Other events at Dodger Stadium
Dodger Stadium has played host to a variety of events since it opened on April 10, 1962, ranging from a theater atmosphere for musical concerts to a picturesque backdrop for television shows and commercials.
The versatility of the structure can be traced to Walter O’Malley’s original concept for a multi-use facility when he became President of the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 26, 1950. Along with architect Capt. Emil Praeger, who engineered many landmark buildings, including the Los Angeles Public Library, O’Malley wanted his new ballpark to be functional on a year-round basis. One design included the use of a translucent dome, with its own underground parking garage, a concept in part because of New York’s harsh temperatures during the winter.
When the Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles for the 1958 season, the Southern California climate assured O’Malley of minimal rainouts. Beginning in 1962, spacious 56,000-seat Dodger Stadium and its surrounding parking lots, which accommodated 16,000 automobiles, provided the opportunity to explore other possibilities in addition to major league baseball games.
In the ballpark’s early years, Dodger Stadium was the site of Sports Car road races on March 2-3, 1963; a ski jumping exhibition; a night of championship boxing matches with 26,142 in attendance on March 21, 1963; and a basketball game on February 2, 1964 featuring the world-renowned Harlem Globetrotters (preceded by a basketball exhibition game between the Chicago Bears and the Dodger All-Stars) which drew 12,405 amused fans. In July 1963, an episode of “Mr. Ed” starring Alan Young and featuring Dodger coach Leo Durocher was filmed at Dodger Stadium. A crowd of 42,317 attended a public rally for Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater on September 16, 1963. On August 28, 1966, The Beatles performed their second-to-last public appearance in a jammed-packed concert at Dodger Stadium. On March 28, 1970, a benefit East-West Major League Baseball Classic game in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was held at Dodger Stadium. Popular Dodger broadcasters Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett filmed commercials at the Union 76 station located on site.
In the more than half century history of Dodger Stadium, many great moments are indelibly etched in memory — the 1963 Dodgers, who won the first and only World Championship on their home playing field by sweeping the rival New York Yankees; a perfect game by Sandy Koufax on September 9, 1965; and the magic of Kirk Gibson with his dramatic game-winning home run in Game One of the 1988 World Series against Oakland, to name a few. Yet, none of these are able to approach the sustained decibel level of another famous event held there 40 years ago.
On August 28, 1966, some 45,000 fans screamed ceaselessly, hysterically...basically, taking constant noise to a fever pitch. It was not for a baseball game, however. No, on this Sunday night at Dodger Stadium, a concert was held featuring “The Beatles”. Warm-up acts included soloist Bobby Hebb and bands “The Remains,” “The Cyrkle,” and “The Ronettes.” But they proved to be no match for The Beatles, the pièce de résistance, clean-up hitting, sizzling main course of British imports from Liverpool. Shrieking teen-age girls overpowered the 2,000-watt public address system with some 27 speakers that surrounded the baselines. Some girls worked themselves into such a frenzy, they fainted and had to be carried away.
But, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, the famed quartet who comprised The Beatles, did their job and pleased the crowd, performing 10 of their songs in a 30-minute period. The deafening crowd noise, though, prevented the majority of fans from actually being able to hear any of their music.
Dodger President Walter O’Malley approved staging the first concert ever held at Dodger Stadium, which has since developed an impressive lineup of bands and musicians who have performed in the 56,000-seat ballpark — among them Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, KISS, Michael Jackson, The Bee Gees, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Genesis, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and The Three Tenors in their “Encore — The Three Tenors” show with conductor Zubin Mehta.
With the unprecedented worldwide popularity of The Beatles, logistics became a nightmare to move them in and out of Dodger Stadium. On the Wednesday before the concert, they arrived in Los Angeles and loaded into a white armored truck before traveling to Hollywood to stage an evening press conference for 30 minutes at Capitol Records sound studio. There and wherever they traveled, The Beatles were inundated with the incessant sound of girls screaming. When asked at the press conference, “Would you rather play the Hollywood Bowl again than Dodger Stadium?” Harrison responded, “We don’t really mind.”
