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Ministers write letter of support for Frank McCourt

The letter, to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, urges him to give the Dodgers owner a second chance.

June 11, 2011|By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
  • The Rev. John J. Hunter of First AME Church says Frank McCourts inner circle reached out to clergy.
The Rev. John J. Hunter of First AME Church says Frank McCourts inner circle… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

Embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt appears to be making a bid to show Major League Baseball that God –- or at least the leadership of some Los Angeles-area churches — is on his side.

After a meeting with McCourt last week, a group of 20 ministers, primarily from Baptist and Methodist churches, wrote a letter to baseball Commissioner Bud Selig urging him to give McCourt a second chance.

"We are deeply troubled by the rancor, media attacks and lack of equity that has been afforded the Los Angeles Dodgers and Frank McCourt as they seek to provide financial stability to one of baseball's most notable franchises," the June 3 letter states.

As McCourt has struggled to meet the Dodgers' payroll, Selig has appointed a trustee to oversee the team's business operations. McCourt has said a long-term television contract with Fox would resolve the Dodgers' financial troubles, but Selig has said he would not consider approving the contract until an investigation into the team's finances is completed.

McCourt has yet to settle his divorce. His estranged wife, Jamie, has asked a court to order the immediate sale of the Dodgers. And he also faces a lawsuit by the family of Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan brutally beaten in the Dodger Stadium parking lot on opening day, March 31.

John J. Hunter, senior minister of First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, said at a news conference Friday that McCourt's "inner circle" had reached out to the pastors, who then heard his appeal at a breakfast meeting.

The letter from the pastors, who represent primarily African American churches, cited the Dodgers' history in the civil rights movement as the home of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in the major league. During the meeting with McCourt, Hunter said, pastors also heard from African American former players such as "Sweet Lou" Johnson and Maury Wills. Hunter called McCourt a "faithful steward" of the franchise.

Hunter said McCourt did not make any promise to donate money to the churches, nor did he offer any personal benefit to the ministers.

"Mr. McCourt is very appreciative of the incredible support the clergy leaders have offered," the Dodgers said in a statement. "Mr. McCourt has developed strong ties with diverse constituencies throughout Los Angeles since he purchased the Dodgers in 2004."

McCourt representatives declined additional comment.

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said Selig is "very sensitive to all of the things going on in Los Angeles."

"We are doing what we believe to be in the best interest of our sport and the great Dodgers franchise and its millions of loyal fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future," Courtney said.

Last month, a group of representatives of Latino organizations also wrote a letter to Selig advocating on McCourt's behalf and praising the Dodgers' relationship with the Latino community.

abby.sewell@latimes.com

Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.

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