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U.S. OLYMPIC FESTIVAL : Dodgers Pin Playoff Hopes on Fiscal Aid

July 23, 1987|STEVE ELLING | Times Staff Writer

Unless the Valley Dodgers can raise about $7,000 by Monday it appears unlikely the team will participate in the National Baseball Congress World Series next month in Wichita, Kan., a club official said.

All season, the semi-pro team has been enticing local ballplayers with alluring phrases such as "join our team, see the U.S.A," or even "help us win some games, win a free trip to Kansas."

The promises were made in good faith. A talented team, the Dodgers are 24-6-1 overall and 13-3 in Golden State League play, but unless General Manager Dave Desmond finds a pair of red slippers, there's not much chance that they will be playing in the Series on Aug. 4.

There may be no yellow brick road--the Dodgers are a step away from the red numbers of bankruptcy. The team reports $1,000 in its checking account, and, Desmond says, operates at a loss of about $250 for every home doubleheader it stages.

Last season, its first year of NBC competition, the team qualified for the Series. The Dodgers could clinch the Golden State title this weekend--and a $1,000 prize--which would guarantee a berth in the World Series. Even if they don't win the league, Desmond said the team already has received a Series invitation from NBC officials based on the team's strong performance last year.

Desmond must respond to the offer by Monday. If he has the money for the phone call.

"The clock's running," Desmond said. "They have to know. We need about $7,000 to take the whole team, about $4,500 to take the minimum 18 players."

For the most part, the season has been a success on the field. Desmond says this year's team is stronger in almost every department. The Dodgers' only real disappointment was their showing in the state tournament earlier this month in San Bernardino, where they lost two games and were eliminated. A first-place finish would have meant $3,000, another reason Desmond has spent much of his time tap-dancing through a financial mine field.

Desmond is scrambling to put together any kind of no-frills deal he can find. As it stands, the team would drive the estimated 1,500 miles, as it did last year. Across the desert. In the summertime. And he'd still be delighted to have that option.

"Oklahoma in August at 1 p.m. in a van with no air conditioning and windows that don't roll down. And I'd still kill for the chance to do it again."

Desmond, 23, said he spent $10,000 of his own money on the team last year and approximately $5,000 this year, every cent of his salary as a walk-on baseball coach at Highland Hall High.

In comparison, a team from Liberal, Kan., which plays in the Jayhawk League, draws its financial support from advertising and attendance; a home game last year against the Dodgers that was arranged on three days' notice drew 1,200 spectators, according Desmond. In addition, teams from the league receive an annual subsidy from the Major League Office of about $8,000, Desmond said.

The team is hoping for some help from the public. Sportscaster Charlie Wright of KIIS-FM is scheduled to broadcast a plea for funds today, otherwise, Monday's arrival could be a premature end to the Dodgers' season.

"What I've been hearing from a lot of people is that everybody hopes we do well," he said. "But when we ask if they can help support us financially, a lot of people clear their throat and look the other way. You know, we're not whining for money, we'll make it worth anybody's while to sponsor us."

Desmond said the worst thing about not making the trip is that the team is capable of making a better showing that it did last year when it finished seventh. Two players--Steve Dunn and Paul List--already have been signed to professional contracts.

"We are 100% better than we were last year," he said. "I honestly think we'd have a legitimate chance of winning the national championship. To not have that chance is very, very frustrating."

The team plays a noon doubleheader against San Marcos at Palomar College in San Diego on Saturday, followed by a noon doubleheader against Ventura County at Cal State Northridge on Sunday.

The Dodger season conceivably could end after a game against the Mexican National team Tuesday at Cal State Northridge.

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