Dodger Stadium operations prepared for months in advance for the expected onslaught of fame and hysteria. But, no Dodger event could have readied them for what was about to unfold that Sunday. The Beatles were winding down their 14-city 1966 North America Concert Tour, as Dodger Stadium was their 13th stop. Other venues had difficulty keeping the over-enthusiastic “Beatlemaniacs” from mobbing the field and stage areas at the concert.
“We planned on everything,” said Bob Smith, who was Manager of Dodger Stadium representing Allied Consolidated Services and the individual responsible for operations and security at the concert. “I think when they first announced that The Beatles were coming to Dodger Stadium there were some doubts that they could sell 45,000 tickets. I think promoter Bob Eubanks had to put up some pretty high financing for them to agree to come there. Rumors were that he was concerned before, but then when the tickets finally took off, he was happy about it. As soon as we heard they were coming to the stadium, we started working with the (Los Angeles) Fire Department and a lot of people to see what we could do to keep the crowd from taking over the field, which they had done in a lot of other places.”
Smith describes some of the measures that were taken in advance of The Beatles’ arrival at Dodger Stadium.
“We talked to the Fire Department and they let us put an eight-foot chain link fence around the whole field from the bullpen around home plate all the way to the other bullpen,” said Smith. “We had it right up against the seats on the field level, so nobody could come off field level onto the field. It really was an exit area for those on the field level, but they let us do it if we would make sure that all exit doors were open and we could keep people from the upper levels from coming onto the field level. The fence was set in a way that if it got really run, it could have fallen over. We worked with a good professional named Jim Jones from the Fire Department.
“The flat stage (decorated in blue and white), probably four feet off the ground, was set up at second base. We sold out all of the seats in the stadium, other than the Pavilions. The ends of the stadium were sold for the first time. With a flat stage, they could move around and the people on the far ends of the Reserved Level or Field Level could still see them. The promoters gave tickets to people who were blind to sit in the Pavilions.
“Another change was we hired a lot of the off-duty Long Beach police officers. They were in uniform. They turned out to be a great move.”
One of the primary operational concerns was to find the quickest route to get The Beatles out of Dodger Stadium following their brief performance.
“From the stage behind second base, we had a large tent set up and in that tent we had parked two limousines,” said Smith. “The purpose of these limousines was when the show was over, The Beatles would come off the stage, go into one of the limousines and the center field gates would open. The Beatles would be in one car and I think the manager and a couple of guys in another car. Before anybody realized what was happening, we would have The Beatles out of the stadium and gone. It didn’t work out that way.”
The logistical nightmare was just beginning for Smith and his co-worker, an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer named Sheldon Combs who headed the Dodger Stadium security force. The Beatles arrived on the eighth level of Dodger Stadium around 4 p.m. and traveled down the elevator to the dugout level. They dressed and prepared for the concert in the Dodger clubhouse. The same clubhouse which was home that 1966 season to four eventual Hall of Famers — Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton and Manager Walter Alston. The other bands used the old Los Angeles Angels clubhouse (used by the Angels in 1962-65), adjacent to the Dodger shower area (on the left field side) as their dressing room. Only Smith, Combs, the promoters and close friends of The Beatles were permitted inside the Dodger clubhouse with special passes.
“The tent was covered — it had a top on it and side curtains. We had ‘Beatles Dressing Room’ on a big sign on the tent,” said Smith. “We had three different plans. The first was, when the show was over, that they would go into the tent. We had a guy in center field and once we said to open the gates, the gates would open and out they would go in the limo. Then we had another plan with a Brink’s Armored truck in Parking Lot B (near the top of Dodger Stadium). We would get them to the elevator up to the eighth level to Lot B and out of there. Then, the third plan we had an ambulance in the tunnel down the left field side, placed there long before the gates opened. That tunnel was sealed off where nobody could go through it or exit or anything.”
During the concert, Smith divided his time between the Dodger dugout and the Press Box on the Club Level. With the help of the Long Beach P.D., Dodger security formed a ring on the field level, some three feet apart, around the stadium. Security supervisors monitored the Dodger dugout, where The Beatles made their entrance from the Dodger clubhouse to the field and ultimately on stage.
