Sunday, March 01, 2009

Baseball Place No. 21: Jackie Robinson Center; and 21A) The Big A Scoreboard

Jackie Robinson transcends the Dodgers, as we know from the rotunda of the Mets’ new ballpark as well as seeing No. 42 retired by all Major League teams.

But I think Jackie transcends baseball itself. One indicator is The Jackie Robinson Center in Pasadena, Calif., tapped by Josh Pahigian as Place No. 21 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

Actually, you can debate whether it’s a baseball place. The Robinson Center is a multi-purpose community center, offering health screenings, counseling, classes, recreational activities and other events.

Aside from Robinson’s name on the building, he is remembered by photographs and artwork, one, called “Jackie Robinson Icon” by Michael Guccione, that portrays the hero in almost religious tones.

I’ve never been to The Robinson Center, but I did check out another Southern California icon with religious connections. That would be:

Alternative Spot No. 21A) The Big A scoreboard, Angels Stadium

Baseball has its architectural landmarks. There’s the Green Monster in Fenway, the Warehouse at Camden Yards and Wrigley’s ivy-covered walls.

But the Big A scoreboard in Anaheim never gets the respect it deserves. Once it was an important part of the stadium, a massive presence in the outfield.

Then it was literally kicked to the curb when the stadium was enclosed for football, moved to the fringe of the parking lot along the Interstate.

I attended an education writer’s conference in Los Angeles in 2003, and the travel schedule allowed for some exploring on the first and last days of the event.

I checked out Dodger Stadium and Hollywood on the first day, then headed south to the Richard Nixon Museum and the Angels’ ballpark on the last.

The stadium was impossible to miss, located right there on the Interstate. But before I headed to the gift shop, I made sure to get a close look at the Big A – even driving my rented Ford Focus right under it.

It towers into the sky; halo nestled over the point of the A. It’s not a scoreboard now, just an advertising sign. But it should forever be the franchise symbol.

Amazingly, it took the team a long time to realize this. For years, the cap logo was a lower-case A with the halo off to the side. Eventually the team made the correction, matching cap and scoreboard.

Then the Disney people came along and totally messed things up with those dreadful uniforms and the winged A on the caps. Disaster.

It took a while to get things restored to their proper order, and I’d be surprised if the team ever drastically changes from a pointed A with a halo on its caps.

After marveling at the Big A and all it represents, I went back over to the stadium. There were some nice improvements. The Disney people know how to transform buildings.

There were two giant metal caps on either side of the main entrance. A sign – it was still named Edison International Field – was held in place by giant bats and balls.

Under the caps were spots were Angels legends pressed their hands into wet cement, just like the movie starts at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which I explored earlier. It was a neat way to connect Anaheim to the bigger city not far away. Rod Carew's hand prints.

The gift shop was open, but, unlike the Dodgers, the team wouldn’t let me wander around the stadium to take some photos. I could see some of the artificial rocks the Disney people added beyond the outfield walls after the football seats were removed.

Of course I wondered why the team didn’t correct the earlier mistake and bring the Big A back where it belongs.

1 comment:

tim said...

while living in chicago and being an avid cubs fan, i took my son to his first major league game in anaheim. the place seemed huge having such an intimate Wrigley in chicago.

i was also awed at the massive scoreboard! too bad they cannot find a way to incorporate it into the present anaheim stadium.