The first time I remember being a Los Angeles Dodgers fan was on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon in our southeast Bakersfield home.
My dad, Larry, brothers Willie, Andy, Ralph and Bobbie and I were spending guy time watching the San Francisco Giants against the Los Angeles Dodgers on our rabbit-eared small black and white television set. With eight brothers and sisters all vying for his attention, any quiet time with my dad was rare and a reward in itself.
It was Aug. 22, 1965, and the Dodgers and Giants were in a tight pennant race at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.
I will leave all the finer details to baseball historians, but a 14-minute brawl broke out when Giant Juan Marichal attacked and hit Dodger John Roseboro in the head with his bat. If this would have occurred in today's techno-world, the fight would have instantly gone viral on all social media outlets, a pay-per-view, steel-cage wrestling match would have been arranged and both players would be featured guests on the Jerry Springer Show.
With my dad leading the emotional outrage, our living room broke out into disbelief and anger, and solidified our Dodgers loyalty and hatred for the Giants.
This Marichal/Roseboro fight is considered by many fans as one of baseball's uglier moments.
Claiming a baseball team was a right of youthful passage in our Watts Drive neighborhood. As you took the field in our makeshift baseball diamond in our backyard, you had to say which professional baseball player identity you assumed for the game ... except the infield. If you were first base, you were automatically Steve Garvey. Second base was Davey Lopes, third base Ron Cey and shortstop Bill Russell ... all Dodgers players who comprised one of baseball's most famous and enduring infields for a record 8 Â½ years.
First base in our backyard field was the side of our tool shack, second base was my brother's abandoned green Chevy and third base was the hanging tire swing. We had our own special rules. If you hit the ball over our fence you were called out, girls got five missed swings for a strikeout instead of three and you had to leave your glove on the field when it was your turn to bat. That way everyone had gloves.
As years passed, I became a casual Dodgers fan at best. Until his passing, my dad continued his avid Dodgers loyalty and was famous, or infamous, depending on your perspective, on arranging all-guy bus trips to Dodgers games.
The sold-out chartered buses were normally filled with our neighborhood friends, plenty of testosterone and ice chests filled with cold beverages of choice. Man law does not allow me to name names nor recreate the many adventures that happened on these special Dodgers bus trips, but needless to say, what happened on the bus stayed on the bus.
My father-in-law, Boni, who lived with us for the past 17 years, was also a die-hard Dodgers fan. My home's interest in the Dodgers was rekindled when Boni recently passed. The Dodgers torch has been carried on in their grandpa's honor by my four children and son-in-law Carlos. To my surprise, my eldest daughter, Nikki, now knows every Dodgers player and watches all televised Dodgers games ... as do my wife, Susie, and I.
Whether they won or lost, we would reflect back on what grandpa would be saying or how he would react to his Dodgers. We can feel Boni's presence in the room when we watch the Dodgers.
Today is the second to the last week of the Major League Baseball's regular season and the Dodgers have clinched the National League West Division. On to the playoffs!
For Boni's sake, I hope the Dodgers continue on to the World Series. And if they do, I will have bragging rights over my older brother Willie, who somehow became a Giants fan. But more important than a game are building family memories of watching the Dodgers together with my children ... kind of like my dad started 48 years ago on that hot August afternoon in 1965.
Now that's the real enjoyment of watching baseball.
And for that I say, "Go Dodger blue!"
Steve Flores is a contributing columnist for The Californian. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.