The Top 10 Greatest Moments in Dodger Stadium History

Dodger Stadium | Photo courtesy of southerncal88, Flickr

Dodger Stadium is the home field of the Los Angeles Dodgers and one of the true cathedrals of Major League Baseball. Since opening its gates in 1962, the storied ballpark has hosted eight World Series and the Dodgers have won four World Championships. Through the decades, Dodger Stadium has seen Hall of Famers, World Champions, no-hitters, MVPs and Cy Young Award winners. The stadium is also one of the greatest entertainment venues in the country, hosting special events that range from the Beatles to the Pope, the NHL Stadium Series, and the Harlem Globetrotters. Read on for the Top 10 greatest baseball moments in Dodger Stadium history.

1. Kirk Gibson's home run (Oct. 15, 1988)

Kirk Gibson circles the bases after his legendary home run. | Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers

It was a scene right out of a Hollywood movie: Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers trailed the Oakland Athletics 4-3. The A’s future Hall of Famer closer Dennis Eckersley was on the mound. Dodgers outfielder Mike Davis was at first base. Dodgers outfielder Kirk Gibson, hobbled by a pulled left hamstring and a swollen right knee, was inserted as a surprise pinch hitter by manager Tommy Lasorda. Gibson quickly got behind the count 0-2, but fought his way back to a 2-2 count. On the sixth pitch of Gibson’s at bat - a ball - Davis stole second. With the count at 3-2, Gibson used pure upper body strength to send a backdoor slider over the right field fence, giving the Dodgers the 5-4 victory. As his teammates stormed the field, Gibson pumped his fist and limped around the bases. After letting the moment sink in, Dodgers Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully said, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!” Gibson would not make another plate appearance in that World Series. The Dodgers went on to defeat the A's 4-1 to claim their sixth franchise World Series title. Gibson’s home run has since gained mythic status, regarded as one of the greatest home runs of all time and considered by many as the greatest sports moment in Los Angeles history.

2. Sandy Koufax's Perfect Game (Sept. 9, 1965)

Sandy Koufax after pitching a perfect game, his 4th career no-hitter. | Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers

On Sept. 9, 1965, Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium. Koufax retired 27 consecutive batters without allowing any to reach base, becoming the sixth pitcher of the modern era, and eighth overall, to throw a perfect game. The game was Koufax's fourth no-hitter, breaking Bob Feller's major league record of three. Koufax struck out 14 Cubs batters, the most ever recorded in a perfect game. Koufax threw 113 pitches during the game - 79 were strikes.

3. Clayton Kershaw's No-Hitter (June 18, 2014)

Clayton Kershaw joined the pantheon of Dodger greats when he pitched his first career no-hitter, against the Colorado Rockies on June 18, 2014. The two-time National League Cy Young Award winner struck out a career-high 15 batters. Kershaw became the first pitcher in history to throw a no-hitter with no walks. The next morning, sports writers were unanimous in their praise - the Los Angeles Times called it the “best pitching performance ever;” the Washington Post named it “the best no-hitter of all time;” and ESPN said it was the “most dominant [no-hitter] ever.” Kershaw lost his bid for a perfect game on a seventh-inning error by shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Kershaw’s no-no was the second of the season for the Dodgers, following Josh Beckett’s no-hitter on May 25 against the Phillies in Philadelphia. Kershaw’s no-hitter was the 12th in Los Angeles Dodgers history and the 284th in Major League Baseball.

4. Fernandomania Begins (April 9, 1981)

Fernando Valenzuela signs autographs | Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers

An international sports phenomenon was born on April 9, 1981, when 20-year-old Fernando Valenzuela - the Dodgers No. 3 starter - took the mound to pitch on Opening Day in place of the injured Jerry Reuss. Valenzuela’s five-hit shutout of the Houston Astros jump-started an epic streak that will probably never be equaled. The numbers for his first eight starts are staggering: eight wins, seven complete games, five shutouts, with a 0.50 ERA. Nicknamed “El Toro” by his fans, Valenzuela became an instant icon, and “Fernandomania” took hold of baseball fans from L.A. to New York and beyond. Armed with a devastating screwball, Valenzuela was named the starting pitcher for the National League at the 1981 All-Star Game, the first of his six appearances. That same year, Valenzuela became the only player in Major League history to win the Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Awards in the same season. In the postseason, he became the youngest pitcher to start the first game of a World Series, and helped the Dodgers beat the Yankees for their first World Championship since 1965. He excelled as a batter as well, earning the National League Silver Slugger Award for pitchers in 1981 and 1983. On June 29, 1990, Valenzuela pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. Incredibly, it was the second no-hitter that day, after the Oakland A’s Dave Stewart no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s the only time in the modern era that two no-hitters were pitched on the same day.

5. Game 4 of the 1963 World Series (Oct. 6, 1963)

Sandy Koufax pitches during Game 4 of the 1963 World Series. | Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers clinched the 1963 World Series on October 6, beating the New York Yankees by a score of 2-1. The Dodgers’ sweep of the Yankees marked their second title in five years, and the third in franchise history. To date, Game 4 of the ‘63 World Series remains the only time the Dodgers have clinched a World Series at home. Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax was named the series MVP. The series featured several Hall of Famers: Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Walter Alston of the Dodgers; and Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees.

