WASHINGTON — Jim Maloney remembers it like it was yesterday.
He recalls with a twinge of pain when, as a youngster growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., owner Walter O'Malley packed up the Brooklyn Dodgers after the 1957 season and moved them to Los Angeles.
"I remember vividly the day I was walking to Ebbets Field and overheard people talking about the Dodgers moving out of Brooklyn. It seemed inconceivable to me, but a few years later it happened," said Maloney, 40, now a Cherry Hill, N.J., lawyer and former state Democratic party chairman in New Jersey.
Outraged by the increasing frequency of teams jumping cities, strikes by players and umpires and major league drug scandals, Maloney joined forces with several other sports enthusiasts and formed the first registered lobby organization to represent the rights and views of fans.
"This has kind of been a hot issue for me since I was 12 years old," said Maloney, the executive director of Sports Fans of America.
The group, based in Washington, will testify at Congressional hearings on sports related issues, lobby for legislation and act as an information clearing house for fans nationwide, he said.
"Fans are virtually unheard from and uncared about by the major league sports," said free lance writer Burke Stinson, another founding member of the group.
"We are treated as a necessary part of the game -- but not so important as to be listened to, other than cheering or booing at the ball parks. We're trying to give fans a voice, officially," he said.
"After all, we pay their bills," Maloney added.
Maloney pointed to franchise relocations as the No. 1 issue with fans, noting the NFL's Oakland Raiders jumping to Los Angeles, the Baltimore Colts galloping to Indianapolis and a host of baseball and basketball owners shopping their teams from city to city.
Thirteen bills designed to put an end to cavalier franchise moves are pending in Congress, nine in the House and four in the Senate.
"The issue of strikes by baseball players or other players is another major concern," said Maloney. "We will try to do our best to make sure they don't occur. I think that the first thing you do along those lines is make it eminently clear that there will be some reaction if strikes do occur -- it's a worth versus the risk situation."
"I think we could have done something (during the two-day baseball strike this summer) that the commissioner really couldn't do -- and I think he did an excellent job throughout it. But he can't say to organized baseball owners or the players that these fans won't come back time after time. We can say that, if that's the case," Maloney said.
Stinson said the group hopes to build a membership of 100,000 fans within a year using direct mail, advertising in national sport magazines and local advertising in major league cities.