Nos. 1-10: Our Top 50 most important sports venues in So Cal history (does Hollywood Park crack it?)

A follow up from an earlier blog post:
How does Hollywood Park rank in the Top 50 of all the most important sports venues in Southern California history?
Consider this the top 10:

aerial1. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum: Aside from some unpopular opinion, the place has managed to stay classic, and classy, as the center piece to two Summer Olympics (1932, ’84), the first Super Bowl (’67), the Dodgers’ 1959 World Series and the home of USC football since its opening in 1923 (and UCLA’s home from ’28-to’81). It is also gave shelter to the first major pro sports franchise in L.A. when the NFL’s Rams moved here from Cleveland, and also held three NFL championships. The Raiders came crawling here as well before eventually they, and the Rams, decided to leave when they couldn’t get their way. International soccer matches, X Games, XFL games, Super Cross events and even an Evel Knievel jump are included in its legacy. The flame keeps on burning over remodeling modifications, historical landmark designations and, at last, USC stepping in as the caretaker. Over the next 10 years, there will be more improvements that keep it in this top spot.

dodger-stadium-sunset2. Dodger Stadium: The place Walter O’Malley put into the side of a towndown hillside doesn’t look a day over 52, with more upgrades coming. And give Frank McCourt some credit for going back to the retro-color original seats a few years back. The venue may want to stretch its boundaries by hosting soccer, moto-cross and an outdoor hockey game next month, but it simply doesn’t have to resort to such gimmickry.

Rose_Bowl_main3. Rose Bowl: Built simultaneously as the Coliseum was going up in downtown L.A., the Pasadena icon not only is the place many traditionally prefer to welcome the new year since 1923, but it has become more accommodating to four BCS title games (including the final one next month), five Super Bowls and FIFA World Cup title matches for men (’94) and women (’99). Pssst: it also had the 1983 Army-Navy football game, as well staging track cycling in the ’32 Olympics. Just be quiet about it. The neighbors are getting cranky.

Pauley_Pavilion4. Pauley Pavilion: The House That Wooden Built opened for UCLA’s ’65-66 basketball season, was remodeled for the ’12-13 season, and should remain a landmark as long as banners keep hanging from the rafters. Plus, it was the perfect place for Mary Lou Retton to show what perfection looked like during the ’84 Olympic gymnastics.

bforumer5. The Forum: The place Jack Nicholson referred to as “The Giant Ashtray” in Hollywood Park-adjacent was Jack Kent Cooke’s palace for his Lakers and Kings starting in 1967. The a state-of-the art “Showtime” throwback to Roman decadence eventually was the first to figure out how to work the commercial naming rights game. It’s making a comeback as a concert venue. How about another indoor rodeo someday?

STAPLES CENTER6. Staples Center: The downtown L.A. super-sized facility on Figueroa for the Lakers, Clippers and Kings since 1999 has established itself as the place where tables are turned over faster than a five-star restaurant to accommodate as many as four events in a 48-hour period. Even with all those statues outside of guys who never played there, it has seen seven NBA finals, a Stanley Cup pass-around, world figure skating and championship tennis, X Games, UFC, boxing . . . and Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game. And all other kinds of Grammy glitz to add to its crossover appeal.

santa-anita-park7. Santa Anita Park: Arcadia’s art deco monument often referred to as the world’s most beautiful race track with the San Gabriel Mountains as the backdrop. No lies. Since its opening on Christmas, 1934, it has survived attempts to close it up to expand local retail outlets. Thankfully, it survived, has hosted seven Breeders’ Cups. You can still visit Seabiscuit’s original stall and barn. And it remains one of the last major sporting facilities in the country without lights.

Grand-Olympic-Auditorium8. Grand Olympic Auditorium: When used for boxing, wrestling and weightlifting at the 1932 Olympics, it was the largest indoor arena in the country of its kind with 15,300 seats. Too bad roller derby and pro wrestling events weren’t Olympic disciplines then, too. The place where the 1976 Oscar-winning movie “Rocky” was filmed was finally sold off to a Korean Christian church. Too late to put up a fight and reclaim it?

riviera-cc-019. Riviera Country Club: The Palisades park known as “Hogan’s Alley” has held three major golf events, including the ’48 U.S. Open, as well as standing firm for the PGA’s L.A. stop. A private club, but a public jewel, it even had some ’32 Olympic equestrian events on its facilities. Hence, the kikuyu outbreak. The fact Tiger Woods doesn’t care to come back doesn’t hurt the place at all.

