Father Juan Santillan was born at the spot that is now Dodger Stadium's third base bag.
So when Peter O'Malley announced Monday that he plans to sell the team, Santillan, and many others who were forced off their property to make room for the stadium, had bitter remembrances of things past.
"This just brings back thoughts of deceit and lies and trauma," said Santillan, who now is the pastor of a church in nearby Lincoln Heights. "These are memories of a community displaced, of seeing houses being torn down, people crying, families not knowing where to go."
The communities that surround Dodger Stadium are still filled with thousands of people who were forced off the property, or had friends and relatives forced off the property or who sympathized with those forced off the property. For them, Monday's announcement by O'Malley represent the dark side of the Dodger dream.
Many Los Angeles fans mourned O'Malley's decision, and praised his low-key management style--during an era of boorish owners--and the winning teams he brought to the city.
Luring the Dodgers to Los Angeles and the creation of Dodger Stadium were seminal events in the city's history. And while they took place almost 50 years ago, the memories are still painful for many, particularly in the predominantly Latino communities that ring the stadium. These residents say they are not sorry to see O'Malley go. They denounced him for not doing more for the surrounding communities and decried his father, Walter, for the way he acquired the property for the stadium and how the residents were evicted.
"I never bought a ticket to a Dodger game and I never will," said Virginia Pinedo-Bye, who was raised less than a mile from the stadium and still lives in the neighborhood. "When Dodger Stadium opened, me and a girlfriend threw tomatoes at it. I still feel the same way about the place."
When Pinedo-Bye was a young girl, about 1,000 Latinos lived in the foothills of Chavez Ravine, a close-knit community that residents called Palo Verde, or Green Tree.
Before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, most of the residents were evicted to make room for a federally funded housing project. But the city did not support the project and the land remained vacant for several years. The federal government eventually agreed to sell the land to the city--at below-market price--under the condition that it be used "for public purposes only."
In what many contended was a sweetheart deal, the city in 1958 agreed to trade the land for the South-Central site of Wrigley Field, which O'Malley owned. He was prepared to build Dodger Stadium, but the next year about 20 homeowners still remaining refused the city's buyout offers and were physically removed by sheriff's deputies. O'Malley began building Dodger Stadium the next year and the $20-million stadium opened in 1962.
Juan Santillan's family, who had lived at Chavez Ravine since 1928, were forced out in the mid-1950s. His parents, who spoke little English, left a Latino community and moved to a predominantly Italian neighborhood in Lincoln Heights.
Santillan, who is the pastor at Our Lady Help of Christian Church, said that when the Pope spoke at Dodger Stadium in 1987 all the priests in the city were invited. But he refused to attend.
"There were too many bad memories there, too much hurt and pain," he said. "And after all that struggle, what's the conclusion? They're selling it. It leaves me with an empty feeling"
While Santillan's anger stems from decisions made by Walter O'Malley, Sallie Neubauer is unhappy with Peter's tenure. Neubauer, president of the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park, said that during the past two decades Peter O'Malley has not responded to community complaints about traffic, noise, trash and crime problems associated with Dodger games. It was only last year, whey O'Malley had expressed interest in building a professional football stadium, that he showed an interest in working with neighborhood associations, she said.
Mike Bye, who lives a few hundreds yards from the stadium, said that at least Dodger executives were accessible during the football discussions. He is fearful that another owner may simply impose his will without listening to anyone in the community.
"You know, a lot of these baseball owners are not the greatest people in the world," Bye said. "O'Malley seemed like a decent guy. Who knows what we're going to get next?"