Game(s) 33 – 40: The homestretch of the regular season

What can I say? The last month of the regular season was a blur. Thanks to actual obligations and the start of college football, things kind of fell by the wayside around these parts. I made sure there was time to go to Dodger games, I just didn’t have time write about going.

Then there was that subconscious denial that if maybe I didn’t acknowledge the regular season was drawing to a close it would keep going and Vin would have no choice but to stay with us a little longer.

That clearly didn’t happen as Vin signed off for the last time in San Francisco with a poignant, heartfelt goodbye that perfectly wrapped up his storied career.

Let’s get on with the recaps.

GAME 33: Dodgers 1 – Cubs 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Cubs (8.28.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Ivan. Check out his web series about card collecting called The Breaks.
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2) Frozen Kirin (x2)
Giveaway: Nope.
Memorable Moment: Corey Seager being safe at second by a cleat length. His hustle and the Cubs’ brain fart in the shift allowed the only run of the game to stand after replay confirmation.

RECAP:

Frozen Beer Foam Kirin

Sundays were made for frozen beer foam.

Todd and Ivan

Take a diehard Cubs fan out to the ball game.

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During the game, Ivan broke down the ins and outs of modern card collecting. It’s way different than the days of riding your bike to 7-Eleven and hoping you hit the jackpot with a Ken Griffey Jr rookie card. Here’s a look at his “wallet cards.” Still miss you, A.J.

GAME 34: Dodgers 7 – Padres 4

The matchup: Dodgers vs Padres (9.4.16)
Special Guest: Myself. (Long story.)
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2) Souvenir Sized Coke
Giveaway: Sandy Koufax Pin
Memorable Moment: Catch on the field day for season ticket holders.

RECAP:  Thanks to some creative seat shuffling, I gave our tickets to my friend Marc and went as the guest of my other friend Marc and experienced Section 2 from Row J. Marc #1 and his wife have two little kids, one is still young enough to not require a ticket, so all that was needed was a cheap single on SeatGeek and boom, a family of four is taking in a Dodger game on a Sunday afternoon for under $5.

Todd and Marc

Marc and his family. The little guy was definitely NOT playing games on his phone. He was looking up stats on FanGraphs.

Marc

When you realize the old guy sitting next to you doesn’t fully understand Field Independent Pitching.

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Marc #2 and I through the lens of Marc #1.

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And here’s a fish eye.

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Following the game, Marc #2 and I got to go down on the field to play catch. Video of our epic round of long toss does exist but for the time being I’m going to hold off from posting it out of respect to not upstaging Puig’s noodle cannon.

GAME 35: Dodgers 10 – Diamondbacks 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Diamondbacks (9.5.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: BBQ Plate, Dodger Blonde Ale.
Giveaway: Souvenir Cap.
Memorable Moment: Seeing Zack Greinke’s return to Dodger Stadium, until it stopped being fun five Dodger home runs later.

RECAP: It took nearly the entire season but Zack Greinke finally returned to square off against his former team. My wife and I snagged the last seats above the visitor’s bullpen and joined the other Dodger fans (plus a lone DBacks fan) to welcome Zack back to Chavez Ravine.

It was a sincere welcome too. Halfway through his warm up a “Come back Zack” chant broke out which was nice to see. Hopefully Zack remembers that more than the “Hit the road, Zack” chant that broke out when he mercifully got the hook in the 5th inning.

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Still doesn’t look right to see Zack in a such an ugly uniform.

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Not a bad spot to enjoy a little Labor Day BBQ.

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The Dodgers’ home run assault on Zack had Cora giving her bubble gun a workout.

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My hunt for a Dole Whip brought me up to the Top Deck just in time to catch a perfect sunset to close out the summer.

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USA USA USA

GAME 36: Dodgers 2 – Giants 1

The matchup: Dodgers vs Giants (9.19.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Mike.
Snacks: Dodger Dog with YELLOW mustard (spicy mustard is in short supply this time of year), regular fries, Bud Heavy Tall Boy.
Giveaway: A Giant beat down was the only gift we needed.
Memorable Moment: A tie between the return of Clayton Kershaw and a walk-off Dodger win.

RECAP: With Clayton Kershaw on the mound at Dodger Stadium for the first time since June 20, I went full geek-out mode and staked out seats over the Dodger bullpen two hours before game time. It was standing room only an hour before first pitch.

Here’s Clayton’s full warm up from that night. It was so good to see him back.

With the division title on the line and a main event of Kershaw vs Bumgarner, this game did not disappoint. Yasiel Puig got the fireworks started by having the audacity to look Bumgarner’s way has he ran out a dribbler up the first base line. Bumgarner’s theatrics sent the Dodgers and Giants racing from their benches and bullpens and launched a thousand “Don’t look at me” memes.

Two innings later, Adrian Gonzalez delivered the game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth.

A couple important things to note about the following video: 1) I sound like Kermit the Frog when I yell. 2) Yes, I did call Corey Seager and idiot for some unexplainable reason.

GAME 37: Giants 2 – Dodgers 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Giants (9.20.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Joe. Go see his movie.
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2), Garlic Fries, multiple Shock Tops.
Giveaway: Vin Scully Bobblehead(!)
Memorable Moment: Getting to catch up with Joe.

RECAP: Following the previous night’s walk off heroics and bench clearing drama, this game was a total dud and not just because the Giants won. It was probably for the best though. An exciting game would have only gotten in the way of our epic gab session. Joe and I both grew up in Nebraska and went through the same program at Husker U. so we had plenty to talk about with baseball and college football seasons in full swing. Joe’s a huge Mets fan and went to all their home games during the World Series. Hopefully, the next time we catch a game together I’ll be able to regale him with tales of seeing the Dodgers in the series.

Ladies and gentlemen, your award winner for BEST JERSEY OF THE YEAR

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Best. Jersey. Ever.

GAME 38: Dodgers 5 – Rockies 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Rockies (9.23.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2), Garlic Fries,
Giveaway: Vin Scully Letter.
Memorable Moment: Um… how about every second of Vin Scully Appreciation Day?

