LOS ANGELES — It should be Dodger Purple by now. The bruises have accumulated for decades.
Mike Piazza got traded. Fox, and then Frank McCourt, bought a golden franchise and used it to scrape dirt off their shoes. The McCourt Divorce chased RBIs and strikeouts off the sports page. The intricate strategy of getting in and out of Dodger Stadium, inspired by Dunkirk, has gotten no easier. Inside, the $14 beer is now offered without remorse. The stadium itself has become a hyperactive migraine machine. It squelches all hopes of conversation.
And now that the Dodgers have become a tornado-spewing earthquake of winning, they still are invisible for a majority of the TV viewers.
Why should anyone care?
In a suite just west of downtown, Alex Soto and Desiree Garcia don’t have time to answer. They sit beside each other and they look into their terminals and they handle the flood of requests for merchandise, for tickets, for information on the next Dodger trip, sometimes for signs of life and companionship.
They provide the place to find the true color. Officially, it is Pantone 294.
It is a Dodgers fan group that was already thriving when Soto, in the shower, thought about a name and wondered what the exact shade of Dodger Blue was named. He hopped out, started Googling, and found Pantone 294.
Back then, Soto was selling Pantone 294 merchandise out of his garage in Huntington Park. He had been laid off from his job as an industrial engineer. Garcia was working in human resources. They envisioned a day when they could work for themselves and somehow get involved with the team Soto used to watch from the outfield pavilion.
Social media, to an extent that Soto and Garcia are grasping to understand, has been the avenue.
“It’s more than sitting in the seats,” Garcia said. “We’re engaging people. We want to turn this into friends and family. They come by here to pick up tickets and merchandise. We’re here all the time, and they bring us sandwiches. Someone dropped off a PlayStation 4. It’s amazing how it comes together.”
Pantone 294 has amazed on two recent occasions.
In September, 1,300 members traveled on seven chartered planes and stayed in three hotels and two yachts to plan an invasion of Yankee Stadium. It populated the left-field seats and managed to hoist its trademark “LA” logo banner, and it generally out-noised the Yankee fans. Manager Dave Roberts even visited the sections afterward.
Then two months ago, Pantone 294 disciples wedged inside a Dodger Stadium room and doggedly clicked Justin Turner’s name until he had won an All-Star election. Garcia said 78 of them pulled 4-hour shifts. Turner got 20.3 million votes.
The Pantone 294 crew did not take breaks, did not stretch its legs, did not relent. Turner and fiancee Kourtney Pogue visited and distributed coffee and what Garcia called “amazing chicken sandwiches.”
The myth is that Dodger fans are poorly focused, late arriving and early departing. But they have endured these miseries and they have multiplied, and they can summon as much anger and fervor and second-guessing as anyone else. Because L.A. is so widespread, the noise of their anxieties tends to dissipate. They aren’t living on top of each other like Cubs and Red Sox fans.
But Pantone 294 boasts 50,000 engaged Instagram followers. There is no membership requirement, no fees.
And they have fun. The smuggling of the banner is the most fun. Soto said it was a bit of a hassle when the group went to Miami. It took two hours. Pantone members specifically ask to sit near the edges of the banner so they can raise it.
“When the banner goes up, my DMs blow up,” Garcia said.
“It takes 30-45 minutes to get it straight,” Soto said. “And it can’t be upside down. I’m sure somebody out there is just waiting for that. But when we did it in New York, it put us on the map.”
“That’s what we’re known for,” Garcia said. “We don’t do the beach ball thing.”
A couple from Ireland flew into New York, got together with Pantone 294, and got married the next day. Soto and Garcia announced a flash sale, 50 percent off, and almost instantly had 800 orders from seven different states.
In only four years it has come to this, from the time Soto and some buddies idly wondered if they should make a road trip to San Francisco, and Soto was in charge of finding a bus.
Today it looks like a bandwagon, but Dodger fans, unbeknownst to them, were on board already. All it needed was a roll.