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CHRIS ERSKINE / FAN OF THE HOUSE

Not just a Dodgers fan, but a true jeer leader

Hilda Chester heckled at Ebbets Field in the team's Brooklyn days. By comparison, today's crowd can seem a tame lot.

May 01, 2013|Chris Erskine
  • Hilda Chester, the Brooklyn Dodgers' self-styled No. 1 fan, rings a bell before a crowd of fans in Bear Mountain, N.Y. during an exhibition game on March 29, 1943.
Hilda Chester, the Brooklyn Dodgers' self-styled No. 1 fan, rings… (Charles Kenneth Lucas /…)

Out at the old ballyard exploring the status of that 1st Amendment staple, the baseball heckler, because it's a cool ambivalence that will do us in, not the screamy passions of the borderline insane.

The issue came to mind after hearing that Broadway types are developing a musical about perhaps the greatest heckler of all time, Hilda Chester, who famously shook a cowbell as she snarled at players at Ebbets Field.

For you kids, that's where the Dodgers once toiled under the watchful eye of Howling Hilda, her booming Brooklynese bouncing off the walls. She'd scream like a fishmonger at players and managers, or lead fans in snake dances through the aisles.

In excerpts from the play, by Anne Berlin and Andrew Bleckner, her gift for the language shines through.

"Hey mac youse got some hellava noive. Yeah. Yeah you do."

They don't make them like that anymore. The closest to a Hilda heckle I heard the other night comes after Ted Lilly sends his second Valentine of the first inning over the plate, and fans start yelling at Don Mattingly, as if he lobbed it himself.

Then later, during a video lecture on fan behavior, they loudly boo a clip of Dwight Howard. If ever there was a public referendum on the Lakers center, that was it.

Other than that, the crowd could've used a little of Hilda's verve. Wisecracks go with baseball the way mint jelly goes with lamb.

"Open your other eye, joik. You've got noive like a toothache!"

::

Hey, where's that "whole new blue" they're always talking about? Cell service seems worse than ever at Dodger Stadium, particularly during crowded games (a new system won't be up till at least June).

But the new scoreboard, sound system and murals make for a better fan experience. And those stand-up "drink rails" turn out to be useful gathering places.

Meanwhile, the food woes continue. Tried that Kim Chi Dog, at the Loaded Dogs stand? Should be a mitzvah, right? Should be a revelation.

Having a Kim Chi Dog should be a sign of courage, its sweaty side effects almost malarial, and a big step toward the Dodgers' serving more exciting ethnic fare. After all, the streets of L.A. are the greatest food court in the world.

Sorry to report that it doesn't taste like kim chi to me. Tastes like a second-grade pencil. Tastes like yesterday's sports section.

So here's the culinary line score so far this season:

Blue Heaven Burger: Despite the grilled onions, just another dry and overpriced burger. C-minus.

Street Tacos: Is this fast food or a lab specimen? Looks like it was "plated" the day Abner Doubleday got his first haircut. D-minus.

Kim Chi Dog: The spicy pile of Korean kim chi you'd expect turned out to be a few strands of blah cabbage. F.

In fairness, the Dodgers do not run the concessions. They contract with a giant company called Levy, which also doesn't appear to run the concessions.

Bottom line: No one runs the concessions at Dodger Stadium, L.A.'s most popular restaurant.

This is Frank McCourt's parting gift to you, a long-term contract with a concessionaire that consistently underperforms.

One day, I will open a ballpark cooking school, the Dodgers Institute of Culinary Excellence.

Or Le Cordon Think Blue.

::

Dodger Stadium wish list:

• Charging stations for cellphones.

• Occasional video board diagrams showing the shortest food lines.

• A postgame club on the top deck, with L.A's best view of downtown.

::

Meanwhile, there's a lion on the loose at L.A. Live, where the Kings are marking the playoffs by sending their mascot, Bailey, on a four-day camp-out near the Starbucks.

Why a lion? He's king of the jungle. Lousy conversationalist, but he keeps the rats away.

So far, lice don't seem to be a problem during the long camp-out, and there was hardly a tick in sight about 9 p.m. the other night as Bailey played miniature golf or tailgate games with a dozen fans at the all-night campsite.

A fake campfire glowed, and a couple of couches faced a big screen under the RV awning, where sports movies played. The lion's den started Saturday and ran through midweek, but there is a chance of extending.

"We'll stay through the Stanley Cup, if they want us to," said lion tamer/handler Tim Smith.

You know, Tim, it's already a zoo down there.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

twitter.com/erskinetimes

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