Mark Langill brought a special hat given to him 49 years ago to work on Monday, a day the longtime Los Angeles Dodgers’ employee won’t soon forget.
Decked out in a blue suit, Langill, the team’s historian, toted a wool LA cap along with him as he attended a luncheon in which staff members of the club were presented their 2020 World Series rings.
Langill’s parents gave him the Dodger hat when the lifelong South Pasadena resident attended Chavez Ravine for his first game at the age of seven.
“That cap means just as much as the World Series ring because it represents the first step of a wonderful path I never expected and still can’t believe,” said Langill after accepting his coveted piece of jewelry, representing the organizations first championship in 32 years. “The autographs under the bill are still visible and I still remember in vivid detail when I went to a car dealership in the summer of 1975 to meet five Dodgers. I instantly recognized these players in civilian clothes – Davey Lopes, Ivan DeJesus, Doug Rau, Manny Mota and Bill Russell – and had already memorized their career stats from my baseball cards.”
Employees received their rings in the warning track of the outfield during which they posed for photos and selfies. In a private moment after congratulatory words from Stan Kasten, the Dodgers’ president and CEO, and accepting his ring, Langill headed out to the Left Field Pavilion for his favorite stadium seat against the railing, adjacent the team’s bullpen to reflect on the moment “so they didn’t see their historian get teary-eyed,” he said.
From that vantage point, Langill could watch all the Dodger relief pitchers and backup catchers milling around. He took in the sound of “pop!” as the practice pitch hit the glove of the catcher “who sat there in a crouch, often without a mask, and didn’t flinch,” he said, thinking back to his youth. “It was loud. That’s how you knew how fast those guys could throw.”
Monday marked a memorable day for those who work long hours behind-the-scenes in a myriad of roles, from marketing, public relations, publications, and other front office positions to ensure that all aspects of a Dodgers game, outside of what takes place on the field between the lines, runs smoothly.
“When you’re a kid, the dream is to see your favorite baseball team win a championship,” Langill noted. “Watching the Dodgers lose the World Series in 1974, 1977 and 1978 made me appreciate their 1981 triumph over the New York Yankees. The excitement of the 1981 postseason has stayed with me 40 years. I was happy for the generation of fans and colleagues that either weren’t around or are too young to remember Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and the 1988 Dodgers.”
The fact that Monday’s ring ceremony was held in the center field plaza area was surreal “because even with the stadium renovations, I still clearly remembered the scenes from attending games there as a kid,” Langill said. “There were certain areas by the bullpen you could hunt for autographs.”
Growing up he recalls going to a souvenir stand under the outfield bleachers and spending a few innings pondering his next Dodger purchase for the day – maybe a vintage yearbook leftover from the 1960s or the current season’s edition from the Sporting News baseball reference library that later became part of his mountains of memorabilia.
Back in the day Dodgers’ Concessions director Danny Goodman, who held the position from 1958 until his passing in 1983, “gave fans a wide variety of souvenirs, ranging from clothing generic bobblehead dolls representing all MLB teams to individual Dodger pictures and player postcards,” remembered Langill. “My mother could take my sister and me to the ballpark for five dollars, which included parking.”
In 1980, Langill’s name was picked in a postcard drawing to purchase tickets for the All-Star Game that year, the club historian adding, “My mother drove because I didn’t have my license and we sat in the Left Field Pavilion.”
When he showed her his 2020 World Series ring on Monday “it felt like I was holding some kind of diploma,” he said.
Dodger players, wearing special jerseys and hats, were awarded their rings prior to the team’s home season opener against the Washington Nationals earlier this month. Clayton Kershaw received the loudest ovation as Justin Turner, Mookie Betts, Kenley Jansen and Corey Seager were among the other major crowd pleasers.
COVID-19 has kept Langill away from his office at Dodger Stadium over the past year. He’s made only occasional visits for television interviews outside the seating area. “I haven’t been inside the actual Dodger offices since March 2020,” he offered. “Working from home, I looked forward to watching the ring ceremony for the players on television because they were going to be surprised with video messages of congratulations from their boyhood heroes. It also continued tradition going back to the 1955 World Series-winning Brooklyn Dodgers of a ring ceremony and raising of the championship flag on the following Opening Day. I was especially happy for pitcher Clayton Kershaw, a member of the Dodgers since 2008, not having to pitch the home opener. After so many heartbreaks in the postseason, he was able to enjoy the festivities and hold his ring high about his head like a tennis champion handed the Wimbledon trophy.”
Langill has been member of the Dodger front office since 1994, originally joining the Broadcasting and Publications Department after covering the team as a Pasadena Star-News reporter for five seasons. The Team Historian title came his way in 2002 after two ownership changes, management basically telling Langill, “Since you seem to know every bit of obscure trivia about the Dodgers and apparently don’t get tired of talking about it, how would you like to be team historian and be in charge of every miscellaneous question and request that we receive?”
He didn’t have to be asked twice, jumping at the opportunity. “I basically spent my youth preparing for a role that didn’t exist at the time,” he said, proudly wearing a World Series championship ring today as part of his role with the club.
No person on the planet it seems can roll off statistics, data and information about Dodgers players like he can. Langill said the long wait between championships seemed like an eternity to Los Angeles fans “who watched their Dodgers win a title in 1959 in only their second season on the West Coast. The Koufax and Drysdale era produced titles in 1963 and 1965 while Tommy Lasorda twice guided his team to a championship in 1981 and 1988.”
But for those with little patience, he urges them to take off their Dodger Blue blinders, reminding them that some Major League Baseball franchises have waited years for a title. “Cleveland hasn’t won since 1948, having come close in a seven-game World Series heartbreak in both 1997 and 2016,” he said. “The Padres were established in 1969 and have two National League pennants in 1984 and 1998. The Giants had to wait 56 years between titles (1954-2010) and the Cubs in 2016 ended a 108-year drought. Bottom line for Dodger fans – savor the memories of 2020 because every championship team is like a sand castle in need of rebuilding the following spring.”