LOS ANGELES -- Get ready for a season of memories as the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants celebrate their 50th seasons of serving as the trailblazers in baseball's westward expansion. And if the opening day pre-game ceremony staged by the Dodgers serves as any kind of preview, it's going to be some kind of fun.
Sandy Koufax, Carl Erskine and Don Newcombe each threw out ceremonial first pitches Monday after the emotional introductions of nearly 40 former Dodgers. Most of the former players all came onto the field in full uniform and stood where their old positions were. There was Maury Wills at shortstop, Duke Snider in Ccenter field, Ron Cey at third, Steve Garvey at first ... it was the brainchild of Dr. Charles Steinberg, the new Dodgers vice-president of marketing and communications, and it was trademark Dr. C all the way. He staged similar impressive celebrations in Baltimore and Boston.
"It was really cool," new Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "The Dodgers and the Yankees have the histories to be able to do something like that because of their histories of championships.
"I just wish Don Zimmer would have been here. That would have closed the circle for me."
Zimmer, now a special coach for Tampa Bay, was Torre's bench coach for several seasons with the Yankees. Torre said that rarely a day went by when Zim wouldn't mention Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese or some Dodgers-related anecdote in the dugout.
Though Torre grew up in New York, he said that the Dodgers and Giants leaving after the 1957 season affected him in a way far different from other New Yorkers. His brother, Frank, had just broken into the majors with the Milwaukee Braves, and the departures of the Giants and Dodgers meant that Joe would have to take a train to see his brother play. He no longer would be able to see Frank play in New York once the city lost its National League teams.
Being that it was his first game in a Dodgers uniform, Torre said he felt like a bit of an outsider.
"You sort of feel like a duck out of water because you're not a part of Dodgers history," he said. "It was the same way with the Yankees. I'd see Catfish Hunter, Whitey (Ford), Yogi (Berra) and you felt like you weren't a part of it. It wasn't until after six or seven years that you felt like you were a part of it."
The World Series titles Torre managed the Yankees to in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 just might have been a bit beneficial in making him feel a part of it, too.
Monday, Torre caught the first pitch from Newcombe. He was hoping to catch Koufax's, but it was difficult to say whether it was more because of his friendship with Koufax or more because he has a Los Angeles-themed line he was going to use.
"I was going to tell him it was easier catching him here than trying to hit him here," Torre said, chuckling.
Likes: The new Nationals Park looked beautiful on television the other night, didn't it? Can't wait to get there and see it -- hopefully this year sometime. ... As one media-type cracked here Monday, it should be fairly easy to get to D.C. to see it -- just schedule it in the next time Congress hauls in a few ballplayers for more testimony. ... The Cubs' Kosuke Fukudome, 3-for-3 with a homer in his debut. Nice. ... Life just feels different on opening day, doesn't it? ... Love seeing kids like the Dodgers' Blake Dewitt play well in their first major-league game. ... Pretty great Cleveland-White Sox game Monday. ... Four No. 1 seeds in Saturday's Final Four, I've already got a request in for pizza and I ain't going far from the television. ... Two Bruce Springsteen concerts coming up in the next seven days. Opening day, Final Four, Springsteen ... this year may be peaking right now.
Dislikes: Both Kerry Wood and Eric Gagne give up three runs in the ninth inning Monday? Mamma mia. ... The Field Formerly Known as Jacobs having a new name in Cleveland. ... Rainout in Yankee Stadium and raw weather in Chicago. Shouldn't it be nice everywhere on opening day?
Rock-n-Roll Lyric of the Day:
"All the leaves are brown
"And the sky is gray
"I've been for a walk
"On a winters day
"I'd be safe and warm
"If I was in L.A.
"On such a winters day"
-- The Mamas and the Papas, California Dreamin'