Back to California – A Tale of Two Cities
Petco Park

Monday morning, I headed back from Mexico. I flew nonstop from Monterrey to Los Angeles. When we landed, I promptly rented a car and headed to San Diego, about a three-hour drive. The next morning, after I spent a lovely evening in Petco Park, I drove back to Los Angeles. That night I visited the venerable Dodger Stadium. No offense to Dickens, but it is somewhat a “tale of two cities” – certainly two ballparks. Dodger Stadium is one of the oldest ballparks, and Petco Park is one of the newest ones. Both have their charms.

It’s also not “The best of times and the worst of times,” in terms of the teams. The Dodgers have won the National League pennant the last two years and want to go back and finally win it all. On the other hand, the Padres have experienced bad times but are rapidly improving. They have a lot of good young ballplayers and are starting to win. Let’s call it “The best of times and the getting better times.”

Petco Park

Petco Park opened in 2004 and is one of the youngest ballparks. Only six are older. It is a gem!

Petco Park on a Cloudy Day

The Gaslamp District

Gaslamp District – Outside Petco Park

The park is situated near the harbor and the Historic Gaslamp Quarter which is full of bars and restaurants. An excellent place to meet friends and have drinks and dinner before the game and drinks after it. It is advertised as the “West Coast’s premier entertainment district” with “rich Victorian architecture and history.1” Additionally, there is a pedestrian promenade that connects the area with Petco’s “Park at the Park” a vast area behind the stadium. This area is where ticketed fans can hang out and relax. It’s also where a beautiful statue of Tony Gwynn is located.

Tony Gwynn Statue

A few things that I like in a ballpark:

  • The park’s look and feel are similar to the surrounding area. Petco’s exterior isn’t Victorian, by any means. In fact, its sandstone and stucco exterior was patterned after the sandy colored San Diego cliffs and beaches.2 However, it seems to fit the area nicely. Additionally, incorporating the Western Metal Supply Co. warehouse in the design helps to incorporate the surrounding area.
  • The park incorporates a commercial district nearby where fans can hang out before and after the game. The Gaslamp District provides more than enough bars and restaurants.
  • The commercial area should precede the ballpark. Better that, than an area built when the park is. Turning the concept into a mall of sorts. Those built with the stadium are better than nothing but not as good as if the area exists already.

I stayed at the Horton Grand Hotel in the heart of the District. It was inexpensive and a quick walk to the ballpark and harbor. The room was a suite, with a bedroom, a sitting room and bath. Not bad for less than $200, but I was only there for the day. This is a place that I would like to return to with Mrs. Nomad. We could spend a week experiencing the Gaslamp District, other points of interest, excellent restaurants, and some visits to Petco.

Honoring Padres History

Petco also offers a nod to San Diego’s vast baseball history. Yes, there are the retired numbers as all ballparks have. These are displayed on the stands behind home plate and just above the “Jerry Coleman Broadcast Center.” The broadcast center is another acknowledgment to the team’s history.

Jerry Coleman played second base for the Yankees in the 1950s. He was a Yankee broadcaster for seven years in the 1960s and then the Angels. In 1972, he started a 42-year stint as the radio voice of the Padres. That is except for 1980 when he managed the team.

They also have a Hall of Fame, again, most ballparks do. But Petco’s is prominently placed near the left field entrance off the pedestrian promenade. Over the entrance are paintings of Randy Jones, Dave Winfield, Tony Quinn and Trevor Hoffman (I think).

Hall of Fame Entrance

Also in the plaza is the “Padres in Cooperstown” area. The area is devoted to National Hall of Fame members associated with the Padres. Remember, the Padres were members of the Pacific Coast League for a long time before they were awarded a major league franchise. Nice to see a plaque for San Diego native, Ted Williams.

Food, Craft Beer & A Bacon Wrapped Hot Dog

I’ve seen good and bad reviews about Petco’s food and didn’t try enough to comment. However, I was intrigued. There are restaurants of many denominations throughout the ballpark many local outposts. Also some bars as well.

