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St. Patrick's Day and the Dodgers: the passing of a special time

Dodgers-green_400 They’ll be wearing the green, but little else will feel like St. Patrick’s Day when the Dodgers host the White Sox on Wednesday.

St. Patrick’s Day used to be the biggest day of the spring during the Dodgers’ 61-year stay in Vero Beach, Fla. It was less a day than an event.

It seemed an all-day, and, for many, all-night celebration. It harkened to the O’Malleys' Irish roots, and the family made it a special happening.

Since several players, all of the minor leaguers and much of the front office staff stayed at Dodgertown in the old barracks, they would be on base and all seemed to participate. They would dine on Irish food in the evening, then move down the hall to the infamous Dodgertown lounge for the green beer. A festive mood enveloped the entire base.

The Dodgers will wear their once-a-year green Dodgers caps today, a move long ago copied by most teams. There will be green uniforms and bases.

And that will really be the end of any nod to St. Patrick’s Day. I understand the logistical reasons for moving to Phoenix, and the camp has a more practical, functional layout.

But there has been a noticeable trade-off in a connection to family ownership and the community. Vero Beach embraced the Dodgers, not only financially, but emotionally. It was their team. Now the Dodgers feel like just another Phoenix-area ballclub.

Vero Beach identified with the Dodgers so deeply, that because of the way the O’Malleys treated the day, the entire town adopted St. Patrick’s Day like a special holiday.

Time marches on, but this one connection is a lamentable passing.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: The Dodgers say goodbye to Vero Beach on St. Patrick's Day 2008. Credit: Orlin Wagner / Associated Press

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Very little is sadder than breaking a 60 year tradition, but the Dodgers playing closer to home, where most of their fans are, has to be seen as a good move.
Happy St. Paddy's day.

Very good post. Yep, you're probably right...the Dodgers have become just another Phoenix-area club. I'll bet when the Dodgers left Vero Beach they said it wasn't personal, it was just business. Well, at least spring training is now closer to the main fan base.

I spent 26 of the last 61 years in Vero Beach attending every Dodger spring training game; there was nothing like Dodgertown and nothing like Dodgertown on St. Patrick's Day. The Dodgers were Vero Beach, a special place. Just a wonderful sense of community, a charm that cannot be replicated in AZ. The Dodgers leaving Vero is like if the Cubs left Wrigley Field or the Red Sox left Fenway. Vero helped the Dodgers maintain their east coast fan base from the Brooklyn days. It was all about $$$ that McCourt left Vero & went to AZ. As Peter O'Malley has said he would have never left Vero, he would have found another way to generate revenue. It might make sense for the Dodgers to have spring training in AZ, closer to LA but west coast Dodger fans have 81 games to see their team at Dodger Stadium every year. And Vero Beach Dodgertown was one of a kind, the best spring training site for fans ever; a mystique, the place where the ghosts of Jackie, Campy, the Twin D, Gil, Pee Wee, will forever be. The Dodgers have lost their distinction going to AZ & and now are just another team in the desert. It might make fiscal sense, but McCourt & the Dodgers will live to regret the move.

the McCourts should be standing in the door ways in their Leprechaun costumes handing out fresh dollar bills to their fans.

Think of the goodwill!!

besides, they'd get them back within minutes anyway

Yes, traditions are nice, but the trade-off of having the team 1,232 miles closer to LA fans beats the memories of Floridians and other East Coasters who never got to Dodger Stadium or followed the team once the season started. There'll be that many more newer memories for all the folks who can take in a game or a weekend or more in Arizona, versus the much fewer who saw them in stickier weather in an environment relatively alien to what the team would play in during the regular season. Once the Dodgers left the East, it stopped making sense to keep the team in Vero.

I've experienced games in Vero and last winter had the equal pleasure seeing games in Glendale. Both are nice, and i found Glendale's experience in the new park is no less pleasant. The Dodgers have played more games in LA than they did in Brooklyn. Brooklyn was then. LA is now. The move was way overdue.

For all the questionable aspects of his ownership, Frank McCourt's smart decision to move to Arizona will be remembered as visionary and, considering the whimpering forever issuing from the sticks in the mud, gutsy. Walter O'Malley likewise is still unjustifiably reviled for rescuing the Dodgers from the dump where fans loved the team so much they couldn't bear to show up for the games. Imagine the team winning 6 pennants in 10 years and having the millions of "fans", whose whining has never ceased for O'Malley's escape from Ebbets Field, leave one-quarter of the small park vacant each opening day, and continue to avoid the park as each excellent season progressed. Yeah, that was the Brooklyn experience few CAN remember. The past deserves to be forgotten in favor of the Now.

For the logistics, the move makes sense.
For the Dodger fan in me -- a west coast Dodger fan -- it's sad not to see Vero this year.

I so enjoyed listening to Vero games, that silly bell and the small-park atmosphere. I wished I could've gotten there before it shut down. The St. Patty's day uniforms and celebration, what I could see of 'em, were a fun part of spring.

I know time marches on, but part of baseball is nostalgia, magic, and field of dreams. It's not all moneyball, huge salaries, and drug scandals.

Vero Beach is part of the former, part of the same magic that makes us listen to Vin Scully. It feels like Dodger tradition is crumbling away piece by piece.

For the McCourts, it's just business.

For some of us, Dodger traditions still matter.

However, there's enough fans that don't care about them that it's not good business to cater to sentiment. We'll stay home (the noise level of rock music compared to Nancy Bea's organ playing made me want to stay home with Vin) and the new generation of fans can have their day.

The Dodgers played 67 years in Brooklyn while they have been in LA for 52 years. Baseball is about the past: the records, the memories; these will never be forgotten nor should they. Baseball has thrived because of its' rich history and Vero Beach Dodgertown is part of that magical history.


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