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Irving Zeiger, 89; executive and longtime Dodgers fan

June 02, 2007|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Before the Dodgers came west from Brooklyn, N.Y., Irving Zeiger was the guy who mailed in a deposit check for season tickets, eventually securing front-row seats at Dodger Stadium for 43 years.

In 2005, four new rows were installed in front of his seats. Moving up to the seats right behind the dugout would have cost Zeiger an additional $100,000. Instead, he was the guy who staged a protest nobody saw by keeping the same seats but refusing to attend the home opener.

Driven by liberal politics, he was the guy who -- with his wife, Beatrice -- tried to help swing the 2004 presidential election John Kerry's way by writing to everyone in his native Cleveland whose last name began with a Z. The couple had already shown their commitment to the country by interning on Capitol Hill when they were 73.

Zeiger, who was one of the "Funny Old Guys" in the HBO documentary made by his son, David, died of a brain tumor May 20 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his family said. He was 89.

"My dad was very passionate about things," said his son, David. "One of his favorite sayings was, 'It's now or never.' "

His son made "Funny Old Guys" in 1998 as an ode to his father and the world he came from.

The elder Zeiger was the only member of the film's namesake group who was not a veteran writer or producer in film or television.

Since the late 1980s, they had gathered every Tuesday for lunch and banter near his Hollywood Hills home at the Mulholland Tennis Club, which Zeiger helped found.

His political ties to Hollywood stretched back to the McCarthy era, when Zeiger hired blacklisted writers to work for his business, which manufactured and distributed electronic components for aircraft.

Born on May 4, 1918, Zeiger was the youngest of three sons of Lithuanian immigrants. His father sold chinaware in a Cleveland store.

Money from Zeiger's newspaper route paid his tuition at the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics in 1941.

As a Navy pilot waiting to be sent to Pearl Harbor in 1943, he met his future wife at a poker game in San Diego.

During their 63-year marriage, they worked for former Mayor Tom Bradley when he ran for City Council and for Pat Brown when he ran for governor. Their letter-writing campaign to Cleveland's Zs grew from their frustration at being unable to vote in the battleground state of Ohio in the 2004 election.

In 1991, the couple spent three months interning in Washington for Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), a friend since Zeiger's college days. Zeiger studied the cancellation of a Navy jet program and performed research that led to a bill on low-income housing. He also played first base on Metzenbaum's office softball team after having his Boog Powell glove express-mailed from home.

"I started loving baseball in elementary school," Zeiger wrote in his self-published memoir. Growing up, he could afford only bleacher seats and vowed to sit closer to his heroes if he had the chance.

He passed ownership of the four Dodger season tickets to his son.

In addition to his wife and son, Zeiger is survived by daughters Leni and Suzy, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Mulholland Tennis Club, 2555 Crest View Drive, Los Angeles. The family suggests memorial donations to a favorite charity.


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