Baseballs rocketed over the fences, ticket-holders set a new game attendance record and the night brimmed with nostalgia celebrating the Dodgers’ 50 years in Los Angeles — and that was just the beginning.
The Dodgers’ exhibition game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on March 29 raised more than $2 million for ThinkCure, the Dodgers’ official charity, which supports cancer research at City of Hope and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Team officials reported that 115,300 fans packed the landmark stadium to watch the Dodgers play the Boston Red Sox in the benefit game.
Although the Dodgers lost 7-4, the game marked a significant success for ThinkCure and vaulted the event into the Guinness Book of World Records for largest attendance at a baseball game. Crowd numbers surpassed the previous record of 114,000 fans set at a baseball game during the 1956 Olympics in Australia.
“This record is a tribute to the passion and compassion of our fans, with whom this event clearly struck a chord,” said Dodgers chair Frank McCourt. “It’s a marvelous launch for ThinkCure and great news for our partners at City of Hope and Childrens Hospital L.A.”
Net proceeds from the game, about $1 million, go to ThinkCure. The McCourt family matched that with a personal donation, bringing the fundraising total to $2 million.
The day began at noon with a fan festival outside the Coliseum, and stadium gates opened at 4:10 p.m. so fans could watch batting practice. More than 270 volunteers from City of Hope and Childrens Hospital staffed the festival and game, helping visitors, providing information about cancer research and accepting contributions.
The game also prompted support from local officials. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared March 29 to be “ThinkCure Day.”
The Dodgers’ return to the Coliseum was the team’s first since playing at the arena from 1958 to 1961, during construction of Dodger Stadium. At the game, the Dodgers recreated one of the most famous and poignant scenes from their history at the Coliseum: a night warmed by the glow of many thousands of pinpricks of light from the crowd.
Originally done in 1959 by fans holding matches and lighters to honor paralyzed former Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella, the feat was revisited during the recent game using modern tools: tiny, key-ring lights. Fans held their lights aloft as they watched the Coliseum’s torch burn bright and a ThinkCure flag unfurl in the breeze.
Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, was moved by the game and acknowledgments of ThinkCure. “This game was the beginning of a season of hope for a world championship for the Dodgers, and for those of us at the bedside and in the laboratory, it’s a new season of hope to achieve a victory for every patient who comes to us for care,” Forman said.
ThinkCure events will continue throughout the year.