“Two dollars and fifty-five cents!”
The price was giddily shouted by my son as he scanned the computer, and I quickly scolded him for joking.
I wasn’t trying to buy a six-pack of soda. I wasn’t trying to buy a bowl of soup. I was trying to buy a reserve-level Dodgers ticket for last Wednesday’s afternoon game against the Cincinnati Reds.
“Be serious!” I told him.
“Two dollars and fifty five cents!” he shouted again.
I questioned him further. He wasn’t kidding. He had found three Dodgers tickets on the StubHub resale website for $2.55 each.
The typeface was small. The message was giant. Admission to one of baseball’s most venerable stadiums for a game involving one of baseball’s most enduring franchises was being sold for the price of a pack of hair clips.
I didn’t think it was real. Even when my son had clicked the mouse and the printer had spit out three tickets for less than $20 including fees, I still didn’t think it was real.
Twelve hours later, on a sunny and cool June afternoon, three Plaschkes were sprawled out high above the enduring beauty of a major league game, laughing out loud over the improbability of it all.
Turns out, the $2.55 ticket was the only real part of a surreal afternoon in Frank McCourt’s Ghost Town.
When you use pocket change for a baseball ticket, you usually don’t feel much pressure to arrive at the game on time. So, with my son and daughter in tow, we pulled off the freeway at Dodger Stadium about noon for the 12:10 p.m. start, which would have normally put us in our seats by the bottom of the first inning.
Moments later, we were reminded that things around here are anything but normal. Because moments later we were pulling into the actual stadium after navigating roads so empty, my daughter actually wanted to confirm that there was a game.
In Frank McCourt’s Ghost Town, there is no traffic. There is no buzz. Driving through the Chavez Ravine parking lot is like driving through a spring training parking lot. Folks leisurely strolling across vast expanses of empty. Nobody in a hurry because everyone figuring they would be on time.
Which, we were. There were no lines to enter the parking lot, no lines to enter the stadium, and nobody clogging the concourses as we walked to our seats just in time to watch the first of many lousy pitches from Chad Billingsley.
Actually, I don’t think those were our seats. Because our section was virtually empty, we could pick any seat we wanted, so we pulled into a middle row and spread out like three people sitting in an empty theater before a bad movie.
We put our feet up on the seat in front of us. We spread our arms across the seats between us. There were no heads to block our view. There was little sound to distract our attention. Down below, the Dodgers and Reds battled each other as if they were Little Leaguers playing for a handful of parents.
It was actually pretty cool. Life in Frank McCourt’s Ghost Town is eerie, but it has its advantages.
There is the Nap Factor. It was so quiet, for the first time ever in a ballpark I actually fell asleep. It happened in the second inning, and again in the sixth inning, leading to a true seventh-inning stretch.
There is the Food Factor. Even though the unconscionably slow Dodger Stadium concession lines still exist, a full inning has been cut off the usual wait for a hot dog. Despite this being a half-priced food game, my daughter was able to make the run and return to our seats within a span of three outs.
There is the Visiting Fan Factor. We spotted a fan decked out in full Reds regalia, and my pulse quickened when he plopped down in the middle of the section in front of us. But because there was nobody sitting within five rows of him, he remained happily undisturbed.
Incidentally, the Dodgers average attendance is officially ranked 10th in the baseball at 35,675 per game but, as a general rule, cut that in half. For day games in the middle of the week, cut it in half again. For this game, I would have listed the attendance as Huge Swatches of Empty Surrounded by Small Huddles of Few.
By the middle innings, you might think our wonderment at the $2.55 ticket experience would have ceased, but no. As the Dodgers fell further behind in an eventual 7-2 loss, the strange fun continued.
There was a one-man wave. A guy started it, but there was nobody sitting in his row to pick it up, so he simply shrugged and sat back down.
There was a five-row foul ball, the ball clanging around an empty section like a pinball until it rolled near someone who yawned and picked it up.
The bad news was, there was a strong smell of marijuana in the bathroom. The good news was, with so few fans, you were never in line long enough to get high.
By the final innings, there were no lines anywhere, few cheers, scant conversation, Dodger Stadium turned into a cavernous monument of quiet despair, the only thing worth anticipating being the possible eighth-inning rendition of the “Don’t Stop Believing” song.
Alas, there was no song, not that it mattered. Belief having left this building long ago, there was hardly anybody around to sing it.