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The Inside Track | T.J. SIMERS

If in First They Don't Succeed, Forget About It

July 29, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

I have been a Dodger fan for as long as I can remember.

Certainly since they went into first place.

I'll tell you how quickly I caught on as a Dodger fan, I know when Vin waxes poetic about "Pauley," and Ross tells everyone "Dukey" is hitting .414 in games when fans eat an average of 1.2 hot dogs every 3 1/3 innings on the second Wednesday of each month, they're talking about the same player.

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THE FACT is, I go way back with the Dodgers to a time when F.P. Santangelo was batting leadoff, and I was like the only guy yelling his name in the press box.

I even remember when Davey Johnson was manager of this team, and thinking to myself: "Jim Tracy could do a better job than this." I believe I even mentioned it to former GM Kevin Malone, but because he's not returning my calls, it might be tough to check.

I believe right now I can say Tracy is the best baseball manager that ever lived, and not get much argument. Not having to pitch Darren Dreifort every five days, of course, has done wonders for Tracy's resume.

Now maybe I view other things--such as the Sparks--as a one-night column, but I don't take this love affair with the Dodgers lightly--even though it might have just begun late Friday night.

All along, deep down, I've always thought every writer at The Times would take a pay cut if given the chance to be the public relations director for the Dodgers. But when the job did come open, as we now know, Dodger Boy put the hard sell on our Jason Reid as if I couldn't have helped his image.

I considered ripping and terrorizing both the Dodgers and Reid in retaliation, but then I remembered a time when my girlfriend dumped me in favor of some dumpy lug named Doug, and I made a fuss, and now that girlfriend is my wife. I could be married to Salma Hayek now if I had just dropped it.

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I SPENT the past month trying to get my vacation time out of the way so I could be there for Shawn Ruth's mighty march on the Dodger record book.

"Nothing much to it," Shawn said about his power surge.

With great quotes like that, this is going to be one exciting story to write all summer. By the way, in my new capacity as die-hard Dodger fan, I've learned when Green strolls to the plate, he has the team play his favorite recording from Blur, entitled, "Song Two." Apparently "Song One" doesn't do it for him, and who am I to criticize any Dodger?

Eric Karros has the Dodgers play "Over the Mountain" when he comes to the plate, and before I became a real fan, I might have written it appears he's running up a mountain every time he runs to first base, but not now.

There is nothing wrong with the Dodgers as long as they are in first place. I really can't imagine anyone being an Angel fan and feeling that crummy all the time, but now being on the side of the magical Dodgers, I tell you, I feel the love.

"Hey Simers--ya bum," someone yelled at the stadium Saturday, and I guess in a way, we would all like to share those Brooklyn Dodger roots.

Of course, I don't go that far back, but does it really matter when the lightbulb goes on? OK, so in this state it does.

But the thing is, I'm not ashamed to say that I spent part of Saturday in the Stadium Gear shop imaging what I might look like dressed like my favorite Dodger. Now I wouldn't say I'm the first one on my block to buy a $125 official Dodger jersey and spend the additional $50 to add Jeff Reboulet's number to the back, but I haven't seen anyone else wearing one.

I don't know about you, but I have to believe Reboulet--playing in 60 games so far--has meant more to the Dodgers this season than Kevin Brown, who has made 15 appearances. Oh, Ross tells me that every Thursday there has been a Sig Alert on the 101 between the hours of five and six involving an accident with blue and red cars, Reboulet has come through later with a key hit.

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I SHOWED up three hours before Saturday's game to spend more time with our heroes. The rest of the media had newly acquired James Baldwin surrounded, and he was saying, "These guys here seem like a bunch of good guys."

There's nothing wrong with adding a real suck-up to your clubhouse, I guess, but I went over to the very best player on the team and checked with him to see if everything was OK.

"There's a whole different atmosphere in here," Pauley said.

"In the three years that I've been here, we've been flops--the favorites who haven't done a thing," Dukey said. "And now that we've been labeled underdogs, it just seems different."

To maintain this underdog image, the Dodgers started Chad Kreuter against the Rockies and kept Pauley-Dukey on the bench. They could have started the game with The King & His Court on the field, and the Rockies would have been outmanned. They packed their bags a month ago.

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