RECAP: When Vin Scully Appreciation Day was announced back in April you knew the game was going to be special. It wasn’t until the festivities started that you realized just how special the night was was going to be. It couldn’t have been more perfect. There wasn’t a dry eye in the park as Vin and his remarkable career received the send-off it deserved.

The standing ovation Vin received when he stepped out onto the field was unlike any I’ve ever experienced. You could truly feel genuine love from the crowd.

Vin made sure the mood stayed festive by starting his speech with the magic words that always bring a smile to any Dodger fan’s face.

Vin and Sandy Scully

Sandy and Vin leave the field in style.

Somewhere along the way a was game played between the Dodgers and the Rockies but I don’t remember a single thing that happened.

GAME 39: Dodgers 14 – Rockies 1

The matchup: Dodgers vs Rockies (9.24.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: Dodger Dog (x2), souvenir-size Coke, victory Dole Whip.
Giveaway: Vin Scully Commemorative Coin.
Memorable Moment: The Dodgers hanging a pair of touchdowns on the Rockies while my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers wiped the field with Northwestern.

RECAP: For the third time in as many years, my two favorite teams had to go and schedule games at the exact same time. Thanks to modern technology and free wifi throughout Dodger Stadium, being able to watch both has never been easier.

It’s a far cry from October 4th 2008 (sad side story alert) when the high of watching the Dodgers sweep the Cubs in the NLDS was ruined when I listened to a dear college friend’s voicemail after the game. I had shut my phone off so I could have complete radio silence about what was happening with the Huskers’ game against Missouri. When I saw it was Katie who called, I didn’t think twice about listening to her message. As a lifelong Cubs fan who moved to Chicago after graduation, I assumed she was calling to talk baseball but nope. She had to rant about the Huskers getting pounded 52-17. Well, at least she spared me a couple hours of anguish.

This time around, Nebraska was able to handle Northwestern and all was right with my two team sports world. Oh, and Clayton Kershaw pitched seven shutout innings.

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When your two favorite teams play at the same time.

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Vin Scully commemorative coin.

After the Dodgers recorded the final out, the Padres game against the Giants was shown on DodgerVision. The Padres rallied but came up short, allowing the Giants to live for one more day.

GAME 40: Dodgers 4 – Rockies 3

The matchup: Dodgers vs Rockies (9.25.16)
Special Guest: Solo mission.
Snacks: Tuna Sandwich (don’t know what I was thinking), Garlic Fries, Souvenir-sized Coke.
Giveaway: Nope.
Memorable Moment: Vin Scully saying goodbye to Dodger Stadium.

RECAP: As much as I wanted to stay in to watch Vin’s final home game, I knew I had to do my part and show up to help make sure there’d be a crowd to cheer him on.

Typically, the last home game of the season is a casual affair but between Vin and the Dodgers having a chance to clinch, the stadium was packed and a playoff vibe hung in the air.

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I hiked out to the far reaches of left field to catch a glimpse of Vin at work for the last time.

Vin Scully

The GOAT in his office.

My favorite part of Vin Scully Weekend by far was Vin leading the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” This happened all three games and each time was a serene and magical experience.

When David Dahl homered off Kenley in the top of the ninth to give the Rockies the lead, I began question the humanity of the baseball gods. Surely they wouldn’t let Vin’s final game at Dodger Stadium end on a whimper could they?

Of course not.

Corey Seager tied it up with a monster blast into the Rockies’ bullpen on a full count in the bottom of the ninth.

Then in the tenth, Charlie Culberson stepped to the plate and Vin wrapped up his career at home with one last call for the ages.

(Listen close and you can here Charlie be told to hit a home run.)

Following the Dodgers’ celebration and Vin serenading the crowd Wind Beneath My Wings, I was in such a happy mood I had to go introduce myself to the fella who became known as Newspaper Guy this season. Getting to put a name to the legend was one of this season’s biggest highlights.

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Chuck has had the same seats in Section 2 since 1975.

 

Game 32: Giants 4 – Dodgers 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Giants (8.25.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Devin. (He’s a Giants fan but he’s OK.)
Snacks: My first-ever Phillippe’s French dip, some sunflower seeds, and a Shocktop.
Giveaway: Corey Seager bobblehead!
Memorable Moment: Corey Seager bringing a ray of sunshine back to Dodger Stadium on an otherwise lousy day by busting up Matt Moore’s no hitter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

RECAP: This is the chat I had with my buddy John as I struggled to summon the motivation to go to the game following the shocking trade of A.J. Ellis.

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During my 16 years as a Dodger fan, the A.J. trade is the only one that has ever truly hurt. It was such a sudden, unexpected gut punch that, to put things in Top Gun terms, it’d be like if Viper strolled into the Officer’s Club and snapped Goose’s neck the moment he and Maverick finished singing You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.” 

Ever since the Mets knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs last season, A.J. has been my favorite player and it was all an accident how that came about.

Following the final out, I kicked it with John (the same one as above) at his car for an hour or so while we waited for the parking lot gridlock to clear. Since not a single Mets nor Dodger fan left early, everyone was stuck in place which just compounded the dread.

Emotions around us ranged from jubilant Mets fans to tears from Dodger fans young and old to flat out rage from one fan who really wanted to make good on his vocal desire to jump Don Mattingly when he exited the stadium.

John and I floated in the middle of the spectrum. We were just two bummed fans who saw the Dodgers come up short a third year in a row. We made banal small talk to fill the occasional gap of silence in the melee that engulfed us and turned our sights to the next big priority of the year- the new Star Wars movie. Things were already looking up.

Once cars finally started moving, we said our goodbyes and I headed over to where I was parked. As I Froggered across the road that rings the stadium, I stopped next to an SUV’s bumper to make sure the driver saw me before proceeding.

We made eye contact and I really wish we hadn’t.

A.J. was behind the wheel.

In an instant, I’ve never felt so bad for someone in my entire life.

His face was blank. Only his eyes betrayed the emotions he was trying to hide following another all-or-nothing game that ended with nothing. His wife Cindy sat next to him and stared off into the black sky that hung over Chavez Ravine. In the backseat you could see the tops of three little heads. It was going to be a long ride home.

