The Beach Boys sing the national anthem for the Dodgers' home opener… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
This one’s not for everyone. There’s not a whole lot that involves the Dodgers, and it’s admittedly personal.
But these moments come to us at some point, though clearly the perks of being a sportswriter make them much more common. The opportunity arrives in a flash, normally without warning, and if you don’t act quickly is gone forever.
This is about Brian Wilson. No, not the Giants’ curious reliever. This is about Brian Wilson, Beach Boys legend.
The moment occurred at the Dodgers’ 2012 home opener against the Pirates on April 10. The Beach Boys, celebrating the start of the 50th anniversary tour, were to sing a song and the national anthem. It was an attempted marketing gimmick by the Dodgers, tying the iconic Southern California rock group to their own 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium.
The Beach Boys arrived on the field that Tuesday afternoon following batting practice. The field was littered with team officials and media and quasi-celebrities, when Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, David Marks and Wilson emerged wearing Dodgers jerseys.
I tried to hide being a tad star-struck. The Beach Boys had been the background music to my youth, when I was just another grimmy with a St. Christopher’s medal around his neck. Wilson was their primary composer, arranger and producer, the "genius" of the group.
He was taller than I expected, and walked slowly with a careful gait. His face was mostly expressionless. Maybe it was the battles with mental illness, but Wilson -- then 69 years old –- seemed hard to measure.
After milling around the field awhile to take in the rest of the group as they gave interviews, I decided it was time to head back to the press box. That’s a journey that begins next to the dugout, down a few steps and through a couple of hallways to a stairwell. As I made a left to the first hallway, there silently sat Wilson on a small plastic folding chair, with what I presumed was a personal assistant standing quietly at attention by his side.
Maybe he was tired, or uncomfortable amid the confusion on the field, or ironically, just wanted out of the sun. But there he was, finding a brief respite, an almost symbolically solitary figure.
As I walked by, I managed a weak, "Hi, Brian," and he responded in kind. And that was it. I just kept walking. And it’s haunted me ever since.
It was the absolute perfect opportunity to stop for just a moment and personally thank him for the years of absolute pleasure his music has brought me. To let him know how his life’s creative work had resonated. How his labor of artistic love, his prolific inspiration had touched a kid from Whittier throughout a lifetime.
Maybe it would have registered, maybe not. I like to think it would have. That a small, heartfelt thanks would have been appreciated.