In a city reeling from the medical and economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, forced to restrict its celebrated freewheeling lifestyle and even robbed of the sacred ritual of a summer at Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers’ World Series victory felt like a vaccine — if only temporary — for 2020’s many miseries.
Dodger fans took to the streets and provided Los Angeles with a hearty fireworks show as the team won its first World Series since 1988.
On Sunset Boulevard down the hill from Dodger Stadium, drivers formed an impromptu parade, honking and cheering. Los Angeles police ordered people to leave the area and were attempting to push hundreds of people off the street. Although the celebration was largely peaceful, some objects were thrown at police, and officers fired rubber bullets.
Fans set off fireworks amid the canyon of towers along downtown L.A.’s main streets as people converged in the city center by car, foot, bike and even skateboard. Police were also trying to control crowds there.
Huge crowds also converged on Whittier Boulevard, expressing their joy in what has been such a tough year. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies were moving through the area trying to clear the streets. Hundreds crowded streets in Pacoima, with cars doing doughnuts in intersections.
Caesar Maldonado, 44, has lived in Echo Park since 1982.
He watched the cars doing burnouts, the people climbing streetlights and remembered when he was 12 and the Dodgers last won the World Series. That year he and his friends went to downtown Los Angeles to celebrate. It was far rowdier.
“There was no COVID,” he said. “There were far more people out. It was a whole lot of fun.”
He couldn’t contain his excitement about the win, holding up his phone to show his friend what was happening on FaceTime as people crowded into the street screaming, “Let’s go Dodgers.”
“I can’t believe they won,” he said.
Just 4 years old when the Dodgers last won a championship, Fernando Hernandez Jr. stood outside his mother’s home in Boyle Heights in a delirium of happiness, clutching a half-empty bottle of Champagne.
“Pandemic champions, baby!” he shouted over the honks of cars rushing past on Soto Street. Queen’s “We Are the Champions” belted from a loudspeaker.
Hernandez, an office services coordinator for a law firm, marveled at the Dodgers’ ability to gut out the season, despite a pandemic that threw the league into disarray.
“There’s no asterisk to this championship at all, bro,” he said. “That was straight gutsy baseball.”
“This is the best we’ve felt in a long time,” said Ismael Servin, 21, standing on the corner of Hubbard street and Belsen Avenue in East Los Angeles, smoke boiling up from the tires of a pickup revving its engine in the intersection. “In 2020, we needed this.”
Officials urged Dodger fans to avoid crowds and practice social distancing when celebrating. L.A. County health authorities have blamed gatherings related to the Lakers’ and Dodgers’ championship season for spreading COVID-19 and preventing the county from reopening more quickly.
“Gatherings in large crowds to watch games indoors, people aren’t wearing their face coverings, people are yelling a lot — that’s just not sensible,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said recently.
Los Angeles police are also hoping to avoid a repeat of the problems that occurred in downtown after the Lakers victory. The celebrations turned rowdy, and more than 70 people were arrested. Police had closed off the main entrance to Dodger Stadium as well as Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore urged people Tuesday to celebrate a Dodgers win at home.
“They are safer at home. This COVID-19 virus is real,” he said. “There will be no tolerance for violence. There is no room in Los Angeles for people to commit vandalism.”
After 11 p.m., the LAPD urged the public to go home.
“We’re seeing some large, at times unruly crowds, taking over intersections in various parts of the city.We urge all Angelenos to stay home if possible.If you must be out, please exercise caution. Should you encounter a large crowd, do not attempt to drive through it,” the department said on Twitter.
There were no immediate reports of arrests. Some vandalism was seen in downtown Los Angeles and Echo Park.
As the final pitches were being delivered 1,400 miles away, fans who parked in Dodger Stadium’s parking lot stepped out of their cars in anticipation of jubilation.
They pulled out flags, banners, hopped up and down and then celebrated with screams and tears, in some cases, as the Dodgers won their first World Series in 32 years.
People from nearby cars hugged, others ran around high-fiving the crowd of fans — most where masked, but others pulled down their facial coverings to scream.
Eventually, Los Angeles police in riot cleared the intersection of Vin Scully and Sunset. “The only people we want to see in blue are the Dodgers,” one woman steamed.
Parties along Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles were also broken up by police, who asked fans to disperse.
Every year, Oscar Marquez saves his pocket change on the chance the Dodgers make the World Series. “Pennies, nickels, dimes — anything.”
It all goes in a big plastic jar, only to be shelled out on a ticket to watch his team vie for a championship at Dodger Stadium. The last time the Dodgers won it all, Marquez was 12, a student at Euclid Avenue Elementary in Boyle Heights.
For the next three decades, he would watch each season end in varying degrees of disappointment. This year, Marquez set aside $500 in his jar. But with a pandemic shifting the series to a neutral site, there were no hometown stadium tickets to buy. Instead, he put down his World Series fund on a bet.
He’s in line to collect about $1,500, he said, standing on the corner of Whittier Boulevard and Lorena Street, surrounded by screaming fans and shouting above the screech of an orange Camaro doing doughnuts in the intersection.
Health restrictions may have pushed some revelers outdoors who in ordinary times might have celebrated in a bar, but Johnny Aguilar, a Boyle Heights native, insisted that “whether there’s a pandemic or not, we’d be here. We’d be right here on this corner. This is a family.”
Felipe Herrera, who also grew up in Boyle Heights, described the neighborhood as “die hard.”
“East L.A. bleeds blue,” Herrera said. And after season after season of “trying, trying, trying,” he added, “we finally got it.”
Mask on, Victor Argueta wore a special black Dodgers jersey he recently bought on EBay for $40.
Number 8 on the front and 24 on the back. The name on the back was Bryant. This year was marked by loss for the 30-year-old. First Kobe Bryant, who was his favorite player growing up in Echo Park. Then his mother who had cancer but died in August from coronavirus.
“She was beating the cancer and doing better but then went into the hospital,” he said fighting back tears. “I didn’t get to see her again.”
When Mookie Betts hit his homer to extend the Dodgers lead in the eighth inning, Argueta left his house and headed for Vin Scully Way. As he adjusted the mask on his face, a fresh tattoo of his mother, an immigrant from Mexico who worked at the Beverly Hills courthouse and loved her adopted city, was visible.
“My mom would’ve loved to see this,” the house painter said. “She loved the Lakers and Dodgers so much.”