I was looking for a part-time job while attending East Los Angeles Junior College in 1964. I had a friend who was working as an usher for baseball games at Dodger Stadium in downtown Los Angeles and I asked him if he could help me do the same. He agreed, so I went down and applied and was accepted. I had to join a union and the rules were that the most senior members of that union had first preference in working the games. That meant if I showed up for a game that had a low attendance, I might not have work that day, because only a limited number of ushers would be needed. If not selected, I had the option of either going home or watching the game from the third deck. I worked the 1964 and 1965 baseball seasons.
There were two shifts, one started two hours before the ballgame and the other started an hour later. I always hoped to get on the first shift because your tour ended after four hours. The second shift stayed until the end of the game, even if it went into many extra innings. I think the pay was four dollars and hour and change. We wore company provided grey slacks, maroon double-breasted coats, clip on ties and straw hats. You provided your own white dress shirt.
The Los Angeles Angels Baseball team was formed in 1961 and played in the same stadium which they called Chavez Ravine. They played their home schedule when the Dodgers were on the road and, as their attendance was low most of the time, except when the Yankees were in town, I did not work as much for them. Having teams from both the National and American leagues come into town, I was able to see all the great players of the era; Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Al Kaline, Ernie Banks, Warren Spahn, Willie Mays, etc. Of course, there were all the Dodger greats like Don Drysdale and Maury Wills as well.
One of my favorite fellow ushers was a boxing instructor. I believe his name was Joe Crosetti or something close to that. He worked with fighters down at Los Angeles’ old Main Street Gym. The friend who got me the job (unfortunately I can’t remember his name) and I went down there and did some training with Joe, including some sparing with real boxers. I soon learned that I was not quick, tough or hungry enough to go much further. But my friend was real good and worked at it for a long time. I lost contact with him when I went into the Peace Corps after the second year of ushering. I wonder what happened to him?I did see Sandy Koufax pitch a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs, September 9, 1965 and worked all home games for the Dodgers when they won the 1965 World Series against the Minnesota Twins.
Many of the other ushers were Pakistanis with advanced college degrees, who were working for the same peanuts I was. One evening it was explained to me; they had come over to the U.S.on student visas and as long as they continued studying, they could stay here. Their visas only allowed them to work at part-time jobs, like ushering. Additionally, all of them had a wife and kids back in Pakistan. Their parents would not let them leave their home country without establishing these ties to assure their return.
There were a few venders that I got to know well. They would work their way up from selling the heavy things like soda and beer to the ultimate, peanuts. One peanut seller who really impressed me was a black law student with a big personality. He was wonderful at playing the crowd and worked really hard. He told me once that he could make $300 on a big three-day weekend! $300 to me was a lot of money in 1965.
Most of the time as an usher, after we helped people find their places, we would walk behind the last row of seats and ask people to “please stand behind the yellow line”. This painted line was about a yard back behind those seats and the reason we were required to do that was so that the seated patron would not have some drunk hanging over his shoulder spilling beer.
Many times I was selected to work the Club Level where I saw many of the baseball writers and celebrities who attended the games, like Angie Dickinson with whom I had a stilted (on my side) conversation with in an elevator one time. I always suspected, but never asked, the reason I worked there so much was that I was a clean-cut looking white kid.
I saw a few folks get hurt by being hit by line drive foul balls and flying bats, but nothing really ugly. Of course there was always the mad scramble for loose balls in the stands. When I go to a baseball game these days I have absolutely no interest in having any foul ball come near me.
One day in sunny Southern California, we had an extremely heavy downpour of rain and the game was called off. There was so much water on the field that one of the batboys decided to swim, not wade, between the dugouts.
Fights, drunks, cursing, bad behavior? Yeah, but not a lot, and that’s what the police were there for. It was Los Angeles, not the East Coast, baseball not soccer.
As a member of the union, I had the opportunity to work other events as well. One year I saw the circus 64 times. With this overdose, I have had little interest in going again.
All in all it was a good job and I’m happy I had the opportunity to do it.