A.J. waved me by. He was on full autopilot.

I paused halfway across the span of his hood and gave him a small fist pump. Don’t know why I did that but it felt right.

A.J. didn’t crack a smile but his mouth creased just enough to acknowledge the gesture.

On with the recap:

RIDING INTO THE ABYSS

The slow ride into the abyss of despair

RIDING THE TRAIN

Nothing says stereotypical melancholy like listening to The Royal Tennenbaums soundtrack on the subway.

PHLLIPE

Drifting to the stadium, I crossed paths with Phlippe’s. So that’s where it is.

BAD NEWS

Bad news.

FREEWAY

Let’s call this one caged paradise.

SANDWICH

The French Dip was good but couldn’t make the misery go away.

17 DOSENT LIVE HERE ANYMORE

Number 17 doesn’t live here anymore.

Why the number 3? The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, duh. 12 years of catechism is still paying off.

GIANTS FANS

These two Giants fans were not at all obnoxious about the no-hitter that was in-progress.

GIANTS FAN FACE TATTOO

Why settle for a lowly tear drop when you can tattoo what looks like an entire resume of felonies across your face?

DEVIN AND TODD

At least my buddy Devin was having a good time.

NEWSPAPER GUY

How tense was the scene with a no-hitter going into the bottom of the ninth? Newspaper Guy set his paper aside and watched the game from the edge of his seat.

Then, with two outs and nearly every shred of hope flushed down the toilet, Corey Seager brought the color back to Dodger Stadium and gave fans something worth cheering about- a bloop single to right.

 

Game 31: Dodgers 9 – Giants 5

The matchup: Dodgers vs Giants (8.23.16)
Special Guest: My friend Leslie.
Snacks: Pulled pork sandwich from the Think Blue BBQ and a Bud Heavy.
Giveaway: Headphone night. (Best ones yet.)
Memorable Moment: The first place Los Angeles Dodgers taking Madison Bumgarner and the Giants to the Elysian Park woodshed.

RECAP: With the Dodgers returning home in sole possession of first place and the dreaded Giants coming to town, this game brought a playoff feel to Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night in August.

The cool air and the earlier setting sun help set the mood and Dodger fans rose to the occasion. The stadium was packed by the first pitch and everyone in blue helped cancel out the cockroaches in orange and black who infiltrated the ballpark.

[We interrupt this post with a special news bulletin}

HOLY HELL. A.J. ELLIS WAS TRADED TO THE PHILLIES.

Um… yeah. I think I’m going to go ahead and let this update go from here. Just not in the mood to remember the good times right now.

Here are a few photos from back when baseball was fun.

GROSS GIANTS FAN

Not saying all Giants fans are gross but this one plucked a hair out of her head and FLOSSED WITH IT while waiting for her order.

Sorry, kid but Adrian Gonzalez is about to ruin your day. (Watch close and you can see my buddy Marc and his dad popping up like Whack-a-Moles.)

YOU'RE OUT GIANTS

It’s one, two, three strikes you’re out, Giants.

WOOD PILE

Did you know there’s a perpetual pile of free wood next to the sidewalk along Scott Avenue near the stadium? This post was going to contain all sorts of woodshed and lumber puns in honor of this pile but now I just want to take a log home tonight and start carving my A.J. Ellis memorial sculpture.

 

Game(s) 22 – 30: The All Killer, No Filler Megapost

Hey there, remember me? I’m the guy who was going to do a game recap after every trip to Dodger Stadium this season. Well, what can I say? As the Dodgers started rocketing up the standings, I started falling way behind with these recaps. Such is life when you go away for a month and then make up for a chunk of lost season by going to nine games in a two week span.

Like the headline said, this post is all killer and no filler so let’s get to it.

GAME 22: Dodgers 3 – Rays 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Rays (7.26.16) ps: It’s so hard not to call them the Devil Rays
Special Guest: Taylor, aka Dodgers Reddit
Snacks: Special Japanese dog, regular fries, Blue Moon (x2)
Giveaway: Kenta Maeda bobblehead.
Memorable Moment: Meeting a stranger from the internet and having an awesome time with a new friend.

RECAP: After a few seasons of exchanging tweets and saying we gotta go to a game sometime, it finally happened. Taylor was in town for work and it was a total Step Brothers moment from the start when he surprised me by doing an atomic drop into his seat from from behind. We hit the ground running and after few innings in our seats, we took a lap of the stadium and ended the game in the bullpen overlook which turned out to be quite a wild spot thanks to the drunkest guy I’ve ever seen on a Tuesday night calling Joe Blanton FIVES as he warmed up. For a minute he ran with my suggestion of changing things up with a Dos Cinco but when right back to calling him Fives. That’s how a nickname is born, people.

Andre Ethier Clayton Kershaw AJ Ellis

Before the game Andre, Clayton, and A.J. shagged some flies in left center. Even if 2 out of 3 of them are still hurt, it was great to see the gang back on the field.

Tokyo Dog

Maybe my palate was too sensitive from a month of eating bratwursts up in Wisconsin but the Tokyo dog was the first themed dog that was a solid thumbs down.

Kenley Jansen in the bullpen

Hey Kenley. Good to see you again.

Game 23: Rays 3 – Dodgers 1

The matchup: Dodgers vs Rays (7.27.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Matt
Snacks: Donuts and a Bud Heavy tall boy.
Giveaway: I gave away some donuts. Does that count?
Memorable Moment: Witnessing history as A.J. Ellis recorded his first stolen base.

RECAP:  The game started at noon. I brought a box of donuts. We ate them and the Dodgers lost. The end.

Dodger Stadium Donuts

I made it 20 feet into the parking lot before giving away the first donut of the day. A guy in a parking booth jokingly asked if I had any extras. He quickly learned I don’t joke around when it comes to donuts and hooked him up.

BULLPEN BEER AND DONUTS

Breakfast of champions.

WATCHING THROUGH A DONUT

A donut’s eye view of the game.

