From white towels to Jack White (and a dancing rogue bear to consider), what really gets Dodger fans pumped up in playoff time?


The white flag, a universal symbol of surrender, has become a statement of showmanship and a perceived advantage for the Dodger Stadium fans this post season.
Which makes no sense, no matter how you want to run that Mickey Mouse idea up the flagpole.
Every ticket holder is given a MLB-certified and licensed towel as they enter the stadium for a Dodgers 2013 playoff game.
Monday, it was white, emblazoned with a blue “LA” interlocking logo and another patch commemorating the postseason.
For Tuesday’s game, it was a solid blue motif.
A mistake?
“I think they’ve made a big mistake,” Vin Scully said in the second inning of the radio broadcast. “Dodger blue rally flags today don’t make the same impact (as the white ones). A Dodger blue rally flag is like playing golf with a green ball. You just lose it.”
Wednesday, they’re going back to white for the 1 p.m. start, just to switch things up.
Too late?
During Monday’s Game 3 NLCS broadcast, TBS analyst Cal Ripken wondered if the white towels had an effect on the Cardinal outfielders who seemed to have problems judging fly balls in key situations – such as the double that Mark Ellis hit between John Jay and Carlos Beltran that neither seemed to be able to track, starting a two-run rally in the bottom of the fourth.
“Sometimes, it’s a lights issue with a stadium, but sometimes a ball can get lost in these fans,” Ripken said. “Everyone’s waving white towels. It’s quite conceivable you’re not tracking the white ball well in this stadium. That’s definitely a home-field advantage.”
Interesting point. Except when Ellis hit his fly ball to lead off the fourth inning, there was no towel-waving. That came in celebration afterward.
By the way, during Games 1 and 2 in St. Louis, fans at Busch Stadium twirled white towels to their advantage as well. Maybe Andre Ethier lost that Beltran drive to center field because of . . . naw.

This is the kind of stuff that Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright (above) famously complained about back in 2009 during the NL Division Series. Why again did Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday lose a soft line drive hit by James Loney with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 2 that started an improbable rally and led to a three-game Dodgers sweep?
“He lost the ball in 50,000 white towels shaking in front of his face,” Wainwright griped back then. “It doesn’t really seem fair that opposing teams should be able to shake white towels when there’s a white baseball flying in the air. Dodger blue towels, how about that?”
Fair enough. Holliday later said he lost the ball in a bank of lights.
Tuesday, he didn’t seem to have a problem seeing through blue towels when he crushed a home run deep into the Dodgers’ bullpen for a 3-0 Cardinals lead.
Rally towels are neither new nor cool. Why even give them out? Maybe because fans feel entitled to that extra token of appreciation, a playoff perk to show their friends later that they were actually there for this exclusive souvenir.
Dodger fans have become much more engaged in these post-season games without any pandering or prompting. Not even from a guy who dressed up in a giant “Ted” bear outfit with a Dodger jersey in Game 3 (see video above), leaped over the retaining wall and did the splits on the top of the Cardinals dugout roof in the eighth inning – right in front of Dustin Hoffman — before he was escorted out by security.
(How do sneak a bear costume past security in the first place? He’s now talking.)

Instead of white towels, check out that video adaption of The White Stripes song, “Seven Nation Army” that resonates more at the stadium these days.
Those seven pulsating bass guitar riffs accompanied by an edgy black-and-white video highlighted by blue streaks will show hands clapping, then Dodger player images and the “L.A.” logo moving in a rhythmic procession toward the camera.
It’s been so effective, fans record it on their smart phones off the outfield video screens and put them up on YouTube.
Want to be original? Go more Jack White, less white towels.Believe us, it’s already made “Don’t Stop Believin’” seem so 2012.

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TBS puts its trust in Truss Cam, that thing you see flying around the Dodger Stadium outfield wall

The Truss Cam was able to follow Mark Ellis' fly ball to right field during the NLCS Game 3 that fell between Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, left, and center fielder John Jay in the fifth inning Monday.

The Truss Cam was able to follow Mark Ellis’ fly ball to right-center  field during the NLCS Game 3 that fell between Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, left, and center fielder John Jay in the bottom of the fourth inning Monday.

It weighs about 250 pounds, can get up to about 30 miles per hour in a burst of speed if necessary and, once the MLB playoffs are done, it may remembered as one TBS’ most innovative elements of its baseball coverage.

And it has nothing to do with Cal Ripken Jr.

The network calls its Truss Cam, a large black snow-globe looking thing that fans at Dodger Stadium may have noticed peeking up above the outfield wall during Monday’s NLCS Game 3.

A 360-degree gyroscopic camera often used in helicopter shots has been a new visual tool to capture a different view of players chasing down fly balls, runners going from first to third and, if needed, provide a panoramic framework of the pavilion spectators.

The TrussCam along the Dodger Stadium right-field wall (Photo by Pictorvision)

The Truss Cam along the Dodger Stadium right-field wall (Photo by Pictorvision)

Van Nuys-based Pictorvision partnered with Special Camera Systems out of Germany to engineer the stabilized device rolling on 36 wheels, and on Friday afternoon were asked by TBS to expand from 136 feet  to a run of 200-feet of raised track from left-center to right-center field for the NLCS. But the key was overcoming a huge obstacle – how to break the track apart when the center-field gates need to be open for emergency vehicles and equipment storage before and after the game.



With just one day’s notice, Pictorvision relied on Stage-Tech of Santa Fe Springs, to design and build a custom 70-foot piece of track that spans dead center field.  Literally over night they came up with a clever design utilizing an ingenious combination of standard couplers that allow the rails to come apart and slide back as the two hinged gates at the 395-foot sign swing open.

Otherwise the camera system would have been limited to just right-center field, as it was during the NLDS. The success of it during the Dodgers-Atlanta series inspired its expanded use for the NLCS, as it takes up just a short part of the 7-foot space that exists between the back of the wall and the start of the stairwells to the bleacher seats.

The tracks also have to sit low enough along the wall to not interfere with an outfielder reaching over the fence to make a catch, and the lens sets behind the fence as well.

“It probably provides one of the few dynamic shots left in baseball because it’s all about  movement instead of being stationary,” said Pictorvision president Tom Hallman, standing out beyond the center field wall on Monday afternoon to supervise. “It’s remarkable, a very robust system, completely wireless without batteries or cables, and it can go on a track as long as they want.” Continue reading

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Where were you 25 years ago for the Gibson Game 1 World Series home run?

At 8:37 p.m. on Oct. 15, 1988, Kirk Gibson reached out across the plate from the left-handed batters box at Dodger Stadium.
He flipped his bat awkwardly with as much arm strength has he could generate since his legs were of little use at that point.
The result was a fly ball that kept going and going and going, and the backdoor slider from future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley landed in the right-field pavilion.
On the replays, maybe you see the red tail lights from people hitting the breaks on their cars as they’re leaving the stadium parking lot, convinced the game was over.
Anyone else who stayed in the park for that moment wasn’t going anywhere.
Gibson’s two-run pinch-hit home run wasn’t just one for the ages, but for the rages. The only thing missing were sparks flying out of the Dodger Stadium light standards, and Robert Redford greeting Gibson at home plate.

The Dodgers’ 5-4 heart-stopping comeback win over the Oakland Athletics with two out in the bottom of the ninth in Game 1 of the World Series was the launching point to an improbable 4-1 series victory capped five days later in Oakland.
Or, as Vin Scully described it on the NBC telecast: “In the year of the improbable, the impossible has happened.”
miracle_menIn author Josh Suchon’s recently published book, “Miracle Men,” recapping that season, Scully admitted: “My only thought when he came up to hit was, ‘Please God, don’t let him strike out.’ My thought was only being this is the national stage. This guy has been absolutely inspirational all year long, spurring on the team.”
Scully then admitted afterward, like most, he couldn’t sit down.
“I kept walking and walking, trying to burn off whatever energy this was, that was manufactured by the home run.”
Suchon, the former KABC (710) DodgerTalk co-host currently calling games for the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, was a huge A’s fan living in the Bay Area at the time.
He devoted 37 pages in his 330-page book to that game, “but I could have done another 37 pages just on people’s memories.” Continue reading

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Play It Forward: Oct. 14-20 on your sports calendar: If Dodgers-Cards get to a Game 7, will it overshadow USC-Notre Dame and UCLA-Stanford?

Another busy sports week in L.A. and beyond:


(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, Monday, 5 p.m., TBS:

Yasiel Puig covers his eyes in the dugout during the seventh inning of Game 2 of the NLCS in St. Louis.  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Yasiel Puig covers his eyes in the dugout during the seventh inning of Game 2 of the NLCS in St. Louis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Zack Greinke isn’t coming back on two day’s rest. Clayton Kershaw isn’t coming back on one day’s rest. The rest of the Dodgers pitching staff couldn’t do much better than their co-aces, who surrendered a total of three runs in the first two games of the series. But that’s what they’ll essentially have to do in order to keep this going past Wednesday night, while the offense, scoreless in the last 22 innings, tries to figure out if Hanley Ramirez can make a return and if Yasiel Puig (0-for-10 with six strikeouts in this series) knows where the holes are in his bat. “We started off this season on a low note and we started this series on a low note,” Adrian Gonzalez said. “We have the ability to turn it around. Stay with us just like you did during the year and we’ll turn it around.” Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright will make things even tougher on them in Game 3 against the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, while Lance Lynn is expected to go in Game 4 against Ricky Nolasco, unless he’s bumped again, this time for Greinke.
Game 4 at Dodger Stadium, Tuesday, 5 p.m., TBS:
Game 5 at Dodger Stadium, Wednesday, 1 p.m., TBS
If necessary: Game 6 at St. Louis, Friday, 5 p.m., TBS
If necessary: Game 7 at St. Louis, Saturday, 5 p.m., TBS

THE BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

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How the ‘Drabble factor’ speaks volumes for Scully fans this time of year

DrabbleIt’s a piece of art work that, quite frankly, speaks for itself.

That’s because Kevin Fagan speaks for almost every Southern Californian who follow a Dodgers’ postseason run this time of year.

It may have been just one amidst the thousands of “Drabble” comic strips Fagan has drawn over the last 34 years, but the understated tribute to Vin Scully is likely resonated so much so among Dodger fans that it quickly found a spot of honor on many refrigerator doors, probably held up in place by an “L.A.” logo magnet.

kevinfagan-blogbanner1“It’s the way I’ve watched Dodger playoff games for as long as I can remember,” said the 57-year old father of three from his home in Mission Viejo. “The last time it happened (2009), I can remember how frustrating it got trying to listen to him on radio with the delay (matched up against the network TV video), so I just turned the TV off. I’d rather listen to him than watch with any other announcers.”

So this is a storyline Fagan has been sitting on for four years?

Not only that, consider he had to submit the strip six weeks before it actually published in some 200 papers across the nation, including all of those in the Los Angeles News Group.

That meant Fagan had to take a calculated risk in early September when he thought the Dodgers would actually be in the post season. It ended up landing on the off day between Games 2 and 3 from the Dodgers-Braves NL Divisional Series, on Saturday, Oct. 5.

“Talk about grace under pressure,” Scully said when told about how Fagan pulled that one off. Continue reading

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Dodgers sources confirm Collins, Lyons not renewed for ’14 season

collins_lyons_coloradoEric Collins and Steve Lyons, who have been the TV pairings on Dodgers’ road telecasts in place of Vin Scully for the last five seasons, will not be returning to the team’s broadcast team, two sources within the organization confirmed.

