Thom Loverro: The Dodgers' history in Brooklyn casts a long shadow over the game

|
Sports,MLB,Nationals,Thom Loverro

The Washington Nationals began their road trip Monday night with the start of a three-game series against the Dodgers, who, under former Nationals president Stan Kasten, have become the Dodgers again -- at least off the field.

Under former owner Frank McCourt, the franchise was a disaster, alienating a loyal fan base and turning one of baseball's crown jewels into an embarrassment to the business of baseball.

But according to the Los Angeles Times, the group (including Kasten and Magic Johnson) that purchased the Dodgers for a record $2.15 billion has recovered the franchise from the McCourt damage, even though the team is struggling on the field.

They spent $100 million on Dodger Stadium renovations, invested again in player development and created an atmosphere that welcomed a franchise-record 31,000 season ticket holders this season.

If the Los Angeles Dodgers keep going like this, maybe they'll be as popular today as that other Dodgers baseball team -- you know, the one that hasn't existed since 1957, the one they keep writing books and making movies about.

The one that makes as much as $30 million a year in merchandise sales -- 56 years after it last took the field.

The Brooklyn Dodgers, the most storied, romanticized, popular franchise in all of sports that has long ceased to exist.

Technically, it is the same franchise. The Dodgers moved from Brooklyn following the 1957 season to Los Angeles. But even though the Dodgers established their own cherished identity in Los Angeles -- thanks to the arms of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and the legs of Maury Wills -- it is not the same identity as the Brooklyn "Bums," the team America remains smitten with.

The Jackie Robinson film "42," about his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers and breaking baseball's color line in 1947, has introduced a new generation of fans to the beloved franchise. A biography of one of Robinson's teammates, Brooklyn first baseman Gil Hodges, was released this year, one of well over 100 books that have been written about Brooklyn. Only the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have had more books written about them, and they didn't cease to exist 56 years ago.

The Yankees defeated Brooklyn five times in six World Series meetings from 1947 to 1956, with the lone Series win for the Dodgers coming in 1955. Yet it is those Dodgers teams that have become legendary and whose players are far more memorable than those championship Yankees squads.

Even the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers -- Ebbets Field, demolished in 1960 -- remains one of the most celebrated baseball palaces of all time, celebrating this season its 100th anniversary.

The whole Brooklyn Nets marketing campaign attempts to connect the team to the Brooklyn Dodgers. But here is what can't be recreated: the connection between the Brooklyn Dodgers and its fans that is missing today. Those Brooklyn teams lived in the neighborhoods with their supporters and had a love affair with fans that can't be duplicated -- but will always be chronicled.

Examiner

columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

View article comments Leave a comment