Los_angeles_memorial_sports_arena310. Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena: The first home of the Lakers (’60-’67), the Kings (’67), Clippers (’84-’99) also had USC and UCLA basketball, the ’68 and ’72 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, major indoor track events (Sunkist Invitational from ’60 to ’04), and top-notch boxing during the ’84 Olympics. Could it be next to go? Current owners USC are looking into tearing it down and replacing it with a “soccer-specific” stadium for an MLS team. Go for it.

Next: Numbers 11-25 …

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Where does Hollywood Park fit on a list of the most important sports venues in Southern California history?

Albert Razo, left, Rafael Chaidez, center, and Juan Renterea tamp holes left by horses after a race at  Hollywood Park after the day's events on Dec. 15.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Albert Razo, left, Rafael Chaidez, center, and Juan Renterea tamp holes left by horses after a race at Hollywood Park after the day’s events on Dec. 15. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

They don’t shoot horse race tracks, do they? Just to put them out of their misery?

Hollywood Park bugler Jay Cohen, who has been working at the track since 1988, plays the call to the post prior to a race at Hollywood Park on Dec. 14. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Hollywood Park bugler Jay Cohen, who has been working at the track since 1988, plays the call to the post prior to a race at Hollywood Park on Dec. 14. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

History should look more humanely  on the life and times of Hollywood Park, the insouciant, inscrutable Inglewood thorough-
bred facility that has finally reached the point of being deemed too valuable by local business leaders for something as frivolous as public gambling on equine unpredictability.

But before we throw the synthetic dirt onto their grave proposal to make this one big new housing complex, there’s value in trying to determine where Hollywood Park ranks among the top 50 most important sports venues in Southern California history.

Top 20, easily. Higher, anyone?

Others who’ve managed to see much more of L.A.’s sports history play out going back over the last half century-plus may have a better feel of how to put it into context.

Feb2013X6NYDNSeabiscuit2“To put Hollywood Park in its proper place among L.A. sports venues, it would seem appropriate to look beyond its declining years to the track’s entire 75 year history,” said Rick Baedecker, the former Hollywood Park president who has been involved in handicapping, television and upper management , and one who adds he’ll be at Sunday’s closing day with about 40 family members to bid it a proper adieu.

HPRace“During its first 50 years it became the number one track in California and, for a while, the country.  It was known as  ‘the track of the lakes and flowers,’ a 400 acre oasis just a few miles from the ocean.  But more important, it was a showcase for the sport’s greatest performers — from Seabiscuit, Citation and Swaps, to Pincay, McCarron and Shoemaker, perhaps the greatest jockey of all-time.  And L.A. sports fans embraced it  — 80,000 came out for a tote bag giveaway in 1980, when a crowd of 30,000 was the norm — for a Wednesday afternoon.

“Hollywood Park may be top 20. But there was a time when it was second to none.” Continue reading

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Friday AM updates: Weekly media column version 12.20.13

polls_Naughty_and_Nice_1_1519_120724_answer_1_xlargeWhat made it into this next-to-last media column for 2013:

727_1359396603More on the transformation of Fox Sports Radio’s national lineup versus how it affects the future of KLAC-AM (570) (even that hug ,made us all a bit uneasy, didn’t it?), the limited Time Warner Cable coverage of this weekend’s CIF state football championships, how
Patine-Bottle1Kings TV analyst Jim Fox has become chief bottle washer with his new wine label that not-coincidentally has the coolest label around (read more at, and more on the Lakers-Heat Christmas Day game that could deteriorate quickly.

What could have made it in as notes, but will have to be content with being here instead:

Friday AM updates:
== Don Barrett writes at “With the upcoming changes in the sports line-up at KLAC and Fox Sports Radio, Pat O’Brien is the winner. He has a guaranteed contract. ‘I have professional freedom and can move on or move on to the next journey,’ emailed Pat. His podcast, ThePatOBrien Show now has a full time employee:  him.”
Really? That’s how POB is going to try to frame this? It’s a case of a major league team so focused on getting someone off its roster that its  willing to pay his contract for him to play for another team, and hope he’ll get plenty of at-bats against them.

== Sports Business Daily reports that ESPN’s “College GameDay” averaged 1.83 million viewers this past season, but that was down 10 percent when it was a two-hour continuous show (coupled with the early first hour on ESPNU). Not that “Fox College Saturday” on FS1 factored in. In its first year, it averaged 73,000 viewers.

