LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers head into their first World Series in 29 years with a heightened sense of expectation, a combination of wanting to erase history while carving a new path of their own.
Dodger Stadium is the third-oldest ballpark in the majors, open since 1962, and on Tuesday will host its 21st World Series game and ninth Fall Classic. The Dodgers have won 14 of those 20 games, including their last five. The last time they lost a World Series game at home was Game 6 in 1978.
It only seems like the elevators at Chavez Ravine are as old as the stadium itself, but they were upgraded at one point, I believe at the same time the Rolling Stones were on one of their first retirement concert tours. To start up his day at the ballpark when the Dodgers are home, manager Dave Roberts rides those elevators to the first floor, and on his way to his office walks through a pair of hallways, both lined with reminders of the franchise’s past.
There are the individual awards, like the National League MVP won by Kirk Gibson in 1988 or the NL Cy Young Award won by Orel Hershiser that same year. There are framed Dodgers jerseys, one for every Hall of Famer like Tommy Lasorda, who managed that 1988 team. There are also team awards, like the Commissioner’s Trophy the Dodgers received for winning the World Series in 1988.
“I do take moments to look down that long his list of hardware when I get off the elevator,” Roberts said. “That kind of blows me away.
World Series schedule
|Kershaw vs. Keuchel
|Hill vs. Verlander
|Darvish vs. TBD
|Wood vs. TBD
|TBD vs. TBD
|TBD vs. TBD
|TBD vs. TBD
“So I really try to focus on the moment. But when you look at the history and in that context, yeah, it’s a little overwhelming to just think that you just want to do your job and be good at your job, and help a team be good that particular day and win a baseball game.”
Trying to win Game 1, specifically, is Clayton Kershaw, who has been freed from the burden of pitching on three days rest for the first time in the last five postseasons. Kershaw has improved in each start this October, allowing four runs in Game 1 of the NLDS, then two runs in Game 1 of the NLCS, then one run in the pennant-clinching Game 5.
If that pattern holds, Kershaw will allow a half-run on Tuesday, which isn’t technically possible, though I wouldn’t put it past him.
This is Kershaw’s 10th season with the Dodgers and since getting drafted in 2006, his 12th year in the organization. He’s well aware of the history, and the 29-year championship drought.
“I grew up a Dodger and got drafted by the Dodgers. I didn’t know a ton of Dodger history at the time, but coming up it kind of gets ingrained in you, which is a good thing,” Kershaw said. “Not a lot of organizations that have the type of history that the Dodgers do.
“It’s been a special thing, and I hope after this week is over, they can talk about 2017 a little more and 1988 a lot less.”
In relative terms, the Dodgers have nothing to complain about here. Their last World Series win was in 1988, but at least they have a World Series win — six of them, in fact. The Astros are the ones with the bigger drought here, having existed as a franchise since 1962, with no championships in their ledger. They have gone 55 years without a World Series win, almost double the Dodgers’ dry spell.
But that doesn’t lessen the pressure on the Dodgers, with home field advantage, or Kershaw.
“It’s tough to grasp. I wish I could let it all sink back in,” Kershaw said of the World Series. “But in order to me to do my job I think I just have to focus on getting the Astros out right now.”
That singular focus has been a strength for Kershaw, who is generally very meticulous about his pregame routine, following the same, detailed pattern for the most part before every start, as well as the days in between.
“I think the fans get cheated on not getting the opportunity to see him in between starts,” Roberts said. “To be behind the scenes and to watch him work so diligently, with detail, every single day, that’s something that for me I marvel at.”
That work has paid off with three Cy Young Awards, five ERA titles, seven All-Star nods, and now, finally, a World Series start for Kershaw, a future Hall of Famer who is widely considered the best pitcher of his generation.
Tuesday is his stage.
“Getting to say you’re going to the World Series is a pretty special thing,” Kershaw said. “We’ve had a few days now to let that sink in and we’re not satisfied with that now. We got to celebrate and got to enjoy it, and now it’s real. We have an opponent. We’ve got four more games to win.”
World Series Game 1 info
First pitch: 5:09 p.m.
TV: Fox (coverage starts at 4:30 p.m.)
Announcers: Joe Buck, John Smoltz, Ken Rosenthal, Tom Verducci
Online streaming: Fox Sports Go
Local radio: AM 570 (Charley Steiner, Rick Monday)
National radio: ESPN Radio (Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone)