Dodgers treated to screening of 'Bobby'
Film covers Sen. Kennedy's assassination, Drysdale's streak
LOS ANGELES -- On June 4, 1968, just a few miles apart, Dodger Stadium and the Ambassador Hotel were both celebrating historical victories.
At Chavez Ravine, Don Drysdale, the popular right-hander who was the franchise's last tie to its Brooklyn roots, hurled his sixth consecutive shutout, a 5-0 gem against the Pittsburgh Pirates, setting a new Major League record. The Ambassador, a venerable hotel that had become a Southern California institution for decades, was the scene for Sen. Robert Kennedy's California presidential primary victory party.
The 42-year-old senator from New York, bounded on to the stage of the hotel's ballroom at 11:30 p.m. to declare victory over Eugene McCarthy, and in his opening remarks, Kennedy paid tribute to the Dodger hurler.
"I want to express my high regard to Don Drysdale for his six great shutouts," said the senator to a jubilant ballroom.
Kennedy, who had been a late entrant to the 1968 presidential campaign, had been quickly gaining the momentum needed to get the Democratic Party nomination. Moments after completing his victory speech, it would all end at the hands of assassin Sirhan Sirhan, who would shoot Kennedy in the head as he exited through the Ambassador Hotel's kitchen.
The events of that fateful day are chronicled in the film "Bobby," directed by Emilio Estevez. On Wednesday night, members of the Dodgers organization and invited guests attended a private screening of the film.
The Kennedy family has a deep, personal meaning to Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt.
"The [McCourt and Kennedy] families are good friends with one another, going back several generations," said the Boston native, who moved to Los Angeles in 2004 when he and his wife, Jamie, purchased the Dodgers. "We admire the family, and they made a huge commitment to public service in America and made the lives of many people much better.
"When Jamie and I saw the movie for the first time and heard there was a Dodger connection, [we] didn't truly appreciate how deeply woven the Dodger story was with the Bobby Kennedy story, so we're happy to be here tonight with our friends and a lot of former Dodgers and hope they enjoy the show."
One of the friends invited was Ann Meyers Drysdale, the widow of the Dodgers hurler who died in 1993 of a heart attack.
"Don did talk about [that night] a few times and he was close to the Kennedys," said Drysdale, who became general manager of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury last September and who brought her son, Darren, and daughter, Drew, to the screening. "I think it's important that his children understand; they really don't know the 1960's and the whole [history] about the Kennedys and Don.
"I want them [and another son, DJ, who couldn't attend] to understand what it all meant, because it was huge, not just about what happened to Bobby Kennedy, but also the fact that they were friends and that he [Kennedy] talked about him; and it was a big deal being in Los Angeles when Don was going through his streak."
"I can actually remember living through this," said Dodgers vice chairman and president Jamie McCourt. "It was the night of my mother's birthday and also one of Bobby's closest friends practiced law at the law firm I ultimately went to. So there were so many personal connections, and the overriding connection was the Drysdale story and the Los Angeles community that we are so proud to be a part of now."
The film covers that entire day and how the events affected the lives of so many divergent people who were at the Ambassador Hotel on June 4. One of the characters was a busboy at the hotel named Jose, who had tickets to the game, but had to work a double shift because of the celebration, so he gave them to a co-worker. The character is loosely based on Juan Romero, who will forever be linked to the Kennedy assassination. It was Romero who, shown in a famous photo of the incident, was the first to reach the fallen senator and placed a rosary in his hands as he was placed in the ambulance.
"My wife, Jo, and I, ate lunch at the Ambassador that afternoon," said Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda. "My good friend, Zach Manasian, who was the food and beverage manager, told me that Kennedy wanted to meet me and talk to me, which was an invitation I was honored to accept.
"Before going to the dinner though, I planned to go to the Dodger game, because Don was on the mound and he was going for his sixth straight shutout. His scoreless innings pitched streak was the big topic in baseball, and I wanted to be on hand to watch.
"I had recently been on a TV show and was given a brand new pair of CoreFam shoes, and as I wore them around that day, they really started to hurt my feet. So much so, that I had to leave the game, and I walked to my car with the shoes in my hand. That's how badly they hurt. We decided to skip the dinner at the Ambassador. When we got home, we turned on the TV and saw that Kennedy had been shot. There was a possibility I could have been with him. It's amazing how fate works."
Kennedy died on June 6, 1968. Two days later, Drysdale set the record for consecutive scoreless innings with 58 2/3 (the record was later broken by former Dodgers right-hander Orel Hershiser, who hurled 59 straight scoreless innings, in 1988). As the pitcher stood on the mound to receive the accolades from the fans at Dodger Stadium, Drysdale wore a black armband in memory of his slain friend.
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.