Game 24: Diamondbacks 4 – Dodgers 2 

The matchup: Dodgers vs Diamondbacks (7.30.16)
Special Guest(s): My lovely wife plus our friends Jaime and Susan joined us. (This reminds me, he still owes me for the tickets.)
Snacks: A souvenir sized Coke and borrowed some garlic fries from my wife.
Giveaway: Dodger tote bag.
Memorable Moment: Yelling at a child who was gleefully (and with his dad’s encouragement) chucking paper airplanes off the Reserve Level and into the great beyond.

RECAP:  See, I wasn’t joking…

THE KID I YELLED AT

Here’s a photo of the offending youngster as I had a few words with him while his dad was busy being a lousy parent. Kudos to Dodger security though. They gave him and his dumb parents the what for an inning later.

Game 25: Dodgers 14 – Diamondbacks 3 

The matchup: Dodgers vs Diamondbacks (7.31.16)
Special Guest: Solo mission but I ran into some friends.
Snacks: Dodger Dogs (x2) and a Coke.
Giveaway: Jim Gilliam retired number pin.
Memorable Moment: Watching Joc Pederson hit a home run on-demand.

RECAP: With my wife dealing with what turned out to be bronchitis, I thought about taking the day off but changed my mind when I realized I’d been to three games without having a single Dodger Dog. And if you’re keeping score at home, you’d know that translates to a month since my last one and hey, it was lunchtime. Plus, my friends and Dodger super fans BJ and Scott were going to be there so I had to go.

The first thing they did when we met up on the Top Deck was hand me this ball.

OREL BALL

A heck of a grab bag score courtesy of my friends BJ and Scott.

With the Dodgers busy scoring touchdowns against the Dbacks, we roamed the stadium in search of the perfect gear for BJ and Scott’s upcoming East Coast Dodger road trip and had a bunch of of laughs along the way.

In the bottom of the 8th with the score 12-3, Joc came in to pinch hit and a young girl behind us started screaming for him to hit a home run like it was the bottom of the 9th in game seven. Picture Linda Blair in The Excorcist shouting Tony Robbins slogans instead of growling “your mother sucks cocks in hell” and you’ll have the perfect visual.

Imagine her surprise when Joc took her encouragement to heart and sent a ball deep into the Right Field Pavillon for a two run homer. (Little did we know that would be Puig’s last time rounding the bases before getting demoted.)

HAPPY JOC FAN

The kid next to the Ghostbuster was going absolutely bananas for Joc and it was awesome.

Game 26: Red Sox 9 Dodgers 0

The matchup: Dodgers vs Red Sox (8.5.16)
Special Guest: My friend Meg. She’s a Red Sox fan.
Snacks: Dodger Dogs (x2) and beers (multiple).
Giveaway: Nope.
Memorable Moment: Gotta say that getting a Vin Scully signed ball was pretty darn memorable.

RECAP: Welp. Anyone who was a Red Sox fan (approximately 60% of the crowd) had a wicked awesome good time that, in their pantheon of Boston pride milestones, I’d rank somewhere between the joy of seeing Good Will Hunting for the first time and the Sox winning the 2013 World Series.

Dodgers Playing Craps

Before the game, the Dodgers played a spirited game of craps on the field. Or they may have been stretching.

 

The Obscure Jersey of the Game has returned… 

David Ortiz and Darryl Strawberry

Not very often you see the Straw repped at Dodger Stadium.

Jerry Sands Jersey

But a Red Sox fan wearing a Jerry Sands jersey just might be the winner for Obscure Jersey of the Season.

As much as I’d normally be annoyed by 30,000 Dropkick Murphys listening, Dunkin Donuts coffee drinking mouth breathers, I couldn’t be bothered to pay any attention to them because a very special ball had suddenly come into my life thanks to some VERY generous friends whose names rhyme with BJ and Scott.

VIN SCULLY SIGNED BALL

Holy GOAT ball. A ball like this deserves its own post and there is a cool story behind it. Stay tuned.

The biggest highlight from game itself came from a fan who was so drunk she had to have started drinking at noon the day before. She was swaying like a palm tree in a hurricane when she arrived and didn’t even make it to the third inning.

When her friends finally decided it was time to get her out of there, she took the drama to a whole new level by very nearly barfing on my friend Marc along with everyone else in her immediate vicinity. It was more suspenseful than watching the Hoover Dam teeter on the edge of bursting.

DRUNK FAN

This fan making it out of our section without ralphing all over the place was the biggest miracle to occur at Dodger Stadium since that one in 1988.

Todd and Meg

When take a dramatic fireworks shot right as the show ends.

Game 27: Dodgers 8 Red Sox 5

The matchup: Dodgers vs Red Sox (8.7.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife. 
Snacks: Dodger Dogs (x2), garlic fries, Bud Heavy.
Giveaway: Some sweet Dodger Blue socks. A most excellent troll job on Red Sox fans.
Memorable Moment: Seeing Rob Segedin make his MLB debut and go straight HAM.

RECAP: Went into the game with more than a little dread about the Dodgers starting a AAA lineup but then Rob had to become a one man Red Sox wrecking crew. Here’s his first big league hit. (Apologies in advance for the shaky cinematography. Thought that ball was going out for sure.)

And here’s Rob adding to his RBI total. Big ups to him for making it a wonderful day at the ballpark.

But wait. There’s more! Here’s the hot new obscure jersey trend. The Corey Seager all-star edition.

SEAGER JERSEY

That’s a whole lotta brown.

COREY SEAGER JERSEY 2

See… it’s a trend. There’s two of ’em.

Game 28: Dodgers 9 Phillies 4

The matchup: Dodgers vs Phillies (8.8.16)
Special Guest: My friend Leslie. We were on a special mission.
Snacks: Bud Heavies (A few of them.)
Giveaway: Jackie Robinson pin.
Memorable Moment: Getting a pretty cool ball from the Phillies’ Cody Asche. 

RECAP: Along with being a semi-sporadic Dodger blogger, I also run a site dedicated to my first true love, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, called Big Red Fury. This game was all about crossing the streams of my two favorite teams. Leslie also happens to be a  BRF contributor and a huge Dodger fan and was more than game to endure some strange looks by wearing Husker gear to a Dodger game to show some Nebraska love for fellow Husker Cody Asche. You can read all about it here but spoiler alert(!) our field trip had a rad ending.

