Hanging Out: Behind Home Plate with Jack and Frank
I’ve always been envious of the guy that sits next to Jack
Nicholson at the Lakers games. As a lifelong Dodgers and Lakers fan, I’d
been relegated to the nose bleed seats for so long I didn’t know any
better. Jack, on the other hand, always seemed to have the best seats in
That all changed when my wife came up with second row
tickets for game three of the weekend series with the Yankees. We were
just to the Dodgers side of home plate. I was so close to the field that
I could reach out and touch the players. I could hear the chatter of the
infielders and feel the pop of the catcher’s mitt. I never wanted to
leave these seats. Not to go to the bathroom, not to get a beer, not even
once the game was over.
The seats were in the newest section of Dodger Stadium
called the Dugout Club level. You enter from underneath, through a
restaurant and bar area, where a buffet line winds through different
dishes and carving stations for chicken and meat. There are platters of
steaming hot Dodger Dogs; a baseball fans dream come true. And all the
food was included in the price of admission, including a barrel of peanuts
before you went outside and boxes of Crackerjacks. For beer and alcohol
you were on your own. It was too much for me. I was in Dodger heaven. I
had crossed over into fan nirvana. I had to sit down. I had to get to my
seats before I fainted.
And once I did sit down a nice young lady came over to me
and asked if there was anything I wanted. She passed me a menu of
burgers, sandwiches, desserts and of course Dodger Dogs. I’m so used to
getting in line at the stands and missing a couple of innings by doing so
that I ordered everything at once, not realizing that she was going to be
around all game long. You can’t take the bleacher out of the fan. Her
skeptical look couldn’t shake my unflappable desire to have everything
now. And yet I still only ate one Dodger Dog. Had I had these seats when
I was in high school I would have set a hotdog eating record.
Our food came, all at once of course, and just as we were
getting settled, who do you think came and sat right in front of us? Jack
Nicholson and his two kids. They were guests of the new Dodger owner
Frank McCourt, who was seated at the end of the row. Jack didn’t know who
McCourt was and so when McCourt reached out to shake the actor’s hand,
Jack ignored him with a well-practiced disdain, moving around McCourt and
trying make his way down to his seats. Someone pointed out to Jack that
McCourt was the new owner of Dodgers and that he was sitting as a guest in
his seats. And then it was Hollywood Jack, all warmth and charisma.
I am happy to report that McCourt, unlike Jack, is a real
fan. For long-suffering Dodger fans that’s a nice change. More
importantly, McCourt also appears to be a decent guy. I could tell by the
interaction with his grown sons that he was one of the good guys. Dodger
fans are used to family ownership under the O’Malley’s and hated News
Corp.’s bottom line business first mentality. McCourt was as into the
game as I was, rooting for his players, yelling encouragement, making sure
the fans, me included, were having a good time. Jack? Jack, it turns
out, although the Lakers biggest supporter, is a Yankees fan. He tried to
have it both ways by wearing a Yankees hat with Lakers colors.
It was great day made more so by a great game. The Dodgers
hustled, made timely plays and barely held a lead going into the ninth.
When Eric Gagne struck out Hidecki Matsui looking for the final out, the
crowd, already on their feet, went crazy. This was a Dodger crowd that
stayed throughout the entire game, a rarity. I was so happy, so thrilled
that my team won, that I yelled over to McCourt, raised my hand, and we
high-fived each other, just like he was another fan. Because at that
moment, we both were.
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Gerloff and Esrin Gozukizil are a husband and wife team specializing in world travel and fine dining. Jon is a writer currently working on his second novel. Esrin works in television development for a major production company.
You can reach the authors at: JonGerloff@aol.com (Jon Gerloff and Esrin Gozukizil)