Dodger Stadium, 2003 -- You can drive right to the upper deck!

I arrived into L.A. on a Thursday night in early April, and didn’t have to be at the conference until Friday afternoon, so I had a little time to explore. Naturally, I made Dodger Stadium a priority.

Finding the ballpark was a little tricky because I couldn’t see it from the street. I was driving around the Chavez Ravine neighborhood and found the sign directing me into a wide area with what looked like toll booths.

The Dodgers started the season on the road, so I didn’t expect to do anything more than walk around the outside and snap some photos.

But the security at the entrance was pretty intense. I had to open the trunk of my rental car and answer questions.

I told the guard I was hoping to visit the team store if it was open, and he told me to “drive up to the upper deck.” I wasn’t sure I understood what he was telling me.

But sure enough, I drove on the circular road around the park as it went higher and higher, and arrived at the spot. I knew the park was built on a hill, but I didn’t realize they built it right into the hill.

A guard at the gate directed me to the store, and said I was free to walk anywhere in the upper deck.

The store was pretty neat, with a lot of older items. I picked up a Christmas ornament that looked as if had been on the shelves since the 1970s. There was a sweet t-shirt with Greg Gagne’s face with blue fringe for his beard, with “Game over” in big letters.

I walked out to do some exploring and an usher offered to take my photo. He was happy to point out some of the stadium’s quirks and features. Drinking fountains, he said, were added after the park was built in 1962, an oversight.

Walking on the concourse, he pointed out that you could see downtown – very easily, it’s close – but also the Pacific Ocean and the Hollywood sign.

Later I drove around the outside. The team had murals of then-current stars, but everything else looked like it came right out of the 1960s. It was immaculate and colorful.

Driving out, I saw huge letters spelling out “Think Blue” in the hills beyond the outfield. I never noticed them while watching games on television.

With a couple hours of free time left, I explored some of L.A.’s lesser sites, such as Hollywood Boulevard, where I could stick my hands in the imprints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater and follow some of the stars on the sidewalk.

Shockingly, Tom Seaver did not have a star, which left the experience lacking. Apparently the people who decide those things did not see his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show or any of the season highlight films.

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