Thursday, April 21, 2011

My thoughts on Major League Baseball taking over the Dodgers from Frank McCourt

I’m a lifelong Dodger fan. Went to the Coliseum as a kid (where you were closer to the action if you were in a blimp), cried when they lost the pennant to the dastardly Giants in ’62, took off from work to go to the downtown victory parade in ’81 (okay, I also picked up some great electronics at cheap prices – probably stolen), and I still carry my Sandy Koufax autographed ticket stub in my wallet. For eight seasons I hosted Dodger Talk on the radio. I may not bleed Dodger Blue like Tommy Lasorda, but I have all the bobbleheads (although the Manny Ramirez ones can be yours for a decent offer).

The point is I have always loved the Dodgers. And the Dodgers always made it easy for me to love them. They had (and still have, thank God) the greatest announcer in baseball history, they’ve fielded winning teams (enough of the time), and their owner created an organization that was built on pride, dedication, and class.

When I see what’s become of the franchise in the years since the O’Malley family sold it, it breaks my heart. This is like Queen Elizabeth being charged for a DUI.

Major League baseball yesterday announced that they were stepping in and assuming control of the Dodgers from owner, Frank McCourt. This comes after a messy and costly divorce, almost daily revelations of financial impropriety, and a fan being so severely beaten he’s in a medically induced coma. Attendance is down, season ticket sales is way down, and right or wrong, Dodger fans despise the owner.

Something had to be done. I believe commissioner Selig made the right decision – even though I have no idea who will be running the organization in the interim and who ultimately will own it. Something needed to be done to restore (or salvage even) the faith and allegiance this town has had for this franchise for over fifty years.

I don’t know if any of the charges against Frank McCourt are true. I don’t know if he funneled team profits into his own pocket. Honestly, he’s always been very fair and respectful to me. But the perception is so prevalent that he’s running this franchise into the ground that he can no longer even hope to change that public mindset. It would be like holding back the Pacific Ocean with a broom. Someone else needs to assume control. And look, everyone else in baseball gets fired – why not the owner?

Still, a couple of points I want to address. This should not be a palace coup. Working for McCourt within the organization are many talented, dedicated, people – people that Walter O’Malley would be proud to hire. I hope they survive and even prosper as a result of this takeover.

Also, the local reporters have had a field day over this as you can imagine. Among their list of grievances is that McCourt has let Dodger Stadium turn into a dump. This is just not true. Dodger Stadium is still a wonderful place to see a ballgame. It’s clean, it’s structurally sound (completely retrofitted), freshly painted, and all the more impressive is that it’s fifty years old, for crying out loud.

So as a Dodger fan I’m going to hope that this change is for the better, still root for the team, still go to Dodger Stadium, and savor every second I still have Vin Scully behind the mic.

37 comments:

David said...

I want to see Bud Selig appoint Kim Ng as his representative to oversee the Dodgers. Can't think of anyone better for the job in the commissioner's office.

Charles H. Bryan said...

There used to be a point in time when the league approved franchise sales (in all of the major sports?) to deter this kind of thing from happening. Personal finances would be vetted to guarantee that an owner could weather good times and bad times. Between this story, and what seems to be going on with the Mets, the leagues need to be more selective.

Mike McCann said...

>>When I see what’s become of the franchise in the years since the O’Malley family sold it, it breaks my heart. This is like Queen Elizabeth being charged for a DUI.>>

My thought was more along the lines of her majesty standing alongside the freeway, holding a sign saying "Will work for food."

Sad, no matter how we look at it.

And you're right about Dodger Stadium, it's still functional and distinctive. Do you realize, it's now been home to the club longer than Ebbets Field? (This is its 50th season -- Ebbets was only in use for 45).

Anonymous said...

Anybody else find it interesting that the two most financially troubled teams in baseball are in LA and NYC?

Norm said...

Thank you, Ken for articulating my thoughts on the Dodgers current situation. However, I do question your take on McCourt. Just because someone is nice to you does not mean he is a good person. And as for his financial situation, those aren't rumors. All was disclosed in his divorce trial. The McCourts only interest since buying the team was their own. They were terrible owners and from everything I've seen from them, they aren't much better people.

Ron Rettig said...

Little remembered Dodger fact is the KFI was chosen as original and longtime Dodger radio station because at the time of the move out to L.A. KFI was the only station Walter O'Malley was sure he could receive when at his Lake Arrowhead compound. I also watched live coverage on KTLA TV as the last holdout landowner, a Mexican-American family, was forcibly evicted by police from Chavez Ravine to make way for the Dodger Stadium.