Check out the ball Cody tossed us.

Cody Asche Go Big Red Ball

This ball was the icing on the cake to the best week ever at Dodger Stadium.

With Cody Ball

Go Big Red!

Game 29: Dodgers 9 Phillies 3

The matchup: Dodgers vs Phillies (8.9.16)
Special Guest: My friend Leslie. We had to keep reppin’ Husker Nation.
Snacks: First Dole Whip ever!
Giveaway: Howie Kendrick bobblehead.
Memorable Moment: Howie being the first Dodger to hit a home run on his bobblehead night since Manny Ramirez was pretty clutch.

RECAP: As much fun as it is when a game is close, it’s so much more relaxing when the Dodgers score early and often. I’d comment more about this game but I was still a little tipsy from the night before and just happy to be there in one piece.

Vin Scully in the Booth

Hey there, Vin.

One thing I will mention though, for the duration of this series not once did the umpire crew partake in their longstanding tradition of saluting Vin Scully. These choads just stood at home plate muttering to each other until it was time to play ball.

LOSER UMPS

This umpire crew (Jeff Kellogg, John Tumpane, Alan Porter, and Brian O’Nora) went three games without doing the traditional salute to Vin. What is this world coming too?

Umpires Saluting Vin Scully

This is what umpires who don’t suck typically do before the start of every game.

Game 30: Phillies 6 Dodgers 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Phillies (8.10.16)
Special Guest: My friend Matt.
Snacks: Smuggled in a bag of Kettle Chips
Giveaway: Nope
Memorable Moment: Marc reaching a level of frustration not seen in Section 2 since the days of Brian Wilson.

RECAP: It was another weekday day game and another mind boggling loss for the Dodgers perfectly summed up by this photo I took of Marc.

MARC

The feeling of walking up before noon so you can watch your favorite team forget how to play baseball.

On that uplifting note, the Dodgers are in first place and playing the Giants tonight. It’s gonna be a fun week.

Talking Clayton Kershaw’s Herniated Disc with My Brother the Neurosurgeon

NOTE: By the time I got around to writing up this post, the news about Clayton Kershaw’s injury had taken a sudden turn for the hopeful so I left it to languish as a draft. Now that the news about Clayton has hit the proverbial fan, I’ll go ahead and publish this sucker. What follows is a transcript of a conversation I had with my little brother who happens to be the neurosurgeon in the family.
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Todd and the Brain Surgeon

One of these guys is wearing a tacky t-shirt. The other grew up to be a neurosurgeon.

When it was announced Clayton Kershaw was going on the disabled list with a herniated disc, I fired off a quick text to my brother (he happens to be a neurosurgeon who specializes in spinal work) for some insight and reassurance that everything will be OK.

Because he also happens to be a busy neurosurgeon with three very young kids, I didn’t get a response from him until I finally cornered him at our family’s big 4th of July BBQ up in Northern Wisconsin.

ME: So what’s your thought on Kershaw’s injury?

MY BROTHER THE NEUROSURGEON: What was it again?

ME: A herniated disc. He had an epidural last week.

MBTN: Oooh… that can be a tricky one.

ME: How so?

MBTN: Well, the epidural is only to take care of the pain. It doesn’t actually fix anything. Only rest or surgery can do that. If the hernia is small enough, there’s a chance the body can sometimes dissolve it with rest. The epidural was just to give his body a chance to relax and hopefully attack the hernia.

TROY HERNIATED DISC

My brother and his catch of the day, the largest herniated disc he’s ever removed.

HERNIATED DISC

Look at the size of that thing. (Don’t worry, this hunk of meat is definitely the exception when it comes to herniated discs.)

ME: So is it a good sign that Kershaw had an epidural?

MBTN: No. It’s just the first step but if it was really bad they would have elected to go straight to surgery.

ME: But how do you know when to go for surgery?

MBTN: Either rest takes care of the herniated disc or the pain becomes too much to handle. There really isn’t any middle ground.

ME: But what if you’re an elite athlete? Let’s say you’re the best pitcher in the world, does that make a difference?

MBTN: It can only make a difference in the sense that he’s got a whole training staff on top of things but they’re not going to be able to do anything special for him. The fact that this was a big enough issue for him to go on the DL means I wouldn’t have him even touch a baseball for at least six weeks.

NOTE: In retrospect, this was probably a good idea.

ME: If Kershaw needs surgery, what’s that going to be like?

MBTN: Well, the surgery itself is pretty easy. You cut out the hernia and that’s it. The disc itself stays put and wouldn’t be damaged. It’s the recovery that takes a while.

ME: How long is the recovery?

MBTN: Again, everyone is different but 2017 could be a better year for the Dodgers.

ME: Really?

MBTN: Oh yeah, he wouldn’t throw again for this season for sure.

ME: Dang. Well let’s say Kershaw does need surgery but because he’s a bad ass he chooses not to have it, what could happen?

MBTN: He’d have to fight through a ton off pain and deal with some potential nerve damage but it’s not like he’d wind up paralyzed or anything. Depending on which vertebra  is affected he could still even pitch with nerve damage. It’d just feel like his leg was always asleep but eventually he would need surgery at some point. Then he should be as good as new.

ME: Thanks for the uplifting news I was looking for.

MBTN: Anytime.

Game 21: Rangers 3 – Twins 2

The matchup: Minnesota Twins vs Texas Rangers (7.1.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: Oh jeez… Bud Heavy tall boy, Bratwurst, Grain Belt tallboy, Surly IPA, nachos, a Dilly Bar (delivered to my seat!), creme brulee, and maybe something else that I’m forgetting.
Giveaway: Nope. But there was a post game fireworks show presented by South Dakota.
Memorable Moment: Snagging my first-ever foul ball (then giving it back to the dude who whiffed on catching it).

Target Field Cropped Pano

The view from behind home plate at Target Field is not too shabby.

RECAP: My wife and I spent the 4th of July with my extended family up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin so we scheduled a bonus day in Minneapolis to catch a Twins game before we made the drive up north.

