Past, present to meet in Dodgers' home opener
Members of 1962 club will be on hand for 50th anniversary
LOS ANGELES -- It must be blue-collar Midwestern roots that have Don Mattingly looking forward more to the umpire's "Play ball" than the glitz and glamor that will precede it at Tuesday's Dodgers home opener.
Mattingly isn't even sure if the anticipated Opening Day exuberance is a fair gauge for the honeymoon between fans and the new Guggenheim/Magic Johnson ownership group after the sparse and subdued home turnouts from late last season.
"Opening Day probably won't be the best indicator," the Dodgers manager said. "I'd say after that, when we get into the regular season and kind of the day in and day out crowds, that's when we'll find out if it will be a little different."
An honest observation from Mattingly, as Tuesday's 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium will include a pregame reunion of members of the 1962 team that opened the place, followed by a first-ball ceremony with Terry Seidler and brother Peter O'Malley. Their Hall of Fame father, Walter, owned the club and built the showplace that they ran after his death. Seidler will make the first toss, as their mother did 50 years earlier. The O'Malleys owned the club from 1950-98.
That first season for the Dodgers in their new ballpark was bittersweet. Maury Wills was a more polished version of Dee Gordon that year, a Gold Glove shortstop and baserunning madman who won the National League Most Valuable Player Award with a revolutionary 104 stolen bases.
Tommy Davis was that year's Matt Kemp, not only winning the first of two batting titles (.346), but driving in a club-record 153 runs that still stands, despite the many changes in the game over the years that have accommodated offense.
The role of Clayton Kershaw that year was shared between Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax. Koufax pitched the first of four no-hitters at the end of June and had 14 wins by mid-July, but he missed nearly all of the last two months with circulatory problems in a finger he nearly lost. Drysdale was simply a workhorse that year, surpassing 300 innings for the first of three consecutive seasons, winning 25 games and the NL Cy Young Award.
Kershaw will get the home opener against the Pirates, and it's bound to go better that last week's road opener, when a bout with a stomach flu had him throwing up before, during and after a tortuous three-inning start.
"I'm still a little funky, but all right," Kershaw said, expecting to make the start regardless.
The Dodgers won 101 games back in 1962, but not the game that mattered most. They ended the regular season tied with the Giants and lost the rubber game of a three-game playoff for the pennant.
Wills and Davis will lead a group of alums from that team that includes Wally Moon, Ron Perranoski, Ed Roebuck, Norm Sherry, Larry Burright, Tim Harkness, Ken McMullen, Pete Richert, Daryl Spencer and Stan Williams. Drysdale's daughter, Drew, will sing "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch.
The Beach Boys will sing the national anthem in a performance that is part of a promotional partnership with the club, as the iconic band is also celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Dodgers will honor Hall of Fame broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin and organist Nancy Bea Hefley.
Naval F-18s will fly over the stadium during the ceremonies, which will include veteran of the game Marine Sgt. Eric Rodriguez of Los Angeles. Color guards from all five military branches -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard -- will present the colors and 150 Army personnel from the Los Angeles Recruiting Battalion, including Battalion Commander LTC Robert Blankenship, will unfurl a giant flag on the field during the national anthem.
"I hope the fans come out and support us," said Kemp, named NL Player of the Week on Monday. "I really think this is going to be a special year for the guys, and I hope the people come out and watch."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.