Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Also Known As: Los Angeles Memorial Olympic Coliseum
Location: Santa Barbara Avenue, Hoover Avenue, Exposition Boulevard (LF) and Figueroa Street (RF), Los Angeles, CA.
Built in 1932 for the Summer Olympics, it was the first stadium to host both major league baseball and the Summer Olympics until Montreal's Stade Olympique became home to a major league team in 1977. The stadium is a true coliseum (i.e oval-shaped with a single tier of grandstands surrounding the playing area from all sides), with the famous torch and scoreboard (called the "peristyle") on one end, a running track around the perimeter of the stadium, and all that.
When Walter O'Malley moved his Dodgers to Los Angeles, there was no suitable place for the team to play. Attempts to secure a lease at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA had failed. His make-shift solution was to put the Dodgers in the Coliseum until the team could move into a purpose-built stadium.
The Coliseum is now home of the USC Trojans and is the former home of the Los Angeles Rams and L.A. Raiders of the National Football League, but it was never really cut out for baseball. The distances to the left field foul line and left power alley, respectively, were the shortest distances since Lake Front Park II in Chicago. A dinky little line shot to left was only 251 feet, and even with a 42-foot screen serving as a fence, it couldn't keep cheap home runs from being hit over the shortest home run distance in any park in the 20th century.
The center field bleacher seats were 190 or so feet away from the permanent seats, which, if the field had extended to the permanent seats, would have made for an unthinkable 575 foot distance to home plate. Even with a reconfigured field, the distances in center and in right-center field, 425 feet and 440 feet, made hitting home runs to those parts of the field a prodigious task.
The Coliseum's big attraction, however, was its huge seating capacity. An exhibition game there on May 8, 1959, between the Dodgers and New York Yankees drew a paid attendance of 93,101, the largest crowd ever at a baseball game until that time. The event benefited legendary Dodger catcher Roy Campanella, who was paralyzed in a 1958 car accident. The Dodgers also attracted 92,706, the most ever to an official Major League game, in October 1959 for a World Series game against the Chicago White Sox. The regular-season record was a paid crowd of 60,194 (swelled to 82,974 by unpaid admissions) for a game between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants on August 31, 1959.
For all that capacity, a large percentage of the seats were located very far from the action, because of the single-tier construction. Observers compared watching a game from those distant seats to watching a pantomime: fans could not see the ball, but could interpret the action through the gestures of the fielders and other players. The habit of fans bringing transistor radios to a game began at the Coliseuum, no doubt in response to this problem.
The Dodgers left the park to the Rams and Trojans in 1962 when Dodger Stadium was completed.
The January 1994]earthquake that rocked Los Angeles did major but reparable damage to the Coliseum; repairs were made in time for USC to continue to use the stadium for football that fall.
The park has hosted the Super Bowl (1967), the All-Star Game (1959, the first All-Star Game held west of Saint Louis), the World Series (that same year), and the XFL Million Dollar Game (2001 – the only such game in the league's abbreviated history).
A renovated Coliseum could be the site of a future NFL expansion team in L.A., but bickering between competing ownership groups have clouded the issue – as did the decision to award the 2002 NFL expansion franchise to Houston.
On March 29, 2008, the Dodgers returned to the Coliseum for an exhibition game with the Boston Red Sox to mark the 50th anniversary of the team's move to L.A. That game shattered the existing attendance record, with a crowd of 115,300, the largest ever to witness a baseball game.
- Chris Epting: Los Angeles's Historic Ballparks, Arcadia Publishing, Mount Pleasant, SC, 2010.
- Don Zminda: "A Home Like No Other: The Dodgers in L.A. Memorial Coliseum", in Jean Hastings Ardell and Andy McCue, ed.: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 41, 2011, pp. 84-86.