San Diego Padres: Have the Dodgers lost their soul?
The Dodgers aren’t the same organization they once were. One San Diego Padres fan reflects on her personal experience as a former fan of Los Angeles.
Have the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team leading all of baseball with 67 wins, lost all semblance of the soul that ventured west after the 1957 season?
In 2013 the team signed a bloated television deal worth $8.35 billion, which leaves the majority of fans in the dark. Jeff Passan MLB columnist for Yahoo Sports has called the contract “…the consequence of greed, myopia and stubbornness, and no amount of pandering can placate the fans suffering because of it.”
And now, the wealthiest team in baseball actually wants to sell naming rights ($12 million per year) to parts of iconic Dodger Stadium. Apparently, Guggenheim Partners, which bought the team for $2 billion, needs spare change. Dunkin Donuts Field at Dodger Stadium? Even better, Hooters Park at Dodger Stadium.
But wait, you’re asking. Why should San Diego Padres fans give a rip about the bully crybabies up the freeway? First, there’s always a faint (a very, very, very faint) hope that the front office nonsense will trickle down, and the team on the field will fall apart.
Even more important though, Padres fans need to constantly remind the owners and executives of this team that tradition and history (including uniforms) and principles and soul matter. Valuing fans matters too.
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Also, I have a confession to make. I grew up a Dodger fan with Vin Scully under my pillow when I was supposed to be sleeping. Back then the Dodgers had heart and soul and courage.
It took courage for the Dodgers (and Giants) to be the first teams to venture west of the Mississippi. It took even more courage for the Dodgers to sign the first African American player, Jackie Robinson, in 1947. Roy Campanella joined the team the following year, Jim Gilliam in 1953. The Dodgers had three black players while almost every other team in the sport remained lily white.
For the Dodgers first four years in LA, the team played in the Coliseum, a singularly inappropriate venue. But southern Californians flocked to welcome the sport. More than 78,000 fans attended opening day of the 1958 season, which ended with a 71-83 record. However, the next year the Dodgers won their first west coast World Series, beating the Chicago White Sox in six games.
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The Dodgers, a scrappy bunch back then, relied on pitching and defense with an occasional run. They won the World Series in 1959, 1963, 1965 and 1966.
I grew up regarding pennants and World Series rings as part of the natural order. Then I ended up in San Diego and attended my first Padres game. At first, it appeared we’d taken a wrong turn and ended up at a Little League field. The baseball was that bad.
But, it was still baseball. And the baseball got better. Thanks to Tony Gwynn and the playoff run in 1984, I was totally hooked. 1998 just cemented the bond with the Padres.
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Still, it is sad to see the team of my childhood lose its collective soul.