Former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley poses for a portrait in his Los… ( Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
In 1938, after voters recalled L.A.'s crooked mayor, Frank Shaw, it's said that someone planted a sign on the City Hall lawn: "Under new management." The new ownership of the Dodgers needs no sign. The purchase, by a Chicago financial service company at a record price, has been heralded in every way but skywriting.
Many people made a run at buying the Dodgers. One of them was Peter O'Malley, who got his own record price for the ball club 14 years ago. Son of Walter O'Malley, who brought the team from Brooklyn to L.A., Peter wanted back in the game, but like so many others, was outbid. Now, after the "unpleasantness" of the last few years, he says he's confident in the new ownership. On Tuesday he'll be in the stands for the first home game of the season like thousands of other Angelenos, proof that baseball fans are the very definition of spring's eternal hope.
You must have great lifetime seats.
When we sold the ball club, Fox offered us the box for a long time. I said no thank you. I want to come when I come, but to have that box empty when our family's not there wouldn't look right. I go and sit in different places, on the field level or the loge or the dugout seats or the reserved deck up top; it's all a good view. I was there every night except for these last few years. It was difficult in recent years, it really was. The people who have worked there a long time were saying how much they missed us and everything, and I didn't think that was good for them to say or for me to hear.
Opening day sold out incredibly fast — was that a vote of confidence for the new ownership?
Opening day has traditionally been a sellout. Years ago when we moved it from a night game to a day game, people thought, that's going to be tough, but now it's a traditional date on people's calendars and it should always be a sellout.
What about the Chicago element of the new ownership?
I know a lot about Stan Kasten — first-class baseball executive. I've talked to Stan. I'm very optimistic.
Our family really wanted to be sure that the Dodgers were in the right hands. That doesn't necessarily mean our hands, but we wanted the right hands. I think the new owners will do an excellent job. Magic [Johnson, one of the winning bidders] will not disappoint the fans.
Is Kasten going to move here?
Oh, sure, yes, he'll live here.
Is it odd to have owners who are not from L.A.?
I was hoping quite frankly that a local group would take control. I thought there was a big advantage for local people who had their reputations at stake rather than somebody from out of town, but that didn't happen. I will support the new ownership completely and enthusiastically.
When did your group leave the bidding?
If the process was a nine-inning process, we left at about the sixth inning.
The bidding was so secretive that I thought we'd finally see white smoke coming from Dodger Stadium: "We have an owner!"
Those were the ground rules, and I think everybody abided by them.
$2.15 billion — did the new owners pay too much?
We'll [soon] know!
What went wrong for the McCourts?
They got off to a rough start. Just imagine moving to another city and purchasing and leading one of the most important institutions in the city. It's a big learning curve, and I think if they had lived here for some length of time prior, they could have avoided a lot of the mistakes. It just seemed that a lot of things they touched didn't work out right, but I couldn't tell you what happened exactly.
Do people buttonhole you and want to talk about the team?
People are extremely nice. People have always said things they think you want to hear. We have heard a lot of compliments, and that means a lot. But that's past, and we're looking forward.
Has Brooklyn forgiven your father for moving the Dodgers to L.A.?
My dad tried for 10 years to solve the aging of Ebbets Field. In the beginning, he never thought about moving. Why would any sports team owner leave New York? He sincerely tried to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn, and only when he realized he couldn't make a go of it did he decide to look elsewhere. [Knowing] that has changed a lot of historians' views.
Is the era of family ownership in sports over?
I'm not sure if it's over — it's changed. Sports have gone corporate. Media is a major influence on ownership, and the values of the franchises today — for families, to own a team takes a pretty big wallet. In some respects, corporations live on, unlike individuals or family heads, and that can be good for stability. Franchises need stability, continuity. My dad and I ran [the Dodgers] for close to 50 years. We had a good run, no regrets.
What about ticket prices?