Dodgers broadcaster Jerry Doggett interviews Roy Campanella during a Dodgers’ Old Timers luncheon before the 1976 Old Timers Game at Dodger Stadium.
Maybe you need to be in the 45-and-older category to remember with any fondness or romance, the Old Timer’s Games at Dodger Stadium that used to mean something.
We tried to explain some of the better events that began in 1971 and haven’t been back since a corporate-sponsored tour in ’95 in today’s column (linked here).
The comments by Dodgers VP of marketing and public relations, Dr. Charles Steinberg, are fair: If the fans want it back, we’ll find a way to do it. It can be done.
And if anyone can pull this together, it’s Steinberg, who has, in his past, coordinated the last Baltimore Orioles’ game at Memorial Stadium (pulling many former players in for a tribute), the Ted Williams’ ceremony at the Fenway Park All-Star Game and, of course, helping retrieve former Dodgers for their grand Opening Day 2008 celebration at Dodger Stadium — although that didn’t include any kind of Old Timers’ game.
Meaning, as much as it may cost to fly some guys in, put them up at hotels, provide tickets to their family and make new uniforms for them, it’s worth it if the paying customers request it.
We’re not sure how much juice Jay Johnstone has with the current Dodgers management team, but at least he’s trying to push something, even if there’s some possible residual effect for his own non-profit SporThings & More memorabilia company (linked here).
Some other things to consider if Old Timers’ Games are worth reviving:
== Do players from the ’80s, ’90s and 2000 decades form the same kind of bonds that those who played before free-agency? Meaning, did the Old Timers’ Games mean more to the Lou Johnsons and Maury Wills and Clem Labines because of the real team loyalty they had to franchises where they infrequently left as a free agent? Would that prevent some from even wanting to make the effort to play in one of these kinds of games again?
== Do the players want to play hardball, or is a softball game more practical, such as the one they do now with celebrities at All-Star Game festivities?
One more Old Timers’ Game memory and we’ll leave it alone for you to decide whether it’s worth dropping an email to the team to cast a vote for having it return:
We attended one of them at Dodger Stadium in the late ’80s — and who should stroll to the mound to throw but Steve Howe (linked here) — the 1980 Rookie of the Year released by the team in ’85 (he missed the entire ’84 season) after his latest failed drug test.
Howe, of course, hardly looked like an Old Timer. He’d been released by the Minnesota Twins after he tried pitching for them in the last half of ’85. He missed ’86. The Rangers signed him in ’87. … Then, he was done. Apparently.
Howe was throwing so hard that players in the other dugout were yelling at him to slow down. It’s just an exhibition game. Howe, apparently, thought it was worth using as a tryout.
The New York Yankees must have been impressed. They signed him in ’91 and squeezed six more seasons out of him before he left, at age 38, in 1996, somehow pitching in 12 major league seasons. He died in a car accident in April, 2006.
Meaning … if the Dodgers to have an Old Timers Game, or Legends, or Heroes contest, and Jason Schmidt takes the mound, there could be some ulterior motives. But we’re OK with that.