(VERO BEACH, Fla.) - On a day that was originally designated as Tommy Lasorda Day, the Dodgers also had to say a bittersweet goodbye to their spring training home since 1948 -- the longest spring training affiliation in baseball.
The Dodgers plan to move to a new facility in Glendale, Arizona by next spring, ending a 61-year affiliation with Vero Beach and 55 years at Holman Stadium, where older fans still remember Hall of Famers such as Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax and Roy Campanella.
Through much of their 12-10 loss to the Houston Astros, a female fan stood up and yelled a variation on the "Let's go Dodgers" cheer, sounding more poignantly like the one heard at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field in 1957: "Don't go Dodgers."
Fans say the accessibility to players and the ballpark's intimacy - the dugouts are uncovered - made Dodgertown a unique place even by lax spring training standards.
The Dodgers aren't certain their Arizona complex will be ready in time and have the contractual option to return to Dodgertown for one more year. Regardless, they'll be in Glendale by 2010 at the latest.
The Baltimore Orioles have been mentioned in local newspaper reports as a likely option to replace the Dodgers here.
Carl Erskine, who spent all 12 of his seasons with the Dodgers and played the national anthem in his harmonica before the game. Dick Crago, Holman Stadium's PA announcer for nearly 40 years, introduced former manager and Dodger icon Lasorda to a crowd of 7,327, who waited out a long ovation before speaking before the microphone.
Former Huntsville Star Dave Newhan hit a game-tying 2-run homer for the Astros in front of his father Ross, a journalist who had covered spring training at Vero Beach since 1967.
At 4:10 p.m. ET on March 17, 2008, Carlos Hines made Holman Stadium's last pitch and Rafael Furcal grounded it to 2nd baseman Danny Klassen for the final out. The Dodgers players formed their gauntlet, and Tina Turner sang through the speakers, "You're simply the best ..."
On Tuesday morning, the Dodgers will take a bus to Jupiter for a final Grapefruit League game, against the Marlins, then continue on to a plane to Phoenix, Arizona.