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PHOENIX, Ariz. — An entire decade has passed since the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated an NL West title in the small 4-and-a-half-foot deep pool situated beyond Chase Field’s center-field wall.
Only two players that appeared in that game are still major leaguers. The rivalry that formed from the Dodgers’ actions that night has elevated and long fizzled. Time has passed. People move on.
But not Willie Bloomquist. The ex-Arizona Diamondbacks utilityman and current Arizona State head coach seems just as angry in 2023 as he was after that Sept. 19, 2013 game.
“There’s guys I haven’t spoken to since,” Bloomquist said recently. “Whether or not you want to say the relationship ended — I’m not extending the olive branch. They’re the ones that pissed me off by doing it. I’m not going to be the first one to call them. If we never talk again, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.”
The D-Backs pool is one of the more unique features a major-league ballpark has to offer. The last time the World Series was played in this building, in 2001 against the New York Yankees, then-Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly covered Game 1 from the pool. Since then, the pool has undergone two makeovers and inspired other organizations to personalize their parks in a similar way.
“Was it gimmicky (at first)? Yeah, it probably was,” said former infielder Jay Bell, who played for the Diamondbacks from 1998 to 2002 and later coached in the organization. “But nonetheless, it certainly set us apart, for sure.”
Arizona has twice celebrated in its own water this season. Once when it clinched the playoffs on the season’s penultimate day. And again when it eliminated those aforementioned Dodgers to reach the NLCS.
The D-Backs’ success has brought the drama of a decade ago to the forefront as the 2023 World Series moves to Arizona, with the home team and the Texas Rangers tied at one game apiece. But to understand the present, it’s important to fully grasp the context and history of that unassuming but highly sought-after body of water.
Several of those 2013 Dodgers look back on that night fondly. Brandon League, who tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings that evening, said a Los Angeles public relations representative was told by a D-Backs official before the game that they couldn’t celebrate if they won.
At that point in the season, it was inevitable that the Dodgers were going to win the division. They were more than 10 games up on the D-Backs. The question was if they could win that night — the final game of the series. The final chance to close out the division with a splash, so to speak.
“We were like, that’s kind of weird to bring up,” League said of the instructions to steer clear. “It wasn’t on our mind. But now that it is on our mind, we’re going to f—ing do it.”
After the 7-6 Dodgers win, Bloomquist was in the Diamondbacks clubhouse, talking to reporters. One asked him what he thought about the Dodgers celebrating in the Chase Field pool.
“Nah, they wouldn’t do that,” Bloomquist said.
“They’re in there right now,” a reporter replied.
Dressed in his travel suit — the Diamondbacks next played at Colorado — Bloomquist left the clubhouse and stormed onto the field. He barked at a couple of Los Angeles players as they left the pool. He told them this wasn’t something the Yankees would’ve done.
“I got crucified for going out there and wanting to fight their whole team for doing it,” Bloomquist said. “I thought it was wrong — I still think it was wrong. I got labeled the ‘fun police’ and all this stuff by all those guys who have their talk-radio (shows) and whatever. But, hey, I stand for something. And I still stand behind the fact that that’s our pool.”
Rumors surfaced that the Dodgers urinated in the pool. It was discussed on Phoenix radio for days. Bloomquist said it wasn’t a rumor.
“No, it’s true,” he said. “And knowing who did it, knowing some of the guys on their team that told me, they did it.”
Another Dodgers reliever, J.P. Howell, recalled his team getting sent an invoice from a very angry D-Backs team.
The entire episode created quite a stir. John McCain, United States Senator at the time, tweeted that it was a “No-class act by a bunch of overpaid, immature, arrogant, spoiled brats!” It was a national story for days.
No-class act by a bunch of overpaid, immature, arrogant, spoiled brats! “The #Dodgers are idiots”
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) September 20, 2013
“I could call it disrespectful and classless,” D-Backs president Derrick Hall said at the time. “But they don’t have a beautiful pool at their old park and must have really wanted to see what one was like.”
There was already bad blood between the teams. This all happened just three months after a nasty brawl that resulted in 11 suspensions. There was no love lost between the two organizations, whose Triple-A affiliates brawled the following season.
Before the Dodgers clinched in Arizona to cap the 2017 season, manager Dave Roberts promised that history would not repeat itself.
“That won’t happen,” Roberts said. “This is a completely different team. I think we have bigger goals than to jump into a swimming pool. Our guys clearly understand what this is about. We have no interest in jumping into a pool.”
Just to be sure, there were police officers stationed on horses guarding that part of the stadium. No risks would be taken.
That brings us to 2023. This pool, along with its potential occupants, is once again a topic of discussion. Before the start of the NLDS, Hall was asked if the Dodgers would be free to celebrate in their pool — should they clinch in Arizona.
“They have the right to celebrate however they want, wherever they want,” Hall said, speaking genuinely. “They’ve certainly earned that opportunity.”
But this Dodgers team couldn’t so much as capture a lead in the NLDS, let alone win the series. The topic once again was up for discussion in the NLCS, when the Phillies won the first two games at home. If they won 2 of 3 in the desert, they’d get a chance to celebrate.
“If we take two here against Arizona, we’ll be bee-lining it for the water,” said Phillies backup catcher Garrett Stubbs, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Throughout this entire postseason, the Diamondbacks have thrived on taking exception to people doubting them. After they clinched the World Series berth, veteran third baseman Evan Longoria cited betting lines leaning heavily in Philly’s favor. Tommy Pham stood on the stage after the Game 7 victory in Philadelphia filming sad and angry Phillies fans that had heckled them ruthlessly.
It’s been the team’s personality in October. “Us against the world,” all the way to the World Series. They’ve leaned into keeping receipts. So it was no surprise that manager Torey Lovullo had some fun at Stubbs’ expense when it was his team celebrating in the Phillies home ballpark.
“When I picked up on the comment that they wanted to celebrate in our pool, that bothered me a little bit,” Lovullo said after Game 7. “I think it motivated this team externally. Being able to take a photo (in Philadelphia), it made it a little bit more special.”
The World Series now moves to Arizona. Each team has won a game.
Both teams will start Monday’s Game 3 knowing they’ll have a chance to win a championship in this ballpark. Both teams can end their season in that pool.
Three wins in three days, with a dip in the water as the ultimate reward.
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(Photo of the Diamondbacks in their pool, celebrating their NLDS win over the Dodgers: Elsa / Getty Images)