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A well-told tale of two cities and one professional sports franchise. Nearly three decades after the fact, most baseball fans remain convinced that Walter O'Malley, late owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, callously abandoned the National League club's loyal rooters for personal gain in Los Angeles. As this revisionist account makes clear, however, there was quite a bit more to the story, and O'Malley was far from the villain of the piece. Indeed, Sullivan (Public Administration/CUNY) shows that O'Malley wanted to stay in the New York City borough and build a new stadium there. Located in a decaying neighborhood, fabled Ebbetts Field lacked parking facilities--and the seatting capacity to generate revenues sufficient to keep the team competitive. Only after being frustrated by local pols and power brokers like Robert Moses did O'Malley run the risk of decamping for Southern California. What's more, O'Malley had to go into extra innings to get what he'd been promised in L.A. Chavez Ravine, the site proposed by Mayor Norris Poulson for the Dodgers' privately funded ballpark, had been earmarked for public housing. A bitter debate erupted over this issue; it took a telethon campaign featuring such celebrities as George Burns, Groucho Marx, and Ronald Reagan to win the referendum that finally put paid to the controversy. Just two years after making the bicoastal move, though, the baseball team (forced to play home games for five long seasons in the vast, oddly contoured Coliseum) won the 1959 World Series; the well-managed club went on to become one of the most consistently successful enterprises in all of pro sports. The box score: an engrossing, persuasively documented inquiry that offers object lessons in civics (e.g., the high cost of raids on municipal treasuries by franchise owners) while rehabilitating the reputation of a genuine risk-taking capitalist long perceived--and portrayed--as a bloated plutocrat. The text includes 12 pages of black-and-white photos (not seen).

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
ISBN: 0195059220
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press