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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: APRIL 18, 1958

Major League Baseball Arrives in Southland

April 18, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Major league baseball in Los Angeles had been talked about for years.

The St. Louis Browns . . . the Washington Senators . . . the Philadelphia Athletics . . .

All those teams and more were at one time or another rumored to be considering a move to Los Angeles. Problem was, before jet airliners, travel logistics were deemed insurmountable.

Then jets arrived in the 1950s and two New York teams jetted West, the Giants to San Francisco the Dodgers to Los Angeles.

Each played in the other's home opener and on the morning of their first game at the Coliseum, 41 years ago today, about 8,000 people showed up for a downtown welcoming ceremony. For the first time, it hit home to many that this was really happening.

No longer was major league baseball restricted to the East and Midwest, for right there, on the City Hall steps, were uniformed guys with "Dodgers" on their shirts and whose names were Snider, Drysdale, Hodges and Reese.

A police band played "California, Here I Come!"

The Dodgers, all wearing shower sandals, boarded convertibles and headed to the Coliseum to battle the Giants, who'd spoiled their West Coast debut three days earlier in San Francisco, 8-0.

That parade to the Coliseum was described by old-timers as the biggest downtown Los Angeles sports celebration since 1931, when the USC football team was welcomed back after upsetting Notre Dame.

At the Coliseum, the largest crowd in National League history, 78,672, saw the Dodgers beat the Giants, 6-5.

Also on this date: In 1923, the New York Yankees opened Yankee Stadium and Babe Ruth--who else?--christened the $2.5-million baseball palace with its first home run.

In 1947, former lightweight boxing champion Benny Leonard, 51, collapsed and died in the ring at New York's St. Nicholas Arena while refereeing a bout. . . . On the same day in New York, the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson hit his first major league home run, at the Polo Grounds.

In 1970, boxer Reuben Olivares earned a unanimous decision over Chucho Castillo before 18,762 at the Forum. . . . In 1968, Mickey Mantle hit his 519th home run, leading the Yankees to a 6-1 victory over the Angels at Anaheim.

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