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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Dodgers move outfield fence, January 10, 1959



1959_0110_coliseum


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The Dodgers announced they were moving the Coliseum fences in and The Times saw it as a victory for Duke Snider.

The dimensions were reduced in center (425 feet to 410) and right-center fields (440 to 385). The short porch and tall screen in left field weren't changed. The Times' Frank Finch noted that Snider hit 40 or more home runs in five consecutive seasons but hit only six home runs in the Coliseum in 1957.

"Time after time enemy outfielders camped under drives by Duke which would have been home runs in other National League parks," Finch wrote.

But Snider, in a story last year by The Times' Ross Newhan, blamed a 1957 knee surgery more than the Coliseum for his power decline. "That was before arthroscopic surgery and the knee was never the same," Snider said. "I was never the same hitter, I had to change my whole style. I had to try to be more of a contact hitter, a tough adjustment when you've been a free swinger your entire career."

Snider was no fan of the ballpark, however. "Baseball deserves its own identity," he said. "It shouldn't ever be piecemealed into a football and track stadium, which is what the Coliseum is."

One strange thing about the original story: General manager Buzzie Bavasi said the Dodgers wanted to get Manager Walt Alston's approval before making the changes official.

--Keith Thursby

 
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Comments (1)

What I cannot understand about major league professional baseball is how the dimensions of the playing field could be "adjusted" so easily. Football fields are 100 yards. Basketball courts have set dimensions. But the dimensions of baseball fields can be changed. And are so variable. These things decide games and seasons. Not to mention careers.

How many home runs did Babe Ruth hit in Yankee Stadium over the short right field fence that would have been an out in other parks? 100? 150?

How many years would elapse after Duke Snider lead the National League in Homers in 1956 that a Dodger would lead the league again? 48 years in 2004. And not once since. What does that say about Dodger Stadium?

Contrast that to Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Before it was enclosed for pro football, Giant players lead the National League in Home Runs seven times in 11 years. How many ordinary fly balls were blown out of the playing field by the wind in that park?

5500 saw the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans in a College Basketball doubleheader at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. John Wooden's name does get mentioned at the bottom of the article, although the story's prominence is given to future Louisville coach Denny Crum, then a starter for UCLA. The odd thing about this story is that this game was on January 9, 1959. The Bio for Denny Crum on the University of Louisville website says Denny Crum graduated from UCLA in 1958. Did they allow postgraduates to play basketball in the NCAA in 1959?
Is there a scandal here?


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