On his last day of work, they came for him in an ambulance, the old usher being carried out the same back exit of Dodger Stadium where he had once stood guard.
For 55 years, Ira Hawkins had patrolled the Coliseum, then Chavez Ravine, for late hours and low pay in sweaty conditions. For more than half of his long life, he had labored in virtual invisibility, standing guard for those who walked past without looking, attending thousands of baseball games he could never watch.
Yet in the end, during a May 11 game against the Miami Marlins, they came for him in an ambulance because he wouldn't leave on his own.
"Don't let them take me," Hawkins pleaded with a co-worker before his weary 91-year-old frame was carried from his beloved home. "Please, don't let them take me."
They are more than just the people who haul away the beach balls.
They are more than the arms that direct you to your seat, or the body that stands in front of the elevator line, or the legs that hustle past you through the stands when somebody in the front row is hit by a foul ball.
The Dodger Stadium ushers are real people. with real lives, who often go to great lengths to fulfill what they consider their duty to Los Angeles and each other. They are among the longest tenured group in baseball, many of whom have spent every adult summer at Dodgers games, sharing lockers and meals and stories, a deep-rooted family.
In many ways, Ira Hawkins was the leader of this family. He wasn't big, he wasn't loud, and, in the end, he became so frail he walked in baby steps. But for longer than any other usher in Dodgers history, he was there, and he was huge.
"He was shrewd, smart, a real institution around here," said fellow longtime usher Rick Angona. "He was The Hawk."
He grew up in Los Angeles' boardinghouses during the Depression, became a UCLA all-conference baseball player, spent three decades working as a supervisor for the U.S. Postal Service, and then made one decision that would forever alter his life.
Hoping to remain close to his sport, he reported for work at the Coliseum as an usher on April 18, 1958. It was the first Dodgers game in Los Angeles. He never again left their side.
He wore straw hats and ties, then polo shirts and khakis. He directed traffic on all levels, finding lost kids and pointing to bathrooms and even helping to guard President Reagan.
He hung out with All-Star teams and church groups, Vin Scully and a guy bringing five kids on cap night. He was the veteran perspective sitting in front of locker 215 in the usher's room, and the calm director of those huddled masses lost between the upper deck and reserved.
"And he always had a story to tell; about an old ballplayer or some great game," said James Harvey, another fellow usher. "You could not walk past him without stopping to hear a story."
In the end, who would have thought the best story would be his own?
Ira Hawkins was a Los Angeles fixture who didn't even live in Los Angeles. He lived by himself in a modest Lake Arrowhead home. To even show up for work, he performed the baseball equivalent of stretching a single into a triple.
At the start of each homestand, he would drive to town in a 40-year-old Ford Econoline van. For the duration of homestands he would stay in a Motel 6 in El Monte. He didn't have a computer or cellphone, so before games, to save money, he would park the van at Phillipe's downtown and conduct his personal affairs on a nearby pay phone.
During the homestands he ate virtually every meal at Subway, ordering a footlong turkey sandwich on wheat with tomato, lettuce and olives. He would carefully cut the sandwich into four parts and eat one for breakfast, one for lunch, one for a snack, and one for dinner.
He would drive the van with his laundered uniforms and sandwich to Dodger Stadium two hours before his scheduled 5:10 reporting time. Then, sometimes he would sit in front of his locker and sleep. His three children lived out of state, so this was his family. The Motel 6 was temporary, so this was his home.