Origins of Los Doyers from the Latino Community and LA Dodgers
For many Mexican-Americans, when they hear "Los Doyers," it reminds them of their family. The word "Doyers" isn't an official word in the Spanish language, but it is significant to generations of Latino Dodgers fans. Its' origins go back to the 1970s and started with assimilating immigrants who knew no "j" sound for the word "Dodgers." They struggled to say this word, and instead, would say "Doyers." It's a nostalgic word because they heard their parents or even grandparents saying this. Today, many have never had the accent, and are part of the first generation to say "Dodgers."
The game against the Colorado Rockies was about to start at Dodger Stadium, and Asencion Garcia hurried through the turnstile with his family, decked in Dodgers swag.
From the baseball cap sporting the “LA” logo to the jersey buttoned down his chest, everything about the Los Angeles resident at the ballgame said “Dodgers.”
Upon closer inspection, the team’s traditional blue font scrawled across Garcia’s white jersey read “Los Doyers” not the usual “Los Angeles.”
“Doyers” means nothing in Spanish, but it means a lot to Garcia, and generations of Latino Dodgers fans.
“Doyers” has become a nostalgic phenomena in the Los Angeles Latino community, as more and more Mexican-Americans become assimilated and lose their accents. Previous generations of Central American immigrants struggled to say “Dodgers” so it came out sounding like “Doyers.”
“My parents, my uncles, they all say ‘Doyers,’” Garcia said. “My brother and I are the first Mexican-Americans in the family, and we say ‘Dodgers.’ My 5-year-old son here, he says ‘Dodgers.’”
Since it first surfaced in the early 1970s, the term has become a reminder of the once-rocky relationship between Los Angeles’ Latino community and their “Doyers.”
More than half a century ago. though, parts of the L.A. Latino community disavowed the Dodgers by any name.
In October of 1957, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley had just announced the team would be moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to bring baseball to the West Coast.
“When they moved to Los Angeles, they couldn’t say for sure where they were going to play,” said Mark Langill, the Dodgers’ team historian.
Even though they had acquired the rights to Wrigley Field in the event they actually made the move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, the 22,000-seat stadium was too small and not what the Dodgers had in mind, especially since O’Malley wanted a privately financed ballpark, Langill said.
The team wanted to build a 56,000-seat stadium in Chavez Ravine, a hilly area near downtown populated mostly by Latinos.
“I don’t really think the Dodgers knew what they were landing in,” said Langill. “But I think when that plane landed, they really understood the landscape.”
Faced with the prospect of being uprooted from their homes, residents waged the “Battle of Chavez Ravine,” an unofficial boycott in which they refused to leave their homes and accused the mayor of making illegal deals with the Dodgers.
After a public referendum narrowly passed in June 1958, the mostly empty housing units in Chavez Ravine were razed for construction of Dodger Stadium in 1959, after the few remaining residents were hustled out. The stadium was completed in 1962.
“It’s part of the oral history of the Eastside,” said Chris Zepeda-Millan, a political science and Chicana/o Studies professor at Loyola Marymount University. “The Dodgers symbolized the white male power structure literally displacing us.”
Still, Dodgers hype intoxicated the Southland, and the team hit a home run with everyone, including area Latinos, Langill said.
“Anybody that lost their home you would never convince otherwise; they’re still going to have those feelings,” Langill said. “But in general, the city embraced them from day one, from arriving at the airport to their first game in the Coliseum.”
Then, Latinos represented about 10 percent of the population in Los Angeles, said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles and professor of political science and Chicana/o studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The city’s current Latino population is more than 50 percent, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Knowing their constituency and the changing demographics of the city, the Dodgers began looking for someone who could represent the growing Latino population.
“The dream was to find a box-office star, someone from Mexico, because of the demographic shift,” Langill said.
That’s when 20-year-old Fernando Valenzuela stepped up to the plate for not only the Dodgers, but Latino baseball fans who were hungry for representation in the major leagues.
“Fernando was the one that lit the torch and really connected the team with the fans. If you [had] a box-office star from Mexico, it made it a lot more personal from the Latino standpoint. And suddenly, the English-speaking fans were fascinated by this superstar from a Mexican village.”
With Valenzuela’s trademark wind-up and fast climb to becoming the National League’s top rookie and pitcher in 1981, “Fernandomania” ensued, even combatting “an anti-immigrant sentiment” at the time, Zepeda-Millan said.
“The Latino communities, especially in L.A., were feeling the brunt of that,” he said. “[Baseball] is America’s pastime. This was the whitest sport you can think of at that time.”
Valenzuela emerged as a role model for a fresh-faced generation of Mexican-Americans too young to remember the Battle of Chavez Ravine. “We saw him and said, ‘Hey, we could be good at that, too,’” Zepeda-Millan said. “That’s when Latinos finally adopted the Dodgers, and their love affair with the Dodgers began.”
Latino fan base growing
Roughly 24 percentof this season’s Major League Baseball rosters’ players are from Latin American countries, a dip from 27.3 percent last season, according to media reports. Overall, 241 players, or 28 percent of all MLB players, were born outside the U.S., Fox News Latino has reported.
According to the Dodgers, 43 percent of their fan base this season was made up of Latinos. Twenty-eight percent speak English only, and 19 percent speak Spanish only. Latino fans attended an average of about eight games this season, the team’s statistics showed.
“The Dodgers have been a part of Latino culture in L.A. for decades. Both go hand-in-hand,” Dodgers Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Lon Rosen said in a statement. “We are extremely proud of the legacy of Latino Dodgers past and present. Their impact on and off the field cannot be matched. We embrace the cultural significance of the term ‘Doyers’ used throughout Los Angeles and even by our own players. It’s a part of the club’s identity.”
In 2010, the Dodgers trademarked “Los Doyers” after shirts and jerseys sporting the phrase proved profitable for businesses around Chavez Ravine, according to reports. A cease and desist letter was sent to any business selling the merchandise.
Loyola Marymount’s Guerra said he’s attended parties on the Eastside where everyone will watch a muted television, but listen to the radio play-by-play of Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin — “the Vin Scully of Latinos,” Guerra said.
“Baseball is an incredibly strong sport in Latin America,” he said. “When immigrants came over, it was easy for baseball to be part of the immigrant integration story in Los Angeles.”
Juan Gonzalez, a Dodgers fan from Pacoima who attended a recent game, said hearing “Los Doyers” takes him back to the 1988 World Series, when his family would scream at the television for the “Doyers” to whip the Oakland A’s.
“For the Dodgers to pick it up, it’s pretty cool,” Gonzalez said. “Every time I hear ‘Los Doyers,’ it reminds me of my family.”