More than 100K fans on hand for Dodgers' exhibition at Coliseum
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers used a five-man infield against the Boston Red Sox. Too bad they weren't allowed to put a player or two in the Los Angeles Coliseum stands.
Kevin Cash and Kevin Youkilis hit cheap homers off Esteban Loaiza to account for five runs in the first three innings, and the Red Sox beat the Dodgers 7-4 Saturday night before an announced crowd of 115,300 -- largest ever to watch a baseball game.
The previous record of about 114,000 attended an exhibition between the Australian national team and an American services team during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
This exhibition game was part of the Dodgers' 50th anniversary celebration of their move west from Brooklyn in 1958. They played at the Coliseum for four years before making Dodger Stadium their permanent home in 1962.
In the last baseball game played at the Coliseum, on Sept. 20, 1961, Sandy Koufax pitched all 13 innings in a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs before a crowd of 12,068.
The Coliseum was built for track and football, not baseball.
Routine fly balls, even popups, soared over a 42-foot high screen in left field, where the distance from home plate to the foul pole was just 251 feet. Meanwhile, drives to right and center of more than 400 feet were easy outs.
The distance to the left-field foul pole for this game was 201 feet and the screen was 60 feet high. And the fences around the rest of the field were far closer to home plate than in the old days.
Cash lined a two-out, three-run homer to left-center in the second -- a ball that might have split the gap elsewhere but certainly wouldn't have gone out. Youkilis connected with two outs in the third, popping the ball over the screen with a runner aboard.
"It was pretty cool," Cash said. "I would have rather it had been a regular-season game."
Regarding his homer, Cash smiled and said: "I thought I hit it good. You put it at Yankee Stadium, it's probably not a home run. It was a home run here."
Surprisingly, there were only two more homers, a solo shot by Dodgers' first baseman James Loney in the seventh off Bryan Corey, and a two-run blast by rookie Blake DeWitt off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth.
"I thought it was a heck of a show," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I didn't see any empty seats. That's pretty imposing. Everybody seemed to have a good time."
"Wakie's a flyball pitcher. That's great," Varitek said some 3½ hours before the game as he walked down the Coliseum tunnel and glanced toward the left-field screen.
Then, in his best broadcast voice, Varitek he intoned: "Dodgers 85, Red Sox 81."
He was way off.
Torre joked beforehand about using a five-man infield, but the Dodgers did so throughout the game. Center fielder Andruw Jones played behind second base on the skin of the infield at the start, with left fielder Andre Ethier in center, leaving left field unprotected.
The Red Sox went with a more conventional defensive approach, although their left fielders were stationed in left-center, well off the line.
Longtime announcer Vin Scully, who moved with the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, was honored before the game. He referred to himself as "an ordinary man who was given an extraordinary opportunity."
After being given a long ovation, Scully told the fans: "Aw c'mon. It's only me."
Wally Moon, a left-handed hitter who earned lasting fame for his ability to slice the ball off or over the left field screen, known as Moonshots, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Before the second inning, former Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar threw another ceremonial pitch, flanked by 15 members of the 1958 Dodgers.
Pregame talk, naturally, centered on the configuration of the field.
Former Dodgers pitching ace Don Newcombe had a difficult time looking at the screen, which clearly brought up some unpleasant memories.
"That's terrible, isn't it? I know the hitters are foaming at the mouth," Newcombe said, his voice rising. "It's a monstrosity, that's not a baseball thing. It was a monstrosity then. We knew that."
Boston manager Terry Francona said he was just happy he wasn't pitching -- or hitting.
"Sadly, my little flares would have carried to the left fielder," he said.
Torre, who grew up in Brooklyn, recalled playing at the Coliseum as a rookie in 1961, and not faring very well.
"I walked out on that field and I said, 'Whoa, this is really great for a right-handed hitter.' I wasn't that right-handed hitter," he said.
The Red Sox traveled to Japan for the first two games of the regular season against Oakland before flying to Los Angeles and arriving late Wednesday night. They're playing three games against the Dodgers before flying to Oakland for another pair with the A's that count.
"For us right now, it's play a game and move on," Boston's Alex Cora said. "It's been such a difficult week. Hopefully it's not like a USC [football] score."
Francona expressed a similar sentiment.
"The idea behind this is awesome," he said. "I think flexible is the word for the day. We're trying to respect the occasion. It's more of an event for ThinkCure, a deserving foundation. The concept is tremendous. For one day, I've got to sit back, not complain, not worry."
The Dodgers scored in the first when Rafael Furcal singled, took second on Wakefield's wild pickoff throw and came around to score on fly balls by Martin and Ethier.
The lead didn't last long. Third baseman DeWitt committed a two-out error in the second before Bobby Kielty drew a walk, setting the stage for Cash and making all three runs unearned. Kielty and Cora hit RBI singles in the sixth to extend Boston's lead to 7-1.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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