LOS ANGELES (AP) -As he walked down the Los Angeles Coliseum tunnel and glanced toward the left-field screen, Boston catcher Jason Varitek smiled and said sarcastically: ``Wakie's a fly ball pitcher. That's great.''
Then, in his best broadcast voice, he intoned: ``Dodgers 85, Red Sox 81.''
Esteban Loaiza, the Dodgers' starter who opposed knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in Saturday night's exhibition game, followed a few minutes later, took a look and shook his head.
``It's short, man. It's like playing a whiffle ball game,'' he said.
It was 3 1/2 hours before gametime - long before fans began filling the Coliseum for the first big league baseball game at the facility since September 1961. The Dodgers said 115,300 tickets were sold, including some 25,000 for standing-room only.
The crowd was expected to break the existing world record for a baseball game of about 114,000 who attended an exhibition between the Australian national team and an American services team during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
The game was part of the Dodgers' 50th anniversary celebration of their move west from Brooklyn. They played at the Coliseum for four years before making Dodger Stadium their permanent home in 1962.
It was a stadium built for track and football, not baseball.
Routine fly balls, even popups, soared over a 42-foot high screen in left field, where the distance from home plate to the foul pole was just 251 feet. Meanwhile, drives to right and center of more than 400 feet were easy outs.
The distance to the left-field foul pole for this game was 201 feet, and the screen was 60 feet high.
``It's really close. This might be one of the only places Juan Pierre could go opposite field,'' Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said, poking a little fun at his power-challenged teammate.
Martin's advice for Loaiza against right-handed hitters?
``Down and away, all day,'' Martin replied.
``The left fielder's going to play short with me,'' Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal said. ``I think (the screen) is so close it might actually be tough to hit it out unless it's a popup or a miss-hit.''
Boston manager Terry Francona said he was just happy he wasn't pitching - or hitting.
``Sadly, my little flares would have carried to the left fielder,'' he said.
Don Demeter, an outfielder for the Dodgers when they made their cross-country move, said he remembered many line shots that would hit the screen instead of going for home runs, as they would have in normal ballparks.
``You hit it off the handle, it might go over,'' Demeter added.
Former Dodgers pitching ace Don Newcombe had a difficult time looking at the screen, which clearly brought up some unpleasant memories.
``That's terrible, isn't it? I know the hitters are foaming at the mouth,'' Newcombe said, his voice rising. ``It's a monstrosity, that's not a baseball thing. It was a monstrosity then. We knew that.''
Francona gave Manny Ramirez the day off, so Bobby Kielty played left field for the Red Sox.
``I was thinking maybe I can throw somebody out at first,'' Kielty said. ``I'm actually going to play left-center. The shortstop's going to get the balls off the wall.''
First-year Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who grew up in Brooklyn, recalled playing at the Coliseum as a rookie in 1961 and not faring very well.
``I walked out on that field and I said, `Whoa, this is really great for a right-handed hitter.' I wasn't that right-handed hitter,'' he said.
The Red Sox traveled to Japan for the first two games of the regular season against Oakland before flying to Los Angeles and arriving late Wednesday night. They're playing three games against the Dodgers before flying to Oakland for another pair with the A's that count.
``For us right now, it's play a game and move on,'' Boston's Alex Cora said. ``It's been such a difficult week. Hopefully it's not like a USC (football) score.''
All proceeds from the game will go to ThinkCure, the Dodgers' official charity.
``Having had cancer and knowing all these people are spending their money for a great cause is wonderful,'' Torre said.
Francona expressed a similar sentiment.
``The idea behind this is awesome,'' he said. ``I think flexible is the word for the day. We're trying to respect the occasion. It's more of an event for ThinkCure, a deserving foundation. The concept is tremendous. For one day, I've got to sit back, not complain, not worry.''
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