As far as the concert itself, Smith said he was less concerned about listening to the foursome’s music than he was making sure that everyone was secure and everything stayed under control.
“From the time they came on the stage till they went off, it was continuous screaming in the stands,” said Smith. “It was so loud. I don’t think you could understand what they were saying because it was so loud. The screaming would be above the music, and they kept cranking up the music. But, all the people were standing up, jumping up and down and screaming. I think compared to baseball, baseball was pretty calm compared to this. The Gibson home run was something similar to that, but it didn’t last as long as when The Beatles were there.”
The noise from the fans wafted from Dodger Stadium all the way to down to Sunset Boulevard, according to Smith. As the thirty minutes of pure pandemonium and exhilaration ended, he was prepared to implement the exit plan.
“When the show was over, all The Beatles but Ringo Starr did exactly what they were supposed to — they came off the stage and went in the tent,” said Smith. “Ringo is on the stage waving a white towel. He won’t come off. It took him maybe an extra five minutes. So now, when the first Beatles got in the limo, the center field gates open. Fans realize what’s happening. Everybody spills out of the stadium on the end of the building and they all head to the center field gates. So, the limo starts that way. The front limo runs into the batter’s eye screen post. There were so many people. We had put white tape up there, so if it got crowded, the driver would just aim at the batter’s eye. He hit the post head on, going two or three miles per hour. Now, the people are all over the car. We are trying to reverse and get the limo back onto the field.
“Chris Duca, the head of the field crew (of the Dodgers known as ‘Dukie’), runs in and he’s trying to get the big gates closed all together and we keep trying to get the limo back on the field. Sheldon Combs, the LAPD guy, got his shirt ripped off and hurt his leg. The Long Beach Police were holding everybody back. Really, they (Long Beach P.D.) saved the day for us, I think, because there were so many of them and they just happened to be in the right location. Kids were breaking those big barricades. They started fighting with police. One of the guys swung at one of the police and he ended up hitting one of his friends right above the eye when the cop ducked.
“We got ‘Dukie’ and got a big rope around those gates — those kids were pushing those gates and they were rocking pretty good. In Parking Lot 8/10 (behind center field), there must have been about 25,000 people out there just milling around, a lot of them still screaming. They wanted to get back in, because they said, ‘The Beatles are in the ballpark!’ We finally got The Beatles back on the field, brought them to the Dodger dugout and the stands were still probably a third full or more, because they were watching what was happening out there.”
Smith then got a call that he could eliminate the second plan.
“We got them back in the dugout and now we said the plan in Lot B is gone,” Smith said. “Some of the fans thought the Brink’s truck in Lot B might be a plan and they let the air out of the tires on the truck. So, that foiled that.
“I was right in the middle of it. The promoter was staying right with The Beatles at the time. We get them back into the Dodger clubhouse. Then we decided we’ve got only one area now and we’ve got to try to get them down through the tunnel, up the stairs and into that ambulance. The Beatles are starting to cooperate pretty good, because they are a little frightened.
“Now, we get them up and in the ambulance and we had two security guards we placed in the ambulance with them to kind of make sure to hold the doors. Here comes the ambulance and you’ve got your red lights and siren going. As the doors opened, the people kind of stepped back and the ambulance went right on through. They got over to Gate B exit at Scott Avenue. Two kids swung one of those paddles that closes the gate. They pushed it and the ambulance driver hit that. Well, that hit the headlight and knocked the battery. The battery ends up in the fan of the ambulance and it starts to overheat. They get them over to Elysian Park, where the baseball diamonds are at. So, now we get a call that that’s where they are stuck. We jump in our cars and head over there. By this time, we are calling for another Brink’s truck. The guy in the Brink’s truck in Lot B with the flat tires had his company send a driver from headquarters to Elysian Park. It must have taken a half hour. The Beatles are sitting right there in this ambulance under the palm trees in the park!
