ALL-STAR GAME: 1959 WORLD SERIES: 1959 BEEN THERE: I walked around the outside on June 16, 2023.
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.
Lacking any roof, Memorial Coliseum resembled other temporary stadiums as well as baseball-used 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 was featured in the movie The Split (1968), and "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. The Coliseum also appeared in the movie The Best Man (1964), which was about presidential politics, Heaven Can Wait (1978), starring Warren Beatty as an L.A. Rams football star, just one year before the Rams moved to Anaheim (now Angel) Stadium. Finally, scenes were filmed there for various TV shows, such as a 1965 episode of Perry Mason, an episode of Adam-12, and a 1972 episode of Columbo.
L.A. Memorial Coliseum was the home of the L.A. Rams football team from 1946 (when they moved from Cleveland) to 1979, and was also the home of the L.A. Chargers in 1961, before they moved to San Diego. At some point during the 1960s, the gridiron was shifted about 22 yards toward the west, and a small grandstand was built in front of the Peristyle. These changes put fans much closer to the action, but it also caused the seating capacity to drop by about 20,000, as the eastern seating sections were either too far from the field or else the view was blocked. Access to that new grandstand was via a pair of bridges that extended from the back corners to one of the entry portals. Also, the eastern light towers were moved toward the west, so as to provide better illumination for the playing field. 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 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, a 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 Oakland Coliseum, soon to be expanded. For the next 21 years after the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995, L.A. was devoid of professional football, not counting the XFL.
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 Coliseum. 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. That was even more absurd than the 1958-1961 baseball configuration, and in my opinion was not worthy of doing a separate diagram.
After several years of discussions, in January 2016 the National Football League announced that the Saint Louis Rams would relocate to Los Angeles, their previous home city. For the next four seasons, while a huge new domed structure (SoFi Stadium) was being built in the suburb of Inglewood, the Rams played in L.A. Memorial Coliseum once again, for the first time since 1979. A big new video board was built at the west end of the stadium, and luxury suites were installed in front of the "peristyle" arches. Prior to the 2018 season, the south side of the Coliseum was rebuilt, with a multi-level tower of permanent luxury suites. The Los Angeles Rams moved into their massive new palace in September 2020 (with no fans in the stands due to the coronavirus), along with their tenant/partners, the Chargers. The capacity of L.A. Memorial Coliseum for USC Trojan games was reduced from 93,600 to 77,500.
In February 2022, on the eve of Super Bowl LVII, NASCAR held the first Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, spending a million dollars to install a temporary asphalt race track just for this one event.
SOURCES: Pastier (2007), Lowry (1992, 2006), Rosen (2003), Gershman (1993)
FAN TIPS: Bruce Orser, Dave Zanko, Matt Ereth, Mike Zurawski