"The Raiders' motto, 'Just Win Baby,' was the opposite of the Dodgers," he said. "The Dodger feeling was always let's win . . . but it's more than that. It's doing things the right way, because winning itself is never guaranteed."
Continuity, Claire said, was the key to sustaining during lean years.
"You go back, since the arrival in 1958, take it from '58 through '98," Claire said. "You'll find three general managers, three ticket managers, two managers, maybe two traveling secretaries . . . and one ownership. It was continuity. There were good times, and bad times, but there was continuity."
Going to Dodger Stadium was like a trip to Disneyland — it was the same every time.
Losing Los Angeles seemed unfathomable — especially after the Rams and Raiders departed in 1994.
It would take an outrageous breach of public trust, an egregious act of arrogance — imagine the Chicago Bears turning on Dick Butkus.
Yet, that's just what the Dodgers did.
You can town-track the sea change, Dodgers to Lakers, to a period between March 1998 and June 1999.
It began with Peter O'Malley selling ownership to Fox, much more interested in Murdoch Green than Dodger Blue.
News Corp. then made the cataclysmic misjudgment, in the spring of 1998, of thinking it could trade Mike Piazza and not pay a price for it.
"It wasn't just a trade," said Claire, the team's general manager at the time. "It was a trade of a franchise player in his prime."
The deal, brokered by higher-ups without Claire's knowledge, ripped a chasm. Claire was soon fired, along with manager Bill Russell.
The purge of institutional "Dodger Way" knowledge led to a mass exodus that led to . . . the Angels.
The continuum was broken.
"It didn't so much have to do with me," Claire said. "There was a way we did things. This wasn't the way I was trained and guided for 30 years."
Yes, Piazza miscalculated in holding out for $100 million, thinking he was worth it. Not long after the trade, though, Fox thought pitcher Kevin Brown was worthy of $105 million.
Asked whether he would have been traded had O'Malley still owned the Dodgers, Piazza said, flat-out, "No."
Jim Murray had his pinkie on the pulse: "The Dodgers traded away more than a part of their team," he wrote then. "They traded away part of their soul."
David T. Estrada, a reader, presciently pondered in The Times' Saturday letters section of May 16, 1998: "Will we be cursed for the next 100 years? I liken this to the Boston Red Sox deal that sent Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees."
The Lakers, simultaneously, were retooling with Shaquille O'Neal and teenager Kobe Bryant.
They lacked only leadership.
In June 1999, Phil Jackson was introduced as coach at a Beverly Hills news conference.
He remarked of the roster: "It's young, it's on the verge. It's been on the verge, and yet it hasn't quite gotten over the top. It's a similar situation to what happened 10 years ago in Chicago, and we hope to have the same type of success."
Five more NBA titles later, Jackson retired as coach this spring, and the Lakers had same owner he came in with — Jerry Buss.
"One of the strengths of the Lakers was the very strength that was there with the Dodgers," Claire said. "One critical, key word: continuity."
The Dodgers changed hands again in 2004, Fox to McCourt, but it was actually sleight of hands.
Horrified blue bloods watched the Angels, led by former Dodgers, steal the O'Malley blueprint and win the 2002 World Series.
Mike Scioscia, the popular Dodgers catcher who preceded the popular Piazza, recently celebrated his 1,000th win as Angels manager.
There's that word: continuity.
It's a Lakers town now.
Dodgers attendance is free-falling this season, yet Claire has invested too much to think the Dodgers can't reclaim the territory.
"That brand, that name, what once was, was so strong," Claire said. "I don't view this as lost and lost forever. I'm too competitive. It means that much to me. I cared too much then and I care too much now."
There is a window-crack of opportunity here. Bryant's Lakers might be on the down side. Does Kobe even like the new coach?
If the Dodgers could somehow combine stable ownership, timely hitting and a security guard when you need one . . . who knows?
Maybe Dr. Frank Jobe could perform Tommy John surgery on the Dodger masthead.
This much is certain: major rehab will be required.