By Bob Krauss
Our Honolulu's leading experts on stadiums and scoreboards meet regularly for breakfast in the Flamingo Restaurant on Kapi'olani Boulevard. You're probably wondering what makes a person an expert on stadiums and scoreboards.
Richard Dias started as an usher at the old Honolulu Stadium on King Street in 1943. He saw Takelo Correa, pitcher for the Portuguese Braves, strike out Joe DiMaggio. Correa, according to Dias, had no fastball. What he threw was slow, slower and slowest. Joe DiMaggio had jet lag after flying in from Japan, the stadium experts explained.
With time out for World War II, Dias ushered at the old stadium until it was torn down in 1974. He became familiar with the comfort facilities from giving out re-entry passes to people who had to run next door to the john at the Stadium Bowl-a-Drome.
After long consultation, the stadium experts agreed there were 13 commodes for women at the stadium. The biggest crowd recorded was about 22,000. It was no wonder lines to the bathroom extended half a football field.
While Dias directed people to the toilet, Harold Bell tried to keep the tinder-dry, termite-infested stadium from burning down.
In those days, smoke from cigarettes rose from the stadium like a forest fire. People dropped their butts between the seats. Bell recalls a day when a lit cigarette butt fell into a termite-eaten support beam. Flames erupted.
Bell hauled out the hose and yelled at people above to move. Dedicated sports fans paid no attention. He let the water fly, wetting the behinds of all concerned.
Alika Thompson operated the scoreboard by hand from a circus catwalk reached by climbing a wooden ladder. He got so familiar with Hawai'i Islander hitters that he sometimes put up balls and strikes before they were called.
Sportswriters and announcers Chuck Leahy, Joe Rose, Al Michaels and Ferd Borsch had to climb a 7-foot ladder and go through a trap door to the press box. There was no toilet; they used a tin can.
In 1975, Dias resumed ushering at the new Aloha Stadium, then helped out at what is now the Les Murakami Stadium. He is now senior usher at the Stan Sheriff Arena. Thompson operates the scoreboard at Aloha Stadium part-time.
I asked the experts to compare the sport facilities of Our Honolulu past and present.
They all have a soft spot for cozy old Honolulu Stadium. Dias said the Stan Sheriff Center has a similar family atmosphere, while Aloha Stadium is more impersonal.
All agreed that security since 9/11 has discouraged spectators.
Reach Bob Krauss at 525-8073.