The Baltimore Orioles played a strange baseball game today. On the field, the home team defeated the Chicago White Sox, 8-2. But around the field – where Camden Yards fans should have been cheering for a home run, drowning out the umpire’s ball and strike calls, shouting “O!” during the national anthem and singing “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” during the seventh-inning stretch – was silence. Unrest in the city caused the game to be played in a stadium closed to the public.
In Los Angeles, in August 1965, Dodger Stadium was several miles removed from the Watts riots and was not closed, but the violence still affected the team and the fans.
Wednesday, Aug. 11, 1965: The Dodgers are locked in a tough National League pennant race with San Francisco and Milwaukee. With Don Drysdale on the mound – and the Giants rained out – the Dodgers defeat the Mets, 1-0, sweeping the series and increasing their league lead to 1.5 games over San Francisco, two over Milwaukee.
Rioting breaks out in Watts after a black motorist is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. The Times’ report on the baseball game does not mention the violence.
On the Front Page the next day: “1,000 Riot in L.A.: Police and Motorists Attacked. Routine Arrest of 3 Sparks Watts Melee; 8 Blocks Sealed Off”
Thursday, Aug. 12: The Dodgers have an off day to prepare for a weekend series against the “heavy-hitting” Pirates, whose lineup included the great Roberto Clemente.
On the Front Page the next day: “New Rioting: Stores Looted, Cars Destroyed. Many Fires Started; 75 Reported Injured in 2nd Violent Night.”
Friday, Aug. 13: Claude Osteen holds Pittsburgh to one run, and the Dodgers increase their league lead to 2.5 games. Two choice passages: “Willie Davis did the frug, the watusi and the twist in robbing Bob Clemente and Manuel Mota of extra-base hits.” And: “The crowd of 32,551 seemed a bit subdued, perhaps because of the smoke that apparently drifted in from the riot area and hung like a pall over the stadium.”
On the Front Page the next day: “Eight Men Slain; Guard Moves In. Scores of Fires Rage Unchecked; Damage Exceeds $10 Million”
An incredible photo by The Times’ John Malmin runs on the front page:
Saturday, Aug. 14: Sandy Koufax scores the game’s only run in the 10th inning (talk about doing it all) to improve to 21-4 on the season and defeat the Pirates. From the game report: “A crowd of ‘only’ 29,237 fans turned out at Dodger Stadium and the management said the seriousness of the local situation hurt attendance by at least 15,000.” Also: “Willie Crawford, who resides in the curfew area, spent the night at Johnny Roseboro’s home … Walt Alston, Danny Ozark and Trixie Tracewski, who live just west of Crenshaw, had the vicarious thrill of seeing armed national guardsmen patrolling in the area Saturday afternoon.”
On the Front Page the next day: “Negro Riots Rage On; Death Toll 25. 21,000 Troops, Police Wage Guerrilla War; 8 p.m. Curfew Invoked.” All eight headlines on A1 are about the riots.
Sunday, Aug. 15: The Dodgers’ four-game winning streak is snapped with Don Drysdale on the mound. They lead Milwaukee by 1.5 games, San Francisco by 2.5. Attendance is 25,175: “The advance sale for Sunday was 30,000 and but for the tense situation locally the crowd would have hit 40,000, said a club spokesman. Series attendance was 40,000 below what it would have been under normal conditions.” In a column headlined “A Week to Forget,” Sid Ziff writes about players who live in the riot area worrying how they’ll get home and others rushing to the TV for news after the game.
On the Front Page the next day: “Rioting Shifts to Long Beach. Policeman Killed as Fellow Officer’s Gun Is Fired Accidentally”
Monday, Aug. 16: The Dodgers’ league lead is reduced to a half a game in a loss to Philadelphia. Attendance is 22,611.
On the Front Page the next day: “Brown Declares: Riot Is Over.”
Tuesday, Aug. 17: Attendance begins to rise just a bit, and the Dodgers “cling tenaciously to their precarious perch atop the National League standings.” The Dodgers lose the next game to the Phillies then split a four-game series in San Francisco.
On the Front Page the next day: “Curfew Ends but – L.A. on Guard. Mop-up Activity Begins”
The pennant race that followed was a memorable one for the Dodgers, but even more exciting was the World Series win in seven games over the Minnesota Twins.
That same week, The Times ran a series looking back at the Watts riots and at the attitudes of people living in the community. I plan to explore this series, titled “The View From Watts,” in depth this summer. Here are the opening paragraphs of the first article.
Oct. 10, 1965: ‘You’re Black and That’s All There Is to It!’
“If I ever made enough money,” says the 46-year-old father of six, “I would move out of Watts like all the other big shots. So I’m here, so what the hell. Los Angeles isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Wherever you go, you’re black – that’s all there is to it.” Outward from Watts, where Italian immigrant Simon Rodia’s filigreed spires of iron scraps and broken crockery stand as the only attempt at beauty, the district called the Negro ghetto expands each day. Its walls, built higher and higher by the machines that take over low-skill jobs, permit fewer escapes from the seething frustrations that exploded on a hot August night into violence.
Photos: (Top) Two buildings on Avalon Boulevard, the left one at 107th Street are the right one at 108th Street, go up in flames in this picture from a helicopter. Credit: Los Angeles Times / UCLA Library. (Middle, with original published caption, Aug. 14, 1965) WARLIKE SCENE – This scene reminiscent of wartime is in the 1800 block of E. 103rd St. as national guardsmen take up posts. Credit: John Malmin / Los Angeles Times