Today in Baseball History: The ‘Screen Monster’ is erected in Los Angeles

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The Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets Field in 1957. The Los Angeles Dodgers played their first game at Dodger Stadium in 1962. It took some doing to get Dodger Stadium built and opened — and a great new book just came out about that if you’re curious about all the good and the bad went that into it — so the Dodgers needed someplace to play for a few years.

The first choice was the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, but talks with city officials broke down. Enter the Los Angeles Coliseum. It’s an historic, venerable building now and was even in 1958 when the Dodgers decided to call it their temporary home. The problem: it’s not very well-shaped for baseball:

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Your eye is likely drawn to that very short porch in left field. It was 250-feet to be exact. Left-center was not much better: a mere 320 feet. Meanwhile, the center field fence they’d eventually erect was 425 feet straightaway and right-center was 440 feet away. A home run in that direction is practically halfway to Alhambra.

The dimensions weren’t the only problem. The single deck of seats, the bright California sun and new fans who tended to wear brighter colors than the old fans back east made picking up fly balls extraordinarily difficult. “Those rows of seats go so high, it’s awful hard to see anything but high flies,” Willie Mays said. “Line drives are murder.” Don Drysdale was more blunt: “It’s nothing but a sideshow. Who feels like playing baseball in this place?”

That left field porch, though, was the biggest issue. To address it, the Dodgers decided to take a cue from the Boston Red Sox and build up when they could not build out. Whereas Fenway Park has a large wall called The Green Monster, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley had a 40-foot net erected in left that some have called “The Screen Monster.” It was raised 62 years ago today, 11 days prior to the Dodgers first official game in Los Angeles.

That first game featured both a great number of vision-obstructing fans — attendance was 78,672, which was a big league record for a single game at the time — and a home run over the Screen Monster. The homer came in the eighth inning when 41-year-old Hank Sauer of the Giants went “deep.” The Dodgers still hung on for a 6-5 win, but Al Wolf of the Los Angeles Times noted that it was a bit hard to follow the action, writing, “In the far reaches of the vast arena the game resembled a pantomime. You couldn’t follow the ball, but the actions of the players told you what was happening. Nobody complained.”

One guy who didn’t complain: left-handed hitting outfielder Wally Moon, who came over from St. Louis prior to the 1959 season. Moon, while not a particularly powerful slugger, reconfigured his swing to hit high flies which came to be called “Moon Shots” in order to deposit them over the screen. He didn’t hit a ton of homers with that approach, but he hit way more at home than on the road, smacking 37 dingers in the Coliseum between 1959 and 1961 compared to only 12 on the road.

Overall, however, the short porch and tall screen in left didn’t skew things too terribly. There were 193 home runs hit overall at the place during the 1958 campaign, and that did lead the majors, but there were 219 homers hit in Cincinnati’s Crosley Field the year before. It looked weird and felt weird. It was, on the whole, a hitter-friendly park which gave Sandy Koufax particular fits. Moving to the very pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium in 1962 made a massive difference for Dodgers pitchers, most notably Koufax. But it wasn’t, however, anything on par with, say, Coors Field.

And the place did have some highlights. The Dodgers won the 1959 World Series while calling the park home, playing three games to over 90,000 each, including an all-time World Series record 92,706 in Game Five. Overall attendance for the six-game World Series that year was a never-to-be-topped 420,784. And even Koufax had his moments at the Coliseum. On August 31, 1959 he set the National League single-game strikeout record by fanning 18 San Francisco Giants, recording strikeouts on 15 of the last 17 outs. Koufax also pitched in the last regular season game there on September 20, 1961. He struck out 15 Cubs batters in a 13-inning complete game and he didn’t allow a single hit past the eighth inning. Koufax was reported to have tossed 205 pitches in the game. In possibly related news, he’d be out of baseball due to elbow trouble after just five more seasons. Of course, they were pretty good seasons.

The Dodgers played in the Coliseum one more time after moving to Dodger Stadium. It was an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox in 2008, celebrating the team’s 50 years in Los Angeles. By that time renovations to the Coliseum required that the left field fence be only 201 feet from home plate, requiring an even bigger Screen Monster: 60 feet tall. No one really cared. 115,300 fans showed up for the game. The Red Sox won 7-4.

(thanks to Don Zminda’s history of the Dodgers in Los Angeles Coliseum at the Society for American Baseball Research)

Also today in baseball history:

1963 – A public stock offering of 115,000 shares in the Milwaukee Braves is withdrawn after only 13,000 shares are sold to 1,600 new investors. The team would leave Milwaukee less than three years later.

1970 – Major league baseball returns to Milwaukees as the Brewers play their first game in County Stadium, losing to California 12-0 before a crowd of 37,237. See, it got better.

1979 – Ken Forsch of the Astros no-hits the Braves. It was the earliest no-hitter, calendar-wise, in baseball history. Ken also joins his brother Bob, who tossed a no-hitter of his own the previous season, as the first brother combo to pitch no-hit games.

1984 – Jack Morris of the Tiger no-hits the White Sox 4-0 at Comiskey Park. That brings the Tigers to 5-0 on the season. They would start the year a blistering 35-5, will lead the AL East from wire-to-wire and go on to win the World Series.

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

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WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”


Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.


Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.


Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

AP MLB: and