How LA’s “Los Doyers” Fans Turned a Racist Insult into a Point of Pride

Los Angeles Dodgers fan spell out the name "Los Doyers" during a game against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on April 15, 2009. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If you watched Games 1 and 2 of the World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros, live from LA, you saw them: screaming and passionate fans, wearing T-shirts, jerseys, and more with “Los Doyers” written in the Blue Crew’s classic flowing script. Fans can buy officially licensed gear from various Dodger Stadium clothing stores, or pirated ones at the swap meet. Regardless of provenance, however, one thing is clear: “Los Doyers” memorabilia is everywhere right now in Southern California—and, thanks to the World Series, it finally has a national audience.

I’m sure the folks watching across the country—especially those who don’t speak Spanish—must be wondering why Dodgers fans can’t spell. That’s not the case; “Los Doyers” is a play on how “Dodgers” is pronounced in Spanish, a language that doesn’t have a “j” sound. In other words, it’s how our parents and uncles and aunts and immigrant cousins and even ourselves call the Los Angeles franchise—nothing but #respect, you know?

But “Los Doyers” also represents two of the greatest reappropriation stories in American sports: how Latinos learned to love a team that literally built their foundation on the bulldozed homes and dreams of Mexican-American families, and took a term originally used to deride Latinos and made it their own.

The original Dodgers sin—in the late 1950s, Los Angeles officials pushed out nearly 2,000 families from the Chavez Ravine barrio so that owner Walter O’Malley could build a stadium there—is well-documented in history books, in a play by legendary Chicano theater troupe Culture Clash called “Chavez Ravine,” and a 2005 concept album by Ry Cooder of the same name.

That’s likely all ancient, if unfortunate, history to most Latino Dodgers fans, because the franchise is Latino to the core now: Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrín has announced games since 1959, the team’s main scout for decades was Cuban Mike Brito (famous for standing behind home plate at Dodger Stadium with a radar gun, a Panama hat, and a cigar), and its legendary scouting system has found talent throughout Latin America since the 1960s, from Mexican southpaw pitcher Fernando Valenzuela to Cuban slugger Yasiel Puig. Add events like the Viva los Dodgers music festival, a half-Mexican organist that jams cumbias and norteñas at will, and Carne Asada Sundays (where a player literally hosts a grill-out at Dodger Stadium for fans before a game), and the Dodgers are more Latino than the Chivas.

The same redemption has happened with “Los Doyers.”

Gringos used “Doyer” for its otherness, to mark its use by Latinos as alien and goofy and “Mexican.”

There is no definitive history of how the term first became known in English-language Los Angeles, except that Americans considered it silly from the start. An anonymous sports reporter told the respected Southern California media site LA Observed in 2010 that he first heard it said by former Dodgers coach and Cuba native Preston Gomez in the late 1970s, and “some of the baseball writers started saying ‘Doyers’ after.” The earliest reference in print is a 1988 Chicago Tribune story that previewed that year’s Oakland As-Los Angeles Dodgers World Series. Reporter Alan Solomon parachuted into East Los Angeles to ask residents who’d they root for, and described a how “a small man named Manuel” who “speaks little English” thought he was a police officer. Solomon told readers he “assured” Manuel that he wasn’t and just wanted to talk baseball, to which Manuel–who’s never given a last name–replied, “Beisbol. Doyer. Doyer.”

In both cases, gringos used “Doyer” for its otherness, to mark its use by Latinos as alien and goofy and “Mexican.” That was the context used by Los Angeles sports-talk personality Petros Papadakis, who’s credited with popularizing the term for non-Latinos. In a 2011 interview with Los Angeles, he said it started after he had longtime Dodgers coach Manny Mota on the show and the Dominican native said “Doyers.”

“He says it like that,” Papadakis said. “We clipped it and started using it on the show. Now, ten years later, they’re selling T-shirts with DOYERS on them.”

Papadakis isn’t a bigot (his parody billboards of Los Angeles Spanish-language radio host billboards are the stuff of local legend), but he always used “Doyers” for comedic purposes; I’d buy a michelada for anyone who could find a copy of his “I Love Yee Doyers” song. Latino Dodgers fans, however, considered it a validation of their own heritage. So much memorabilia sprung up in the aftermath that the Dodgers trademarked “Los Doyers” in 2010, to the outrage of many.

Not all Latinos pronounce “Dodgers” like “Doyers,” of course. Jarrín says the first part in English, but pronounces the “ers” like the first syllable in “hermano.” My dad pronounces it “Dough-jers.” I’ve even heard “Dough-Hers.” But it’s the “Doyers” way that is now connected with Latino Dodgers fans, and they wouldn’t have it any other way—because that’s further proof the team is now theirs.

“This stadium was the best thing that ever happened to L.A. and believe me, a lot of Chicanos feel the same way,” says a descendant of a Chavez Ravine family near the end of Culture Clash’s play. “One more thing, we hate the pinche Giants. ¡Que vivan los Dodgers!”

And he pronounced it “Doyers.”