“The security people are almost trying to fight to hold people down. There were quite a few people who said ‘I bet The Beatles are in there (the ambulance).’ We had gotten over there in about 10 or 15 minutes and waited for the Brink’s truck. We stayed away from the ambulance. We didn’t want to create too much of a scene. When the Brink’s truck shows up, we get it close enough to the ambulance. We get the back doors open and the Brink’s guys open that. More or less, the security guards grab The Beatles and threw them in the Brink’s truck. The ambulance driver was sweating pretty good.
“Still, to this day, I remember when they were trying to close the doors of the Brink’s truck, one of The Beatles grabbed some fan’s hair and a wig came right off and when the doors were closed, the wig was still sticking out of the door as the truck left. When that Brink’s truck pulled out of there, cleared the crowd and was on the road, then I could kind of breathe a sigh of relief.”
“We went back to the stadium,” said Smith. “There were some injured people at First Aid, nothing major. Most of the people were injured in the excitement out beyond center field. They just milled around forever. We were making announcements that The Beatles have gone. A lot of people wouldn’t believe that. They’re chanting, ‘The Beatles are still in the ballpark.’ It went on that way. People finally started leaving two or three hours after the event was over. Then, after that 12 o’clock, one o’clock, two o’clock, we still have got a lot of people there.
“People had dropped off their kids and now they are still trying to get back in and pick up these kids. Sometime around two or three in the morning, we moved everything to the Union Oil station. Instead of parents trying to find Lot A or the Security office, that’s where we set up a command post. People were still coming in all night long. I’m still there at daybreak. We called juvenile hall. They sent up three or four buses to pick up close to 200 remaining kids. We would call people as far away as San Diego or Santa Barbara and these people were mad because we would tell them their 15-year-old daughter was still at Dodger Stadium. Then, if they wouldn’t come and get them, that’s when we called juvenile hall. The sun was up over Dodger Stadium when that last bus pulled out of there.”
One of the most satisfying accomplishments for Smith and his staff was that the fans were unable to compromise the playing field. “We always were kind of proud of that,” said Smith, who had ringing in his ears from the noise for several days following. “That at least we didn’t let them take over the field like they had a couple of other places. There were a lot of loose seats, where they were jumping up and down. It was just another special event in Dodger Stadium. I have always thought that the World Series is one of the biggest events that we ever put on there. This was something that we didn’t know a lot about (staging a concert), but I think we prepared for it knowing what happened at the other stadia and we had a lot of extra help and everything. It was much different than a game. This crowd was probably in the 14-18 range, most of it girls.”
The Beatles moved on to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park for their last live public concert the next night before a crowd of 25,000. Their 14-city tour concluded, earning an estimated $1 million.1
Smith later ran Stadium Operations for the Dodger organization, first as Director and later as Vice President, spending more than a 30-year career at Dodger Stadium, staging eight World Series, one Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the Olympic Baseball exhibition tournament and a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II.
“Never had I experienced something like that at Dodger Stadium and never again,” he said about The Beatles concert. “It was quite a night!”
Recalling that historic event as “A Hard Day’s Night,” Smith remembers it as if it were “Yesterday.”
Savvy music fans know that numerous legendary performers and performances have taken place at Dodger Stadium, beginning with The Beatles on August 28, 1966, to Elton John on October 25-26, 1975, to the heavenly voices of “Encore -- The Three Tenors” concert on July 16, 1994.
But, not many aficionados would know that in 1966, another famous American idol was at Dodger Stadium. It was not on the Dodger Stadium field, however, but in the parking lots.
Rock ‘n’ roll superstar Elvis Presley was at Dodger Stadium for three days to film sequences simulating road races in “Spinout”, his 22nd feature movie.
The negotiations between the Dodger organization and Dutch Horton, location manager for MGM Studios were started by Dick Walsh, Vice President Stadium Operations and subsequently turned over to Jeane Hoffman to complete.
Walter O’Malley had hired Hoffman as Assistant to the President — the first woman department head of the Dodgers — in May 1965. She was to find creative ways to promote and utilize Dodger Stadium for non-baseball activities on a limited basis, such as rentals from movies/TV, conventions, alternative sports and concerts. Hoffman’s name was well-known in Los Angeles, as she had been an award-winning sports writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Mirror. In addition, she served as executive editor of the Police Gazette.
