High fives with strangers. Dodger Dogs. The double-bag of peanuts. Peeking through the green fiberglass into the Dodger bullpen late in the game. Organ music. Beach Balls. The dulcet tones of Vin's voice on innumerable transistor radios. Ross Porter. Even the 20-foot stainless steel trough. These are what I have received for my loyalty. Some are still with us; some have passed into memory. Either way, they keep me coming back.
My most treasured memories are the nights that my late father and I drove out to the ravine, parked in our usual spot near the Elysian Park exit, stayed for the last pitch, and made our traditional dash for the car. It was a place where it was O.K. to root for our side, no matter what. There was no moral ambiguity in rooting for our guys to embarrass Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden. You didn't have to be nice, just loyal.
Some of my greatest frustrations have come at the hands of the Dodgers, as well. The many false starts, underachieving seasons, and painful farewells to favorite players that have come in the post-O'Malley years. Particularly frustrating was the aborted DePodesta experiment. Whether you share his philosophy or not, it is foolish to spend two years pursuing a plan and then change directions. LoDuca and Roberts are gone, and Ned's not bringing them back. Nothing was proven, and nothing changed. That was a lot of pain for nothing. But baseball pain is temporary, and there's always next year.
I lost my father seven years ago, leaving an unfillable hole in my life. There were times when I felt like I'd lost the Dodgers, too. I didn't care if they won (they usually didn't). I couldn't go to the park. Fox didn't seem to care any more than I did. But the truth is, I never lost my loyalty. My love for the team was dormant, not extinct. Eventually, I found my way back. New ownership spurred my curiosity; a new philosophy captured my imagination. My blood was pumping blue again. And I was rewarded.
The last two years have given me some of my best Dodger memories since my childhood. I had the good fortune to be at some of the great moments of 2004: Beltre homering in the ninth (off of Smoltz, to tie the game) and eleventh innings to lift the Dodgers over the Braves in the midst of a pennant race (the crowd chanting "M.V.P." for his entire post-game interview and into the parking lot). The painful ordeal of watching the Giants lead the dodgers 3-0 into the ninth inning of the second-to-last game of the season, followed by the joy of a seven-run ninth, capped by Steve Finley's season-clinching grand slam. Lima Time in the playoffs with my baseball girls. Even 2005 had its moments: the fast start, Choi's incredible week, the improbable Willy Aybar.
Now I have a one-year old son (named for my father) and a two-year-old daughter (whose favorite player is some guy named "Figgie"). Even though I'm going through some pain (losing Choi, Perez, and Bradley; not getting any front-line pitching; rock music where organ music should be), I look forward to taking them to the stadium, filling their little ears with Vin and their little tummies with Dodger Dogs. I look forward to the old-look seats, the new-look lineups, the weak division, booing Barry and cheering Nomar. I look forward to showing my loyalty, and passing it on to my children. I look forward to being True Blue.