Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

BILL SHAIKIN ON BASEBALL

WBC final was a joy ride you didn't want to end

In a dramatic World Baseball Classic title game, Japan and South Korea teams and fans bring spirit, and a beautiful noise, rarely experienced at Dodger Stadium.

March 24, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN | ON BASEBALL

We don't really have to watch the San Diego Padres after this, do we?

Talk about a letdown. Japan and South Korea treated us to a delightful championship evening of the World Baseball Classic, and we don't just mean the players. The fans on both sides exuded passion and spirit for 10 of the most memorable innings ever played at Dodger Stadium, a weirdly wonderful mix of baseball game, rock concert and pep rally.

The old ballpark shook like this for Kirk Gibson and Steve Finley, for Fernando Valenzuela and Manny Ramirez, but those were moments. This went on from the first pitch to the last, four hours of joyful noise.

The Dodgers ought to figure out how to share some of this with their fans.

In Asia, as in Latin America, fans do not watch passively. On Monday, the Dodgers' scoreboard never displayed the ridiculous order to "Make Some Noise." The fans made plenty of noise without being told to, when they wanted to, as it should be.

Flags waved from every corner of the stadium. The Japanese fans pounded drums, banged noise sticks and chanted "Nippon," for their country. The Korean fans pounded drums, banged noise sticks and chanted, "Dae Han Min Kook," for their country.

Silence? Not for a second. Loud cheers for a sacrifice bunt, oohs and aahs for a pop fly, a deafening eruption for a home run.

Granted, this was billed as a world championship game, but the flavor is similar for any game in Tokyo or Seoul, with a decibel level closer to Dodger Stadium on Monday than Dodger Stadium in May.

"The noise factor is a bit different," said Acey Kohrogi, the Dodgers' director of Asian operations. "There's a lot of cheering going on, but it's all controlled by the fans. It's not induced by the public address announcer or the scoreboard. It's not controlled in any way by the teams."

God bless.

The Japanese players, of course, might prefer some earplugs every now and then.

"If you're an outfielder and you have a trumpet going off behind your head all the time," Kohrogi said, "you might not like it."

In Asia, as in Latin America, music is an accompaniment to the game, not a diversion between innings. Charles Steinberg, the Dodgers' chief marketing officer, once marveled at the soundtrack of a game in Aruba.

"There was such a festive style," he said, "live music throughout, in Caribbean rhythms. They all clapped. They all knew the rhythms."

This is not entirely unknown here. In Oakland, a character named "Crazy George" used to sit in the bleachers and bang a drum all game long.

The Dodgers had a band in Brooklyn. Steinberg said the idea of a pep band at Dodger Stadium "surfaces every so often."

That could go horribly wrong -- as it did when Disney once planted a band and cheerleaders on the Angels' dugout roof -- but Steinberg said he is open to anything.

"You draw inspiration from what other ballclubs do," he said. "What the World Baseball Classic allows you to do is broaden your horizons and experience how other communities enjoy the game."

We would be remiss if we did not salute the fans of both countries for balancing their delirium with honor and respect, with none of the coarse and boorish behavior that sometimes surfaces here during the regular season.

And so the second World Baseball Classic is history, with Japan winning again. Perhaps the two-time defending champions ought to get to host the finals in 2013, although we wonder what the crowd might be like if Japan did not qualify.

We saw what the crowd here was like, and frankly, the atmosphere would not have been as exciting had the United States played for the title. Even before this WBC final had ended, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt began campaigning for L.A. in 2013.

"This is the perfect city for the World Baseball Classic," he said. "This is the most international city in America, one of the most international cities in the world.

"I'd love to do this again."

We'll bang that drum too.

--

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|