After the New York Yankees lost Monday night to the Texas Rangers in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts threw up a quick post pointing out how Yankee fans, like fans of ALL teams, will leave games early.
A few very defensive Yankee fans chimed in to defend the passion of Yankee fans. Others pointed out that Dodgers fans show up late also.
I tried to find out how long it had been since Dodgers fans had this reputation. A search through the LA Times database didn't reveal much about when the "arrive late, leave early" phenomenon was applied to Dodgers fans (and eventually to all Southern California sports fans), but I did find two interesting stories.
On the day of the first home game at Dodger Stadium, April 10, 1962, Police Chief William Parker advised fans to arrive TWO hours before the game and expect to take TWO hours to get out of the parking lot. And Parker added that it might even take longer if the game went into extra innings and edged into the evening rush hour. (First pitch was scheduled for 1:00 pm and the game took 2:47 to play, so most fans were getting on the freeway around 4 or 4:30 pm if they were lucky.)
Then, on July 14, 1973, I found a letter to the Times Sports section from a Janet Macfarlane, which really didn't address the question of leaving early, but certainly demonstrated why people arrived late. And this letter showed that all the complaints people have about driving to Dodger Stadium are pretty much the same in the last 37 years.
I will have to reproduce some excerpts from the letter by hand, since the database provides a pdf file. My comments will be italicized.
"Let me tell you why this baseball buff has vowed never again to set foot inside Dodger Stadium. At 6:30 pm, we left Pacific Palisades for the Stadium. (This may seem foolish today, but in 1973, most Dodgers home games started at 8 pm.) ... The traffic resembled a parking lot, not a freeway, and there was NO traffic direction until nearly in the stadium. (So you expected an easy drive from the Westside to Downtown with people directing traffic on the Santa Monica and Harbor Freeways...) We arrived at the end of the fourth inning, hurried to the ticket window to exchange our Mutual Tickets ... (Wait, you didn't have tickets in hand? And if it's the fourth inning, it's at least 8:45 pm, if not later. Did you ever look at a map to see where Pacific Palisades is in relation to Downtown L.A.?) No one seemed to have any idea what to do with said tickets ... After a fair bit, I was told that the Mutual window was on the far side of Parking Lot 29. (Indeed it was. I was always wanted to go there as a kid because the Mutual Will Call sign seemed exotic to me. My mom said it wasn't. As it turned out, Mom was not feeding me a line to keep me quiet. She was speaking the truth. It was just a big shack out in a parking lot.).... (Ms. Macfarlane's journey across the parking lots are recounted, including tripping over a chain and dropping her radio, which cost her $4.50 to repair. Leading one to ask, "Who got transistor radios repaired in 1973. And who would charge $4.50?")
.. By the sixth inning we were in our seats. Wanted a glass of beer after this and found no one working the stands. (Which is not surprising since California sporting venues have not had roving beer vendors for decades, except in very expensive areas where there is waiter service.) One is expected to stand in line for one inning, pay 50 cents for stale peanuts and 85 cents for a beer. I can buy a whole six-pack in the store for $1.35! Total cost of four tickets, parking, two Pepsis, two beers, peanuts, and radio repairs: $18.40. (That works out to about $88 in 2010, which would be a pretty good deal for a group of four at Dodger Stadium now.) I'll listen to the radio, but the team will have to do without my physical appearance. The spirit is willing, but the flesh and pocket book are weak."
Sadly, I cannot determine exactly which game Ms. Macfarlane attended. The Dodgers had a long homestand to start July. The longest any of the night game lasted was just 2:46. Two of the games were over in less than two hours.
Did Janet Macfarlane keep her promise? I don't know. I still think she is walking around the Dodger Stadium parking lot, looking for Lot 29, looking for the Mutual Will Call booth. A ghost who will never find rest until there is no traffic in Los Angeles and Pacific Palisades is moved closer to Downtown.