Don Demeter’s Colossal Day at the Coliseum

While fans know that Chicago’s Wrigley Field is the oldest ballpark in the National League, many don’t realize that the second oldest is the beautiful Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine. But before the Dodgers moved to this true stadium, they played in the Los Angeles Coliseum from 1958 to 1961. As Don Zminda writes in his fun article for SABR.org:

As late as January 1958, the Dodgers expected to play in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, but when talks with Pasadena officials broke down, the club turned to the Coliseum, home of the NFL Los Angeles Rams and the collegiate USC and UCLA football teams.5 The oval-shaped Coliseum was predictably difficult to configure for baseball, producing very short dimensions in left field (250 feet down the line, 320 to left-center) and distant fences in center (425 feet) and right-center fields (440).6 The Dodgers erected the screen atop the left-field wall to help reduce the number of home runs, but many baseball people feared that Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record was in jeopardy.7

One of the early stars for those Dodgers was player by the name of Don Demeter, know in Philadelphia for his strong play for the Phils and in Boston for his contribution to the Miracle Red Sox of 1967.

April 21, 1959

In the four seasons the Dodgers called the Coliseum home (1958-61), there was just one time a member of the Dodgers had a three-home run game: Don Demeter who first came to the majors in Brooklyn in 1956, and pinch-hit a home run in one of his three pinch at bats, and then re-joined the team in LA in 1958 and he had the game of his young career on April 21, 1959.

Playing against the rival San Francisco Giants, Demeter hit three homers, the only Dodger to ever do that at the Coliseum. But there is even more to the story that makes it so delicious:

  • Demeter’s first homer in the bottom of the 3rd was an inside-the park job off Dom Zanni when he hit a shot into the massive Coliseum center field. Wally Moon scored ahead of Don.
  • Demeter’s second homer, in the bottom of the 4th off Mike McCormick also was a two run shot with Wally Moon first crossing the plate.
  • Demeter’s third homer was also a two-run shot with Sammy Drake scoring first. But what made this so terrific was that it was an 11th inning walkoff homer off Al Worthington.
  • Three two-run homers, one inside-the-park, one walkoff, the one and only Dodger three-homer game at the Coliseum.

In the words of Mel Allen, “How about that!

Postscript

Demeter had one other three-homer game in his career, this one was at the Coliseum as well in 1961. HOWEVER, this time Demeter was playing for the Phillies and the homers were hit off of Sandy Koufax, Ed Roebuck, and Phil Ortega.

Bill White (July 5, 1961) and Lee Walls (April 24, 1958) also had three-homer games at the Coliseum (Walls hit half of his season’s homers on that date), but Demeter is the only one with two.

Demeter will be 82-years old on June 25 and lives in Oklahoma City where he is known as Pastor Don Demeter at the Shepherd of Grace Community Baptist Church.