Brooklyn Dodgers fan's dream comes true
McCourt flies 71-year-old to LA to join other bloggers for tour
LOS ANGELES -- Joe Pierre was excited.
Now that he was 19 years old and had his own job, he could finally afford season tickets to see his beloved Dodgers play at Ebbets Field.
But before he could make his purchase, the bad news hit -- the Dodgers were leaving his hometown of Brooklyn for the sunny skies of Los Angeles starting the next season, 1958.
Pierre was heartbroken. The team that he had loved so much was leaving him for a city more than 3,000 miles away.
But Pierre was determined to keep rooting for his favorite team because, after all, it was still the same collection of players playing under manager Walter Alston that were heading out west.
So Pierre kept on rooting for the Dodgers over the years and followed them any way he possibly could. He would read about them in the newspaper, in magazines and then watch them play when they were on national television.
He even became a regular commentator with the moniker "oldbrooklynfan" on the Inside the Dodgers blog on MLB.com to share his stories with other Dodgers fans on the site.
But there was just one thing he couldn't do. He couldn't see his favorite team play at Dodger Stadium in person, because of both the cost and his fear of flying.
But that all changed this weekend when Dodgers owner Frank McCourt made Pierre's dream come true.
McCourt arranged for Pierre, 71, to fly out from New York on Friday on JetBlue so that he could take in a game at Dodger Stadium, as well as go on a special tour on Saturday with his fellow commentators on the Inside the Dodgers blog.
"It's like a dream," Pierre said during his tour. "It's nice of him to do this. I don't know how to explain this. I can never thank him enough. I'll never forget this for the rest of my life."
Pierre's dream-come-true of visiting the stadium he'd seen on television so many times really started last October when one of the regular commentators on the Inside the Dodgers blog asked Dodgers vice president of communications, Josh Rawitch, who also runs the blog, if he could arrange a special stadium tour for the regulars on the site.
"I threw it out there not thinking it would ever happen," said Mike Corrigan, who posts as "perumike." "I just thought it would be cool to get a tour and see a game."
Rawitch loved the idea and agreed to the request, but there was just one problem. Everybody wanted Pierre to make it out to Los Angeles for the first time, and finally a poster named "dodgereric," whose real name is Eric Monson, asked if McCourt could cover the expenses for Pierre to make the trip.
Rawitch ran into McCourt that same day and told him about Pierre's story, which made McCourt's decision an easy one.
"It's great to see someone as happy as he is right now," McCourt said. "He's a lifelong Dodger fan, and he's never been here before, and he said it's like a dream come true. He got a behind-the-scenes tour and he's watching the game and he said he's living his dream. It's a great statement. It's his team. This is what it's all about. He's one of a legion of fans that are emotional stakeholders in the franchise and you can feel their emotion."
Monson was impressed by McCourt offering to fly out Pierre and pay for him to stay at the Hilton Glendale for two nights as well.
"It was generous and respectful of McCourt to offer to do this," Monson said. "This was a very class move and something he didn't have to do."
But there was still one problem -- Pierre hadn't flown in an airplane since 1963, when he was in the army, and he had a fear of flying.
Pierre was finally talked into it because he realized this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"Josh told me, 'I can't see how a guy could root for the Dodgers his whole life and then turn it down,'" Pierre said. "So I realized, how could I turn it down? It's impossible."
Pierre was able to do the impossible through McCourt's help as he went to his first game on Friday night and met Dodgers manager Joe Torre, former great Don Newcombe and several current players.
On Saturday, Pierre remembered exactly where he sat the night before -- field level, Section 8, Row R, Seat 7.
But it was at the tour on Saturday when Pierre got choked up thinking about all of his Dodgers memories.
Pierre stood on the same mound where former greats such as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Don Sutton once pitched, and it was too much for him emotionally.
The tears rolled down his face and in a choked-up voice he said aloud, "Sometimes I just wondered what I was doing rooting for a team 3,000 miles away, but this made it worth it."
Pierre also got emotional when he had a chance to sit in the same seat where legendary broadcaster Vin Scully does the play-by-play in the press box at Dodger Stadium.
"I remember when Vin came in and he was the young redhead, with the older redhead being Red Barber," Pierre recalled. "It was a memory I'll never forget. So it's just nice seeing him carry on like he's done."
"When you hear his voice, it's like the Dodgers never left. He's really the sound of the Dodgers, especially for me being out of town. It's like the Dodgers never changed."
It was moments such as that one where Pierre showed his loyalty to the Dodgers -- loyalty that began at age 8 when his uncle took him to his first game at Ebbets Field.
He recalled some of his favorite memories over the years, such as the Dodgers winning their only World Series in Brooklyn in 1955.
"Some people said it was the biggest celebration in Brooklyn since the end of World War II," Pierre said.
He also talked about his favorite player of all-time: "I think it's Jackie Robinson because of everything he did for the game."
And he talked about what he liked most about Dodger Stadium: "It has a real old-fashioned look to it, which is nice."
Pierre, who also called himself a "chatterbox," lived up to his reputation as he talked with many of the nearly 70 fans that came out to the tour on Saturday that began at the top of the park and made its way into the press box and on the field.
It was a special experience for those on the tour because they had a chance to ask Pierre questions about what it was like back in the old days in Brooklyn.
"He's amazing," said Debbie Nelson, who posts as "nellyjune" on the site. "He reminds me of my grandfather, who also grew up in Brooklyn. Joe was one of the first people I started talking to on the site."
It was also a special day for those on the tour as many of the site's regular posters had never met in person before the game. But because of the community aspect of the blog, they all had their love for the Dodgers in common.
"For a lot of us, this is the only way we can talk about the Dodgers because some don't live among Dodgers fans," Monson said. "I live in Temecula, which isn't that far, but it's mostly Padres and Angels fans. But, this way, I can talk with Dodgers fans all over the world."
Pierre, who doesn't even own a cell phone, finds it funny that technology is really the only reason why he was able to make it to Dodger Stadium. Because he knows that if he didn't regularly post on the Inside the Dodgers blog, his story might never have been noticed.
"I'm the only one left that I know personally in Brooklyn that's still a Dodger fan," Pierre said. "I don't think there's anything I've cherished longer than the Dodgers, honestly."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.