McCourt’s now all alone after O’Malley’s public stand
The courtroom sparring will continue in all its demeaning rage, but the fight is over.
Frank McCourt may win the Dodgers, but he has officially lost Los Angeles.
He has lost Los Angeles because he has lost the patron saint of Chavez Ravine, the man whose family spent four decades building the Dodgers into a local treasure that McCourt has quickly turned into a national joke.
He has lost Peter O’Malley, a former Dodgers caretaker who ran the team with an uncommon grace and gentility that erupted Thursday in words as stunning as they were scathing.
Turns out, even St. Peter has seen enough.
“The current Dodger ownership has lost all credibility throughout the city,” O’Malley told The Times’ Bill Shaikin. “In my judgment, it would be best for the franchise and the city if there was new ownership.”
I’ve written it, Major League Baseball quietly agrees with it, every Dodgers fan who has sickly felt his or her devotion exploited by the increasingly shameless money-grubbing McCourt has pondered it.
But for the restrained Peter O’Malley to actually say it?
It might be the first time O’Malley has publicly commented on anything involving the Dodgers since he sold the team in 1998. It may be the most inflammatory public statements of his entire life. Heck, he didn’t even sound this mad when he fired Al Campanis.
“For many years, the Dodgers have been one of the most prestigious institutions in our city and throughout professional sports,” O’Malley told Shaikin. “Sadly, that is not the case today.”
If perception-deaf McCourt still doesn’t understand, these words can be translated into a succinct message that will hopefully bring him to his senses.
Frank, you are now alone.
With O’Malley’s condemnation, you have now lost any remaining trust from longtime Dodgers fans who have kept your team afloat while you have siphoned off the proceeds to fund your lavish lifestyle.
With O’Malley’s call to sell, you also probably have lost interest from potential investors who will be required to prop you up once your legendarily expensive divorce from wife Jamie is completed.
If O’Malley is against you, then who can be with you?
Seriously, Frank, you may now have to lift another $400,000 out of your Dodgers charity to pay another consultant to make this go away.
Wait, I know, maybe you should simply increase the rent that you charge yourself for playing in your own stadium and buy some new billboards.
My town? Not for you, Frank. Not now. No more.
After a week of the divorce trial that will decide Dodgers ownership, O’Malley said what onlookers have been thinking.
It’s not about the question of who deserves to be the owner. It’s about the reality that neither one does.
“The issue is not community property,” O’Malley told Shaikin. “The issue is that, from what we have all learned in the documents filed in the proceeding, we now know how they have used the Dodgers.”
O’Malley obviously made his share of questionable decisions during his Dodgers tenure, the most painful of which was his meek surrendering in the political fight to bring a football team to Dodger Stadium, which led to the selling of the Dodgers to Fox.
But where the McCourts disingenuously postured themselves as family owners, O’Malley led one of the great true family ownerships in sports history.
He cared for the Dodgers culture -- players and fans alike -- as if it were his child. He spoiled it beyond reason. He loved it beyond doubt.
It was impossible to go to Dodger Stadium in any capacity, from an upper-deck fan to a field-level usher, and not feel the O’Malley touch.
McCourt’s only defense in the court of public opinion has been that his team has made four playoff appearances in his six seasons. But as O’Malley reminded Shaikin, the Dodgers were always about much more.
“The Dodgers are a jewel and earned that reputation not just based on winning games,” O’Malley said, “but on how the franchise was managed.”
He’s talking about the $108 million that Jamie McCourt’s lawyers claim was taken by the couple from the Dodgers to support their obscenely extravagant lifestyle.
O’Malley, meanwhile, was the most regular rich guy I have ever covered, the bulk of his family’s profits poured directly back into the team or the stadium. This is a man who celebrated team victories not by buying himself a Malibu mansions, but by buying his staff vanilla ice cream.
Not a day passes when somebody doesn’t stop O’Malley, 72, and beg him to run the team again. This will never happen, but the cracks in the McCourt foundation are so large that he has agreed to step inside and have a look.
“The Dodgers need to be owned by a small but diverse group of Los Angeles people who understand the culture of the organization and the importance of the Dodgers in this city,” O’Malley told Shaikin. “If there’s a role for me -- temporarily, short term -- to accomplish that, I would devote as much time and energy as necessary.”
So, all you local big-money folks who have been looking for advice in buying the Dodgers, but have been reluctant to summon the seemingly reclusive O’Malley?
Call him. Call him now.
A huge loss for McCourt, a giant gain for the rest of us.