When MGM needed a place to simulate the “Santa Fe Road Race” in the “Spinout” movie, the Dodgers were happy to accommodate the production from March 9-11.
In “Spinout”, Elvis plays Mike McCoy, a pop singer on the road with his rock band, who is also a part-time top racing driver (he sports a sleek Cobra 427). Elvis as “McCoy” goes for a triple play with not one or two romantic interests, but three in this case, including Shelley Fabares, who plays “the spoiled daughter of a racing car magnate (Carl Betz)”; Diane McBain, “an ‘older’ woman who writes books on how to trap bachelors”; and Deborah Walley, “the drummer in his band.”1 Fabares was in three of Presley’s movies as a leading lady. Walley was known for playing “Gidget” in the 1961 film “Gidget Goes Hawaiian.”
Norman Taurog, a veteran of more than 175 films, directed the movie, which was released under a different name — “California Holiday” — in Great Britain. The working title of “Never Say Yes” eventually was changed to “Spinout” for the United States release. Several other titles were considered by Producer Joe Pasternak. Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s manager, suggested two titles, “Jim Dandy” and “Clambake”. The “Clambake” title was saved and used for one of Presley’s 1967 film releases.
Surrounded by a bevy of beauties with bit parts, Presley might not have known that a young girl named Rita Wilson was included in the film. Of course, actress Wilson later went on to garner her own stardom and married actor Tom Hanks.
“I had Jeane Hoffman negotiate the MGM contract, following my initial meeting with Mr. Horton on January 31st,” said Walsh. “I was involved with a number of other things at that time (including starting negotiations to bring the Beatles to Dodger Stadium in August) so Jeanne would have been our liaison to MGM and the on-site director and crew. I do remember the movie shoot — at the time Elvis was into racing cars so he was strapped into one of them and the racers were ‘off’ and under a checkered flag a number of times.”
Another of those on site was Bob Smith of Allied Consolidated Services, who handled operational issues and security at Dodger Stadium at the time. Smith later became Dodger Vice President of Stadium Operations.
“The majority of the movie was shot elsewhere, but what they used Dodger Stadium for was the start and the finish line for the racing scenes,” said Smith. “It was filmed near where the Union Oil station is by Lot 26 (now known as Lot H). They set up some dressing trailers and I remember that I saw Elvis, but he had bodyguards around him. They really didn’t want it known that he was even out there. They were on site for three days — a set-up day and shooting the second and third days. There were a lot of camera people. Elvis would drive by the start and the finish line and then they would go back and forth and do it all again. They dressed up the parking lots to tie it in with the rest of the racing scenes where the movie was shot, so it would be hard to tell it was at Dodger Stadium.”
Smith is right, it is hard to know that it was the Dodger Stadium Parking Lot with one minor exception: the Dodger Parking Lot signage was identified by numbers on colored globes with baseball stitching on them. In the movie, during the finish line sequence, the Parking Lot 38 sign is visible (now known as Lot 7). This was the lot near the hillside behind Lot 26 back of the Right Field Pavilion.
Two days after filming concluded at Dodger Stadium, Colonel Parker confirmed a UPI story that stated 31-year-old Elvis was the “highest paid entertainer in the world (about $6 million a year) and the highest single taxpayer in the United States.”
Hoffman wrote in a letter to Walter O’Malley on March 11, 1966 about “Spinout”: “Elvis shooting running into third day. Their location man, Dutch Horton, says MGM is looking for unusual offices for a forthcoming movie. Almost rented yours out from under you — thought I’d better wait till you get home.” A week later, she updated O’Malley, “Elvis has gone and the little secretaries are all sad; three of them met him.”
The year 1966 may now be remembered as the one in which both Elvis Presley and The Beatles were at Dodger Stadium.
Was there an actual Elvis sighting in Dodger Stadium?
“In all probability he wandered in between takes since we would have had the center field gates open as well as those between the Pavilions,” said Walsh.
“Spinout” made its theatrical debut on November 23, 1966.
Long live “the King”!
