Steinberg: Happy days are here again

Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!

The (putative) King is Dead!

The SoCal Baseball Empire Strikes Back!

Notwithstanding what metaphor you are able to mangle, a better day is coming for Los Angeles Dodgers fans. The sad, twisted reign of Frank McCourt holding the Dodgers hostage is coming to an end.

New "magical" ownership has made a deal to purchase the team. McCourt never had enough real wealth or financing to buy the team in the first place. He heavily leveraged everything he owned to barely meet the purchase price.

There were no resources left to pay competitively for players or enhance the roster. He used the team like a piggy bank to pay for a lavish lifestyle. This resulted in one of the premiere franchises in all professional sports becoming dysfunctional on and off the field. And Dodger fans suffered for it.

Fans were so angry at McCourt that they stayed away from Dodger Stadium in droves last year, in-park attendance was at an all time low. The beating and near-death of a Giant fan in the parking lot destroyed the illusion of the ballpark as a family friendly environment. Flooding the parking lots with dozens of mounted police was not a comforting image for a night of fun.

There were multiple bidders to purchase the Dodgers. Owning a venerated franchise in the nation's second largest media market, with 15 million people within 90 minutes of the stadium, is a license to mint money. The gross revenues of baseball have quintupled since the disastrous 1994 strike season.

Major League Baseball is rolling in revenue from fantasy leagues, marketing, signage and media. The next television contract with Fox will be so impressive that it will send all franchise values soaring.

What was critical in the process was to have a new ownership group with enough understanding of the Southern California market to rebuild the popularity of the team.

When the Dodgers came to Southern California in 1958, the O'Malleys marketed the region like it was a small Midwestern town. Their community outreach meant that Kiwanis night was followed by straight A student night and Little League night.

Their promotions with bobble-head and pennant and art giveaways enticed people to come. The commanding radio presence with the remarkable Vin Scully's dulcet tones carrying from one transistor radio to another pulled the community together. And in their second year here they won the World Series with stars like Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills and Don Drysdale. And they kept winning, with multiple rookies of the year, a set lineup that played together for years only to be replaced by another homegrown generation.

The purchase of the team by Fox initiated the decline followed by the dispiriting and unsettling reign of the McCourts.

Enter the Guggenheim group with an unending cornucopia of resources. It is reported that they paid over $2.15 million to purchase the team. This represents an overpayment or premium of hundreds of millions of dollars. The reward for wholesale destruction of the Dodger franchise by Frank McCourt is that he may pocket hundreds of millions of dollars and potentially over a billion.

We don't yet know how much of the parking lots that were built into a separate company has been retained by McCourt. That extra 500 million dollars could have been used to retain current stars and rebuild the roster in free agency. It could be used to keep Dodger Stadium competitive with the new generation of fan-friendly profit centers built into new stadia across the league. Hopefully Guggenheim has some funds left over to repair the damage done to the franchise over these past years.

Forbes Magazine has estimated the value of the Dodgers at $1.4 billion, with the Yankees at 1.8.

The most encouraging aspect of the ownership group is the involvement of former-Laker Magic Johnson. He is a unifying force in SoCal, who has built a financial empire which has helped reenergize the inner city. He is admired for his open battle with H.I.V. And oh that smile. He will know how to rebuild the bonds between the team and the area. Stan Kasten is an experienced and successful executive who helped turn the Atlanta Brave into perennial contenders.

My father brought my brothers and I up to love both the Angels and the Dodgers. It baffles me that fans choose one or the other. They both represent our region and can bring fun and joy. So with the amazing free agent signings that Arte Moreno made to revitalize the Angels and the new Dodger ownership, Happy Days are Here Again for local baseball fans.

LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports or

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