Tom Lasorda calls it “heaven on earth.”
The huge stack of printed email on my desk in response to safety concerns and a Giants fan left in a medically induced coma paint an entirely different picture of Dodger Stadium.
As one emailer put it in summing up what so many others wrote: “When there has to be a public announcement before a game instructing people that the others around them who bought a ticket have the right to watch the game without being harassed, it’s time to find something else to do. I did.”
In response to a Page 2 question a few days ago: “Is it really safe to attend Dodgers games?” an overwhelming number of unhappy customers vowed they will not return to the stadium.
Hard to say it’s possible, but Vin Scully becomes even more important to Dodgers fans who still want to follow the team but not see them in person.
Many of the emailers seemed sad rather than angry with the changing atmosphere at the stadium, writing about a family tradition gone sour — fearing now Dodger Stadium is no place to take the next generation.
They detailed run-ins with inebriated fans, invasive obscenity, women treated with no respect, physical threats from fellow fans, fearful ushers, drug use in restrooms and an overall concern for their family’s safety.
As one emailer wrote, “I spent many a wonderful day and night out at the ravine, but about 10 years ago I began to become alarmed with the drunks, fights and parking lot. I was a grunt in Vietnam during all of 1968, and it was safer over there than in the Dodgers parking lot.”
If anyone should know parking lots, it’s Frank McCourt, known as the Parking Lot Attendant here since using Boston lots to buy the Dodgers.
McCourt raised the price to park from $7 to $15 in his time here, but a large number of emailers would like to know why money isn’t being spent to beef up security.
Fans said they recognize a considerable security presence before games in the lots, but almost none as everyone leaves.
I called the Dodgers asking to speak to McCourt about the security concerns fans have expressed in email, but spokesman Josh Rawitch said, “He’s not available to speak with you.”
In declining comment on almost everything the last year, McCourt has said repeatedly he would do so at the “appropriate time.”
Dodgers fans seem to be indicating this is the appropriate time to discuss their safety, but Rawitch said the team will have no comment on security issues.
The team dismissed its vice president in charge of security at the end of last year. They have not hired a replacement, Rawitch saying the team has an interim head of security at this time. Later in the day, the Dodgers in a statement announced the hiring of former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton “to assess policies and procedures related to security and fan services at Dodger Stadium…" I can forward him my email if he likes.
Rawitch said discussions are underway to stage an event where fans can donate to help defray medical costs of the Giants fan attacked by two men wearing Dodgers gear in the parking lot after the opener. As for the Dodgers, and whether they will contribute to medical costs, Rawitch said, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” He never did.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig returned a call and made it very clear he’s upset. He said, “We were all terribly saddened by the incident that happened the other day.
“Listen, baseball has enjoyed tremendous attendance the past seven years, and that’s because it’s been family entertainment. And to make such a human experience so great, safety at the ballpark is absolutely critical.”
When Selig was owner of the Brewers, he was known to walk around the stadium as Angels owner Arte Moreno does now to check on the fans’ experience. McCourt has other issues to deal with these days, appearing publicly for the most part at only charity functions.
When this season began, there was talk of fans staying home because of their disenchantment with the McCourts and how they conducted themselves.
But the email suggests Dodgers fans have been upset for some time with the conditions at Dodger Stadium, the opening-day attack the prompt to say so now.
Bryan Stow, a paramedic from Santa Cruz and father of two, was hit from behind by two men as he walked through the parking lot. Stow has suffered brain damage.
“It’s awful that a fan was beaten up and hospitalized,” wrote another emailer, while noting Stow was dressed as a Giants fan. “You wouldn’t dress in a three piece suit with top hat, cane and walk around Skid Row in the middle of the night…so although I feel sorry that this one fan was seriously hurt, I unfortunately do believe that this fan had it coming.”
Amazingly, several others made the same point, although not to the same appalling extent. The fact that it’s almost accepted now anyone wearing the opposition’s jersey is setting himself up as a human target is sports taking a turn for the worse.
Another large contingent of emailers, some calling it a Raiders-like crowd and others crossing the racism line, suggested the biggest problem in Dodger Stadium is the influx of gang-like characters.
As one emailer wrote, “the drunken [gangbangers] who hurt others and cause our city so much embarrassment and shame need to be called out.”
Capt. Dave Lindsay of the LAPD, who oversees the area that includes Dodger Stadium, said, “Do I think some gang members go to Dodger Stadium? Yeah, just like any sporting event.”
Lindsay offered a much rosier look at Dodger Stadium than the one presented by emailers. He said crime is down the last three years in the area and produced the statistics to prove it. But he was talking about homicide, rapes, stolen cars, and aggravated assaults and burglaries.
As for the lack of civility as so many now seem to suggest, Lindsay said, “How many people were cussed at or brow beat, we don’t have those numbers.”
Later Lindsay left a message saying 36 fistfights were reported in Dodger Stadium in 2009, 24 in 2010. Based on email, I suspect those numbers will be met by disbelief.
The Dodgers return home April 14, fans probably pretty excited, so long as Scully doesn’t lose his voice.