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BILL PLASCHKE

These sisters are the winningest team at Dodger Stadium

Sylvia Fisk, 88, and Esther Rosen, 83, are inseparable, having lived together for 50 years. But the strongest bond the sisters share is the Dodgers — they've been going to games since 1972, the year Sylvia got a concession-stand job. She still works there, and Esther still joins her at Dodger Stadium nightly.

August 07, 2010|Bill Plaschke

Esther Rosen leans against the concrete wall outside the elevator on the top level of Dodger Stadium. It is a Thursday evening at 5:20 p.m. The doors open and out steps her older sister, Sylvia Fisk.

"There you are!" shouts Esther.

"Here I am," says Sylvia.

Sylvia steps into the sunlight, gently places her sister's right hand into the crook of her left arm, and carefully escorts her back onto the elevator. Together they ride down to the loge level, then walk slowly arm in arm down the empty concourse.

"If I fall, you fall," says Esther.

''You won't fall," says Sylvia.

They stop at Section 129, at one of the most unusual seats in the stadium. It is in the top row, but it is the only seat in the row, a concrete post on the right, the aisle on the left. Sylvia helps Esther sit on the yellow plastic and places a white paper bag containing a wrapped hamburger in her lap.

"My special seat," says Esther.

"Best in the house," says Sylvia.

Sylvia touches Esther's shoulder with a soft goodbye, and continues walking down the concourse to the concession stand opposite Section 141. This is where she will spend tonight's game against the San Diego Padres, working as a lightning-fast cashier with a calculator mind. She will take only one 10-minute break midway through the game, to walk back and check on Esther, to see if she's hungry or to escort her to the restroom.

"You don't really need to do that," says Esther.

"I know I don't," says Sylvia.

When the game ends, Sylvia will check out of her job, walk back down the concourse and carefully escort Esther back upstairs and outside to a handicapped spot in the parking lot. In a red Chevy Malibu, perhaps with Nancy Bea Hefley on their CD player, they will drive back to the condo they share on a busy Pico Rivera street. Together they will watch the late news in their tiny family room, then amble upstairs to sleep in the same king-size bed.

"I'm afraid of earthquakes," says Esther.

"I don't blame her," says Sylvia.

The next morning they will awaken early and prepare to do it all over again, this unusual daily ritual that not only defines their existence, but embellishes it with a sort of gray, wrinkled, wondrous beauty.

Sylvia is 88, Esther is 83, and they've been drawing precisely this same deep Dodger Stadium breath for 38 years.

"Our family," says Esther.

"Pretty much," says Sylvia.

They don't do it for the glamour — in nearly four decades, neither woman has ever met a player. They don't do it for the money — Sylvia makes barely $13 an hour, and pays more than $5,000 for the season ticket she buys for her sister, including a $15 daily parking fee so they can park close enough for the severely arthritic Esther to walk inside.

They do it for the connection. They do it for the smiles, the hugs, the exchanges they share with the Levy's concession employees and Dodgers security guards and longtime fans. They do it for the kisses that men spontaneously place on Esther's cheek, for the compliments that the prolific Sylvia hears from her bosses, for the joy they feel on opening day, for the tears they shed in October.

"I tell her, she can never quit working, because I can't stop coming to the games," says Esther.

"It kind of does give you a reason to get up in the morning," says Sylvia.

For all its flaws of age, this remains one of the wonderful things about Dodger Stadium. It is Los Angeles' creaky front porch, a place where people come not only to watch baseball games, but to grow old, sustain relevancy, maintain a human touch.

"You don't really see that anymore, do you?" asks Esther Jones, the manager of Sylvia's concession stand. "Two sisters who will do anything to stay together forever? We all get emotional just watching them."

As children growing up in Los Angeles, Sylvia and Esther were separated after the death of their mother. They were reunited when they were in their 20s, and have been living together for the last 50 years. Sylvia is a widow, Esther is divorced, and both are childless.

"Just us," says Esther.

"Well, yeah, us and all those people," says Sylvia.

When Sylvia landed the job at Dodger Stadium in 1972, she could not, for various medical reasons, leave Esther at home alone, so she brought her sister with her to work. She's been doing it ever since, even though it used to mean leaving Esther in the car in the parking lot for a couple of hours before the gates opened.

These days, thanks to the Dodgers' generosity, Esther spends the pregame time waiting inside in the shade, in the top-level media entrance, leaning against a counter and staring into space as the reporters hurry past.

"It's an amazing story," says Diana Chico, a Dodgers security guard. "Everybody knows her, everybody watches out for her."

Then, every night, at precisely 5:20 p.m., a Dodgers employee helps her walk to the wall, where she waits for the elevator door to open and her sister to guide her inside, thus reuniting what has become one of the Dodgers' most memorable double-play combinations.

Esther to Sylvia to life.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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