Why Couldn’t I Buy A Dodger Hat at Dodger Stadium?

I don’t live in LA anymore. Because of that, I’ve lost touch with the city and the Dodgers in some ways. I’m beginning to suspect that this is a good thing. Until going to a game on Friday I was, if not blissfully, then at least quietly ignorant of the malaise that has set in at Chavez Ravine. The McCourt family, the Bryan Stow tragedy, the on-field injuries, the front office follies: these things have done serious damage to Dodger fans in ways that became much clearer to me.

On Friday, I intended to buy a fitted blue and white Dodger cap at Dodger Stadium. There was nothing strange or difficult about the circumstances. I would only be at one game this year. I knew I needed a new hat. I wanted to take advantage of a friend’s employee discount. But at Dodger Stadium, Dodger caps have become an endangered species.

Before the game, my friends and brother and I wandered into a merchandise store located outside one of the field level entrances. We noticed something strange about the hat selection: there were tons of batting practice caps, tons of Lakers purple and gold LA hats, tons of pink and black and other odd varieties on the Dodger cap, but there were hardly any traditional ones. And the few that store did carry were in odd sizes like 6 7/8 or 7 ¾. No big deal, we figured. They’ll have more inside.

Inside was quiet. “Safeco-esque,” I thought. We sat directly beneath a security camera. There were so many security personnel around that I kept on perking up, thinking incidents were occurring in the area near our seats. But nothing was happening. The beefed up security presence and the thinned out attendance combine to give Dodger Stadium the feel of an empty prison camp where hollow-eyed inmates find slivers of hope in balks by opposing pitchers and chant out MVP for Matt Kemp as if he’s all they have left to cling to.

I realized that on nights when Kershaw isn’t pitching, Kemp actually is all Dodger fans have to cling to. He didn’t disappoint, either, hitting his 30th home run to join Raul Mondesi in the Dodgers 30-30 club and accelerate his run at an unlikely triple crown.

Around the fourth or fifth inning, we set out again to buy a cap on the club level, where a small store is located behind home plate. (The employee discount only applies at the club level and top deck stores). In the club level store there was not a single regular Dodger cap. “This is weird,” said my employee friend, who used to work in merchandising. “We should have caps here.”

We rode the elevator to the top deck, where the concourse was empty and the breeze almost made you feel like you weren’t in the stadium anymore. In past years, especially on Friday nights toward the end of the season, there have been lines to merely enter the Dodgers team store. On this night there were maybe three other fans in the entire place. It was empty. On the television we watched Vin Scully wave cookies around and announce that he was returning for another season. Great news. But once again, only a handful of Dodger caps. None in my size.

At this point, my employee friend explained that the team has been having problems with it’s merchandiser, Facilities Management Inc. You might remember that on August 10th, that merchandiser, FMI, requested protection from the Dodgers in federal bankruptcy court. It turns out, we learned after talking to a few retail salespeople around the stadium, that FMI stopped ordering new merchandise for this season three months ago. Due to low attendance (gate attendance is even worse than the Dodgers’ struggling paid attendance), FMI is not going to make back the $4.5 million it pays for the exclusive right to sell merchandise at Dodger stadium this season. So why sink money into apparel that won’t get sold?

A woman in hushed tones at a field level kiosk explained to me after looking around, as if checking for spies or clandestine microphones, that merchandise has been kind of an overlooked disaster, a symptom of “all this McCourt business.” She slumped her shoulders. She said that a kiosk a few aisles down had a couple of 7 1/2s earlier that night, and that they might still be there.

The kiosk did have two 7 1/2s left. But I couldn’t bring myself to buy one. The employee discount would not have applied and at that point I was too dejected to pay a full $38 for a baseball cap. Somebody else might have wanted it more. Then again, even after the Dodgers won and the vacuously ceremonial Friday night fireworks were launched over Los Angeles, probably not.