Phillip B said...

Thanks, Ken.

Nothing sadder than seeing a much beloved franchise turned into something referred to as "once proud."

Frank McCourt lost out on his real dream - owning his home town Boston Red Sox. Had he had followed a similar course of action there, the fans may have literally taken things into their own hands.

cshel said...

I miss the good old Dodger days. Vin Scully is the best. I like the stadium, too. I'm glad MLB finally stepped in.

What happened to that Giants fan is such a senseless tragedy. I hope he can recover. I wish they could get the guys who did it.

I have a friend who used to be my major Dodger buddy - until she moved to Seattle and became a Mariner's fan. She just got home from being on the road for a few weeks. I'm going to call her and tell her to be sure to pay attention to this new guy...

Rich said...

Ken -- I was an 7 year old resident of Downey when the Dodgers came to town. I STILL haven't gotten over 1962. STAN WILLIAMS?? WITH DRYSDALE IN THE BULLPEN? (Leo Durocher called it the "ugliest half inning I ever saw") I remember going to Beautiful Dodger Stadium in '62 -- every time Maury Wills got on first, the crowd chanted, "Go! Go! Go!" (I had the complete set of Nick Volpe Dodger portraits, "a new one each week at your Union 76 gas station")

When Walter O'Malley wsa getting ready to build Dodger Stadium, he studied Disneyland -- especially the obsession with cleanliness, and the security. O'Malley thought of Dodger Stadium as a "family attraction that happens to present great baseball games." Some of my best childhood memories are watching the Koufax-Wills-Drysdale Dodgers on a warm August night. Didn't even need to bring my transistor radio - so many other people brought their radios to listen to Vin Scully you could Vinnie's voice everywhere.

Breaks my heart to see what's happened to the Dodgers, but things go in cycles. Remember, the franchise was hapless for 20+ years in the 20's and 30's before Larry MacPhail/Branch Rickey/Walter O'Malley rescued it.

And let's remember the words of the great Ring Lardner (my dad told me this to console me in 1962) "Baseball was invented to break your heart."

Anonymous said...

While I made this point elsewhere, it bears repeating. Starting when Fox took over from the O'Malleys, a broadening of the fan base demographic to a younger, "more hip" crowd was begun. The look and sound of the stadium changed drastically. Less traditional organ music, replaced by "modern" (read annoying) sound effects. Wack, wackwackwack, etc. That brought a whole new negative element to the stadium, much to the annoyance to the old time regulars. The McCourt regime did nothing to remedy this, actually contributing to the problem by cutting costs in security. Result, you sow what you reap.

Dana King said...

I can take or leave the Dodgers, but among the benefits of buying the MLB Extra Innings Package is the ability to end a long day listening to Vin Scully do an inning or two when the Dodgers are on the West Coast.

DodgerGirl said...

Amen, sir, to everything you've said.

D. McEwan said...

This is one of the extremeely few baseball posts of yours that I actually read, as I didn't know about any of this. Really. I'd never heard of Frank McCourt until I read this column. O'Malley I knew of, because my folks did take me to Dodger Stadium periodically when I wsa too young to stay home alone, and they'd watch the game, and I'd use Dad's binoculars to scan the expensive seats behind home base, looking for stars. Saw Jack Benny there once. That excited me. Also Carroll Baker, and Dean Jones. And they always took me the night that celebrities played a mock game before the real game. Saw Soupy Sales bat there. Like Babe Ruth, Soupy pointed to where he was going to hit the pigskin, directly behind him, into the stands. I'd seen the William Bendix movie, so I got the joke.

Haven't been back since about 1962. Last baseball game I attended was at Angel Stadium, and I was there to see Walt Disney throw out the first ball. I left soon thereafter, as I only came to see Disney. (Glad I did too. he was dead only a few months later.)

But this is an interesiting scandal. I'd like to see McCourt barracade himself in wherever he hides out there, and refuse to surrender, vowing to fight on until the last inning, so that Obama has to send in airstrikes.

I used to have Sandy Koufax's autograph also, acquired after seeing him onstage in a tiny role in DAMN YANKEES at Melodyland, but I lost it many, many years ago. Too bad too; Eddie Bracken had also signed that program! I may not know baseball, but I know The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and Hail the Conquering Hero.

Fred said...

