for the love of a good sandwich

For the Love of a Good Sandwich

by Ed Collins/Sept., 1998


Eighty years ago L.A. restaurateur Philippe Mathieu accidentally dropped a French roll into his roasting pan, soaking it with gravy; as he reached for another roll, the customer said that he’d take the sandwich anyway.

Thus was born the French-dipped sandwich, which is what Philippe, the Original is famous for. Your choice: lamb, pork, roast beef, turkey or ham, double-dipped

au jus on a French roll. Located across the street from downtown’s Union Station, it’s one of the oldest restaurants in L.A.. Patrons sit on wooden stools and eat on picnic tables that sit on sawdust-covered hardwood floors. On tall wooden and glass counter-tops sits 2 huge 5-gallon jars, one filled with pickled pigs feet, the other with hard-boiled eggs. It appears that the only thing that has changed here are the prices.

But it’s breakfast. So my friend Dave, his wife, daughter and I  each order the French toast, egg and bacon combo. 3 dollars and 85 cents, including coffee or juice.

Sharon chooses the orange juice, then ordered the coffee on the side. A smart move, I note, because the coffee costs only .09 cents.

It’s 9:00 a.m., 3 hours after I boarded the Amtrak from San Diego. The Dodger game starts at 1, but Sharon, an account executive for Delta Airlines, needs to be at the ballpark at 11:00 a.m.. It’s Fan Appreciation Day (Delta has donated some flights), and we’ll get to hang out on the field before the game.

At 10:45 a.m. we’re in the administrative offices of Dodger stadium and I’m peeking into the photo-lined office of Dodger General Manager Tommy Lasorda, who is on the phone, staring back at me.

Sharon introduces us to the Dodger’s travel secretary, a wisp of a guy with a skinny face and big glasses, wearing dark slacks and spiffy white jogging shoes. When someone asks if they’re new, he says no, that he has nine new pair in his closet, all in the same condition.

While Sandra chitchats, I check out the framed posters and photos on the walls, and two grand World Championship trophies.

On the field the dirt is red and smooth as a carpet, the grass is cut uniformly to a half-inch. After standing around for ten minutes, a photographer takes a picture of us with the Dodger manager. He does a good job of being polite.Unknown

Standing with my back to the plate, I peer through my compact binoculars where I confirm that the red-headed guy in the press level, seated behind the XTRA AM 1130 sign, is legendary Dodger announcer Vin Scully. From what I know, and who I know, or read or heard about others, others know, Vin Scully is the best at what he does.

I’d like to get his autograph.

I’d like him to sign my PRE-GAME GUEST PASS. Then I’d display it in my house, to impress others who revere him like I do.

Before we’re escorted off the field, I write ED in the dirt with the edge of my shoe.

With the exception of the field, Dodger Stadium is awash in blue, the team’s color. There’s a notable absence of garish billboards, boorish team mascots, chirpy cheerleaders and painfully loud time-worn rock-and-roll tunes. Although there is a Dynavision monitor in left field, the game is center stage, with welcomed well-timed organ accompaniment. I find it all uncluttered and soothing, with an emphasis on tradition.

The Dodger’s Chan Ho Park holds the Milwaukee Brewers scoreless for five innings. The Asian couple sitting across the aisle from me clap every time he does throws a strike. Me, I’m more interested in listening to Vin Scully on my Walkman. He says something about this being the best day in the best month in one of baseball’s very best years.

Vin Scully calls the game he’s watching, but he’s also keeping listeners abreast of the goings on in three other games. Mark McGuire, he informs, hit his 69th and 70th home run of the season. The Giants blew a 7-0 lead to the Rockies. And the Astros edged the Cubs in 11 innings, neces-sitating a one-game playoff to determine the National League wild card winner. (He also mentions that the Brewer’s first baseman hasn’t been the same since he injured his arm a couple years ago in a Las Vegas wrist-wrestling championship.)

Dave draws my attention to Roger, the Peanut Guy. I spend half an inning watching this bespectacled, 50ish, bookeeper-looking guy toss bags of peanuts. He throws them over and under-handed, and around his back. A customer raises his hand, he tosses the bag, then he banters with people in the crowd he seems to know. By the time he collects their money, some fans have already eaten their peanuts. He must be able to remember who caught the peanuts.

In the middle of the third inning I excuse myself to get a Dodger dog. I’m not as hungry as I am curious about how good they are.

I put relish, onions and a thin line of mustard on my Dodger Dog, which sticks out the end of the bun an inch on each side.

It’s overrated.

With two outs in the bottom of the 6th, Dave says we’re leaving after the next out. It’s a few minutes past 3 o’clock and our train rolls out of Union Station at 4.

Just enough time to return to Philippe, the Original, to have a French-dipped sandwich.