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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

At Dodger Stadium They're Going . . . Going . . . Gone!

June 07, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

I don't follow baseball anymore. I haven't been to a game since the 1997 World Series was won by the Florida Marlins, an organization with a proud and illustrious history that dates all the way back to 1993.

Like a lot of people, though, I am interested in what happens to the Dodgers.

My particular interest has been in seeing what changes would be made by the new ownership group, which took over this spring from Peter O'Malley.

The new bosses assured everybody--especially while awaiting a vote of approval to buy the team--that "business as usual" would be conducted at Dodger Stadium, with no radical changes.

Well, that was the truth. They haven't done anything I guess you could call radical.

They haven't planted plastic grass.

They haven't painted the park pink.

They haven't made Dodger Dogs out of Spam.

They haven't ordered Vin Scully to appeal more to younger viewers by wearing a goatee and an earring and calling himself Big Daddy V.

Otherwise, things have gotten pretty wild lately out there at the old ball yard.

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A trait a Dodger fan used to be able to admire in this organization was stability.

We didn't have a George Steinbrenner with his tantrums. We didn't have a Marge Schott with her nutsy ways and Nazi memorabilia. We didn't have a Ted Turner appointing himself manager of the team. We didn't have a Tom Werner selling off his team's parts like a stolen car chop shop. We didn't have a Charlie Finley selling his superstars for cash.

We had the same steadfast owner. We had the same manager, and we didn't see one fired every time his team had a crummy month.

OK, the Dodgers did have a scandal now and then, or a malcontent. Nobody bats 1.000.

And maybe they didn't always win the championship, but there are places like Boston and Chicago that haven't won one for 80 years.

By and large, we could count on the Dodgers for professionalism and a refreshing lack of sensationalism. The only fireworks in Chavez Ravine were the ones that burst in the sky.

Now we never know what the Dodgers are going to do next.

A story in the New York Post a few days ago--probably under a larger headline like OPRAH LOSES 200 POUNDS or maybe TRUMP TO WED SELF--reported exclusively that the Dodgers were about to fire their manager and general manager.

What with the newspaper and team both owned by Rupert Murdoch, one would presume that the paper had access to reliable sources. Otherwise, I am sure Murdoch would insist that any employee who printed a lie about his Dodgers be taken out to Central Park and left there alone at a dangerous hour, which is any time between midnight and 11:59 p.m.

However, I can't blame a tabloid for keeping tabs on the Dodgers these days.

The boys of summer are in heat. They seem to be in a frenzy, freely trading the fans' most popular players, placing and replacing their faces on murals and billboards as fast as a painter can dip his brush, aswirl in new rumors every day.

Mike Piazza and Hideo Nomo are both Mets now. To me, it's like now that O'Malley is out, someone has finally decided to give the Dodgers back to New York--one by one.

Before these guys get through, they'll probably give Chavez back his ravine.

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I turn on my radio now, and here's what I expect to hear:

"Hey, kids! Moms and dads! Come on out to Dodger Stadium and bring a friend, because it's Trade Your Favorite Player Night!

"We've got acres and acres of Dodgers, ready to move right now! Pitchers, catchers, infielders, outfielders! Everybody must go!

"Which of your favorite Dodger baseball players do you want to see play for some other team? Piazza? Gone! Nomo? Gone! You love 'em, we leave 'em!

"Just clip out today's coupon in the New York Post to see which popular Dodger we intend to dump next! It could be the manager! It could be the trainer! We refuse no reasonable offer!

"So come on down! Collect autographs of all your favorite Dodger stars! But better hurry, because they'll be gone by Thursday! Friday latest!"

Mike Downey's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Write to him at Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, or phone (213) 237-7366.

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