I still think that the idea of moving the Dodgers was a horrible mistake. The people of Brooklyn continued to love the Dodgers no matter what had happened the year before. Always saying "Wait till next year" when they lost, just like the Cubs still do today. Even today, you can still see a person wearing a Brooklyn Dodgers cap walking down the street in New York. Do I understand why O'Malley did it? Yes. Do I still think it was a bad move? Yes.
What continues to baffle me about is the cult and lionization of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I understand that they broke the color line, more on that later, but they only won one championship. It took the Mets seven years to match that feat. In Los Angeles, the Dodgers were champions multiple times within their first ten years (and with a largely different cast of characters than when in Brooklyn).
There can be no argument that signing Jackie Robinson is one of the signal events in American history in the 20th century. However, try and find out how much Branch (Mr.) Rickey paid the Kansas City Monarchs for his contract.
Enough about the Dodgers already. Please.
OTM missed the opportunity to talk about a real human loss--the eviction of hundreds of families from Chavez Ravine, where Dodger Stadium was eventually built.
It's a complex story--the land was initially to be used for public housing, but LA's head of public housing, Frank Wilkinson, was caught up in the Red Scare and public housing was seen as creeping socialism.
Those in the city crying foul over the housing project were mum when O'Malley was able to purchase the land at a drastically below-market value.
This story has been told recently by Culture Clash in their play Chavez Ravine, as well as by Ry Cooder in an album by the same name. Instead of focusing on nostalgia, OTM could have brought this story to even wider attention.
I read Shapiro's book last year and found it enlightening as to the actual facts surrounding the departure of the Dodgers from Brooklyn in '57. I grew up in Brooklyn and was all of eight when the Dodgers headed west in search of greater profits. O'Malley doesn't deserve all the blame; just most of it. Nevertheless, I believe there are, if there is a just God, three souls certainly in Hell: Hitler, Stalin and O'Malley.
It is interesting how the departure of the Giants, a team with an equally storied history, from New York in '57 does not get the nostalgic attention of the move of the Dodgers. Nobody seems to miss the Braves here in "Red Sox Nation" anymore, for that matter. The loss of the Dodgers hurt, as Shapiro says, because they were a winning team, a vastly popular and profitable team at the time. That was O'Malley's mortal sin.
I was surprised to hear this segment on the Dodgers, and appreciate your giving the L.A. side of the story. A native Angelino, I live in New York, staying up late to listen to Vin Scully continue the "Branca style" of baseball journalism. For over half a century, he has spent full days preparing for his nightly broadcasts, finding out interesting stories, anecdotes and details about even the most obscure players on the home and opposition teams. He does fewer games and stumbles a bit where once he was the smoothest of all announcers, but he's also a shining beacon of the old school and a national treasure.
I would be remiss if I did not note that Vinny is also a product of New York.
Why did a show with the mission of exploring media coverage squander time airing sportswriters’ nostalgia for the Brooklyn Dodgers? There might have been a media angle if you’d used the occasion to look at how that well-enshrined, not to say cliche’d myth of desperate Brooklyn desire for a sports team is exploited by Bruce Ratner’s PR teams to frame the story of the Atlantic Yards luxury housing boondoggle/basketball arena. Or you might have used it to critique the notion that having a team to root for in common unites all groups (really? New immigrants? And what about women, who are often excluded from that particular brand of camaraderie even if they are fans – see Mariah Burton Nelson’s The Stronger Women Get the More Men Love Football: Sexism and the American Culture of Sports). Or you might have looked at how the story of the Dodgers’ departure has been so powerfully intertwined with the larger 1950s middle class flight to the suburbs in NYC mythology that it has been mistaken for its cause, and thereby provided a convenient excuse to throw piles of money to any sports team that threatens to leave a city.... There are plenty more angles that would have allowed a media critique. And there are other NPR shows where charming, sentimental reminiscence could have found a home. But I look for commentary about media from On the Media. It baffles me that sports gets a free ride.
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