Opening Day: April 10, 1962
The daybreak above Dodger Stadium on the morning of April 10, 1962 marked the dawn of a new era in Major League Baseball and Southern California sports history. After an exhaustive construction process and a longer period of anticipation that stretched back to the Dodgers’ original arrival in Los Angeles in 1958, the team was finally going to play a home game in its own ballpark.
In an editorial titled “A Date With the Dodgers,” the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner previewed the opening of Walter O’Malley’s new ballpark as Los Angeles hosted the defending National League champion Cincinnati Reds in a 1 p.m. matinee:
“It seems only a few yesterdays in the past that the glamorous, fantastic, romantic, and at times almost unbelievable Dodgers streamed across the country and thereby transformed themselves from the Brooklyn Dodgers of baseball history into the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In doing so, they wrote another chapter of baseball history — they brought big league baseball to this city, an event which a few years earlier had seemed almost impossible.”Herald-Examiner, April 8, 1962, editorial
Herald-Examiner artist Karl Hubenthal penned a cartoon in O’Malley’s honor. The “His Oyster” sketch portrayed a smiling O’Malley opening a giant-sized baseball, containing the sparkling “pearl” of a new stadium.Herald-Examiner, April 10, 1962
The headline in the Los Angeles Times sports section on April 10 was “PALMER RALLIES TO WIN MASTERS GOLF.” But right below was the headline “At Last It’s Play Ball in Chavez Ravine Today!” along with a picture of starting pitchers Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres from the previous day’s workout.
There was also a photo of Baseball Commissioner Ford C. Frick handing an oversized key to Dodger Stadium to Dodger President Walter O’Malley as National League President Warren Giles looked on. Batting practice had to be called off when no one could find a backstop, so O’Malley called instead for infield practice.
The players, coaches and estimated 5,000 fans in the grandstands enjoyed the sneak preview of the new Dodger Stadium.
“It’s the most gorgeous thing I’ve seen in my life,” said Dodger shortstop Maury Wills. “The infield is perfect. It’s nice and firm and true. It’s bound to get better, too. They’ve done a wonderful job on it.”
Podres, the Opening Day starting pitcher who clinched the Dodgers’ only Brooklyn championship with a shutout in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series, exclaimed, “The mound is real good, I like it. This park knocks your eyes out.”
Mrs. Gene Autry, whose husband’s Los Angeles Angels American League franchise would also share Dodger Stadium, said “I want to thank Mr. O’Malley for paying so much attention to the beauty of the ballpark.”
“I have never seen anything like this,” Dodger Coach Leo Durocher said. “Now you’ll see baseball that is real baseball. You rip one out of the park here and you’ve really earned it. This is what I call a ball park.”
During the public dedication ceremonies, broadcaster Vin Scully raved about the acoustics as the stadium’s public address system was in stereo. The system was installed by a West German company using plans from the same engineer who designed the acoustical system in the La Scala Opera House in Milan.
“Even when I saw the plans and watched the park grow, I still can’t believe it,” Commissioner Frick said. “It’s like a dream come true.”
Giles said the ballpark exceeded his already high expectations. “It is a material expression of the future of the Dodgers and major league baseball in Los Angeles,” Giles said. “I think it took a lot of courage on Mr. O’Malley’s part.”Sid Ziff, Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1962
O’Malley told Los Angeles Times columnist Sid Ziff, “I’m pretty relaxed and very pleased for the first time in weeks. I haven’t slept for a month.”
In addition to the Dodger Stadium opening, the morning sports pages looked to the East Coast as the New York Yankees’ “M&M Boys,” Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, took aim on another home run derby after they combined for 115 home runs (Maris 61; Mantle 54) during the expanded 162-game schedule in 1961. The newspapers planned to carry a daily box with comparisons to Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs during a 154-game schedule in 1927.
And the Times sports section display ads touted the Ben Rudnick Tire Co. on South Flower Street in Los Angeles, which offered B.F. Goodrich white tubeless tires for $13.95, plus tax. Martin Leasing on Sunset Blvd. featured monthly deals on new model cars ranging from $169.50 for a Continental to $82.60 for an Impala.
Manager Fred Hutchinson’s Cincinnati Reds, flying in from Ohio by chartered DC-6, didn’t get to bed at the Sheraton West until nearly 3 a.m., which didn’t leave much time for sleep until their 8:30 wakeup call.
“The last time I pitched with comparative little rest,” said Cincinnati starter Bob Purkey, “I shut out the Giants, 4-0, at San Francisco.”
The Reds tabbed Purkey, a knuckleball pitcher, as an emergency starter for staff ace Jim O’Toole, who suffered a freak injury upon his arrival to Los Angeles. The left-hander split a nail on the middle finger of his pitching hand while handling his luggage on Sunday night.