This entry was posted in Baseball Fashion, Memoir, The Stadium Experience and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Why Couldn’t I Buy A Dodger Hat at Dodger Stadium?

  1. Larry Herold says:

    What a drag, Eric. It reminds me of Single A merch stores I’ve been to where they try to order just enough shirts to last the season. The final week it’s like bare trees in winter in there. Nice post.

  2. Dana King says:

    I’m not a Dodger fan, though I will turn mlb.tv on to listen to Vin for a couple of innings before turning in at least once a week. That being said, I remember the Dodgers as one of the National League’s two premier franchises, along with St. Louis. To see what they have become under Frank McCourt saddens me as a baseball fan.

  3. PATruby says:

    Safeco-esque is such a good adjective it makes me sad.

  4. adam says:

    true sad state of affairs. is there any silver lining for the Dodgers while all this McCourt stuff goes on. (poor attendance, underwhelming record, financial woes and now a true merchendising issue.) I’m bound by law to say I’m a Philadelphia resident but I’m a baseball fan and this type of shame surrounding this team is simply, no bueno

  5. mondogarage says:

    Shockingly, Frank McCourt has managed to do things to this historic franchise that even twenty years of Peter Angelos has not been able to inflict on the Orioles. I’m no Dodgers fan, but they are (or rather, were) truly one of MLB’s crown jewel franchises, and it makes me sad to see them having been run into the ground deeper than AIG.

  6. Adam M says:

    I am a resident of Simi Valley (suburb of Los Angeles), and a L.A. Dodger fan. I am proudly sitting out until McCourt is gone. I will not watch the games on T.V. or listen to them on radio. I want the sponsers to know that until McCourt is gone its not worth sponsoring the team.

    I went to one Dodger game this year, it was on L.A. Kings night, and thats the only reason I went, plus the ticket was free. If you have been to Dodger Staduim you probably didn’t want to park far enough away so that you can walk into the staduim, but again i refused to pay for parking, so we walked about one mile. Then we didn’t have the usual Dodger Dog, and a beer. We ate nothing, and enjoyed the game from our field level seats that were FREE. People are giving away field level tickets.

  7. Mike says:

    Frank McCourt is the best owner in MLB, nuff said!!

  8. Eric says:

    Thanks for the comments, all.

    Worth noting: Jon Weisman made the point on DodgerThoughts that describing the stadium as a prison camp was probably a bit overwrought. He was right about that. I should say that despite everything, I had a great time at the game.

  9. William says:

    This article can’t be farther from the truth. Being a long time Dodger fan, I can’t accept what Frank McCourt has done to this team. He has literally sucked the dodger blue blood out of me with everything he has done. I no longer live in LA and I don’t get to watch any more games (except when they are on MLB Network, ESPN or against the Giants), but when I go home I don’t even think about turning on to watch the TV. I just can’t do it anymore. I will return once McCourt is gone. Hopefully Vin will be around, but I doubt it.

  10. Kris says:

    I am 55+ and have been a Dodger fan all my life. My parents were fans before they came to L.A. – my mother told me stories about listening to Johnny Podres win Game 3 of the World Series shortly after I was born. I was at the park for Sandy’s no-no against the Giants. In short I bleed Dodger Blue.

    But I have not gone to any games this year, and I will not contribute any money to keep Frankrupt afloat.

    There is an old adage that if your current boss is a jerk, he/she will be replaced by a worse jerk. I hope this does not apply to baseball owners!

  11. Patrick says:

    What has happened to the Dodgers, though karmic to some here in Brooklyn, is outrageous, and the coffee boy,er Bud Selig, who ‘worried about his legacy” [him and Bush] did nothing in New York and La ,just adds to the surreal aspects of having an owner as the boss[i know he sold the team] MC Court was destroying the Dodgers, and Selig just allowed himself to be patted on the head…If there is a baseball afterlife, Selig will be a washrag in the locker room

  12. Don says:

    Every team has a stadium hat why don’t the dogers