The Dodger Stadium experience has been from ordinary to miserable in the 9 years I've lived here. I've tried to be a fan, but the atmosphere and the laughable management have prevented me.

The Stadium to me is a series of dull concourses stacked on top of each other, and the more you pay for your ticket, the less uphill walking you have to do. (I don't mind a walk, I just mind cruddy seats.) There are certain sections I won't buy a ticket in, period. The regulars are that annoying.

There is no subway stop. One of the biggest cities on the planet and NO SUBWAY STOP at the stadium! The parking lots are a demented Escheresque labyrinth, and yes, adventuresome for visiting fans at times. (While you're desperately trying to figure out where you parked. At night.) I won't--under any circumstances--park in the parking lots. Why pay a premium for the experience of sitting there for a couple hours post-game when you can walk down to Sunset and maybe be home in the same amount of time? If they want fans to stop leaving in the 7th inning, make the commute down the hill shorter than the game.

But ownership was a huge obstacle to rooting for them, going back to Murdoch. Glad that Selig did this. I don't type THAT phrase very often!

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Note to Ron Rettig...
Actually, the Dodgers were on 710/KMPC in L.A. BEFORE moving over to KFI in 1961. The 710 frequency wasn't bad, but not a clear channel like 640/KFI. You ARE correct that Walter O'Malley couldn't hear the games well enough in the San Gabriel mountains which led to the switch.

Cap'n Bob said...

To Doug: Pigskin is a football. Horsehide is a baseball. Although both are made from cowhide these days. As for the L.A. Dodgers, I don't care for them. I don't hate them like I used to, but don't like them, either.

SeattleDan said...

And which led Gene Autry, after losing the radio rights to the Dodgers, to attend the A.L. league meetings where expansion was discussed and, ultimately given; which i was to Autry and Firestone for the L.A. Angels.

The Milner Coupe said...

I'm also glad to see this step from Selig. I just hope he keeps the reins tight and a proper new owner is chosen. I grew up listening to the Dodger games as I went to bed each night. They were always the classiest team in the league. Couldn't help it with the O'Malleys, Walter Alston and Vin Scully representing. Of course nothing in baseball is as it was, but letting the Los Angeles Dodgers fall so far from grace should earn McCourt a special place in Hell.

Cap'n Bob said...

Seems funny he'd take a team from an owner but not a bad call from an ump, which ruined a perfect game.

l.a.guy said...

Couldn't happen to a nicer couple.

Oh why oh why couldn't the McCourts have bought the Red Sox? As an Angels/Dodgers fan that would have been perfect.

The amazing thing is how well the Dodgers have done during the McCourt era. Two appearances in the NLCS (they were clearly over achieving) and they still have a nice young nucleus of talent. I hope MLB finds someone as good as Arte Moreno to own the Dodgers. The fans deserve it.

By the way FOX isn't getting nearly enough shit for causing this. They wanted out so bad they practically gave McCourt the money to buy the team.

Scott said...

Well said, Ken. Are you going to do any guest spots on DT this year?

-Scott from Marina Del Rey

Roger Owen Green said...

Norm - having been in Ken's shoes, I know how weird it is when people who are nice and fair to you, and therefore, you assume, fair to others, end up with feet of clay.

I wonder if the beating of the Giants' fans was the tipping point in the takeover.

DrBear said...

The only bad part of the takeover is that us Milwaukee Brewers fans - yes, there are some - are worried that Mark Antonasio is going to sell the team so he can buy the Dodgers in his hometown. He's done a great job of reviving the Brewers to make them relevant again after the underfunded Seligs ran them into the ground.

WV: kerswee; Kirstie Alley going to the bathroom.

bevo said...

Karma, bitches. MLB stole the Montreal Expos. Now, two franchises in America's two largest media markets are in trouble because of inept ownership. I think the Madoff victims should get the Mets as a payoff.

In the mean time, when can we expect Mets games in San Juan and Dodgers games in Portland?

Anonymous said...

No. It's not a dump. It's a beautiful stadium full of thugs. The first thing I would do if you gave me control of the place is bar entry to anyone with a neck tattoo.

VP81955 said...

Frank McCourt lost out on his real dream - owning his home town Boston Red Sox. Had he had followed a similar course of action there, the fans may have literally taken things into their own hands.

And that's part of the resentment Los Angeles fans had with McCourt from day one -- that he was allowed to buy the Dodgers as a "consolation prize" for losing the Bosox ownership derby. Selig apparently was so committed to building the Red Sox to hold the Yankees in check that he sacrificed the long-term health of the dominant franchise in the nation's second-largest market. As a result, MLB has become so tilted, so dominated by the Yanks and Bosox that it has been weakened as a whole.

