Can I pull for the Dodgers?


As an Atlanta Braves fan through thick and thin, pulling against the Los Angeles Dodgers was almost as much fun as pulling for my home team. Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors, egged it on.

For many years (until 1994) the Braves were in the geographically-incorrect National League Western Division with the Dodgers, creating a good rivalry. Some crucial late season, West Coast games in the early ’90s would go well into the night creating mass sleep deprivation across the Southeast and elsewhere due to TBS Super Station fans.

So the news that my favorite minor league team, the Chattanooga Lookouts, has become the AA franchise of the L.A. Dodgers is…, well, OK — I think. It comes after 21 years of affiliation with the Cincinnati Reds.

One of my most enjoyable places in the world to relax is AT&T Field, high atop Hawk Hill in downtown Chattanooga. We even had our daughter’s ninth birthday party there once — with her cousins from Johnson City, Tenn. joining us.

My brother-in-law Scott and I stumbled into the stadium the night before, after dinner and a rain delay, and were among the lucky few to witness Mississippi Braves manager Phillip Wellman’s classic tirade.

At other times I’ve enjoyed the Scenic City baseball alone or with good friends like Doc Avery. Occasionally, I have bumped into childhood buddies I grew up with just south of the state line.

But the idea of pulling for any aspect of the Dodgers’ organization was never a consideration.

Aside from the great rivalry, there are things I’ve long admired about the Dodgers: Jackie Robinson breaking the race barrier, the great pitching duo of Koufax and Drysdale, and Dodgertown in Vero Beach (the best spring training experience in Florida that has sadly run its course).

During an interview with Dodger pitching great Orel Hershiser, when his book Between the Lines: Nine Things Baseball Taught Me about Life came out in 2002, I confessed to “the Bulldog” (as Manager Lasorda called him) that I had always liked Dodgers as individuals just not as a group.

But come this spring and summer, I will do the unthinkable and pull for the AA prospects in Chattanooga. I may even wear Dodg…, uh, Lookouts Blue.

6 Comments

  1. John, I know it must hurt tremendously to root for the “hated Dodgers”. When I was living in Vero Beach we had season tickets to spring training and I rooted for every other team until Dennis Martinez–“El Presidente”–made the Dodgers bench move over so my 5-year-old son could see the game.
    I read your post daily, and maybe you remember me. We had some great fun at BSU conventions at Rock Eagle. God bless you, brother.
    –Randy Berry

  2. The answer is no and I don’t care what my old roommate says.

  3. Thanks, Randy.
    Great reconnecting with you. How players treat kids matters.
    Kelly Johnson, when a rookie Braves outfielder wearing a linebacker number, tossed balls to my daughters during BP. He’s been a favorite around our house ever since.

    PS: You couldn’t possibly be ancient enough to have been Dr. Ruffin’s roomie.

  4. Dr. Ruffin will have you know that Randy’s a year older than he. But who’s counting?

  5. John,

    I left Rock Spring before the Hawk Hill days. My son and I spent many a pleasant evening at Engel Stadium watching the Lookouts (especially doubleheaders). We scheduled a family vacation a few years ago to ensure that we could attend a game during the last season at Engel. We remember the switch to the Red’s affiliation after some miserable years with the Mariners and how that made the Lookouts immediately competitive.

    I’m glad to hear that the stadium on Hawk Hill continues those special times. Thanks for the reminder.

    DG in FW

  6. DG-
    Engel Stadium was a great, throwback baseball experience. I remember the opening night game against the B’ham Barons when Michael Jordan played right field.
    The Lookouts officials put up an orange construction fence about 25 feet shy of the real one so crowds could stand out there.
    (Fortunately, my brother had gotten us good seats before the Jordan thing was announced.)
    At first, I was disappointed about the Lookouts leaving the historic ballpark. But the new one is great and very convenient to all the wonderful things to do downtown.

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