Column: Two fans beat Dodgers traffic by walking to the game – 22 miles from Sherman Oaks
Sometimes it really is the journey, not the destination. Occasionally it’s both.
Last week, nine hours before game time, Jay Lewitt and Rick Gottesman — buddies since grade school, pals for life — set off on foot for Dodger Stadium, from Sherman Oaks, 22 miles away.
“We parked on Sutton Street, so we’d remember,” said Lewitt, referencing the 16-season Dodgers pitcher.
From the 405 Freeway, they walked along Ventura Boulevard, through North Hollywood and Toluca Lake, stopping for a memorial toast at a watering hole near Warner Bros. Studios.
Twenty-two miles. Need a more relatable metric? Think 45,974 steps. Think 323 consecutive times around the bases.
Explained Gottesman, 57: “We’ve always been sports nuts, and we thought it’d be a good way to kill an afternoon.”
Added Lewitt, 56: “It’s another way to see the city. As they build more sound walls, you see less and less of the place.”
You know, some things just make no sense at all. Tofu turkey. The NBA lottery. Celebrity baby names. Add to that, this crosstown mega-hike to a weeknight Dodgers game, an outbreak of urban whimsy in a city overweight with cars.
So why not?
In a celebratory mood, the pair found L.A. moments along the way. At a Starbucks, they ran into a minor “Seinfeld” cast member collecting autographs for a charity auction.
In Studio City, at approximately Mile 6, they ran into Kathryn “Kay” Donohew, a freelance photographer out for a walk with her husband.
Spotting the pair’s backpacks, she asked what they were up to. When they said they were headed to the Dodgers game, she assumed they were about to catch the bus.
No way. As they say in baseball, a walk is as good as a hit. And this one would take them all the way to Chavez Ravine.
They zigged, they zagged, preferring shady side streets to main drags. In North Hollywood, they stopped to tour the subway station. (Gottesman had never seen one.) In Toluca Lake, they strolled quaint neighborhoods that Lewitt never knew existed.
In Burbank, they lost their way for a while on the pleasantly warm day. Along Forest Lawn Drive, they cheated death — nearly clipped by speeding motorists flying out of the giant cemetery.
No worries. Lewitt and Gottesman have been sharing odd adventures like this since they were 10. They soon found a horse path in Griffith Park, making steady progress while drivers on the nearby Golden State Freeway sat steely still. At Travel Town, they paused among the vintage trains to remember childhood birthday bashes there.
The avid hikers say they pulled it off without much struggle, crediting frequent long treks in local mountains for their fitness. They knew that they average about 3 mph, and set their 10 a.m. start time with that in mind, allowing for pit stops along the way. In their backpacks, they carried water, energy bars, an extra phone battery and a baseball glove.
Then, as Clayton Kershaw prepared to take the mound, they walked into the glowing stadium.
“We got lucky,” Lewitt said of their game-time arrival.
Added Gottesman: “As cavalier as we are, we thought that if we got there in time for the fifth inning, that’d be fine.”
After the quick game, an Uber driver delivered them back to their families in the Palisades and Agoura Hills, safe at home before 11.
Not just hiking buddies, they are equally committed Dodgers fans. Gottesman said that, over the years, he’d lost two jobs for ditching work to attend games.
“My bosses warned, ‘Don’t even ask about taking any more time off,’” he recalled. “So I didn’t even ask. And they canned me.”
When not at a ballfield, Lewitt produces promotional knickknacks such as cups and key chains. Gottesman now works in the building materials business he ran with his late father, George.
It was with George in mind that they stopped at the Smokehouse restaurant near Warner Bros., to tip a couple of Dewar’s in honor of the lifelong Dodgers fan who loved the Burbank landmark.
Nice touch. Nice tribute. The ultimate walk-off.
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