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Chris Erskine: America’s Best Feel-Good Story?

They say a strand of dress pearls holds the body’s heat. Well, so does Dodger Stadium.
A pearl of a place, this grand old ballyard is maddening, overrun, spectacular, like the city itself. A magnet for mayhem. And generational good times. The envy of the entire baseball world, to be honest.
FYI, not sure I’ve seen anything quite like this current Dodger team. Missed the ’27 Yankees by a few ticks, but this lineup of heavy-hitters brings them to mind. Baseball’s Brotherhood of Bash.
Sure, the homers come and go — that’s baseball, streaky and haunted. But when this team is on, it’s really on. Seriously, I haven’t seen this many missiles since Nikita Khrushchev.
Right now, in a troubled nation, the Dodgers are America’s best feel-good story — perhaps America’s only feel-good story. Let’s take it for what it is: a rare chance to cheer history being made.
On this night, there are 45,000 mustardy souls in attendance. In most stadiums, you don’t get this many fans till the pope visits.
This isn’t just an evening to celebrate, it’s an evening to decant. You open it and let it sit awhile in the moist May air before sampling it. Then you gulp. Noisily. With gusto.
“Take me out to the ballgame, take me out with the crowd…”
As with everything, there are tradeoffs. This high-priced team is the result of the greedy corporation that runs it, plus the high prices for your cable package, plus the 30 bucks to park, plus the $125 it costs just to feed a family of four.
I don’t like that one bit. It’s shameless. It’s predatory. And remember: To sell that lucrative $8 billion TV contract, these bandits blacked out many of us for five years.
That’s world-class greed.
Baseball is now hardball capitalism, financed by built-in enormous TV deals and — in the end — the passion of the fans. That’s the pearl lining here. This is the best team money has ever bought. I don’t credit the often-arrogant front office.
I credit the fans.
That’s you, Manny and Sylvia and Bill. And Mary Hart. And Rob Lowe.
From Mount Wilson to the sea, a Dodger crowd represents Los Angeles like no other place. We’re all here — the surfers, the welders, the software engineers — rubbing elbows, making quips, high-fiving strangers after home runs.
You know, I used to be a sort of ombudsman to this old ballyard, a sports columnist tasked with pointing out its shortcomings and dysfunction.
Of course, there is still plenty of that. And I’m a purist, not much for DJs and those between-inning contests.
As a sportswriter, I wrote with Celtic wistfulness about demon curveballs (“A 74-mph curveball, spinning at 1,600 rpm, will cross the plate a half second later at a reduced speed of … ‘Hey, what was that?’”).
More importantly, I’ll remind you to spin a Dodger Dog three times in a bed of mustard, then add your onions and relish (no ketchup, please). Dodger Dogs are overhyped and overpriced (8 bucks), and they taste just like summer — salty as the sea.
Yet, I defy you, as you shove the last few bites into your mouth, the mustard spilling down your gills, to tell me they do not make you as happy as Christmas.
Like when two tingles touch.
Know what else makes me happy? Well, since I asked…
Spotting Roger Owens, the legendary vendor who has been flinging peanuts and other snacks to L.A. sports fans since 1958. A mere 66 years.
The Dodgers should erect a statue to Roger, in honor of all the vendors and stadium staffers who park us, feed us and clean up after. They should erect a statue for him as the team’s second-greatest ambassador after Tommy.
Roger is older now, and you have to think he may have only 60 or so years left. The sciatica is killing him, as is that card gizmo he’s now forced to use for purchases instead of cash, which was especially functional in a stadium with spotty Wi-Fi.
See, Dodger Stadium doesn’t take cash anymore. And they don’t give you straws for your drinks either. The post-game traffic swirl is still beyond belief.
Sometimes, it’s as if the Dodgers are trying to drive customers away, instead of lure them here.
Still, we show up each night, to watch this unbelievable lineup launch solar storms into the inky night sky.
And for the chance to say, years later: “Yeah, kid, I saw the ’24 Dodgers. Wow.”

This grand old ballyard is maddening, overrun and spectacular, like the city itself.

Please come celebrate the greatest Dodger of them all, Vin Scully, at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at Pages bookstore in Manhattan Beach, or 7 p.m. Monday, May 20, at Vroman’s in Pasadena. Editor Tom Hoffarth and I will be discussing “Perfect Eloquence” a collection of essays on Vinny by Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Orel Hershiser and Ross Porter, among others. Free.

First published May 16-18 in Outlook Newspapers.


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