I’m very pleased to report that Target Field more than lived up to the hype as one of the best places you will ever watch a ballgame. It was like it existed in a land of baseball make believe where someone set out to create the dream baseball experience from the ground up. Every aspect of the joint was so nice and serene that I wanted to grab the local who sat next to by the shoulders and scream, “DO YOU EVEN REALIZE HOW DARN TOOTIN’ GOOD YOU HAVE IT HERE?”

Thanks to the suggestions from the good people on r/minnesotatwins, (kids, always trust strangers on the internet) my game day experience started with a field trip to see the legendary Wally the Beerman at a bar called Sneaky Pete’s. Considering that any activity in LA beyond fetching your mail requires as much pre-planning as the Normandy Invasion, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Sneaky Pete’s was only a block from our hotel which also happened to be a block from Target Field.

Batten down the hatches on your head because I’m about to blow your mind with how much stuff a person can accomplish in under an hour in Minneapolis.

6:10: I leave the hotel to go to Sneaky Pete’s.
6:15: Wally the Beerman serves me a Bud Heavy and we talk baseball for a spell.
6:35: I go back to the hotel to pick up my wife.
6:45: We depart for Target Field.
6:50: Our tickets are scanned and we enter the ballpark.

Because I’m that big of a nerd, I checked my steps as we walked out of our hotel lobby and again when we entered the stadium.

The total went up by 517.

To put that into a Dodger context, the old 76 Station out in the center field parking lot is probably farther away from Dodger Stadium than our hotel was from Target Field.

Our seats were right behind home plate in the Legends Club which is only available as a season ticket package, unless those ticket holders sell theirs on SeatGeek. Basically, it was as if the Loge Level at Dodger Stadium featured cushy club seating and access to the Stadium Club. In the case of Target Field though, the Stadium Club would be that level’s entire concourse with a slew of concession stands, bars, souvenir shops and a museum’s worth of Twins memorabilia.

The game itself was a great experience. Watching baseball is so relaxing when you’re not rooting for either team. We saw a couple home runs, gave old friend Adrian Beltre a respectful golf clap, and had some laughs. What more could you want?

The fans around us were totally Minnesota Nice, even to someone in their midst who was decked out in Dodger gear. The only comments I got were well wishes for Clayton Kershaw.

After a few innings, my wife and I realized the biggest difference between a Twins and Dodger game was just how quiet it is at Target Field. Twins fans were much more reserved in their cheering but the sound system was just background noise. Compared to Dodger Stadium, it was like watching a baseball game at Wimbledon. It wasn’t any worse, it was just different in an enjoyable way but the lack of in-stadium hosts between innings was a very welcome sight. You don’t realize how intrusive and obnoxious they are until they’re not around to scream at you.

Let’s tell the rest of the story in pictures.

WALLY THE BEER MAN

Welcome to the land of Wally the Beerman and $4 tallboys.

Wally the Beerman

Wally the Beerman!

WALLY THE BEERMAN BASEBALL CARD

Wally gave me one of his 2016 baseball cards.

ENTRANCE TO TARGET FIELD

We entered through the right field plaza. The giant cube is a cleverly designed parking garage.

Bratwurst

Brats! Brats! Brats!

GRAIN BELT

The local swill.

TARGET FIELD SIGN DAY

The Twins sign in center field is an homage to their original logo.

BUDWEISER PARTY DECK

The Budweiser Roof Deck features the only fire pit in an MLB ballpark.

TARGET DOG

Target Dog watches over the Target Field action from his Target Center post.

Dilly Bar

In-seat Dilly Bar delivery really had me questioning my loyalty to the Dodgers.

KOOZIE GUY 1

This guy was my favorite fan in our section, not just because he came to the game packing his own beer koozie…

KOOZIE GUY 2

but that he brought TWO different koozies. This guy was PRO in every sense of the word.

TWINS PRESS BOX

Target Field’s open-air press box was right behind our seats. I asked the usher if they’ve ever had problems with fans yelling at the media (like Dodger fans would heckle Bill Plaschke if given the opportunity) and he just chuckled and said it’s never been an issue on his watch.

MASCOT RACE

The mascot race made me realize we have yet to see Mustard Mike or Ketchup Katie at Dodger Stadium this season.

FOUL BALL

After a couple hundred or so MLB games, I finally had my mitts on a foul ball, until I gave it to the back to the kid who had it ricochet off his hands. It landed on the walkway behind us and I turned and scooped it up without even leaving my seat. It should noted that the “kid” was probably in his early 20s and returning it to him after he had his chance sparked a pretty hilarious debate in our section over finders vs keepers. Had this happened at Dodger Stadium I would have kept it no question, unless the person who whiffed was an actual kid.

KID IN SUNGLASSES

Obligatory photo of the guy who led the ‘give it back’ side, only because he’s wearing sunglasses at night.

Dessert Cart

Having done my good deed for the decade, I felt I earned a second dessert.

Creme Brulee

This was only $6!!!

Target Field Selfie

Only took us 10 years to branch out and visit a different ballpark together.

PAPA JOHN'S

So far this season, the Twins have activated their Papa John’s deal 30 times. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, who only need to score 5 runs, win or lose, have activated theirs 38 times.

Fireworks - South Dakota

I wasn’t joking. The fireworks show really was presented by South Dakota.

Untitled-1

Thanks for the show, South Dakota.

Twins sign after the fireworks

The Target Field sign following the fireworks. It’s like the spirit of Prince was hanging in the air.

Statue

A young fan pays his respects to Kirby Puckett.

Game 20: Dodgers 3 – Nationals 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Nationals (6.21.16)
Special Guest(s): My buddy Matt and his girlfriend Marissa.
Snacks: A pair of Bud Heavies and Dodger Dogs.
Giveaway: Nope.
Memorable Moment: Watching Clayton Kershaw play catch with Julio Urias. Wut?

RECAP: With this being my final game before taking an extended all-star break, I wanted to soak in the entire game day experience, starting with early BP. I even brought a glove in hopes of maybe snagging a couple balls to contribute to the baseball game our family plays on the 4th of July.

But it was not to be. Oh well.

