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Frank McCourt has nothing, and the Dodgers have it all

BILL PLASCHKE

His schemes and understanding of the franchise are broke, but the Dodgers are rich, graced by the likes of Vin Scully, Tom Lasorda, Don Newcombe and Nancy Bea Hefley, and the memories fans hold dear.

June 27, 2011|Bill Plaschke
  • Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully welcomes the fans to Dodger Stadium before a home opener.
Legendary broadcaster Vin Scully welcomes the fans to Dodger Stadium before… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

The Dodgers are not broke. Do not believe the message coming from Monday's legal maneuverings. Do not get sucked into the horror of the word "bankruptcy," or the doom associated with their owner declaring it.

The Dodgers are not broke. It is Frank McCourt who is broke. His schemes are broke. His understanding of this franchise is broke. His ties to Los Angeles are broke.

The Dodgers are not broke. The Dodgers are bigger than broke. The Dodgers pulse too deeply through a city's soul to ever be broke.

The Dodgers are rich. They are wildly, unimaginably rich. On yet another dark day in this darkest of blue summers, I prefer to remember why.

The Dodgers are the rich in the tones of Vin Scully.

I bumped into him in the press box the other day, and I literally mean bumped. He was rushing to get back to his booth. He couldn't wait to get to work. The game didn't start for an hour. If Frank McCourt can't pay Scully, I will, and I'm guessing I can find about 3 million people who will pitch in.

"I get to watch baseball and I get to tell people about it," he said. "How lucky am I?"

The Dodgers are rich in the diet of Tom Lasorda.

Lasorda is not only still here, he's everywhere, stalking through the Dodger Stadium concourses for every home game, stumping for them at church halls and county fairs when they're gone, the human example of the Dodgers always leaving the light on.

How many organizations have an 83-year-old Hall of Fame manager who still manages that organization every day of his life? He gives pep talks to ushers, scolds vendors, spars with writers, and prods players who laugh until they realize he is serious.

"I could go back down in that dugout again, you know," he said the other day with a huge grin, and I was like, Tommy, you never left.

The Dodgers are rich in the tailoring of Don Newcombe.

Other teams must be content with simply having Jackie Robinson's number on their outfield wall. The Dodgers have Jackie Robinson's last living notable teammate and close friend standing behind home plate.

Unlike anybody else in the building, if Newk is at a Dodgers game, you will see him. He can be spotted even from the most upper of decks, roaming the field in an impeccable suit and tie and hat, reminding young players of their blessings, reminding us of ours. He is a living museum, a man who used to be shunned to "black" hotels with Robinson and Roy Campanella while their Dodgers teammates looked the other way.

"I would never say anything about what is happening now because I love this organization," he said recently, which also makes him a living model of forgiveness.

The Dodgers are rich in the taste of frozen malts.

Yes, Dodger Stadium still sells them and, yes, they are still perfect, one of the only remaining concessions that you can seemingly only buy in a ballpark. The container is still simple, the spoon is still wooden — plastic is blasphemy! — and the melting of the malt still fits into the timing of the game. No matter who is pitching, they take exactly two full innings to eat, the malt slowly melting into smooth chocolate ice cream while the game slowly melts toward its own inevitable conclusion.

The Dodgers are rich in the fingers of Nancy Bea Hefley.

Hotshot executives have threatened to quiet her. Time has threatened to slow her. But nothing, it seems, can stop her, this Dodgers organist being one of the few Dodgers public figures to have started under Peter O'Malley and survived every bit of chaos since.

A funny thing has happened on her way to irrelevancy. She's become more important than ever. Amid the furor over increased stadium tensions, her playing time has increased, officials perhaps smartly realizing the sound of an organ is a soothing reminder of a time when Chavez Ravine's perceived battleground was still but a baseball diamond.

The Dodgers are rich in the mystery of Kirk Gibson's home run.

We still don't know who caught the ball. We still have no idea who was in that infamous car that was leaving the parking lot the moment the ball cleared the right-field fence … all we saw was the furious pounding of its bright red brake lights. And we still don't know the real reason why, this winter, Gibson sadly auctioned off the homer's bat and helmet.

The Dodgers will remain forever wealthy in the timelessness of their past, in the strength of the community bond that holds hope for their future, in the memories that will long outlast this ugly parting of this fool and his money.

In the future, how will Dodgers fans remember Monday, June 27, 2011? How about it being the 31st anniversary of the unlikely no-hitter thrown by Jerry Reuss?

He threw it after spending the first month and a half of the season in the bullpen. He threw it after going 7-14 the previous season.

And, oh yeah, he threw it in Candlestick Park against the San Francisco Giants.

Now that's rich.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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