Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Dodge Ball | Nearly 30 years ago, my father bundled my brother and me into a hot car, drove to South Philadelphia, and introduced us to Major League Baseball as a spectator sport, as opposed to something you watched on TV on Sunday afternoons. (This was before television contracts exploded and put almost every game on the tube.) The Phillies were playing the Braves. We had awful tickets -- the 600 level in Veteran Stadium's right field was pretty desolate -- but to me the whole experience was magical. Bake McBride looked close enough to touch; I remember my brother and me calling his name in hopes that he'd hear us and acknowledge our tribute. The day launched a lifetime of attending games, some of them memorable, many of them forgettable, all of them contributing in some way to a love affair that has given much more to me than it has taken.

I get to repay Dad tonight with his first visit to Citizens Bank Park. I hope he recalls this trip in future years as I have my inaugural game at the Vet.

The Dodgers are in, still sporting the National League's best record but trying to fight their way through a four-game losing streak. Third baseman Adrian Beltre finally looks like the player so many thought he'd be for several years now, and catcher Paul Lo Duca is hitting .365. Onetime stud Shawn Green and free-agent pickup Juan Encarnacion are scuffling along at .231 each, though. Pitching has been decent but not great for Los Angeles, though Eric Gagne is as lights-out as ever.

The series begins with Vicente Padilla opposing Wilson Alvarez, who's having a fine year thus far. Dodger Thoughts' Jon Weisman offered his thoughts yesterday:

The team has an interesting week coming up, starting with a visit to Philadelphia, winners of 12 out of 18. Once again, the Dodgers are starting a road trip against a contender in the NL East -- just as they did against Florida two weeks ago. The Dodgers were coming off a disappointing homestand against Montreal and New York, but came alive on the road, winning two out of three against the Marlins and five of six overall.

With a day of rest today, the Dodgers will reach the City of Brotherly Like before the hometown Phillies, who finish a four-game series at Colorado. The Odyssean Wilson Alvarez will kick off the Phillies series for Los Angeles on Tuesday in a pivotal game for the Dodger psyche -- either he will continue to live the dream, or the Dodgers will have a five-game losing streak with Hideo Nomo set to be the stopper.


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