With everyone and their dog still recovering from the heatwave, the Dodgers skipped most of their portion of batting practice. When the gates opened, the only player on the field was Kenta Maeda who was finishing up a running workout.

Kenta Maeda

Kenta Maeda waves to fans after finishing his workout.

Kenta started heading towards the Dodger dugout but something caught his eye and he pulled a u-turn and jogged over to the fans gathered near the foul pole.

Kenta Maeda 2

Kenta reverses course.

This is the crowd that was gathered when Kenta started signing autographs.

Kenta Maeda Signing

This was the crowd five seconds later.

Crowd around Kenta

Out of the scrum emerged a very happy kid with a signed Kenta jersey from his days with the Hiroshima Carp. Safe to say he was probably the reason why Kenta changed his mind on signing.

Kenta Maeda Jersey

Everyone who snagged an autograph from Kenta should have bought this kid an ice cream helmet.

Not long after Kenta left the field, my friends Marc and Leslie arrived and so did a couple pitchers by the names of Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias. Were they really about to play catch?

Clayton Kershaw Stretching

Julio Urias waits for old man Kershaw to finish stretching.

We soon had our answer.

Clayton Kershaw Wind UP

It’s all in the leg kick, kid.

Clayton Kershaw 2

Kershaw throws to Urias.

Clayton Kershaw 1

The Kershaw equivalent to Ice Man flexing during Top Gun’s beach volleyball scene.

But wait… there’s more!

Clayton Kershaw catching Julio Urias

Kershaw pops a squat.

After a few warmup tosses, Kershaw did his best A.J. Ellis impression and caught for Urias as he fired off some jaw dropping pitches.

See for yourself.

The oohs and ahhs from us two dozen or so fans who were lucky enough to see this rivaled any fireworks show. It was amazing.

When they finished, Kershaw strolled off the field and left his young Padawan to hold court with his new fans.

Clayton Kershaw exits the field

Kershaw’s work here is done.

Julio Urias Photo bomb

Trying to photobomb selfies with Julio Urias.

As for the game itself, because it was Firefighter Appreciation Night, I gave our tickets to Matt and Marissa and purchased an extra ticket for myself so I could snag a Dodger firefighter t-shirt for my cousin Teagan who recently dominated as a junior competitor in the Wisconsin State Firefighter Skills Challenge.

My night as a rogue seat hopper couldn’t have been easier. There were plenty of open seats in our section so we were all able to sit together. I dispensed valuable training advice to Matt and Marissa for their upcoming Malibu Triathlon while I stuffed my face with Dodger Dogs. (And no, the irony was not lost on me.)

Hot Dog With Onions

This guy gets a shout-out piling an entire bin’s worth of onions on his Dodger Dogs.

Scott Kazmir was the good Scott this evening, giving up just a pair of runs while the Dodgers’ bats fell silent. That is until Yasmani Grandal raked a three run homer in the bottom of the eighth. Hello, timely hitting. It’s nice to see you again.

Kenley Jansen came on in the ninth and padded his saves record by getting Ben Revere, Jayson Werth, and Bryce Harper to all ground out to Corey Seager on just 12 pitches.

It couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to my first half of the season.

The Obscure Jersey of the Night Award goes to this guy.

Mat Latos Jersey

What kind of bet do you have to lose to be wearing a Mat Latos shirsey out in public?

Game 19: Dodgers 4 – Nationals 1

The matchup: Dodgers vs Nationals (6.20.16)
Special Guest: My buddy John. Go check out his bar or his dance club sometime.
Snacks: Hanger 24 Orange Wheat, King’s Hawaiian Dog.
Giveaway: Cooler Backpack.
Memorable Moment: Seeing Kenley Jansen break the Dodgers’ all-time saves record.

Nancy Bea Jersey

There’s no Obscure Jersey Award for this game. Only a BEST Jersey Award and that goes to the guy rocking the custom Nancy Bea.

RECAP: I’ve been going to Dodger games with my buddy John longer than anyone I know. We’ve been at the stadium for some big games and some infamous ones, such as that time we had an extremely up close view of Milton Bradley when he tried to fight every fan along the right field line.

Last season, and almost a year to the day of this game, we saw the Dodgers win 1-0 on a walk-off balk. A group of tourists form Spain sat to next us that night and I really wish I would have recorded our attempts to explain the concept of a balk in broken Spanish to people who knew nothing about baseball. It was comedy gold.

KING'S HAWAIIAN DOG

The King’s Hawaiian Dog. I knew better than to try and mix spicy mustard with mangoes.

Tonight though promised a marquee matchup between Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg, that is until Strasie (is that even his nickname?) chickened out due to an upper-back strain.

Little Kershaw

This kid sitting in front of me was so pumped to see Kershaw on the mound. When he wasn’t hanging on his every pitch, he plowed through pizza, Dodger Dogs, and ice cream and pretty much had the best day ever. A couple minutes after Kenley’s final pitch, he raced back to his seat to retrieve his Cooler Backpack but it was already gone. I couldn’t let the kid’s night end on that note, so I did my best impression of a responsible grown up and insisted that he took mine.

Instead, Kershaw got to face Yusmeiro Petit and the Dodgers quickly made life miserable for the substitute pitcher. Justin Turner got the fireworks started by hitting a ball to South Pasadena in the first and Joc Pedersen launched a solo shot somewhere over the 5 in the fifth.

Meanwhile, Kershaw was mowing down Nationals as soon as they stepped to plate. He struck out Bryce Harper all three times he faced him and gave up only one run in seven innings of work.

SAD NATIONALS FANS

Kershaw’s dominating performance sent Nationals fans to exits before “Nancy Bea” even made it to her organ for the seventh inning stretch.

Joe Blanton held down the fort in the eighth which meant Kenley Jansen would have a chance to break Eric Gagné’s saves record. Kenley struck out the first two batters he faced but then Anthony Rendon had to go and ruin the trifecta by hitting a little dribbler to Corey Seager for the final out. It was a nice bit of history to see on a Monday night.

