ALL-STAR GAME: 1959 WORLD SERIES: 1959
OLYMPIC GAMES: 1932, 1984 SUPER BOWLS: 1967, 1973
What an abomination! If Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley was looking for a venue with higher ticket sales potential than Ebbets Field, he sure found it here at Memorial Coliseum. Only a small fraction of the 93,000 seats were close to the diamond, however. The huge fence erected in left field failed to make up for the ridiculously short distance, and many routine pop flies hit in that direction thus became home runs. Perhaps one could justify playing one or two seasons at such an inappropriate facility, but spending four years there while Dodger Stadium was being built was utterly beyond reason. They should have either torn out a section of the stands to provide at least a semblance of real baseball action, or else the Dodgers should have been forced to play across town in L.A.'s Wrigley Field, where the expansion Angels team played in 1961.
When first built in 1923, the seating capacity was 74,000. A dozen or so rows were added around the entire perimeter of the stadium in time for the 1932 Olympic Games. (Many people think Cleveland Stadium was built for the Olympics, but that was not the case.) Architecturally, Memorial Coliseum is quite distinctive, with those big arches and columns framing the scoreboard and clock on the open side, opposite from the baseball diamond. The one convenient aspect for baseball is that the big entryway tunnel provided a decent amount of room behind home plate. Fans sitting there were nearly 20 feet above ground, however.
Memorial Coliseum resembled other temporary stadiums in lacking any roof, and likewise for football stadiums, the two classes to which it belongs. The only other stadium which approximated the total ground area it covered was Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. The fence in right-center field was originally much further from home plate (440 feet), but it was moved closer in 1959 (to 375 feet) because so few home runs had been hit in that direction. That fence was also moved back out in 1960 (to 394 feet) and back in in 1961 (to 380 feet, as shown in the diagram). The Dodgers set franchise attendance records during their four years at Memorial Coliseum, one of the most successful relocations ever.
CINEMA: Memorial Coliseum "played the role" of Baltimore's Memorial Stadium in the movie 61* (2001). To pull off the illusion, huge curtains were hung across the stands on the southeast side. Brief scenes purporting to be from Fenway Park and Griffith Stadium were also shot here. The diamond was apparently laid out with home plate in the middle rather than near the side entrance.
Memorial Coliseum was the home of the L.A. Rams football team from 1946 to 1979, and was the home of the L.A. Chargers in 1961, before they moved to San Diego. In 1980, the Rams moved into newly-expanded Anaheim Stadium, home of the Angels. Two years later the Raiders moved down from Oakland to take advantage of the huge vacant facility, and Memorial Coliseum became their home field from 1982 to 1994. Somehow, after the Raiders moved in, the official capacity fell from 93,000 to 67,800; this may have reflected bigger seats or remote seating sections that had been closed. In 1993, the playing field was lowered by several feet to permit the construction of 14 extra rows of seats around the entire field, which thereby shrank considerably. This covered the old running tracks that were used in the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games. As part of the renovations, the old bleacher benches were replaced by individual seats with backs. In addition, temporary bleacher section was installed in the vast vacant area on the east side. This left a large number of seats on the east end beyond effective viewing range, so even with all the new seats, the capacity was 92,000 virtually the same as it had been when the Rams and Dodgers played here. The very next year (1994), however, a large earthquake caused major damage requiring extensive repairs, and the Raiders decided to move back to the Oakland. Since the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995, L.A. has been devoid of professional football, not counting the defunct XFL, that is.
For the past few years, there have been periodic discussions in Los Angeles about whether to renovate Memorial Coliseum as a means to attract a new NFL franchise, or just to replace it entirely. In 2005, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena was considered a more likely NFL venue, but in May 2006 developers proposed to renovate Memorial Coliseum with an upper deck inside the existing bowl, much like what Chicago did with Soldier Field. In January 2009 there were rumors that the San Diego Chargers might move to Los Angeles, possibly to their original home at Memorial Coliseum. In 2010 a proposal was unveiled to build a new football stadium in the City of Industry, located east of L.A. In the fall of 2012, the Los Angeles city council gave preliminary approval to a proposed new football stadium which would be located in downtown L.A. The process could drag on for years, however.
On March 29, 2008, the Dodgers celebrated the 50th anniversary of their move to Los Angeles by playing a game against the Red Sox at Memorial Stadium. With the dozen or so extra rows of seats installed in the 1990s, the left field fence was only 192 feet away from home plate.
SOURCES: Pastier (2007), Lowry (1992, 2006), Rosen (2003), Gershman (1993)
WEB LINK: stadiumsofnfl.com
FAN TIPS: Bruce Orser, Dave Zanko, Matt Ereth