Lyons, a broadcaster with the Dodgers the last nine seasons, sent out a tweet early Saturday that confirmed: “I will not return with the Dodgers in any role in ’14. Shattered, but not broken. I still LOVE this team.”

During the final Dodgers telecast on Prime Ticket on Sept. 29, Lyons thanked Fox Sports president Ed Goren for giving him his start 15 years prior “even though they eventually had to fire me.” Lyons thanked the Dodger fans for “letting me talk about my passion.”

After a 17-year partnership with Prime Ticket for covering the team’s games, the Dodgers plan to expand their broadcasting needs starting next season when their SportsNet L.A. channel launches, with the help of Time Warner Cable. The Dodgers plan to have studio shows airing 24/7 around games.

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Tracking your opinion on how PitchTrax works for you on TBS’ coverage

Are you a fan of TBS’s PitchTrax? free polls 

Side tracked enough yet by gazing at TBS’ PitchTrax yet during the Dodgers’ playoff coverage?
Not that it’s a complete dis-Trax-ion.
You’d think most of us would be used to it by now. Yet, the more we see it, the more we tend to focus too much on it. Not in a good way.
Years of Dodgers and Angels coverage on Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket have avoided such a video-game type graphic, and we’re thankful. But other Fox regional networks use it on their local coverage.
TBS has used it for years now, refining it on its regular-season Sunday package of games that you’ve most likely checked out infrequently.
i-cb50ca7d60826d7f761aad9f2ad9e2cb-Strike_Zone_Midway_CarnivalThe pros: If accurate, it’s another decent tool to demonstrate things such as how a) Yasiel Puig really does swing at a lot of balls or b) an ump can change the zone to his liking no matter what the computer says, and the players seem to live with it as long as he’s consistent.
The cons: If you start relying on it as an exact science, you miss the point.
It’s daunting enough to try to figure out just what the rectangle box with red and green circled numbers means after a while. During some extended at bats, it looks like an overhead shot of a billiards table.
Where we found it somewhat compelling was in how it showed the way Dodgers starter Zack Greinke worked the zone during his outing in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The first time Greinke faced Cardinals No. 2 hitter Carlos Beltran, for example, was a three-pitch, all called strikes at bat.
The first two pitches nicked the outer edge of the strike zone box. The third, a backdoor slider, was a hair outside. But umpire Gerry Davis called Beltran out. Beltran stood at the plate a bit baffled, but walked away.
In the third inning, after Greinke set down eight in a row, he gave up a single to pitcher Joe Kelly. Then came a walk to Matt Carpenter.
DSC02509Beltran came up again with Greinke suddenly on the ropes.
First pitch: Taken low, ball one.
Second pitch: Shows that it hits the bottom left of the batter’s box. Beltran takes it. Davis calls ball two.
Third pitch: Low and just outside the box. Beltran swings and misses. Strike one.
Fourth pitch: Way outside. Ball three.
Fifth pitch: Bottom right of the strike zone. Beltran swings, ropes a double off the center field wall to tie the game 2-2.
What did we learn from that exchange? Not quite sure. But maybe the fact Greinke got the border-line strike call the first time, but not the second time, was either just how the graphic was calibrated, or that Davis was adjusting his calls to how Greinke performed at the moment.
It’s left to our own confusing interpretation, really.
maxresdefaultWhen the Dodgers start up their own network next season, will they resort to such employing it based on a producer’s philosophy on how to do a game that’s supposed to be more in tune with how younger viewers are used to watching?
Or is there already enough clutter on a TV screen, having more real estate to cover because of today’s wide-screen technology. It may be that we’ve finally been able to finally decipher that score/ball/strike/out/base runner dot-pattern on the top left corner as a baseball instrument rather than a bowling alley scratch pad.
Would a Dodger PitchTrax cause Vin Scully to adjust the way he describes a game on TV? It could. And if it did, would we all be better for it?
Keep watching, and see how it starts to skew your judgment, right or wrong. Then decide if it’s something you want in your wheelhouse. Continue reading

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The proof at USC is in a Thursday night pudding … Anyone watching?

