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Fans on the street cheer McCourt's sale of Dodgers

Jubilation greets Frank McCourt's decision to sell the bankrupt Dodgers. Most hope a new owner will bring more stability to the beloved institution.

November 03, 2011|By Mitchell Landsberg, Martha Groves and Ricardo Lopez, Los Angeles Times
  • Dodgers Manager Walter Alston rides in a parade down Broadway before the Dodgers' first game in Los Angeles in 1958.
Dodgers Manager Walter Alston rides in a parade down Broadway before the… (Los Angeles Times )

Frank and Jamie McCourt may have worn out their welcome in Los Angeles with their diamond-crusted lifestyle, their made-for-TMZ divorce, their inability to bring a World Series to Dodger Stadium.

It can't be said, however, that everyone was disappointed to hear that Frank McCourt had put the Dodgers up for sale.

That would overlook Nicholas Amoroso, a 26-year-old wardrobe stylist who lives next to the stadium in Chavez Ravine and remembers seasons in which sellout games brought near gridlock to his neighborhood. Dodger success was a headache, a game-day paralysis filled with noise and exhaust.

"Traffic was so bad," he said Wednesday. "It's been much better recently."

Amoroso was decidedly in the minority, however, as Southern Californians took in the news that the once-proud franchise could soon be in new hands. More common reactions ranged from relief to delight to jubilation.

"Anything but the McCourts," said Bruce Campbell, 61, a lifelong Dodger fan from Huntington Beach.

"I will sleep well tonight!" wrote a blogger at the Dodger fan site Blue Heaven beneath a photograph of exploding fireworks and a link to a video of Kool and the Gang's song "Celebration."

The glee on display Wednesday offered more proof of how much a city known for its love of winners had soured on McCourt.

His decision this summer to have the Dodgers file for bankruptcy capped years of embarrassing headlines and lackluster seasons that made him one of the city's most polarizing figures.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich summed up the feelings of many when he cheered the end of "Frank McCourt's pathetic legacy." His colleague, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, said the last two years have been a "nightmare for the Dodger organization and for Dodger fans."

There were similar reactions in 2003, when the Dodgers' previous owner, News Corp., announced that it was selling the team. After decades of stable, mostly successful ownership by the O'Malley family, Dodger fans had been deeply unhappy with what they saw as mercenary owners who sacrificed success for the bottom line.

The McCourt era, which began in early 2004, will probably be remembered in a similar way — but with the added dimension of the McCourts' messy and extravagant personal lives. Their 2009 split caused a tug-of-war over the team, exposed a shamelessly indulgent lifestyle and ultimately contributed to the Dodgers' descent into bankruptcy.

In the Sawtelle section of West Los Angeles, Dodgers fans old and young expressed sweet relief at the prospect of a new owner providing much-needed stability to the franchise.

"Yes, get rid of them," said Dan Garner, 76, a retired physiology instructor who lives in Brentwood. "This has demoralized the players. The team is not doing well. It's a disappointment."

Garner's friend Carl Hetherton, 60, of Long Beach derided McCourt for using the Dodgers "for personal gain." When it comes to owning a professional baseball team, fans and the community should to some extent be placed above profit, Hetherton said. McCourt "should not use the team as a money machine," he said.

Professional team owners should be role models, and the McCourts were anything but, said Nathan Stumpf, 28, a Santa Monica College student who grew up a Milwaukee Brewers fan but finds the Dodgers more fun to watch.

"I don't think it's good for baseball" to have a team mired in controversy, he said. "It gives a bad image."

Views were similar among a sampling of people in downtown Los Angeles.

"I just want to see them be competitive, with an owner who cares," said Mike Poole, who has lived in a loft on 2nd Street since 2003.

"I used to go to games all the time," said Poole, who lived near Dodger Stadium before moving downtown. "I didn't go to a single game this season."

Around the corner and outside the Express News newsstand and cafe on Main Street, owner Shezy Khan arranged newspapers, one of which announced the Dodgers' proposed sale.

"Hopefully things are going to get a lot brighter," said Khan, looking at the headline.

"It was becoming more of a joke," he said. "We were paying for this guy's lavish lifestyle."

At Valley Sports Cards and Memorabilia in Tarzana, owner Alex Mortimer, 41, said he would welcome almost any new owner.

"It can't be any worse," Mortimer said. "It was absurd when the McCourts bought the Dodgers in the first place. I'm just happy he's not going to end up keeping the parking lot."

Reaction from civic leaders ranged from the diplomatic to the … not so much.

Antonovich offered one of the more acerbic statements, teeing off on the Dodgers' response to the near-fatal beating of a San Francisco Giants fan last spring — and the inference, by team attorneys last week, that victim Bryan Stow might have borne some responsibility for what happened.

Antonovich said McCourt's legacy "was further soiled by the inference that Bryan had culpability in his own severe beating."

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti said the agreement to sell the team delivered "a great day for Dodger fans."

"We need ownership that puts baseball first," Garcetti said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he hopes the next owner of the Dodgers will have local roots.

"As a Dodger fan and an Angeleno, it has been a very, very tough season," Villaraigosa said. "I'm looking forward to local ownership. I want the owner to be from Los Angeles. I want someone who loves this town and believes in this city."

Los Angeles Times staff writers Ari Bloomekatz, Bob Pool, Sam Quinones, Dan Weikel, Nicole Santa Cruz, Jason Song and David Zahniser contributed to this report.

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