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In 1966, the Beatles brought a whole new ballgame to Dodger Stadium

Forty-five years ago, the band played before 45,000 screaming fans in Chavez Ravine. It lasted a half-hour, it was the next-to-last concert they ever played — but those who were there recall it vividly.

The Beatles perform on a stage set up near second base at Dodger Stadium. (Los Angeles Times / August 28, 1966)

Remember who was playing second base for the Dodgers 45 years ago Sunday? If you said John Lennon, you're close. All the Beatles played the infield that night, on a stage set up at second base, draped in blue and white, of course.

Yes, Sunday is the 45th anniversary of the "bigger-than-Jesus" Beatles at Dodger Stadium, the first concert in the history of the gleaming 4-year-old ballpark. The third-place Dodgers were off playing the first-place Giants in San Francisco on the day "Nowhere Man" rang out across Chavez Ravine. The screaming, they say, could be heard all the way to Sunset Boulevard.

Price of a ticket? $4.50, though if you wanted to sit closer, in the loge or field level, you'd have to come up with $6. Walter O'Malley himself approved the inaugural concert, then — ever the conscientious owner — demanded the best seats for his season-ticket holders. Citing a potential PR nightmare, the promoters talked him out of that; O'Malley bought a chunk of seats further back, in the club level.

"It was absolutely magical," remembers Barb Cabot of Long Beach, who attended the concert with friends. "We all looked alike — long straight hair parted in the middle and bell bottoms."

Three opening acts kicked off the warm evening — the Ronettes, the Remains, the Cyrkle. Dead silence followed as the crowd sat waiting for the Beatles, Cabot recalls.

"When they ran out on the stage, the screaming started and never stopped," Cabot says.

"Honestly, I didn't hear one song. . . . It didn't matter."

Bob Eubanks was the concert's promoter, a young radio guy who was staging 100 concerts a year back then. That same year, he would also be chosen to host a little game show called the "Newlywed Game."

Now 73, he remembers the Beatles as being far more jaded than they had been when they played the Hollywood Bowl the two previous years. They were also at the end of a 14-city North American trip — a tour that would be their last. Two nights later the 19-day trek ended in San Francisco's Candlestick Park, and the band would never again perform live in a formal concert setting.

"It was much different because the band was different," Eubanks says. "I believe they were tired of it all. They were different people in '66."

Eubanks, who was scheduled to throw out the first pitch before Friday's Dodgers-Colorado Rockies game to commemorate the show's anniversary, says he paid the band $120,000 for their 11-song, 30-minute appearance. "If they ended up with $4,000 apiece I'd be surprised," he recalls, noting the band's travel expenses and massive entourage.

Among Eubanks' most vivid recollections: the Beatles' near-disastrous escape. Operations folks had several plans to sneak them out after the concert, and wound up covering the band in blankets and whisking them off in an ambulance.

"The ambulance hit a speed bump on the way out of the parking lot and the radiator fell out," Eubanks said.

The Beatles were able to transfer to an armored car, but fans quickly swarmed that. The truck "was just piled with girls" and unable to move without injuring someone, Eubanks said.

"Lord knows where they came from but all of a sudden a bunch of Hells Angels surrounded the truck and got the Beatles out of Dodger Stadium," he says.

"It was the last time I ever saw the Beatles — and the Hells Angels too."

Last Updated: 08/27/11 08:51
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News Summary

Forty-five years ago, the band played before 45,000 screaming fans in Chavez Ravine. It lasted a half-hour, it was the next-to-last concert they ever played — but those who were there recall it vividly.