Ed Orgeron, right, celebrates a touchdown with running back Silas Redd during the first half of their game against Arizona on Thursday. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Ed Orgeron, right, celebrates a touchdown with running back Silas Redd during the first half of their game against Arizona on Thursday. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

So we’ve learned this week that to make a USC football player happy, just give him a cookie. Or a plate of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.

Even better: Toss in a 62-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes into a game, as Cody Kessler discovered could happen with Nelson Agholor on Thursday night. Or another one of 63 yards from Kessler to a wide open Tre Madden over the middle a few minutes later.

After each one of those, Ed Orgeron was right there to deliver pats on the backside and fist pumps in the air, which occurred with some frequency during those last two things in a 38-31 victory over Arizona that kind of got loose in the end during his first game as the interim coach.

A lot of that will make a USC football fan happy, too. But you’ve got to do more than just throw him a bone.

Changing coaches and laying the ground work for a new direction in a dour program is something that has promise. But we can promise that no matter how much Trojan followers may have wanted to celebrate, it’s still a tough sell to have a game on a Thursday night here and pretend it’s a “happening.”

This isn’t Layfayette, La. It’s metropolitan L.A. Having about 40,000 there at a kickoff, or even an announced crowd of 64,215 by the end of it after many had already turned around and left after half time, doesn’t do much to impress curious TV viewers watching across the nation.

Not even if you were to wise enough to give out free passes to Roscoe’s to thank all of those who didn’t stay home and watch from a far. Continue reading

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Weekly media column version 10.11.13 — If you’re looking for a new skipper, go see Cal?

95591009_640What made it into this week’s media column:
An expanded version of the blog we did Thursday morning concerning TBS MLB analyst Cal Ripken Jr.

What didn’t make it in but really should have:
== More from our chat with Ripken on always thinking like a manager:

sns-faters-day-sports-figures-ripken-jpg“My dad, and Earl Weaver, told me to think about what you’d do in a situation and make a decision while it’s happening. If the manager takes a pitcher out, ask if you’d do the same. You get the benefit of having it play out if you agree, but if you disagree, you never know the results. But it’s always been a good mental exercise. So when I’m watching the Dodgers-Braves in Game 4, you have to pay attention to the bullpens. Do you stretch (Braves closer Craig) Kimbrel? You’d be tempted to do that. There’s all the lefty-righty matchups. Don (Mattingly) used all three lefties in one game, so you’re wondering who’d you bring in.
“In Game 4, a manager would be pinned down on his decision to use Clayton Kershaw on three days rest of there’ no Juan Uribe home run. ‘You only got six innings out of Kershaw?’ To me, the defense didn’t play that well, and if they did, and he pitched into the seventh and had success leaving with a 2-0 lead, then there’s a different story. You always run the risk of making decisions, but that’s why you have a great support staff. It’s not just a committee making a decision, it’s an organizational decision that ultimately falls on the manager in that case.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

“In Game 2, Donnie’s decision was whether to pitch to (Jose) Constanza with first base open (in the seventh inning). Which matchup do you want? I believe it played out with Paco Rodriguez just how Donnie planned it (pitching to left-handed hitter Jason Heyward). There was a million ways to go there. I’d prefer to take that Costanza matchup with a power pitcher like Rodriguez and first base open, but Donnie knows his team way better than I do, and way better than anyone who covers the team. And he said so afterward: If it works, it’s a genius move. If not, there’s always criticism. You make decisions and live and die with them.
“I believe Don has always been a good baseball guy. He’s sitting in the hot seat now, the game speeds up, and you learn about yourself as a manager, just as you do when it happens and you’re a player. I think he delegates well and has different people with many different responsibilities. So it’s cool.”

Continue reading

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