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At my first Dodgers game this year, on June 6, I watched rookie Yasiel Puig step up to the plate—bases loaded, bottom of the eighth—and plug a high fly into deep right. Puig was only four games into his major league debut and already on a hitting streak. If I could pinpoint the moment when things turned around for the team, I’d say that grand slam was it. In the stands that night, along with the requisite high fives, hugs with strangers, and head-shaking disbelief that accompany a remarkable play, there was a palpable optimism. And the optimism panned out: With ace hitting and pitching all around, the Dodgers have created a storied season. I don’t know whether the team will have made it to the World Series by the time this magazine reaches your hands, but holy mackerel, as announcer Vin Scully would say, what a juggernaut the 2013 club has been.
It’s always easier to root for a winner than a loser, and I’m sure the team has scored some fair-weather fans this summer. My love affair dates to the Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey infield that played together from 1973 to 1981 (talk about longevity). It was a rare summer day that my brother Steve’s transistor wasn’t set to Scully’s baritone. I didn’t make a habit of going to games until my nephew Chase fell for baseball at seven years old. My husband and I became regulars with him in the top deck, where we watched the sun sigh out its last light on the mountains, listening to the echoes of cracking bats as we passed a heap of decadent garlic fries between us.
Chase is 21 now, but his devotion to the Dodgers—despite all of the ups and downs—hasn’t faltered. I’ve had many moments of doubt myself. I griped about GMs who made boneheaded trades. I cursed the O’Malley family for letting the city’s beloved franchise slip into the hands of Rupert Murdoch and Frank McCourt, owners who took their character cues from the fat cats at Tammany Hall. I was so incensed by the park’s removal of the Cool-A-Coo ice cream sandwich a decade ago that I wrote a story about it. (Among the many good decisions the new owners have made, returning the Cool-A-Coo this year is up there with signing Puig.) I was reminded of what a die-hard fan Chase has been when I recently helped him pack his room. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz in June and has decided to move up north (fear not, he will always hate the Giants). Into his keepsake boxes went giveaways from years past—the bobblehead dolls, the Eric Gagne glue-on goatee, the stacks of deteriorating ticket stubs that survived final rinses in his jean pockets. Chase would never dream of leaving a game in the seventh inning, no matter who’s in the lead. As this season has shown, that is an excellent life lesson.