The Dodgers’ Duke Snider nearly missed the game with an unusual injury of his own. On his way to Monday’s workout, the tailpipe on his car fell off. Forgetting the pipe was hot, Snider picked it up and burned his fingers. He taped the fingers and wore a protective golf glove.
To avoid traffic congestion, the Dodgers opened the ballpark early at 10 a.m. Johnny Boudreau’s band and Dodger organist Bob Mitchell entertained the early stadium arrivals while outside 100 parking lot directors worked to keep traffic moving in the parking lot while extra police were hired to help the flow outside with the late-arriving lunch hour crowd.
Stadium workers painted the outfield grass with a vegetable dye, which turned the baseballs a shade of green during batting practice. The Reds were impressed as they surveyed their surroundings Tuesday morning.
“The beautiful new stadium should be a tremendous psychological lift for the Dodgers,” infielder Eddie Kasko said. “Like every other club in the National League this year, the Dodgers have their problems but they’ll be going all out every game and I can understand why. They won’t want to leave.”
Renowned tenor Alma Pedroza sang the national anthem at 12:45 p.m. after the coaches and players were introduced from home plate.
The starting lineups:
At 1 p.m., Kay O’Malley threw out the ceremonial first pitch to catcher John Roseboro. The honor was a “two day early” birthday present from her husband.
Kasko climbed into the batter’s box and took the first pitch from Podres. It was called a ball by Hall of Fame umpire Al Barlick, who nearly missed the honor of working behind the plate. His equipment, which had been air expressed to the stadium, couldn’t be located until a few minutes before game time.
Kasko opened the game with a double into the left field corner and scored on Pinson’s one-out single.
In the second inning, fans in the Left Field Pavilion unfurled a streamer reading “Fallbrook City Limits” in honor of the Dodger captain. Snider lined a single to right field, the first hit by a Dodger.
The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on Fairly’s two-run double, which scored Gilliam and Snider. Cincinnati evened the score in the fifth on Harper’s RBI single.
With two out in the seventh, Pinson stroked his third hit of the game, a double. The Dodgers intentionally walked Robinson to face Post, who hit Podres’ first pitch over the center field fence for a 5-2 lead.
Post’s home run traveled an estimated 420 feet. The ball was caught by Salvatore Consolo, a 38-year-old postal clerk and baseball fan who was the first in line to enter Dodger Stadium. Consolo said another fan paid him $50 for the ball and with the money he planned to buy his mother a new coat. Consolo, a cousin of Philadelphia infielder Billy Consolo, caught 20 baseballs at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1961.Bill Leiser, Chronicle Sporting Green, April 12, 1962
The afternoon edition of the Herald-Examiner was printed with Cincinnati leading 5-2 in the ninth inning. “HOME RUN FOR CINCY” blared the headline on page A-1, just above a large photo taken from the right field corner of the upper Reserved Level. “REDLEGS CHASE PODRES” exclaimed the sports section, which featured an aerial photo of the stadium by Harold Morby in the KTLA-LA telecopter piloted by Larry Scheer.
“Baseball became the messiah of sports in Los Angeles today as this spectacular photo suggests,” the caption began. “A helicopter’s eye-view shows thousands of autos parked in huge checkerboard fashion as if in worship of mammoth new $18 million Dodger Stadium.”
The Dodgers chased Purkey in the eighth inning and loaded the bases with one out but pinch-hitter Tommy Davis, batting for Snider, hit into a double play.
Another rally in the ninth inning fizzled and the Reds christened the new ballpark with a 6-3 victory in front of 52,564.
“I hardly had a hit all spring,” said Post, a 32-year-old veteran who hit 20 home runs in 1961. “And only one home run. I’m glad spring is finally over.”
The majority of the postgame comments revolved around the ballpark and not the actual game.
Purkey and Snider revealed how the background of white shirts formed by the patrons in the dugout box seats made it difficult to pick up the ball from the batter’s box.
“The ball seemed to carry all right,” Moon said. “We will have to wait and see how it goes at night. There was a difference in the Coliseum, you know. The ball traveled better in the daylight there. I liked playing in Chavez. The background of the tall stands is good. The little roof hanging over the top makes shadows that help in spotting the ball when it is hit to you in the outfield.”
Fairly, who attended the University of Southern California, reflected on the first game at Dodger Stadium in which his two-run double could have made him the hometown hero.
“I’d feel all right if that hit had won the game,” Fairly said. “I thought I hit a slider. The fellows on the bench said it was a knuckler. Frankly, I don’t know what I hit. All I know is that the ball had Warren Giles and Spaulding on it. I saw it real plain.
“Now if I can hit 175 more of ‘em and get 100 more RBI and we can win the pennant, everything will be all right. We lost the first one in 1959 and went on to take the pennant. We can do it again. Cincinnati always is real tough for us. I still think we have a heck of a good ballclub.”