A few of the local outposts offer bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Since I was focused on the “Hot Dog Challenge” I asked around and found one at Randy Jones barbecue. It’s a 1/2 pound dog with a somewhat crusty bun and the optional grilled onions. Guess what? They have brown mustard at the condiment stand! Yes, this one is at the top of my lihttps://4bases4kids.com/ballparks-hot-dogs-and-other-lists/#Hot_Dogsst.

Petco offers many craft beers. I had the “San Diego Pale Ale .394” – named in honor of Tony Gwynn’s historic batting average when he challenged the .400 mark. I also tried the “Ballast Point Swingin’ Friar Ale.”

The Game

Rookie Chris Paddack and Jacob DeGrom hooked up for one of those great pitching duels. DeGrom gave up two runs over the seven innings he pitched. Paddack was better, shutting out the Mets for 7 2/3 innings. Paddack has a level of intensity that is difficult to describe. He has these fierce eyes and sticks his jaw as he stomps to and from the mound. The game was not as close as the 4 – 0 score suggests. Paddack and the Padres were always in control. You can read more about the game here.

Venerable Dodger Stadium

I don’t think you can say “Dodger Stadium” without adding “venerable.” It doesn’t sound right without the word “venerable” included. The stadium opened in 1962 and is the third oldest ballpark in the major leagues. Only Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field are older.

Dodger Stadium

Chavez Ravine

When you approach any other ballpark, they stand out like proud edifices to the great game. It’s not that way at Dodger Stadium. Unless you approach the stadium from the outfield side, you only see gardens, stairs, and signs. When you approach the stadium from the front, you enter at the level that your seats are at and then you see it. The beautiful stadium is spread out in all its glory below you.

There are palm trees and views of the San Gabriel mountains past the outfield fence. From my perch in right field, I could see a series of homes either built into or on top of the ridge behind the stadium.

The outfield bleachers and grandstands are covered with wavy rooftops that instill a 1960’s feel. This feeling is reinforced by the murals on the walls and the font used in the signage.

Where’s the Recognition of Dodger History?

While it’s a beautiful baseball stadium and a fun place to see a game, I didn’t sense the park’s glorious history. Remember, this park is where Koufax and Drysdale had their greatest success. This is also where Kirk Gibson hit his dramatic World Series home run in 1988. Frankly, Dodger Stadium was home to eight World Series, but you wouldn’t know it. It is also home to twelve no-hitters.

However, it’s interesting that in the merchandise store they sell Brooklyn “B” hats along with the now classic “L.A.” ones. I say interesting, because the last time I was at (now) Oracle Park, I thought it would be fun to get a New York Giants cap – yes, the baseball team. They didn’t have them.

Brooklyn Caps for Sale

There are also signs that celebrate the longest rivalry in baseball – the Dodgers vs. Giants. I did a double take – forgetting for the moment that they have been playing each other for a long time. That is if you consider Brooklyn, Flatbush, Coogan’s Bluff, etc. when discussing the rivalry.

The Park is Restrictive

Part of the problem is that it’s a hard stadium to get around in. The design restricts you to the seat level that your tickets are in. 3 I Ubered in and entered at the top of the stadium and was able to walk around the entire level. However, then I took the stairs down to my level and didn’t get a sense of the rest of the ballpark. It’s easier when you enter on the ground floor, and the stadium is designed to show you its best features. That’s the joy of the new.

So I don’t know how much of a Hall of Fame there is and didn’t remember to see the Jackie Robinson statue which is outside in the Left Field Reserve Plaza. 4 Probably a long walk from where I was in Right Field.

Food Choices

In keeping with its “venerable” status, Dodger Stadium has not entered the 21st century in the food arena. Again, I may have missed something. But walking into Dodger Stadium is like going back in time to when a dog and a beer was sufficient.

Actually, with some post-game research, I found that there was more food than just the Dodger Dog and Mexican food like the beef burrito I had after my Dodger Dog adventure. However, as I write this, I wonder how a slightly overweight, and happy eater like myself didn’t notice the other choices. So while there are more choices than I realized, it’s still a relatively “skinny” menu compared to other places. I should point out that they are competitive in the alcohol area. But, all in all, Citi Field, Petco Park, and many others have Dodger Stadium beat.

The Famous Dodger Dog

In keeping with my goal of getting a representative hot dog at every stadium, I tried the famous Dodger Dog. The Dodger Dog is so famous and has such a cult following that there is a Dodger Dog statue at the stadium.

