KTTV 70: How Dodger Stadium came to be
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11) - For many of us, it seems like that 56,000 seat ballpark we've always known as Dodger Stadium has always been there entertaining baseball fans. But, until some 60 years ago this was a community like any other.
There was no stadium here. There were homes and schools. There were churches and families. But, suddenly in there were people being forcibly evicted from their homes -- dragged off kicking and screaming. And, soon, bulldozers moved in to create a sports facility that on April 10, 1962, would open to an umpire screaming "play ball!"
The 1962 Dodgers hosted the Cincinnati Reds for the first time in their new digs. Former LA City Councilman Tom LaBonge has long been a Dodger fan.
"We're so fortunate," LaBonge said. "They came out here from Brooklyn at a time professional sports was changing. The Rams had come out here from Cleveland. The Dodgers came out. First major league team to come out this far west."
That happened in the Spring of 1958. The mayor at the time was Norris Poulson. In our KTTV archives we have video of Mayor Poulson saying, "Now, Los Angeles is major league in every sense of the word. I'm certain our citizens will join me in expressing appreciation to Walter O'Malley for his show of support for Los Angeles and it's future."
A very different tone from Carole Jacques who isn't a Dodger fan. When Carole was just 9-years-old her family's property and others like Eddie Santillan were taken by eminent domain to build a public housing project.
There were three neighborhoods here that had homes, a church, a school and a lot of anger over the idea of a developer snatching up property. Neighborhood women who lived in the area protested by holding a sit-in at City Hall. But, at the height of McCarthyism, the housing project hit a snag when the developer of the project refused to answer if he was a communist when asked by the House Un-American Activities.
For Jacques and others though the damage was already done. Their homes, the school, the church and other buildings all taken and many families were chased away.
"They got evicted. They were offered $7,000 or something like that," said Eddie Santillan.
"It was horrible. It really was awful. I mean it was like...everybody," said Carole Jacques. "There were tears. We had gone through so much in order to survive. Most of those residents came over in the teens and 20s and then they had to survive the depression and these Mexicans couldn't stand in bread lines because at the same time there were laws that - because of the depression there were mass deportations of Mexicans going on."
"Suddenly this area is open and when the Dodgers are first approached in 1953 by Kenny Hahn and Roz Wyman there's absolutely no interest on the part of the Dodgers," said Dodger historian Mark Langill.
There was no interest in Chavez Ravine to build a stadium though interest was building in a possible move to Los Angeles when Brooklyn didn't come forth with a new stadium for the Dodgers. But, Langill says that would change when Dodger owner Walter O'Malley gave up on a new ballpark in Brooklyn and found that the land at Chavez Ravine would be a good spot for a stadium. And, in years to come, that would be proven true.
"It was vital to be here because of freeway access," Langill said.
"Yes, there was displacement to build some of our freeway system. Yes, there was displacement to build some of our rail system. But, look at this place right here. It's one of the monuments not just for our city, but for the world...a stadium," said LaBonge.
Eddie Santillan agrees with that. He doesn't like what happened, but he's like his dad who said it wasn't the Dodgers fault which is why in the late 70s his father started an annual reunion of Chavez Ravine displaced families. Every year, it's the third Saturday in July.
Still though, you won't find Carole Jacques at a game.