Mark Walter lives in Chicago. Stan Kasten spent most of his adult life in Atlanta. Peter Guber is an L.A. guy.
So, when Guber pitched a nostalgic idea on behalf of L.A. fans, his partners in the new Dodgers ownership group listened.
“Curly Coo,” Guber told Kasten. “There is nothing like a Curly Coo.”
Google that, and you get a bar in Scotland. Kasten had no idea what the heck Guber was talking about.
Millions of Dodgers fans could have explained, the ones who cheered on Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey, the ones who rooted for Valenzuela, Hershiser and Piazza, all with ice cream dripping down the sides of their faces.
The Dodger Dog is just a hot dog, but it is our hot dog. The Cool-A-Coo was just an ice cream sandwich, but it was ours, vanilla ice cream wedged between oatmeal cookies, the whole glorious mess dipped in chocolate.
After the O’Malley family sold the Dodgers to News Corp. in 1998, the Cool-A-Coos vanished from Dodger Stadium, not long after Piazza did.
Kasten, the new Dodgers president, eventually figured out what Guber had tried to say. When Kasten met with Levy Restaurants, the company that handles the Dodgers’ concessions, he demanded better food, shorter lines and Cool-A-Coos — if, that is, Levy could find them.
“The Levy people are tracking it down,” Kasten said. “They have been sending me updates on the Cool-A-Coo front.”
No disrespect to the Levy people, whose company is based in Chicago, but it is not difficult to track down the Cool-A-Coos. The guy who makes them works 15 miles from Dodger Stadium, in a tiny factory on a side street in South El Monte.
He is a delightful man named Leo Politis, proprietor of El Monte Dairy. He is 86, he said, and still reports to work every day.
“Never miss a day in my life,” he said. “Never have a headache in my life.”
No concessions to age?
“Teeth,” he said. He is missing a few. No worries.
The cramped offices are cluttered with souvenirs of his life in dessert. In one room, family pictures bump up against old ice cream containers. In another room, a Thrifty Ice Cream clock hangs on a wall.
On a table, he keeps three baseballs, all from the Dodgers. One commemorates Eric Karros’ rookie of the year award in 1992. One honors Todd Hollandsworth’s rookie of the year award in 1996. One celebrates the Dodgers’ opening day in 1996.
“They gave them to me,” Politis said. “I can’t throw them away.”
When O’Malley sold the Dodgers, he said a family could no longer compete in the baseball business, not against corporate ownership. That happened in the ice cream business too, Politis said.
He used to have a much larger factory, making millions of Cool-A-Coos and other treats every year. But he and other independent dairies could not compete against corporate giants, he said, and he sold his business 12 years ago.
Politis is back in business, albeit on a small scale. He needs the money. He churns out Cool-A-Coos every day — same recipe, different name.
“I call it Mr. Cool,” he said. “I can call it Cool-A-Coo any time, I think.”
The Dodgers ought to check with a trademark lawyer, just to be sure. Then the Dodgers ought to do a deal with Politis, a prospect that both thrills him and concerns him.
Cool-A-Coos back at Dodger Stadium? He would love it. He has had fans track him down, pull up at the factory and buy a couple cases to take home.
But he is a small businessman, offering wholesale deals on frozen happiness. He would not — and could not — pay the Dodgers for the right to sell his product at the ballpark, or sign a sponsorship contract that includes advertisements on television and radio and covers the costs of Fireworks Night, brought to you by Cool-A-Coo.
“I just sell ice cream,” Politis said.
The Dodgers could buy the Cool-A-Coos from him for 60 cents each, he said, or maybe 55 cents.
“They could sell it for $6, maybe,” Politis said.
That’s a bit rich, like the Cool-A-Coo itself. In 1999, The Times reported that the Dodgers had sold an average of 4,000 Cool-A-Coos per game.
On that scale, if the Dodgers bought the Cool-A-Coos for 60 cents each and sold them for $4, the team would clear $1 million in profit.
Support a small business just down the freeway from Dodger Stadium? Bring back a beloved ballpark treat? Make enough money to afford another arm in the bullpen?
All that would be worth celebrating, with vanilla ice cream and oatmeal cookies, all coated in chocolate.