This week, the baseball world brings its marquee game to its Southern California shrine.
The best players will gather at a spot that looks like a park fiesta, smells like a beach picnic, feels like a summer night.
The national attention will focus on the only local venue that has staged a World Series and an All-Star game in the last 21 years.
That this place is Angel Stadium is a triumph. That it is not Dodger Stadium is a shame.
Baseball has implied it, longtime baseball fans have felt it, I’m finally going to have to write it.
This week’s All-Star game was awarded to Angel Stadium because it is the best ballpark in the Southland by about a 450-foot homer. Angel Stadium is everywhere, Dodger Stadium is nowhere, and for every heart that leaps, there is one that breaks.
For every person who loves the vacation that is a trip to an Angels game, there is someone who mourns the chore that a visit to a Dodgers game has become. This is a great baseball town deserving of two great ballparks, and for all the joy that comes in baseball’s recognizing the flashy kid in Anaheim, there is sadness at the decline of the aging lady of Chavez Ravine.
Counting the 1989 game in the pre-renovated Anaheim Stadium, the Angels will have had two All-Star games during a time in which the Dodgers have had none, and one must ask, how is that even possible?
First, it is because the Dodgers, with baseball’s third-oldest stadium, realize their limitations and have simply stopped pushing for All-Star games. Second, well, they wouldn’t get one if they asked.
Baseball prefers Angel Stadium and, frankly, so do I. This, even though some of the best memories of my adult life have been laced together at Dodger Stadium.
I have seen baseball history change amid a hilly green background that never changes. I have eaten lunch with other neighborhood folks on the upper level in the middle of winter. I have kept in touch with countless friends while passing them on escalators throughout the summer.
I love Dodger Stadium’s heartbeat. But as I grow older, I also like to watch a baseball game without worrying about a jammed parking lot or soggy bathroom or 20-minute wait for a Dodger Dog.
If I’m looking for the perfect baseball evening, I go to Angel Stadium, and even my Dodgers diehard friends do not blame me.
Start with this year’s Fan Cost Index. The average price for a family of four, including tickets, at an Angels game is $131.80. The price for a Dodgers game is $221.64. (The FCI calculations include average-price tickets, refreshments, parking, programs and souvenirs.)
The difference between the places is even greater.
Walking into Angel Stadium, with its wide, clean concourses and comfortably spaced seats, is like opening a sunroof. Walking into Dodger Stadium, with its low ceilings, dark corners and claustrophobic concourses, is like clenching a steering wheel.
Angel Stadium concession stands are so efficient, the other night I fed my children from Panda Express and missed all of three batters. Dodger Stadium concession stands are so overworked, the other night there were 15 people in line for one guy selling pretzels -- and this was on the renovated field level.
The Angel Stadium restrooms are of the clean and organized variety that could be found on any floor of an office building. The Dodger Stadium restrooms, with the exception of those on the field level, are the wet and littered sort found in junior high, complete with the occasional graffiti.
I have written before about the increase in fan violence at Dodger Stadium, but security has recently been increased to visible levels, and those taunting fans in the pavilion seem increasingly harmless. But because of the closeness of the crowds, and the literal heat in those tight concourses, there is a palpable buzz that doesn’t always feel safe.
Two acts of violence in Angel Stadium last season have been well-documented. But the general stress among fans there is absent. C’mon, it’s Orange County. Nobody even frowns.
“The majority of our time is spent on the stadium, because it’s all about the fan experience,” said Angels Chairman Dennis Kuhl. “It’s like having 44,000 people over to your house every night. We want them to have a good time.”
Dodgers President Dennis Mannion wants the same. But his stadium didn’t have the good fortune of being gutted before the 1998 season as Kuhl’s stadium did.
That’s really the only thing that will fix Dodger Stadium. It needs to be torn up and put back together, keeping intact only the location and Vin Scully’s broadcast booth.
“It’s the most beautiful house you can dream to have,” Mannion said, and I agree. “But it’s about a dynamic and changing economy. We just have to keep chipping away to make things better.”
It’s obviously about money, and, like everything over there these days, you wonder if that money is tied up in Frank and Jamie McCourt’s divorce.
“Passionately, I can tell you, no,” Mannion said. “When it comes to ownership issues, we’ve been lucky to keep them out of this house.”
As both bosses noted, these aren’t so much stadiums as homes. Our homes. And you know what they say about homes.
Although Southland baseball’s soul was born in Chavez Ravine, its heart is in Anaheim.
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7:30 a.m.: All-Star game Charity 5K & Fun Run at Angel Stadium. Entry fee for the 5K race is $35 for adults; $30 for children 12 and younger. The Fun Run starts about 30 minutes later. Entry fee is $30 for adults; $25 for children 12 and younger.
8 a.m.: Third of four days of the Jr. RBI Classic, a tournament featuring eight baseball and four softball teams of 11- and 12-year-olds from the United States and the Caribbean. Sunday’s games run through midmorning at Columbus Tustin Park and Sierra Intermediate School in Santa Ana. The tournament runs through Monday. No admission charge.
9 a.m.-8 p.m.: Baseball FanFest at the Anaheim Convention Center (runs through 6 p.m. Tuesday). Interactive baseball theme park features exhibits and attractions, memorabilia, major league clinics and seminars, and free autograph sessions with Angels legends and Hall of Famers. Tickets: $30 for adults; $25 for senior citizens, military personnel and children 12 and younger; children 2 and younger are free. Family packs are available. Tickets are sold on a timed-entry basis and can be purchased online through MLB’s website, www.angelsbaseball.com, at Angel Stadium or by calling 1-888-FanFest (326-3378).
3 p.m.: Taco Bell All-Star Sunday at Angel Stadium begins with XM All-Star Futures Game, featuring some of the game’s best young prospects in a United States vs. World Team format. It continues at 6:30 p.m. with the All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, featuring a team of former baseball stars against celebrities from the TV, film, modeling and music industries. Tickets range from $50 to $110 and are available at www.AllStarGame.com, www.angelsbaseball.com, the Angel Stadium box office behind home plate, or by calling 1-888-FanFest (326-3378).
For notes and quotes from Sunday’s All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, go to latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog