Last Update: Thursday, December 05, 2013
|Latinos Love The Dodgers|
|Written by Mike Terry|
|Thursday, 12 September 2013 06:01|
Support For The Team Has Remained Constant Since It Arrived Here From Brooklyn
Ray de Leon
This is the second story in a three-part series on Latinos and baseball.
Ray de Leon met his girlfriend Angel and her daughter Danielle at a Dodgers' game last year, and the Palmdale couple say it is the perfect blend: their love for Dodger baseball and each other.
Call it Rhapsody in Dodger Blue.
And like the scores of Latino fans who regularly trek to Dodger Stadium in the summer, de Leon's enjoyment of the team is not just a sometime, only-if they're-winning thing. Dodger baseball for him is generational, many years in the making.
"I've been a fan since the mid-80s, during Fernando (Valenzuela's) time," de Leon said. "My father used to take me to the top deck. I never realized there were other seats when I was younger. I thought those were the best seats in the house."
Since the 1980s, when Valenzuela was a star left-hander who helped the team win two World Series titles, the Latino fan base has grown to the point where it now represents an estimated 50-55 percent of the Dodger ticket buyers, according to team officials. More than a million Latino fans a year annually come to Dodger games.
They often dress in complete Dodgers gear – hats, T-shirts or jerseys, shorts, anything with the team logo on it. They come from all over Southern California, and sometimes from parts even farther away.
Fan support like de Leon's is not uncommon or surprising. The Dodgers historically have pursued a connection with Latino baseball fans, beginning with Spanish-language radio broadcasts in the 1950s while the team was still in Brooklyn, NY. Baseball Hall of Fame announcer Jaime Jarrín has been with the team since 1959.
Los Angeles is trying to be as diligent regarding recognition with its employees as well.
On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the team honored 86 persons who have worked for the organization for 25 or more years. More than 30 were Latino, including Jarrín and security manager Edward Gonzalez, who's been employed here for 50 years.
That has helped create a level of devotion that can run deeper than the San Andreas Fault.
Raphael Carillo and Family
"I used to think I was a diehard fan; but my wife is an even bigger diehard fan," said Manuel Cota, of Lakewood. "We got married in 1973, and I told her three days before we got married 'you know where we're gonna honeymoon? Hawaii.'
And she says 'I'm not going to Hawaii. I'm not flying in a plane. You can take that trip and go somewhere else, I'm staying home.' I said, 'well if we're staying home what are we doing?' She said 'let's do what we love the most – go to a Dodger game. I want to spend our honeymoon going to Dodger games.'"
This 2013 season has been a great one for L.A. fans. After the victory against second place Arizona on Monday, Sept. 9, Los Angeles had reduced its magic number for clinching the National League West to eight, meaning a combination of Dodger wins and/or Arizona losses that total eight would give the Blue Crew its first National League West title since 2009. The team had 19 regular season games left after Monday.
"I've been a Dodgers fan since I was 9-years-old," said Paul Torres who comes to the games from Riverside. "I liked Fernando, (Steve) Garvey, (Ron) Cey, (Davey) Lopes. But this is different.
"When Fernando pitched it was like, you know, La Raza. And now…its even more La Raza."
It also seems to be a strong family activity. Rafael Carrillo of Lynwood, his wife Lucia, and their children Anthony and Alexandra are here Monday for the Hello Kitty bobblehead doll giveaway. But they come plenty of other times through the 30-game mini-plan they purchased.
"I've been a fan since I was a little girl when my dad used to bring me to games," Lucia said. "I started coming about 20 years ago," added Carrillo. "They would give us tickets at my job (then working at Target) and we would come. And I'm passing that love down to our kids."
Sharing Dodger baseball is also not gender-specific. You could see almost as many father- and-daughter combinations as you did father-and-son. Season ticket holder Danny Lopez of Los Angeles was here tonight with his daughter, Destiny, who's proudly sporting a "LA" cap about a half-size too big.
"I've been a fan as long as I can remember, at least when I was her age," Lopez said. "My parents used to bring me. Now I bring her. I'm building a tradition with my daughter. She knows every player. She likes getting autographs."
By the way, it's not always "Dodgers." You also hear Latino fans referring to the team as "Los Doyers." That is how the name was said by immigrants and others who either did not know how to or had difficulty pronouncing the word "Dodgers."
Several fans remembered hearing that pronunciation while growing up in Los Angeles.
"That's the way my dad used to say it, not 'Dodgers,'" said Danny Martinez of Boyle Heights. "He's Mexican, and that's just the way he said it." "It's cool. I like it. It still feels like 'ours,'" Carrillo said. The only thing that may have irk fans about the "Los Doyers" moniker is the fact the team, under then owner Frank Mc- Court, trademarked the name and halted other venders from selling shirts and other apparel with that logo. Now fans have to buy "Los Doyers" gear from the Dodgers.
"I guess it did stink when people were already saying it and selling shirts, and it got taken from them," de Leon said. "But I guess if they'd wanted it bad enough, they would have trademarked it themselves."
Even that is not a dealbreaker when it comes to brand loyalty.
"I do have a shirt that says 'Doyers,'" said Jorge Rios, from Alhambra, escorting his niece Lauren to game. "The phrase is like, because, [Latinos] can't pronounce it correctly. The ones with the accent tend to mispronounce it and it ends up 'Los Doyers.' But it's still a term of affection, it doesn't bother me." Not all the history between the Dodgers and Latino fans has been good.
The stadium is located in Chavez Ravine, which housed a Mexican American community in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1958, the team acquired 352 acres of land for the stadium after local politicians first decided against building public housing projects there, re-purchased property owned by the Federal Housing Authority at reduced market value and then pushed or forced local homeowners to sell.
But only long-time residents of Los Angeles remember those days and the strife it created. About the only thing of late that kept fans away from Dodger Stadium was the rocky ownership of McCourt from 2004- 12. McCourt, who sold the team in June of 2012 to the current ownership group that includes former Lakers star Magic Johnson, never seemed able or interested in signing enough top players to keep the Dodgers an elite big-market team. But that didn't keep him from often raising prices on ticket, concessions and parking.
Fan disenchantment was never more evident than in 2011, when the team reported nearly three million in attendance based on tickets sold, but often played to a half-empty stadium.
"Don't mention [McCourt]. Hated him," Rios said. "We avoided a lot of games, the team was going nowhere, I hated the whole divorce situation because it looked like they players didn't really want to play. Once we heard Magic got them, we knew it would be a 'magic' Dodger team again."
It certainly has been a magical run for the team that, back on June 22, was 30-42 overall and 9.5 games out of first place. Since then, through Sept. 9, the Dodgers had gone 54-17, and led the NL West by 12 games.
The thought of playoff baseball has visions of 1988 dancing in fan's heads, the last time the Dodgers won a championship.
"I'm thinking World Series this year," Rios said. "The way they're looking, they seem to be unbeatable unless they are beating themselves."
Next week: A historical look at Latinos and baseball.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 12 September 2013 17:57|