Jackie Robinson’s widow ‘thrilled’ Dodgers’ McCourt era is over

As the Dodgers celebrated their first home game under new ownership Monday, the widow of perhaps the most memorable player in franchise history said she was “thrilled” the Frank McCourt era had ended.

Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, joined Hall of Famer Don Newcombe and new Dodgers part owner Magic Johnson for the ceremonial first pitch. Johnson later yelled to the crowd, “It’s time for Dodger baseball!”

Rachel Robinson turns 90 in July. She lives in New York and oversees the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which is expected to form a partnership with the new Dodgers ownership.

“First of all, I’m thrilled with the fact we have new ownership and we have a chance to revitalize the franchise in terms of the organization, the team, the fans,” she said. “I’m just thrilled about that. I’ve been very unhappy with the fact that we were in so much trouble.”

She said the unhappiness extended beyond the Dodgers’ bankruptcy filing last year.

“The McCourt era,” she said, “I could tell things were declining and not in the tradition of the Dodgers.”

Before the game, Dodgers President Stan Kasten, General Manager Ned Colletti and part owner Peter Guber met with reporters and editors from The Times.

Neither Johnson nor Mark Walter, the Dodgers’ chairman, attended the meeting as promised. That left Kasten to answer for the comments Johnson and Walter made at last week’s news conference, when they pointedly said McCourt would make no money from the Dodgers beyond any future development of the stadium property.

“I regret we left that impression,” Kasten said.

In fact, as documents obtained by The Times on Friday show, McCourt remains half-owner of the property, which the Dodgers pay $14 million per year to lease. Walter acknowledged Friday that McCourt would share in some portion of that revenue. Kasten conceded that point should not have been obscured in the effort of the new owners to distance themselves from McCourt.

“In retrospect, I can’t disagree,” Kasten said.

Walter met briefly before Monday’s game with Nez Balelo, the agent for outfielder Andre Ethier.

Ethier can file for free agency this fall, but Colletti said he has had several conversations with Kasten about the possibility of signing the outfielder to a contract extension.

Colletti also said he does not plan to approach pitcher Clayton Kershaw about a long-term contract before the winter.

“Nothing will happen with us and Clayton this season,” Colletti said.

The Dodgers are in first place. However, Kasten said the concept that the new owners could make a statement by boosting the player payroll to trade for veteran reinforcements was simplistic.

“We don’t have the warehouse of prospects we wish we had,” Kasten said. “In the middle of the year, that’s the currency that is most important.”

The guaranteed portion of Colletti’s contract expires at the end of this season. Kasten, asked whether Colletti’s inclusion in the media meeting indicated the Dodgers would keep him beyond this season, said he never would discuss the length of a general manager’s contract.

“I think you should regard Ned as permanent,” Kasten said. “That would be the case whether he’s here for 20 years or a much shorter period.”