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Greatest moments in Dodger history, No. 11: Dodgers move to L.A.

The L.A. Memorial Coliseum

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and the greatest moment countdown continues

I’m assuming everyone knows how this works by now, so I’m going to drop the explanatory introduction to these. If you need a reminder, click on any of the Nos. 20-25 greatest moments below.

Up next is an important move the Dodgers made.

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No. 11: The Dodgers move to Los Angeles (186 first-place votes, 8,837 points)

The L.A. Memorial Coliseum

A closer look at the Dodgers’ move to L.A. Watch here.

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As many readers wrote when they voted for this moment, “Without the first game in L.A., none of the other moments happen.”

The Brooklyn Dodgers were a beloved team in the New York area, but they were beloved by fewer and fewer people as the years rolled by. In 1957, the team was overshadowed by constant talk of the team’s possible move to the West Coast.

On Oct. 8, 1957, team owner Walter O’Malley announced that after 68 seasons in Brooklyn, the Dodgers would be moving to Los Angeles. Earlier that month, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to spend $2.7 million from a gasoline tax to build access roads and prepare a section of Los Angeles known as Chavez Ravine for a new stadium that would be built for the Dodgers. When the decision to move to L.A. was announced, the city powers were thrilled.

It’s easy to assume now that the move was greeted with great confidence that the Dodgers would be an immediate sensation in L.A. But that was not the case at all, as you can see from this 1957 quote:

“We are delighted they are going to come,” said John Anson Ford, president of the Board of Supervisors. “We hope they’ll prove popular. We are relying on Mr. O’Malley’s fine reputation to fill the gaps of uncertainty that have been created, and we believe that in the end the community will be deeply gratified.

On April 18, 1958 , the Dodgers played their first game in Los Angeles , defeating the Giants, 6-5, before 78,672 fans at the Coliseum. Stars on hand included Gregory Peck, Alfred Hitchcock, Burt Lancaster, Jack Lemmon, Nat King Cole, future Angels owner Gene Autry, Groucho Marx and Danny Thomas.

The L.A. Coliseum is easily the most unusual stadium to play host to major league baseball. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, they were without a home. Dodger Stadium wouldn’t be ready until 1962. So the L.A. Coliseum, home of the 1932 Summer Olympics, a stadium built for football, was the Dodgers’ home for four seasons.

How unusual was the stadium? The home run distance to left was 250 feet, but there was a 40-foot high fence installed to keep players from hitting easy pop-fly home runs. To right field, it was 440 feet.

“It was weird, weird, weird playing in the Coliseum,” Dodgers infielder Randy Jackson said in an interview with Don Zminda in 2011.

But there is one player in particular who loved the Coliseum: Wally Moon.

Moon, a lefty, found a way to change his swing and put just the right spin on the ball to lift it high in the air and over the left-field screen. Moon hit 37 home runs in the Coliseum during his Dodgers career, compared to only 12 on the road. Fans took to Moon’s slugging prowess so well that they dubbed his homers “Moon Shots.”

But perhaps Don Drysdale said it best: “It’s nothing but a sideshow. Who feels like playing baseball in this place?”

Previous greatest moments

No. 12: Don Drysdale’s scoreless innings streak

No. 13: Four straight homers against the Padres

No. 14: Sandy Koufax’s shutout in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series

No. 15: Dodgers win 1981 World Series

No. 16: Roy Campanella Night

No. 17: Rick Monday’s 1981 NLCS home run

No. 18: Rick Monday saves the flag

No. 19: Winning the 1988 World Series

No. 20: Winning the 1959 World Series

No. 21: Sandy Amorós’ catch in 1955 World Series

No. 22: Cody Bellinger’s catch in 2020 NLDS

No. 23: Justin Turner’s walkoff homer in 2017 NLCS

No. 24: Sandy Koufax strikes out 15 in 1963 World Series Game 1

No. 25: Mike Scioscia’s 1988 NLCS homer

And the Dodgers’ fifth starter will be.....

Dustin May. Just like I predicted (don’t look it up, just trust me. I didn’t say Tony Gonsolin). David Price and Gonsolin will be in the bullpen. The final position player spot goes to Zach McKinstry. That leaves on roster spot remaining, a bullpen fight between Dennis Santana and Scott Alexander.

“It’s a threading of the needle,” manager Dave Roberts said. “They’re all major league starters. So, to make sure these guys stay built up is important not only for them but for the 2021 Dodgers.

“Still appreciating game situations, hitting for a pitcher, there are going to be times where I expect David or Tony to take an AB and take down a couple more innings if the game situation makes sense. But yeah, having those guys built up and not just being one-inning relievers is important.”

Fewer homers this season?

As mentioned in a previous newsletter, MLB is using a deader ball this season, hoping to cause fewer homers and more base hits. They have been using the ball during spring training, and it seem to be working.

Through Sunday, games are averaging 9.4 runs, down more than a run from 2019 spring training (10.5 per game). Home runs also have declined this spring to 1.11 per game, the lowest in the exhibition season since 2017, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

An MLB memo to teams in February obtained by the Associated Press stated that the new balls will fly two feet shorter on hits that travel more than 375 feet.

After a March 9 start against the Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres lefthander Blake Snell said “I hung a curveball and it didn’t go as far as I thought it was. It’s definitely a different ball. I can promise you that it’s different.”

And finally

Vin Scully remembers the move to L.A. Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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