LOS ANGELES -- When people talk about baseball played at the
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, most point to May 7, 1959, as a
highlight. That was the night 93,103 fans honored Roy Campanella by
lighting matches and cigarette lighters as Pee Wee Reese pushed him
in his wheelchair toward home plate in the fifth inning.
"Roy was so proud of that," said his former teammate, Don
Newcombe, who was in Japan that night and missed the exhibition
game between the Dodgers and New York Yankees. "He talked about
"He was proud of it. He was my roommate. He was my buddy. Same
as I miss Jackie [Robinson], I miss Roy."
On Monday, the Dodgers announced that, in honor of their 50th
anniversary in Los Angeles, they will play an exhibition game
against the Boston Red Sox at the Coliseum on March 29.
The field will be reconfigured as close as possible to the
original playing dimensions, meaning there will be a 42-foot screen
in left field about 250 feet from home plate that players must
clear for a home run.
Former Dodger Wally Moon took advantage and hit 49 home runs,
nicknamed "Moon Shots," over the screen.
A host of former Dodgers greats -- including Newcombe, Maury
Wills and Tommy Lasorda -- joined politicians, new Los Angeles
manager Joe Torre, general manager Ned Colletti, owner Frank
McCourt and Red Sox chairman Tom Werner outside the stadium's
peristyle entrance to announce the game.
"We always knew the Dodgers would return to the Coliseum before
the NFL," Coliseum Commission Vice president David Israel quipped.
The field was marked for soccer, and soon it would be chalked
for Saturday's USC-UCLA football game. But that didn't stop people
from gazing at the field and recalling their favorite moments.
Newcombe told of a June 21, 1959, game when he pitched for the
Cincinnati Reds against the Dodgers. After reaching first base for
one of the six times that day, Newcombe, his team leading 17-1 at
the time, told Dodgers first baseman Frank Howard that the next
time he came up, Newcombe would throw him a batting-practice-speed
pitch and give him a chance to see how far he could hit it.
"I think he hit it 578 feet. It went 14 rows from leaving the
park," Newcombe said.
The Reds won 17-3 as Newcombe threw a complete game and drove in
Maury Wills hit his first of just 20 major league home runs on
Aug. 6, 1961 at the Coliseum. It came on his 1,167th at-bat, so he
didn't really have a home-run trot. He sped past first base before
realizing the ball cleared the screen and saw the fans on their
feet cheering. He tried to go into a trot and almost tripped over
"I get home, expecting my teammates to meet me on the top step
of the dugout," Wills said, "But instead, they're all lying on
the ground like they had fainted."
McCourt said the game's proceeds will benefit the official
Dodgers charity, ThinkCure, a partnership with two local cancer
charities and the McCourt family.
"There are generations of Angelenos who have grown up as Dodger
fans and never had the opportunity to experience a game at the
Coliseum," McCourt said. "This will be a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity for fans to connect with the history of their beloved
franchise and support an incredible cause."