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Title-starved Dodgers fans finally feeling like a part of history

It's been 29 years since the Dodgers have played in the World Series.We asked some die-hard fans to describe what it would mean if the team won it all.

Robert Medina pulled off his blue Dodgers cap to reveal a scar running along his scalp.

A few years back, the 39-year-old oilfield driller from Bakersfield was at work when he thought he'd been shot in the head.

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He had suffered an aneurysm, and it nearly killed him.

But this week, Medina, a lifelong Dodgers fan, attended his first-ever World Series game at Dodger Stadium wearing a Clayton Kershaw jersey, and life couldn’t feel sweeter.

"This is my dream," Medina said. "I told my wife, 'I want to do this before I die.' "

For the Dodgers faithful, rooting for the home team playing in its first World Series in 29 years against the Houston Astros is a prayer answered.

Parents let their children cut class to get to Dodger Stadium early. There were infants in blue onesies at Game 1 on Tuesday night who will never remember what happened these sweltering October days atop Chavez Ravine, but who'll never stop hearing about it.

A man walked into the ballpark, proclaiming, "Dreams come true." Lines for stadium stores selling World Series gear stretched through the corridors and included giddy police officers in uniform. Sunset Boulevard looked like a parking lot as a crush of cars inched forward.

Medina stood outside the ballpark hours before Tuesday's game. He'd driven from Bakersfield, hopped a train in North Hollywood and ridden to the ballpark with a stadium worker from Union Station. A stranger who saw his jersey learned he was going to the World Series and touched his arm for good luck.

"I felt like, all these games, all these years, why do I get so emotionally invested in it?" Medina said. "Why do I invest so much time and so much money into it? This is why."

Sam and Bonnie Kane of Woodland Hills wore matching Dodgers-themed Hawaiian shirts, face paint and outlandish blue wigs on their heads.

Sam Kane, 69, grew up in Boyle Heights, a boy from a poor Jewish family who would walk or hitchhike to the Coliseum and then-new Dodger Stadium to catch games.

Back then, he said, the team let kids in for free around the seventh inning. He'd linger after games, waiting for autographs. He's still got the black-and-white postcard Sandy Koufax signed for him.

He and his wife, longtime season-ticket holders, just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary at the stadium and ended up on the Jumbotron. Kane said the World Series made him a "complete person."

"I had this on my bucket list," he said. "The only other thing I want now is for them to sprinkle my ashes at Dodger Stadium when I die."

He wore a brace over his right hand. He'd hurt it giving too many high-fives at the ballpark, he said.

Ronnie Medina, 49, of Bellflower, no relation to Robert, held up a sign with the World Series logo that read: "I Am Here." The Dodgers, he said, will always remind him of his late father.

"I don't have my dad anymore, but I feel like this is my connection to him," he said.

Medina's father worked for a gas company downtown. Medina would go to the stadium for day games in his youth, and his dad would meet him there for the last few innings after he got off work.

When Medina was 12, his father gave him a cigar box stuffed with the ticket stubs from all the games they'd attended together.

"It was like being with my best friend," he said. "He took a lot of pleasure out of my interest. Every special moment at Dodger Stadium, it brings back all the people I shared it with."

Medina is a retired Marine who served overseas in the Gulf War and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While he was abroad, he'd reach out to the American Forces Network and get taped Dodger games. He'd watch on a tiny black-and-white TV, but Vin Scully's voice was unmistakable.

Gaby Baez, a longshoreman from Torrance, struggled to put into words how much this Fall Classic appearance by her Dodgers means to her.

"They're just — the Dodgers," she said, smiling. "We've been through a lot of disappointments together."

Baez loves that the ballpark experience has changed so little since her youth. The biggest difference, she said, is the security, with the metal detectors and bag checks.

Baez brought her 26-year-old son, Edward LaFouge, a college student who lives in Las Vegas, and her 12-year-old nephew, Ricky Martinez. She'd brought both to games since they were toddlers and gave Ricky permission to skip class.

"Today's a holiday!" she said.

A few miles from the stadium, the Down and Out bar in downtown L.A. — equipped with a floor-to-ceiling projector screen — rocked with screaming Dodgers fans.

Shaun Koplow, 33, and Natchez Fowler leaned on the back patio, taking drags from cigarettes. Koplow, who runs a record label, has fuzzy memories of the 1988 World Series, when he was very young. Fowler, a court reporter, has none.

The Los Angeles they grew up in was dominated by the Lakers. By Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal and five championships added to the haul of the Showtime Lakers. It took years before Koplow and Fowler morphed into fanatics of a Dodgers franchise that regularly made the playoffs but never did more than tease its championship-hungry fans.

"This team has been so much different than last year," Fowler said.

Jonathan Arangoa, a native Angeleno who now lives in Phoenix, wore a brand-new World Series cap and clutched a Blue Moon beer and a Dodger dog.

"I wasn't even born in 1988; I was born in 1991," the 26-year-old auto body shop worker said. "I've never even seen this. I wanted to be around my fellow Dodger fans, the ones who bleed blue."

Kevin and Karla Torres sat nearby, nursing Modelos. The couple from Commerce were just kids when the Dodgers were last in the World Series.

They both became fans thanks in large part to '80s-era pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. His celebrity made games a family event for many Latinos, and both have fond memories of going to games as small children. Karla, 36, a manager for a food services company, vividly remembers once going to a game with her father and two sisters on Father's Day.

Kevin, 38, who works in information technology, said his parents and grandparents still talk about the 1988 and 1981 championships as if they happened yesterday. He wants World Series memories of his own.

"It's awesome for the younger generation," he said. "The Dodgers are back where they are supposed to be."

Twitter: @haileybranson

Twitter: @jpanzar

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