball and was over 10,000 more than what would be a sellout at Truist Field in Atlanta.
But it fell about 1,000 fans short of what would be deemed a sellout this season at Dodger Stadium. Earlier this year the Dodgers attracted a sellout crowd of 52,724, which was the largest for an MLB game this season when Max Scherzer made his Dodgers debut against the Houston Astros. The Dodgers’ “Reopening Day” crowd of 52,078 in June was the largest crowd to watch a professional sports league game in the United States since the start of the pandemic last year.
The majority of the empty seats were located in the top deck by the foul poles where the sun’s glare was so bad it caused Gavin Lux and Mookie Betts drop what would normally have been routine catches.
Before the first pitch, the fans that had made it to their seats by 2 p.m. were on their feet and waiving their blue towels.
Los Angeles sports fans are notorious for being late-arriving and early-departing and they had every reason to head for the exits early on Tuesday and focus their attention on the Lakers’ season opener against the Golden State Warriors, which was taking place less than four miles away at Staples Center.
The Dodgers were down 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning and down to their final five outs; staring at a 3-0 series hole. MLB Stats gave the Dodgers just a 6 percent chance to win the game after the bottom of the seventh inning. In the previous 81 Dodgers postseason games where they had trailed by three or more runs in the eighth inning or later, they had lost each time.
But not this time. Not this team.
Cody Bellinger’s three-run home run tied the game and Dodger Stadium erupted. “It was as loud as I've heard Dodger Stadium after that homer,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. Listen for yourself:
You could focus on the empty seats, call out the fans who couldn’t afford to take a day off school or work or simply couldn’t financially afford to go to the game but it was impossible not to get swept up in the energy of the fans who were there.
After the game, many fans were on their phones with friends and family who couldn’t make it to the game. In a perfect world with a more ideal start time and void of life’s responsibilities and financial restrictions, they would be together. But on this night, FaceTime would have to do as they relived Bellinger’s three-run homer and Betts’ RBI double to complete one of the most improbable comeback wins in Dodgers history.
There’s nothing like Dodger Stadium in late October. The sound of the honking horns from the cars streaming out of the stadium, the smell of bacon-wrapped hot dogs being sold in every direction and total strangers high-fiving each other long after the final out. We missed that last year when the Dodgers played the postseason in the Texas bubble. We have that again this season and after Tuesday’s dramatic win, we have at least one more late October game at Dodger Stadium to look forward to.