Original updates: Continue reading

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Did you get the memo? Fox Sports Radio lineup change is minus O’Brien, Hartman, Dibble, Van Dyken

UPDATED: Noon, today:

A memo sent out to some of the Sherman Oaks-based Fox Sports Radio gang laying out a new lineup for early 2014 has left Pat O’Brien, Steve Hartman, Rob Dibble and Amy Van Dyken without a place to call their show, according to several sources.

keep-calm-and-moving-on-12The national weekday rundown that will debut on Monday, Jan. 6 marks a notable change in the noon-to-3 p.m. slot, which O’Brien and Hartman have held for the last several years.

The “Fox Sports Primetime” slot “will be replaced by a new program to be announced shortly,” the memo said.

On Wednesday’s show, O’Brien was not on the air with Hartman, replaced by Lincoln Kennedy via a line from his home in Phoenix. Sources say O’Brien will not be on any longer going forward.

O’Brien’s shelf life at the station ended up just more than three years after trying to rebuild his sports media career.

Hartman, a fixture in L.A. sports radio since his days at KFOX-FM and XTRA-AM, said in an email: “I have had the longest uninterrupted run in So Cal sports radio history. Not bad for a former Raiders PR guy. I will stay on at Fox Sports Radio in some capacity past the first of the year but I’m talking to several people, both in radio and television, about future opportunities. I’ve been insanely lucky to have a vocation that is also my advocation. It was certainly time for a change and I can’t wait to find out what’s next.”

Whever Fox Sports Network does with that spot, KLAC-AM (570) in L.A. will go local programming in that window. Sources say Fred Roggin, the KNBC-Channel 4 longtime anchor who has been subbing in the station of late, will be hired fulltime for that spot.

Meanwhile, in the 3-to-7 p.m. national slot, Fox has moved Las Vegas-based John  “J.T. The Brick” Tournour, with partner Tomm Looney, from late nights to the earlier slot. But neither will be heard in L.A. because Petros Papadakis and Matt “Money” Smith, who had been national in that window for the last five years, stay in the same slot but will only be heard locally.

From 7-to-11 p.m., Fox national has replaced Dibble and Van Dyken with Jason Smith, who once held the overnight spot at ESPN Radio. On many nights in L.A. between April and October, that spot will often be filled by Dodgers games.

Fox’s national lineup will also move Ben Maller from weekends to weekdays in the 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift, followed by “Fox Sports Daybreak” with Andy Furman and Mike North from 3 to 6 a.m.

The new lineup keep Dan Patrick (6-to-9 a.m.) and Jay Mohr (9 a.m.-to-noon) in their usual spots.

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Your college football bowl TV lineup Dec. 21-24

51DThGAZUzL._SX300_ESPN is still putting together its talent roster for the upcoming bowl season — it dominates the 35-game slate as usual (with CBS and Fox each allowed to grab just one, but that’s it).
The first six that take up Saturday, Monday and Tuesday — all pre-Christmas rush — will cover a range of bowls ranked as high as No. 9 and as low as No. 35 as far as the assessment goes.
For these first six, here’s how it looks and listens:

Of local interest:
= Las Vegas Bowl: 12:30 p.m., Channel 7: USC vs. Fresno State (Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, David Pollack & Samantha Ponder)
= New Mexico Bowl: 11 a.m., ESPN: Washington State vs. Colorado State (ark Jones, Brock Huard, Jessica Mendoza) On ESPN Radio: John Sadak, Tom Ramsey, Nikki Noto
= Idaho Potato Bowl: 2:30 p.m., ESPN: Buffalo vs. San Diego State (Clay Matvick, Matt Stinchcomb, Dawn Davenport) On ESPN Radio: Marc Kestescher, Dan Hawkins, Marty Cesario
New Orleans Bowl: 6 p.m., ESPN: Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards). On ESPN Radio: Bill Rosinkski, David Norrie, Joe Schad

== Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg: 11 a.m., ESPN:
East Carolina vs. Ohio (Beth Mowins, Joey Galloway, Paul Carcaterra). On ESPN Radio: Eamon McAnaney, Anthony Becht, Ian Fitzsimmons

== Hawaii Bowl: 5 p.m., ESPN: Boise State vs. Oregon State (Steve Levy, Lou Holtz, Mark May, Maria Taylor). On ESPN Radio: Kevin Winter, Trevor Matich

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