'Rally Monday' fires up Dodger fans10/05/2004 3:04 AM ET
By Jared Ravich / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The 2004 Dodgers rallied for a club-record 53 come-from-behind wins, culminating in a seven-run ninth inning on Saturday to capture the National League West Division crown and put a dagger in the hearts of their arch rivals from San Francisco.
So it was only fitting that the Dodgers' faithful had a chance to hold a rally of their own, and Major League Baseball helped make it happen at The Grove in Los Angeles on "Rally Monday."
Dodgers fans packed the outdoor mall to celebrate the team's accomplishments and show support as the Boys in Blue open the National League Division Series at 10 a.m. PT, Tuesday in St. Louis.
Among the fans were a crew of five young men from Alemany High School in Mission Hills, a group broadcaster Vin Scully has dubbed "Gagne's Boys" because of the G-A-G-N-E painted on their chests.
"I'm talking about another Cy Young right now," said the middle "G" to four echoes of "Cy Young."
One family from Pomona came from the Angels' rally in Irvine, mother and son in Dodgers Blue, father and daughter in Angels Red.
"If it's a Dodgers-Angels World Series," said the mother, Kim, closely holding her son, Zach, "it will be World War III."
Rally towels, balloons, banners and smiling faces surrounded a stage where actor and longtime Dodgers fan Jonathan Silverman emceed an evening of music and memories.
"It's been a long time coming," said Silverman, who remembers sitting in the stands to watch the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1981 World Series. "Yes, I bleed Dodger Blue. I'm a native of Los Angeles, and I'm so thrilled and terribly honored that they asked me to emcee tonight's event.
"Every spring, I'm so excited that this could be the year. However, this year probably less so than in years past. With all the insanity involved in the ownership change, I, like many other people, thought it would take several seasons to put together a winner. [General manager Paul] DePodesta started so late, it's truly a miracle he was able to do all he was able to do. I'm sure glad it worked out."
Silverman took the microphone on a stage set at one end of the small pond in the center of the outdoor shopping center and introduced local "Afro-Latin-and-beyond" artists Ozomatli, who got the crowd going with songs from their latest album "Street Signs."
"We've been trying to play at Dodgers events for years," said percussionist Jiro Yamaguchi. "We're big fans of the Dodgers. This is a real Los Angeles band, and just like the Dodgers, Ozomatli represents L.A."
Los Angeles city council member Tom LaBonge and Mayor James K. Hahn were on hand to add to that sentiment, that the Dodgers are representing the City of Los Angeles in the postseason, and the crowd gave a rowdy welcome to a pair of the city's newest citizens, Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt.
"I thought Boston had good fans," Frank McCourt told the screaming crowd. "But uh-uh. You guys are the greatest fans in baseball. I've got to tell you, I've talked to the players, and to a man, they have said to me that the energy, the passion and the support you all have brought to the team this year has made a difference in their performance, and they thank you very much."
After the McCourts left the stage with the crowd at a fever pitch, fans were treated to a visit by Dodgers champions from the past. Catcher Steve Yeager (who appeared in the 1974, '77, '78, '81 World Series and '83, '85 NLCS), third baseman Ron Cey (1974, '77, '78, '81 World Series), first baseman Steve Garvey (1974, '77, '78, '81 World Series), outfielder "Sweet" Lou Johnson (1965, '66 World Series) and pitcher Don Newcombe (1949, '55, '56 World Series) entertained the crowd and raffled off autographs and tickets to Saturday's home playoff game against the Cardinals.
"My memory goes back to the 1951 playoff game between the Dodgers and Giants at the Polo Grounds," said Newcombe to a chorus of boos by fans who remembered that the outcome tipped in the Giants' favor. "In that game that day, Ralph Branca came in and relieved me and threw a home run pitch to Bobby Thompson. I got some vindication when Steve Finley hit that home run against the Giants for a Dodgers pennant."
The boos transformed to the loudest cheer of the night, while one fan held up a sign that read "Finley 4 President."
Garvey and Yeager, who played together in four World Series, both look forward to the Division Series and like the Dodgers' chances in the best-of-five showdown with the NL Central champs.
"We're all very proud of the team," said Garvey, who hit seven home runs during those four Fall Classics. "It resembles the 1988 World Champions, really. One guy had a great year that year, Orel Hershiser, and this year it's Adrian Beltre. The rest of the guys are doing what they get paid to do and that's play a role. It's a great team effort this year.
"I think we'll split in St. Louis, and I like the schedule. I like the off-day on Wednesday and the off-day on Friday. I think that will put us in great shape for the weekend series in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium."
Yeager, who was one of three Dodgers to share the World Series MVP in 1981, likes the team's never-say-die attitude and thinks that will give them an edge over St. Louis.
"When you look at this ballclub all year long, Beltre's been leading the way and Shawn Green picked his game up from last year," said Yeager. "I think the big surprise this year has been the middle infielders, how well they've done offensively and how well the team has jived defensively.
"I think they've come up with that cliche we had in the 70's: 'Somehow, some way, we're going to find a way to beat ya.' "
Dodgers vice president and former skipper Tommy Lasorda, who seemed to be the only person at the rally who did not hesitate before answering yes to the question of whether he knew in Spring Training that the Dodgers would win the division, capped the presentation by thanking the fans for their boundless support for the ballclub.
The USC Trojan Marching Band performed "Hey Ya!" by Outkast before Ozomatli returned for an encore performance.
The rally left fans excited, optimistic and ready for the playoffs to begin -- exactly the way it should be after 93 wins and a division title.
"It's kind of a rough matchup to get St. Louis," said Dodgers fan Kevin, who arrived with his wife, Dawn, hours before the event kicked off. "But after this week, it almost seems destined that they can't lose."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.