Dodger Blues

One week, Major League Baseball appropriately honors Jackie Robinson with all of its players donning Jackie's no. 42, a reminder of how the Dodger organization, first in Brooklyn and then in Los Angeles, set the standard for the entire game.

Just a week later, MLB took over the day-to-day operations of the Dodgers. Just to write this line is shocking enough.

How did one of sports' indelible franchises, an organization accustomed to success, turn so bad so fast? Well, mainly because a family business turned into a business where family (not to mention ego and greed) ruined everything.

For half a century, the O'Malley family controlled the Dodgers. Curse old man Walter all you want for ripping the heart out of Brooklyn, but there's no doubt his move to L.A. helped make baseball a coast-to-coast entity, and better in the long term.

Once in Southern California, O'Malley showed everyone what a model organization looks like. It started by building Dodger Stadium, a beautiful park that, half a century later, still outshines most others. Other than cosmetics, the place now looks quite similar as to what it did in 1962.

Then it spread to a philosophy (The Dodger Way, you might say) where talented young players are nurtured through a first-class farm system in places like Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla. Then they go to the big club and, for the most part, stay there.

And talk about stability - just two managers, the humble Walter Alston and loquacious Tommy Lasorda, who served a combined 43 years. They had different styles, but the same unending success, all supported by huge crowds. In one 15-year stretch, the Dodgers led in attendance 14 years.

Even as free agency dawned, Peter O'Malley, who took over after his father died, kept things simple, left his baseball people alone (unlike some other owners) and didn't chase every big-dollar star. More winning followed, from the comeback-filled 1981 title to the Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser-led 1988 unit that shocked the Mets and A's.

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