By Jon Weisman
Here’s a game, within a series, within a season, that would have driven Dodger fans on Twitter crazy.
I met Brian Wilson in a flash for the first time tonight and never figured I was on exactly the same mental wavelength as the Dodger reliever, but shortly before the Stadium Series NHL game between the Kings and Ducks began tonight at Dodger Stadium, he said in an interview with NBC Sports Network precisely what I had been thinking.
“It makes me kind of want to start baseball right now.”
As much fascination as tonight’s successful notch on history brought — once the puck dropped on a material previously only seen inside beverage cups in the ballpark’s 51-year-history, the first outdoor NHL game ever in California began — it was the pregame that revved the engine. It was the sights and sounds of Dodger Stadium flying back to life.
Atmosphere is so much of the appeal of baseball, and tonight’s event brought a tremendous one, from the crescending anticipation, the marveling at the classic ballpark’s transformation and the roar of the fans of the Kings (the home team in this scenario) and their counterparts exhorting the Ducks. If you were a Dodger fan in attendance, you’d be hard-pressed not to be champing for Opening Day’s arrival (take your pick: Australia on March 22, San Diego on March 30 or Chavez Ravine on April 4).
Three months have gone by since Dodger fans have had the chance to go into full-throated cheer, and even if you were already antsy for the arrival of Spring Training, watching tonight’s extravaganza made you seriously stir-crazy.
A great regular-season hockey matchup in a pristine setting was plenty. And then, there was this:
— LA Kings (@LAKings) January 26, 2014
“It’s time for … NHL hockey,” said Vin Scully.
Scully joined his peer, Kings announcing legend Bob Miller on the field, for the pregame introductions, and also narrated a special video shown on the scoreboard that mixed Dodger and NHL lore.
“Today, California’s best venture outside to a fabled playground,” Scully said. “Welcome, the boys of winter, to the place where dreams come true.”
* * *
Below, a look at the red carpet scene at Dodger Stadium tonight before the game.
[mlbvideo id=”31323013″ width=”550″ height=”308″ /]
The Angels lead the Dodgers, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth of tonight’s game, following a tiebreaking home run by Erick Aybar off Kenley Jansen to start the inning.
A.J. Ellis walks obligatorily, and James Loney singles him to third.
Angels right-hander Ernesto Frieri, with a 0.00 ERA, is on the mound. Juan Uribe is up, with Tony Gwynn Jr. and Dee Gordon on deck.
I wouldn’t wait. I would send Bobby Abreu up to hit for Uribe right then.
My feelings are moot. Uribe grounds to short, with Ellis being retired on a fielder’s choice. Loney advances to third on the play and Uribe to second. Gwynn strikes out, and Abreu, batting for Dee Gordon, hits a grounder up the middle that Frieri flags for the final out of the game.
Playing 20 games in 20 days, 10 at home and 10 on the road, the Dodgers won 10 and lost 10.
Both starting pitchers dodged their share of bullets before ending up with no decision. Most notably, Nathan Eovaldi, who remained winless as he lowered his ERA to 1.82, got out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the fourth, thanks largely to a Loney-Ellis-Loney double play.
The batter? Aybar, of course – the guy who would later win the game with his first home run since September 18.
And in San Francisco, Matt Cain pitches a whale of a game, matching Sandy Koufax for the most strikeouts in a perfect game with 14.
* * *
Kings broadcaster Bob Miller wrote a lovely first-person piece for the Times in the aftermath of the Stanley Cup.
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Thank You For Not ...
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Dodgers at home: 1,028-812 (.558695)
When Jon attended: 338-267 (.558677)*
When Jon didn’t: 695-554 (.556)
* includes road games attended
Dodgers at home: 51-35 (.593)
When Jon attended: 5-2 (.714)
When Jon didn’t: 46-33 (.582)
Note: I got so busy working for the Dodgers that in 2014, I stopped keeping track, much to my regret.