6. Dodger Stadium Opens (April 10, 1962)

After spending the previous four seasons at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Dodgers began the 1962 season by opening Dodger Stadium, the team's new ballpark. Ground was broken for Dodger Stadium on September 17, 1959. Built at a cost of $23 million, Dodger Stadium was the first Major League Baseball stadium to be built entirely with private financing since the original Yankees Stadium. Dodger Stadium opened on April 10, 1962 with the Dodgers against the Cincinnati Reds, and an attendance of 52,564 fans. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Dodgers president Walter O’Malley’s wife, Kay. Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres, the hero of the 1955 World Series, drew the starting assignment. The first-ever Dodgers hit in their new home came from Hall of Famer Duke Snider. Though the Dodgers lost to the Reds 6-3, they went on to win a Los Angeles record 102 games and tied the San Francisco Giants for first place in the National League. Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills was named National League MVP, and pitcher Don Drysdale won the Cy Young Award that year.

7. Rick Monday Saves American flag (April 25, 1976)

Rick Monday saves the American flag from two protesters. | Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers

On April 25, 1976, two protesters ran onto the Dodger Stadium outfield and tried to set fire to an American flag. Chicago Cubs outfielder Rick Monday ran over and grabbed the flag to thunderous applause from the fans. Monday handed the flag to Dodgers pitcher Doug Rau, and the ballpark police officers arrested the two protesters. When Monday came to bat in the next half-inning, he received a standing ovation from the crowd, and the message board flashed, "RICK MONDAY... YOU MADE A GREAT PLAY..." At the end of the season, the Cubs traded Monday to the Dodgers in a five-player deal. The trade marked a homecoming for Monday, who was born and raised in Santa Monica. After retiring, Monday began his broadcasting career as a sports anchor on KTTV in Los Angeles in 1985. Monday joined the Dodgers' broadcast team in 1993, and earned an Emmy Award for Live Sports Coverage in 2001. Monday currently serves as an analyst for all 162 games alongside play-by-play announcer Charley Steiner. In 2005, USA Today ranked the Dodgers' radio broadcast team, featuring Vin Scully, Monday and Steiner, as the best in Major League Baseball.

8. Dodgers Retire the Numbers of Campanella, Koufax & Robinson (June 4, 1972)

L to R: Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax | Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers

On June 4, 1972, the Dodgers retired the jersey numbers of three of the greatest players in baseball history, Hall of Famers Roy Campanella (number 39), Sandy Koufax (32), and Jackie Robinson (42). In 10 seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Campanella played on five pennant-winning clubs, including the 1955 World Champions. The catcher was an eight-time All-Star and a three-time National League MVP. Campanella, whose career was cut short due to a tragic automobile accident that left him paralyzed, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.

Sandy Koufax was one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball history. The left-hander pitched an NL-record four no-hitters, including a perfect game in 1965, and set the national single-season mark with 382 strikeouts in 1965. Koufax was a four-time World Series Champion, a two-time World Series MVP, a three-time Cy Young Award Winner, and a seven-time NL All-Star. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut and changed the game forever, becoming the first African-American player in the history of the game. Robinson was given the inaugural Rookie of the Year award, which now bears his name. During his 10-season career, he was part of six Brooklyn Dodger pennant-winners, including the World Champions of 1955. In 1949, the six-time All-Star won the National League batting title en route to earning MVP honors. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. On the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's breaking the Major League color barrier, his number 42 was retired throughout the majors, at the order of Commissioner Bud Selig. 

9. All-Star Game (July 8, 1980)

The 1980 All-Star Game was played on July 8 at Dodger Stadium. This was the first time the game was being held at Dodger Stadium, and the second time that the Dodgers had hosted the All-Star Game in L.A. The National League defeated the American League, 4-2. This All-Star Game would be known for some exemplary pitching performances - the Dodgers’ Jerry Reuss struck out the side for the NL in the sixth, while AL starter Steve Stone of the Baltimore Orioles pitched three perfect innings, with three strikeouts. The game marked the debut of the modern day large-scale video screen, with the first such video scoreboard, Diamond Vision by Mitsubishi Electric, being introduced at Dodger Stadium.

10. Mike Piazza Hits a Home Run Out of Dodger Stadium (Sept. 21, 1997)

Mike Piazza at bat | Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Dodgers

On September 21, 1997, Dodger catcher Mike Piazza hit a 478-foot home run off Frank Castillo of the Colorado Rockies that landed on the left field pavilion roof and skipped under the left field video board and into the parking lot. To date, Piazza is the only Dodger to hit a home run out of Dodger Stadium, and one of only three players to do so. St. Louis Cardinal first baseman Mark McGwire - currently the Dodgers’ hitting coach - cleared the left field pavilion on May 22, 1999 with a 483-foot blast. Hall of Famer Willie Stargell did it twice as an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, on August 6, 1969 and May 8, 1973.