10/09/2004 9:24 PM ET
Dodgers fans keep the faith
Excitement returns to proud franchise
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
|Dodgers fans cheer Robin Ventura after hitting a grand slam against the Diamondbacks. (Matt Sayles/AP)
Dodgers fans pumped: 56K | 350K
LOS ANGELES -- Tenille Schnepp was sitting with her family in the Field Level seats at Dodger Stadium on that October night in 1988 when Kirk Gibson hit a miracle homer to beat Oakland in Game 1 of the World Series. Win or lose, those were the days when you expected to be in postseason as a Dodgers fan.
Schnepp, wearing her white Dodgers jersey on Saturday night and soaking up the high-charged atmosphere prior to the start of Game 3 of the National League Division Series, was one of many fans who said they were thrilled to be back in their element.
"It's good to see them back," said Schnepp, who drives over from Las Vegas. "It's been a long time. We had to rebuild, but it's been worth the wait. It makes me think back to all those times I was used to growing up. We had Dodgers season tickets all my life -- a real family tradition. I remember seeing the whole crowd go insane. It would just give me goosebumps. Now I finally have that feeling again.
"Now we just need to win, and I'll be even more happy."
There were 55,992 fans, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, packed into Dodger Stadium. It was the seventh-largest crowd in the stadium's history, and the largest since Game 2 of the 1988 World Series -- the game that followed Gibson's miracle drive.
To fully appreciate just what it means for serious Dodgers fans to finally have their team back in the playoffs for the first time since 1996, consider the case of Jeremy Brussell, of North Hollywood. He was here with buddies Sean McEwen and Mike Landsburg, and in Brussell's case it was simply a matter of priorities.
Two days ago, Brussell's wife, Cherie, gave birth to their daughter, Jenna. Brussell came to see the Dodgers play the Cardinals right after dropping off his wife and baby from the hospital.
"I picked them up at the hospital at 12:30 [p.m. PT] and brought them home, immediately changed a diaper, got Mom settled in, and both of them are doing OK," Brussell said. "Then I drove over and picked up Sean, and here we are. My wife is very understanding. The Dodgers are back in the playoffs. We'll be rooting hard."
Landsburg said he has seen more Dodger blue at this game than usual.
"I'd feel better if we had come here with a split in those first two games," he said. "But it's good to finally see a playoff game again. I think there's a little trepidation, knowing this could be one game and then goodbye. But it will be a good, loud crowd."
Terry Crawford of Glendale has had season tickets since he was a tyke, when Dodger Stadium opened for business in 1962. He said it has been hard to go without postseason baseball the past nine years, having grown up expecting your club to be playing at this time of year, but added that it is understandable.
"Every franchise goes through it," Crawford said. "Even the Yankees. You spend so much money on free agents and stop paying the same kind of attention to your minor league system. You can't do that. The Dodgers have rebuilt, and now we're back. I'd normally be watching hockey or college football this time of year. It's good to see the playoffs again. Now they have to win, though. Just being here is not enough."
Vincent Butler of Los Angeles, wearing a No. 16 Paul Lo Duca jersey like so many other fans who could not part with that former Dodgers catcher's memory, said he has had season tickets in the upper deck for the last nine years. So this is the first time in that stretch that his tickets have included some playoff action.
"It's better than anything I can describe," Butler said. "If we win this game, I have no doubt that we'll send it back to St. Louis, tied."
John Christian of Los Angeles called the Dodgers' run wonderful.
"It's been an exciting season. I'm not sure they've got a team to take to the World Series, but I hope we get a win. I was there in St. Louis for the last game, sitting behind home plate, and fans there were very nice. They didn't treat you disrespectfully."
Busch Stadium was a sea of bright red for the first two games of this series. Contrast that with the blue-and-white ocean of Dodger Stadium, and the kind of October atmosphere that fans once were so accustomed to feeling has returned at least for a night. The Freeway Series possibility was scuttled when the Angels were beaten a day earlier, but Southern California baseball was still alive.
"At this time of year, in the last decade, I guess we'd have been rooting against the Giants," Christian said. "There wasn't much else to do. Maybe some fans would root for the Angels, but a true Dodgers fan is not going to change over. This is what we have been waiting for, and hopefully we can get a win and keep playing."
Schnepp isn't sure if she'll see another World Series this fall -- as she did in '88, '81 and '78. But she said she's glad for the chance to try again.
"I watched the Dodgers until the strike in '94," she said, "and I got out of it, and then about three years ago [I] got back into it. We travel around with them, and now this feels like what I remember growing up. I have faith in them."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.