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January 15, 1998|MIKE PENNER

What: "The Dodgers Encyclopedia" by William F. McNeil.

Price: $39.95 (Sports Publishing, Inc.)

Touting itself as "the definitive book on Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers baseball," this 464-page tome is inarguably comprehensive.

Included are biographies of roughly 100 Dodger players, from Dusty Baker to George "The Charmer" Zettlein, as well as managers, executives and broadcasters. Chapters include "The World Series Experience," "Pennant Races and Playoffs," "A Parade of No-Hitters," "Memories Through The Years" and "The Ballparks--From Capitoline to Chavez."

But if you're looking for a critical assessment of the franchise--analysis, say, of Walter O'Malley's decision to move the Dodgers from Brooklyn or Rupert Murdoch's imminent purchase of the team--you will need to turn elsewhere. The narrative approach here is that of an unabashed fan.

O'Malley's decision to move the Dodgers to Los Angeles was devastating to Brooklyn and tens of thousands of fervently loyal fans, but author William McNeil avoids lengthy rumination on such fallout. Instead, he recites the O'Malley gospel, chalking up the upheaval of a beloved franchise to "four years of fruitless negotiating with the New York bureaucracy."

And never mind the homeowners displaced from Chavez Ravine: "[T]he citizens of Los Angeles were in a festive mood. They had . . . corralled the most colorful, most successful baseball team in all of America."

Wonder what "The Yankees Encyclopedia" has to say about that.

As for what lies ahead, McNeil raises no note of concern, preferring instead to toe the company line.

"The Rupert Murdoch-Los Angeles relationship would be extremely beneficial for the future prospects of the team."

"The Dodgers Encyclopedia" has spoken.

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