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BILL PLASCHKE

Bryan Stow's words brighten season of sorrow at Dodger Stadium

On the night of the last home game of the season, the news breaks that Stow reportedly spoke for the first time since being attacked on opening day.

September 22, 2011|Bill Plaschke
  • Bryan Stow is accompanied by neurosurgeon Gabriel Zada, left, as he leaves County-USC Medical Center for a hospital in Northern California in May. Stow was severely beaten in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on opening day.
Bryan Stow is accompanied by neurosurgeon Gabriel Zada, left, as he leaves… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

Tommy Lasorda was holding court in the dugout. Nancy Bea Hefley was waxing melodic by the camera well. Don Mattingly was talking ball by the batting cage.

But before the final major league baseball game at Dodger Stadium this season, only one voice mattered.

"Did you hear?" somebody said. "Bryan Stow talked."

And so, one of the most awful summers in the history of Chavez Ravine ended Thursday with the empty seats and broken promises dusted in hope.

Stow, the Santa Clara paramedic who was beaten into a coma in the parking lot here after an opening day victory over the San Francisco Giants, spoke this week for the first time since then.

It was recorded on his family's blog, which noted that Stow, who suffered severe brain injuries, recited his full name and the name of his children. He reportedly told his sister that he loved her, and said he wanted to see more of his kids.

It was astonishing, awe-inspiring and perhaps even appropriate news, considering the Dodgers were ending their home schedule against the same Giants. After all, in 81 home games, the Dodgers went to hell and halfway back.

They began the season with quiet apprehension blanketing a bankrupt clubhouse and angry fan base. They ended it with thousands singing "Happy Birthday" to a wonderfully uniformed and barking honorary coach named Lasorda.

They began the season with armed guards roaming the stands. They ended it with an arm that will win a Cy Young Award, and how fast is Clayton Kershaw becoming Hollywood's next big thing? Dressed in a sweat shirt and shaggy beard stubble Thursday, he was drawn out of the dugout by roaring fans even though he didn't even pitch.

Make no mistake, this may have been the worst year in Dodgers history, and until someone can pry Frank McCourt's fingers off the wheel, the fans will continue to disappear while the team continues to flounder. But the home schedule ended Thursday with the locals happy to pretend everything was OK while raining love upon a team that played that way, the Dodgers finishing with a winning record at home and a chance the finish the season above .500 overall.

Nearly everything that happens with non-contending teams in September is irrelevant, but these Dodgers said farewell with a surprisingly hearty wave that was far different from those April Dodgers whose hands were only used for wringing.

"You know, I felt a little energy around here the last month or so," said Mattingly with a grin.

You could feel it from the first two Giants batters, Justin Christian and Jeff Keppinger, both grounding out to next year's starting shortstop, a kid named Dee Gordon.

The fans roared at the double scoops, and feel free to check out the numbers of a kid who is batting nearly .300 and had 23 stolen bases — that is not a misprint — in just 49 games.

"I really feel good about the energy he brings," said Mattingly, who intimated that Gordon would have a chance to win next year's job on a team that needs to spend its scant available money elsewhere.

Shortly after Gordon cleared the fans' throats, Matt Kemp brought them to their feet with three doubles and a home run that resulted in the sort of thunderous "M-V-P" chants that have only been heard around here for a guy named Kobe.

Only, Kemp has a much tougher road to the deserved MVP trophy, as his path is filled with hurdles laid out by writers who get stuck on that "V."

The voters need to get over it. Kemp leads the league in runs batted in and runs scored while ranking among the top three in batting average, homers, steals and slugging percentage. Even on baseball's most forgotten bunch, how can those numbers not be considered valuable?

He faces tough competition from the likes of Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Arizona's Justin Upton because both of those players play for a potential championship team. But isn't there already an award for potential championship teams? Isn't that the trophy that is handed out when you win the World Series?

It was, in all, a nice night except when some idiot woman stuck a Giants cap in the camera during the end of Jameson Moss' "Don't Stop Believing" act, momentarily resurrecting old boos and impulsive anger. However, the idiot was removed and things quickly quieted until Kemp's eighth-inning homer brought back the noise.

Unlike most of this summer's nights, a night of forgetting, a night of remembering, a night where Cy Young waved, MVP wailed, Tommy coached, Dodger Stadium sang.

And, glory hallelujah, Bryan Stow talked.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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