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BILL PLASCHKE

Things are lean at Chavez Ravine

On a sunny afternoon, about 8,000 fans attend the Dodgers' victory over the Padres, the smallest crowd of the season and maybe the smallest ever.

August 31, 2011|Bill Plaschke
  • A fan walks to the bottom of the Dodger Stadium pavilion seating in right field during the Dodgers' game against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday afternoon, when the team announced tickets sold at more than 27,000 but there were obviously less than 10,000 in attendance..
A fan walks to the bottom of the Dodger Stadium pavilion seating in right… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

I have reached rock bottom, and it is a hot bleacher in section 314 in the right-field pavilion of Dodger Stadium.

I am sitting here Wednesday afternoon introducing myself to everyone else in this giant section.

All six of them.

"It's sad," says Jose Haro.

"It's lonely," says Javier Casillas.

In a season of bad, it's the worst. The crowd at this midday game between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres appears to be the smallest in a season of empty.

It's the smallest crowd I've seen in my 23 years of following the Dodgers. It might be the smallest crowd in the 49-year history of Dodger Stadium.

The official attendance is 27,767, the second-lowest of the season, but that accounts for the number of tickets sold, not the number of actual people in seats.

This is surely the worst. This is surely not even close. Eleven sections are completely vacant. Most of the pavilion sections are in single digits. The left-field corner section, previously known as Mannywood, is Deadwood, inhabited by precisely 20 people.

There are maybe 8,000 folks here, and if you want an idea about the no-shows, listen to George Aldana, an insurance guy who is sitting with co-workers among the tumbleweeds of Deadwood.

Aldana had an extra ticket, so he phoned his sister, Lisa, a longtime Dodgers fan.

"I offered her the ticket and she said, 'No, I'm not giving any money to Frank McCourt,' " he says.

Saldana replied that he was giving her the ticket for free.

"She said, 'Yeah, but then once I get there, what if I buy a beer? That's still money in McCourt's pocket. No way.' "

Much of this is not news. You have read stories like this before. You have, in fact, probably read this story so many times this summer, your attention has glazed over at the barrage of pitiful depictions of the destruction of this town's sports jewel.

But Wednesday was different. It looked and felt as though the McCourt era had finally, resolutely bottomed out. It was the last weekday afternoon game of the season. It involved one of the few teams worse than the Dodgers. There surely won't be a smaller crowd this season. There has surely been no greater example of fans giving up something they love to spite an owner they despise.

"You look around today and realize that this thing is beyond repair," Aldana says. "We've become the Florida Marlins."

It's broken even for the players, games such as these lacking all feel of urgency or excitement, like spring training with a bigger scoreboard.

"You don't look at which sections are empty, but you sense the energy," says Ted Lilly, who gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings in the Dodgers' 4-2 win over the Padres. "You don't blame the fans, because if we were in first place there would be people in the stands. But right now, this is not the usual Dodger Stadium."

Well, um, in some corners it was.

There might have been plenty of legroom in the stands, but somehow, some way, the concourses were still filled with long, slow, sweaty lines at the concession stands.

Don't ask. Please, just don't ask.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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