 

Game 18: Dodgers 2 – Brewers 1

The matchup: Dodgers vs Brewers (6.19.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: Frozen adult root beer, frozen lemonade, frozen beer foam Kirin, Iced Blended Mocha, a few garlic fries, the only solid food I ate all day. It was that hot.
Giveaway: Father’s Day boxer shorts!
Memorable Moment: Not melting.

Sno-cone Vendor

Sorry, Vin. This sno-cone vendor was the most popular guy at the ballpark.

RECAP:  This was arguably the most brutal Dodger game I’ve ever attended. And that includes the rock bottom misery of the McCourt era. With the heat index well past 100 degrees, staying cool was going to be everyone’s top priority. The Dodgers going for the series win? Whatevs.

Dodger Stadium Father's Day

This was the crowd right before the game started. I think a lot of fathers out there willingly said yes to a trip to IKEA instead.

Thanks to one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, our seats are in the shade with a row to spare. For day games, that’s a 20 degree difference and so clutch. The only problem was that a few of the regulars from the lower rows of our section had migrated up to the cool comfort of the shade.

Things were quickly sorted out though.

If the apocalypse ever comes to fruition during a Dodger home game, I shall rest easy knowing that part of Section 2 has the ability to swiftly and smoothly form a democratic utopian society. We all did a headcount and squeezed as many people into the shade that we could. It was nice to know that we had each others’ backs.

Once our improvised seating chart was locked down, it was time to procure frozen beverages and I made the most amazing discovery. The inconspicuous Coffee Bean stand right behind our seats is actually a hidden oasis of adult frozen beverages and I was so excited I had to tweet about it.

The only problem with the hard beer was that it did not skimp on the mystery alcohol. The consensus was that it was root beer schnapps and since it was literally my breakfast, I had to pump the brakes for the second round.

But then I got right back on the day drinking horse.

Due to all the booze and sugar, I had to pep things up for the final round.

With the Brewers nursing a first inning 1-0 lead through the seventh, things were looking grim for the Dodgers and the few fans who remained. After Take Me Out to the Ball Game, my lovely wife tapped out and hid out from the heat in the New Era store.

Dodger Stadium Heat

Anyone who has the MacGyver skills to fashion a hat out of a drink holder is someone you want on your side when the apocalypse goes down. The guy on the bottom right was one of many who turned his Father’s Day boxers into a Shemagh so you know he probably has a particular set of skills too.

Once Kiké Hernandez tied the game with a home run in the bottom of the eighth, I decided it was probably a good time to make one of my better decisions since that time I picked out seats in the shade and go find my wife and call it a day.

It was the second game in a row that I left early that ended with the Dodgers winning in a walk-off. (Maybe I’m their good luck charm?) Thanks to absolutely zero traffic, we were deep into Silver Lake when Scott Van Slyke trotted home as the winning run and by the time the first mouth breather called-in to Dodger Talk, we were already rolling up our driveway.

Getting to miss that segment almost made up for the brutal weather.

Almost.

 

 

 

 

Game 17: Justin Turner 3 – Brewers 2

The matchup: Dodgers vs Brewers (6.17.16)
Special Guest: My buddy Greg. He grew up in Milwaukee but knows who to root for.
Snacks: Uh, somewhere between the beers and margaritas (I shall decline say how many) there was a Dodger Dog or two.
Giveaway: Nope. It was Fireworks Night.
Memorable Moment: Getting to hang out with Greg. He’s got a crazy job that has him pretty much circumnavigating the globe every week.

Greg and Todd

Greg and I at our first game together since the original Vin Scully’s bobblehead night in 2012.

RECAP: It took a few tries (and seasons) but my buddy Greg and I were finally able to make it to a game together AND his hometown Milwaukee Brewers happened to be the Dodgers’ opponent.

Sunset at Dodger Stadium

This view never gets old.

We met up at The Short Stop to pregame with some tall boys before making the walk over the hill to Dodger Stadium. One of the first people we saw when we staggered onto Vin Scully Ave was this guy.

Aaron Rogers jersey

But where’s the cheese head?

Julio Urias made his second career Dodger Stadium start and was lights out. Justin Turner gave him a 1-0 lead with solo shot in the bottom of the first and the kid made it last for five innings on a mostly efficient 85 pitches. Then, out of fear his arm would fall off if he threw an 86th pitch, Urias was pulled in the top of the sixth for Louis Coleman.

Four batters (and one Adam Liberatore appearance) later, the Brewers took a 2-1 lead and erased any chance of Urias getting his first career win.

As things were looking extra dire for the Dodgers, Greg dropped some absolutely mind blowing trivia on me. The Milwaukee Brewers’ classic logo features a hidden ‘m’ and ‘b’.

Call me slow on the uptake, but I never realized that. Now it’s as plain as day.

brewers

See the M and the B in the mitt?

Luckily for the Dodgers, that Justin Turner fellow went up to bat in the bottom of the eighth and launched a 1-2 pitch into the Dodger bullpen to tie the game.

Suddenly faced with the prospect of a game going into extras, Greg and I made the executive decision to call it a night. He’d been up since the wee hours of the morning to fly back to LA and was fading.

Luckily for us, he found a second wind as we walked by El Compadre and ducked in to watch the game and have another drink or three. It was my first time there and was pleasantly surprised to see it was pretty much a Dodger sports bar. In all my years of living in LA, I never knew such a thing existed.

After watching Pedro Baez semi-miraculously hold Milwaukee scoreless in the top of the tenth, the Dodgers got right to work in their half of the inning. Will Venable hit a ground-rule double and was moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt by A.J. Ellis. Faced with a runner on third and only one out, Brewers manager Craig Counsell did the totally logical thing and intentionally walked the next two batters to bring up Turner with the bases loaded.

Justin Turner steps to the plate

The fans behind home plate are smiling because they know what Turner is about to do.

Turner didn’t let an 0-2 count scare him and lined the game winning hit into center field and sent high fives flying around El Compadre. To the best of my knowledge, this was my first-ever walkout walk-off.

Finally, tonight’s Obscure Jersey of the Night Award goes to Greg.

Who is Mausser

Greg said he found this Dodger jersey in his boss’ storage unit. I have no idea who Mausser is and neither does Greg.