When the stadium opened, Thomas Arthur wanted to capture some of the “old-school Brooklyn charm.5” So he created the Dodger Dog that is “inspired” by those that you can get at Coney Island. I love this next part.

New York’s Coney Island was known for their “footlong franks,” and while Arthur planned to borrow the moniker, the actual hot dog measured in at ten inches. To stop the inevitable customer complaints about those two missing inches, the Dodger Dog moniker came to Arthur’s mind, and L.A. has never looked back.

I’m a proud New Yorker and son of a proud Brooklyn Dodger fan. As such, it’s nice to know that the best that L.A. could do was two inches shorter than New York.

Moreover, they offer a thing called the “Doyer Dog.” “An homage to the Spanish pronunciation of the team name.” This version is actually larger than the traditional dog and “topped with chili, nacho cheese, chopped tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos.6” If you agree that the term “doyer dog” is racially insensitive, you will love my next piece about Atlanta’s “chop.”

Is The Dodger Dog Worth The Hype?

So how is the Dodger Dog? Most would say – “not so good.” New Yorker’s interpretation of the phrase is “sucks.” I have little to nothing good to say about the experience except that I found some brown mustard. For the most part, it does not meet my criteria for a good hot dog. It’s a pre-prepared dog – you pick up your foil-wrapped bundle at concessions stands. Including the “Dodger Dog Express.” The dog is tasty enough, but if it is grilled, it still has no char, no crunch. The bun is steamed, no crust. Condiments are OK, and yes there is brown mustard.

Dodger Dogs Express

I ate my requisite Dodger Dog and then went off to find something substantial to eat and had a pretty good Beef Burrito.

The Game

The Dodgers proved why they are one of the best teams in the game. In contrast, the Braves displayed the relative weakness of the N.L. East. Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched a complete game 4-hit shutout and no-hit the Braves for five innings. Justin Turner hit three home runs. The Dodgers walloped the Braves 8 – 0. You can read more about the game here.

Where else but in L.A. can you see KISS frontman, Gene Simmons sing the National Anthem. I caught it on a video monitor as I raced to my seat.

Only in L.A. – Gene Simmons Sings the National Anthem

Why I Watch

And then there was Cody Bellinger in right field.

It’s the top half of the seventh inning and there are two out. The Braves have Ozzie Albies on first, and Ronald Acuna Jr. is at bat. They both are fast, and Acuna Jr. is the reigning Rookie of the Year. They’re the kind of players you can draft if you lose a lot of games for a few years.

The Dodgers are ahead 5 – 0, Ryu is “lights out” so it’s not like I think the Braves can come back, but you never know. Acuna Jr. launches a line drive to right field, and Bellinger starts to run to his left in pursuit of the ball. Since Acuna Jr. bats right-handed, the ball has some spin that keeps pushing it away from Bellinger. My mind starts to race as I imagine the others do as well. Will Bellinger get to and catch the ball? If he doesn’t, how far will it roll? Albies will score, but where will Acuna end up – on third, or will he score too 7 Finally, and right below me, Bellinger reaches across his body and a few inches above the turf. The ball nestles into his glove as he tumbles head over feet 8.

The suspense, tension, and brilliant play are why I watch.

Next, I was off to Atlanta’s new SunTrust Park, where I encountered a pretty good hot dog, a Pimento cheese patty and the infamous ”Chop.”

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  1. See Gaslamp Quarter
  2. Petco Park,” BaseballPilgrimages.com
  3. See Kevin Richard, “Dodger Stadium/ Los Angeles Dodgers” – www.ballparkdigest.com, November 30, 2008
  4. See Chad Thornburg, “Dodgers Unveil Robinson Statue at Stadium”, www.mlb.com, April 15, 2017
  5. Julia Paskin “A Frank History Of The Dodger Dog: A Ballpark Classic By LA, For LA” laist, June 25, 2018
  6. Julia Paskin “A Frank History Of The Dodger Dog: A Ballpark Classic By LA, For LA” laist, June 25, 2018
  7. In all fairness, Bob Costas in the Ken Burns documentary ”Baseball” describes these thoughts much better than I do.
  8. This is a video of the play. My view was better!

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