Where Dodger Stadium is concerned, it was built at a time when the automobile was dominant and the city of LA was viewed as one big suburb of midwestern emigres. It has changed considerably over the past half-century, and I wish the Gold line had been extended to Chavez Ravine.

BTW, if the NFL downtown stadium push falls through, don't be surprised to see Arte Moreno try to move the Angels back to Los Angeles after his Anaheim lease expires in 2016.

MikeBo said...

Part of the folklore that I picked up when I joined the KMPC news staff in 1972 was an account of a phone conversation between Gene Autry and Walter O'Malley. According to legend, after he learned the Dodgers were moving from KMPC to KFI, the Cowboy told O'Malley, "The heck with you, Walter,I'll get my OWN baseball team." The official story was that Autry was seeking the broadcast rights to the new AL expansion club and got the team to go with them. I like this version better.
Mike Botula

Ken Fisher said...

Ken, as a Giants fan I also cried the day the Giants beat the Dodgers for the '62 pennant. I was jut getting out of school for the day (7th grade) when a kid with a transistor radio said it was the
8th inning and the Giants were behind 2 runs (maybe 3). I was devastated as tears welled up in my eyes during my long walk home. As I passed a friends house he yelled at me that it was the 9th inning and the Giants had just tied up the game. I went in and watched the rest of the game. Well, we all know what happened next. The tears turned to joy for this 12 year old. Also as a giant fan, it is sad to see the current state of this once great franchise. Certainly a franchise that once was the class and cornerstone of MLB.

ump902a said...

I was originally dismayed by Selig's move but, after learning more, believe he made the right call. The Mets are in the same kind of financial trouble but their owner is selling off pieces of the team to raise money. McCourt is going further into hock and selling long-term broadcast rights to Fox at what will turn out to be bargain basement prices in order to get a cash infusion.

D. McEwan said...

"Cap'n Bob said...
To Doug: Pigskin is a football. Horsehide is a baseball."


Okay, that's two sports I pay zero attention to.

Michael said...

Some of the meanest, rottenest people can be nice some of the time!

A note or two. One, we tend to overstate how calm life was with the O'Malleys. For many of those 23 one-year contracts, Walter Alston was on the hot seat (Walter O'Malley wanted to fire him after the 1962 debacle and Buzzie Bavasi fought him back). Tommy Lasorda was rumored to be going elsewhere a few times, and Fred Claire even said that at one point he was so close to signing with the Yankees that he and Peter O'Malley had chosen the next manager (Joe Morgan, believe it or not). Peter was even more of a promoter of stability than Walter, and I seem to recall criticism of him for the decade or so after the 1988 World Series when the Dodgers showed few signs of similar success under his leadership.

Two, I knew the McCourts were no-class the minute they stuck it to Ross Porter. He still hasn't set foot in Dodger Stadium since they did that to him. And I don't blame him.

VP81955 said...

Tommy Lasorda was rumored to be going elsewhere a few times, and Fred Claire even said that at one point he was so close to signing with the Yankees that he and Peter O'Malley had chosen the next manager (Joe Morgan, believe it or not).

Joe Morgan, Hall of Fame second baseman, or Joe Morgan, former Bosox manager?

Michael said...

VP, according to Fred Claire's book, Joe Morgan the Hall of Fame second baseman-turned-horrible ESPN baseball analyst. This would have been around the time Morgan retired, in 1983, I believe.

Anonymous said...

move em back to brooklyn

groe said...

@anonymous: You sow what you reap? Think about that.

Dave from Brooklyn said...

Let's make an ownership trade. Fred Wilpon, whose family owns the Mets, grew up idolizing the Brooklyn Dodgers and was a high school classmate of Sandy Koufax. The Mets new stadium, named after a bank, is in the image of Ebbets Field, so wags call it Debits Field.
Why not go the extra mile ... Wilpon gets the Dodgers, and a new owner vetted by MLB gets the Mets?
PS: Dodger Stadium was completed only two years before the now-gone Shea Stadium in New York. From what I saw on TV and from my visits there, Dodger Stadium was always better kept. Now it will last another 50 years.

Larry Diaz said...

Please check your facts. The Dodger Stadium retrofit was never completed. The upper decks have not been seismically reinforced. Take you chances getting flattened like a pancake.