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DODGERS: A TEAM IN TRANSITION OR TURMOIL? : Hawkins Starts Job Amid Uncertainty

November 26, 1987|ROSS NEWHAN | Times Staff Writer

Tommy Hawkins, new vice president of communications for the Dodgers, reflected on his various pursuits and professions and described himself as a "cosmic functionary, a person you don't confine or censor, a doer, a workaholic."

The galactic simile seems appropriate, since the Dodger front office has experienced a Big Bang of sorts.

"These are very tumultuous times," one club executive said.

The resignation of publicity director Steve Brener Tuesday was the latest in a series of shock waves that started last April when Al Campanis, the vice president of player personnel, was fired for saying on ABC's "Night- line" that blacks may lack the "necessities" to handle management positions in the major leagues.

Fred Claire, who spent 18 years with the Dodgers in publicity, marketing and business, ultimately replaced Campanis, amid speculation that Manager Tom Lasorda wanted it and might leave if he didn't get it. Lasorda, with one more year on his contract, remained as manager.

Farm director Bill Schweppe, who announced in the spring that he would retire at the end of the season, was eventually replaced by another business-oriented executive, Charlie Blaney, former Dodgertown director.

Then, on Oct. 28, when the Dodgers announced the appointment of TV-radio personality Hawkins as top man in communications, it was also announced that finance director Bob Graziano would become vice president, finance; front-office administrator Irene Tanji would become director of human resources, and system analyst Mike Mularky would become director of data processing.

An organization that hadn't undergone significant change since the departure of General Manager Buzzie Bavasi in the late 1960s is turning up regularly now on the Richter scale.

President Peter O'Malley, who failed to establish a line of succession for his aging triumvirate of Campanis, Schweppe and scouting director Ben Wade, calls it a restructuring.

Others conclude that the "Dodger family" has become a corporation. Claire and Blaney, with business backgrounds, are running two of the three key player departments, and former accountant Graziano, after only two years with the club, is in a position of financial authority.

Sources within the organization say that Graziano, in pursuit of "economic efficiency," has already been preaching a policy of belt-tightening in a series of meetings with department heads.

An organization that once traveled first class is now said to be going coach--apparently in more ways than one.

"We've become an organization of bean counters," said one employee used to having it otherwise.

That source added that Graziano, a 29-year-old USC graduate, has joined Claire and general counsel Santiago Fernandez as O'Malley's first lieutenants, the power junta.

Where does the restructuring go from here? O'Malley said he didn't have a crystal ball. The suspicion is that aftershocks are still coming.

The hiring of Hawkins, with authority over the publicity, marketing and community service departments, has been perceived as a snub, a corporate slap at some of the capable and long-term Dodger employees operating in those departments.

Brener, the publicity director since 1975, has already left. Sources say he was urged to seek other employment when he went to O'Malley and expressed bewilderment over the hiring of Hawkins.

Brener refused to burn his bridges, saying he isn't bitter. Nor did he specifically cite the hiring of Hawkins as his reason for leaving, though he said that the vice presidency should have been his. He said he has several job options.

"Peter made the decision to hire Tommy Hawkins and that's fine," Brener said. "I'm sure he'll do a super job.

"After all that's happened, it was time for Steve Brener to step back and look where he was headed. It was a tough decision, but it looked like it was time to move on and help someone else."

Brener, a loyal workaholic himself, may not be the last to leave.

The hiring of Hawkins and the promotion of Graziano over another group of long-term employees--ticket director Walter Nash, stadium director Bob Smith and controller Ken Hasemann, among them--is said to have created widespread disenchantment.

How cold is it in Corporate City?

A source said O'Malley, dumping responsibility, has had meetings with his public relations staff, long considered baseball's best, in which he blamed that staff for the negative press the club has received during the last two losing seasons.

It is as if the community services department made the decision not to sign Tim Raines, as if marketing were responsible for the farm system's lack of productivity. It is as if Brener, a source said, was held responsible for allowing Campanis to go on "Nightline."

Hawkins, caught in the middle, officially moves into the office formerly occupied by Brener and publications director Toby Zwikel--who has been moved to another area of Dodger Stadium--Monday.

It's a delicate situation and certainly not one of Hawkins' making.

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