Stunning Shelley Fabares, who starred with Elvis Presley in the 1965 movie “Girl Happy,” was one of three leading ladies in “Spinout,” with racing scenes filmed at the Dodger Stadium Parking Lot in March 1966.
Today, actress-producer Fabares says she still holds many memories of being at Dodger Stadium, playing the character of a spoiled rich girl named Cynthia Foxhugh.
“Yes, I do for a couple of reasons, but nothing outrageously specific,” she says. “I was absolutely thrilled to be there. I had been a lifelong baseball fan and a lifelong Dodger fan, so I was very excited just to be in the parking lot of it (Dodger Stadium). For me, it was just exciting to be there. I was a fan of the Hollywood Stars (of the Pacific Coast League) and a member of the Hollywood Stars Booster Club before the Dodgers even got here (to Los Angeles).”
Fabares, also known for recording the number one hit record “Johnny Angel” in 1962, remembers that besides filming the start and finish line sequences simulating the “Santa Fe Road Race” in the movie’s racing scenes, she was also involved in another scene on location.
“I think there was another scene that was also done on the property. It was in the same movie,” Fabares said. “I was supposed to be a very rich girl, very spoiled and I was driving some very hot red sports car with the top down. I had told everybody from before we started the movie, when we first met from the time we started to do wardrobe and stuff, I had said I just want everybody to know that I have never driven a stick shift. I have never done that. I must have said that, I don’t know, six times.
“We got there the morning of filming and the director (Norman Taurog) is looking at me and he said, ‘Okay get in the car and start back from over there and come in really fast and then swerve into that space there.’ And he said, ‘I’ll have two people jump out of the way in front of you.’ I looked at him and said yeah right. And he said, ‘Yeah, what do you mean?’ Anyway, I was terrified. I think the only person who was more terrified than I was, was the man who owned this car. He was sitting in it with me to help me at the beginning. I just kept saying to him, I am so sorry, I promise you. And that scene is still in the movie. We filmed it, I think, in two different spots.
“I think when we shot that, Elvis was not there yet. He was there when we were doing the race car part of it, but not this part. So, this was in the morning. His dressing room wasn’t there. Mine was, but mine was not a separate star (dressing room). Even though I was one of the leading ladies — in that one there were three of us (co-stars Deborah Walley and Diane McBain) — I don’t recall that. All of the equipment was there — the camera, the crew, the extras, the scenery that they need, the lights, it was a huge bunch (in the stadium parking lot) as any motion picture set is.”
Principal photography was done elsewhere, but the vast Dodger Stadium Parking Lot gave the filmmakers plenty of room to roam.
“I think that the majority was filmed on the MGM back lot and in sound stages on the MGM lot,” said Fabares. “There was another place, sort of in the beginning of the movie, where I’m supposed to run Elvis off the road. I can’t tell you where that was exactly, but that would have been somewhere like far in the San Fernando Valley, maybe even as far as Chatsworth or Northridge, where there was this kind of rural area with a bridge, with some water under there. I just could see that area. It was fun.”
Adding to her lineup of movies with Elvis, the following year she starred in “Clambake,” her third starring role alongside the King.
“I loved doing those pictures,” said Fabares. “It’s a happy memory for me. First of all, they were great fun. They weren’t great, but they were great fun. Just for me, that was an extra added dollop of niceness that particular day (at Dodger Stadium).”
As a lifelong Dodger fan, she had attended games both at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum when the Dodgers arrived in 1958 and at new Dodger Stadium when it opened in 1962.
“Oh yes, I had been to quite a few,” said Fabares. “I can’t tell you now which ones they were or exactly what years, but yes, I was there from the start.”
She singles out one Dodger, amongst many favorites.
“Several (favorite players), but I always loved Sandy Koufax,” said Fabares. “Sublime…his character, his integrity and what he could do was just graceful and beautiful and extraordinary! I guess he would be my favorite player of all of them. But, that’s hard. I had a few favorites, but he was just my overall favorite.”
For Fabares and the Dodgers, 1966 was memorable as she starred in her second movie with Elvis, while her favorite team won the National League Pennant.
She said, “A pretty great year.”
— Brent Shyer