Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Death Of A Baseball Dynasty

An opening statement:

Hollywood Thoughts is a longtime LA Dodgers rooter. Contrary to most LA baseball fans, Hollywood Thoughts still reserves judgment regarding the management practices of current owner, Frank McCourt. To his critics, one thing can definitely be said in his defense: Anyone is better than former owners FOX.

One of the saddest days for any LA Dodger fan occured the moment Peter O'Malley announced he was selling the team.

Peter Daly (l), Peter O'Malley (r)

O'Malley publicly said that he was selling the team because his children weren't interested in running the club. He also said that Major League Baseball was fast turning into a money losing proposition.

There might be some truth to these notions, but Hollywood Thoughts believes there are bigger, darker reasons behind O'Malley's departure.

Peter O'Malley -- and his father before him -- represented the finest ownership in all of professional sports. Possibly only the Pittsburgh Steeler's father & son team (Art and Dan Rooney) compare. Regardless of your interest in baseball, anyone in LA who knew the name O'Malley understood that this family was a class act. The O'Malley's always sought to deliver winning seasons to the city that supported their operation. The stadium was always tidy... the food good... and the team found ways to invest and give back to the community.

A myth continues to float across the Southland to this day that the O'Malley's were responsible for upending poor (mostly Latino) families from Chavez Ravine (the home of Dodger Stadium). Not true. Houses were leveled and families were evicted from the hilly enclave long before the O'Malley's considered moving the ball club from Brooklyn. The LA City Council orginally earmarked the acreage for a housing tract shortly after World War II. The Dodgers moved to LA in 1958.

I digress.

Here's the reason why the Dodgers lost Peter O'Malley:

Several years had passed with LA having no professional football team to calll their own.

Published sources say that Mayor Richard Riordan approached Peter O'Malley with a question: Would O'Malley entertain the idea of becoming an NFL franchise owner? Would O'Malley build a football stadium on Dodger Stadium property?

Reports say that O'Malley eventually spent a million dollars of his own money to finance environmental impact studies and architectural drawings for the proposed stadium. The Dodgers also purchased additional property around Dodger Stadium (in theory to support additional parking spaces to replace lost acreage for the new football stadium which would have been built near the old LAPD Academy site).

The NFL had a long-standing rule against its owners having a stake in any other profesional league. They made an exception for Peter O'Malley. The NFL rightly considered him a "catch"-- and recognized him as a way to add polish to their image.

For a brief while, it seemed that pro football was headed back to Los Angeles.

Then Mark Ridley Thomas and politics entered the picture.

LA City Councilman Thomas ruled over the area that encompassed the LA Coliseum-- former home of The Rams, Raiders and the 1932 & 1984 Olympics.

The garnd old stadium was in decline... and sat empty most of the year.

When he caught wind that the NFL was looking at Chavez Ravine for their new home, Thomas began a very public campaign to keep the Coliseum as the only site to be considered for a football team. There were whispers that a move to abandon the downtown coliseum was an admission of racism. Leave the coliseum, and you're turning your back on your (mostly African-American) constituency.

Riordan didn't abandon the Coliseum. He left O'Malley holding the bag.

Private sources indicated that O'Malley felt jilted. Why stick around? What's the point if your own Mayor won't support you? O'Malley never asked to be considered for an NFL franchise. His Mayor (and some members of the city council) approached HIM. Being the good team player, O'Malley jumped into the project.

When the politicians dumped him for fear of being labeled as racists, O'Malley took one for the team. He never publicly uttered a negative word against Riordan or the others.

In retrospect those were the opening days of the decline of the LA Dodgers. We lost O'Malley... and were forced to endure a horrible management team backed by Rupert Murdoch. We lost the promise of an NFL franchise... and have seen a revolving door of managers, players, and executives. There's also been an increase of schlocky outfield ads, promotions and prices at the souvenir and food stands.

Remember how the guys hawking programs used to shout, "Program! Get Yer Program! Ya can't know the players without yer programs!" I used to think that was a silly line. I didn't need a program! For nearly a decade we had Garvey, Lopes, Russell, Cey and Yeager in the infield. We had a TEAM. Who needed a lousy program!

Those were the golden days. NOW you definitely need a program since players leave on an almost daily basis for more lucrative contracts. Hell, these days the LA players don't even have names on the backs of their jerseys. OF COURSE I NEED A PROGRAM!

LA mourns the loss of tradition... a classy ownership... and the death of a dynasty.


At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Jon I would most certainly agree with that the of LA screwed Peter O'Malley. Unfortunately this is all to common problem in LA city politics where great plans so often seemed to be undermined my power grubbing polticians (read selfing and ignorant) who so often use race to win there way. So said for city with so much promise.

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Jon I would most certainly agree with you that the city of LA screwed Peter O'Malley. Unfortunately this is an all to common problem in LA city politics, where great plans so often seem to be undermined by power grubbing polticians (read selfing and ignorant) who often use race to win their way. So sad for city with so much promise.

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