Notes on Brooklyn Exit

Walter O'Malley was long considered the "heavy" in the Dodgers exit from Brooklyn for the sunnier climes of California, but the title of approbation could easily have been hung on the New York public works czar Robert Moses, briefly mentioned in Tot Holmes' Memorial Day piece on the move made half a century ago.

No single individual wielded more influence in the 20th century in the Big Apple than did Moses, the megalomaniacal genius who had the power to make anything happen or not happen in gotham. The superb biographer Robert Caro did a magnificent biography on Moses, which detailed in nearly 1,000 pages what Moses did and didn't do in New  York. 

Moses, in many decades, did (or didn't do) as much to or for New York as the 9-11 attack would do 50 years later.

Walter O'Malley got into a leadership contest with Branch Rickey. Rickey lost but would walk away with millions after builder William Zeckendorf helped Rickey finance his share of a "your or me" buy sell offer.

Less than five years later, O'Malley tried to outfox Moses. If he won, O'Malley could build a new gotham stadium where he wanted. If he lost, his consolation prize would be California.

As it turned out, O'Malley had the ultimate win-win prize in his hand. Of course, Moses "won" but as so often in a Moses move, New York ultimately lost (the city would go many decades before the Mets caught up, decades in which the Dodgers got to the World Series in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

Horace Stoneman, the Giants owner, was really only a footnote in the big machinations around baseball's move. The great New York Daily News baseball writer Dick Young captured Stoneham perfectly in a wisecracking note on Stoneman's 50th birthday when he viciously penned "Horace Stoneham is 50 going on VAT 69" (Vat 69  being, for you Baptists and other non-drinkers, a very upscale brand of Scotch).

Years and years later, this writer befriended Bob Barvey, long a head chef for the Harry M. Stevens catering group which had contracts for all the New York City racetracks, Madison Square Garden and many ballparks. Barvey was a favorite of Walter O'Malley and he got the approval of the Stevens group to "borrow" Barvey for duty at Dodgertown during spring training.

Brother O'Malley, as all the O'Malleys, was deeply religious, but the family religion, being Roman Catholic, did not have the same aversion to the occasional use of alcohol as many other churches do.

One of Barvey's duties was to be resident factotem and bartender for O'Malley's poker games, often a site where business and pleasure would mix.

While O'Malley was jousting in New York with Moses, he was simultaneously planning other contingencies, as any wise man would do. In an early 1950s spring training year, O'Malley invited LA Mayor Norris Poulsen to Vero Beach.

Whilst there, Poulsen was invited to fish and play poker and hoist a glass or two at a favored fishing cabin Walter OMalley loved near Dodgertown. He instructed Barvey to make his drinks light but to do exactly the opposite for the libations of Poulsen.

It was at that excursion where the terms of the Dodgers acquisition of Chavez Ravine on, well, what could only be termed as the most favorable terms for the Dodgers.  Bob Barvey would ask this writer not to mention these doings while he was still alive.

We honored his suggestion.

So it might be said in one sense that Moses outsuckered O'Malley who in turn outwitted Poulsen. But in the light of history, it also could be contended the winners were Poulsen, O'Malley, Los Angeles, baseball, then Moses and New York in that order.

As we turned the Memorial Day Holiday (and an unusual holiday off day for the Boys in Blue), we were musing, two months into the season, on the off season deals made by second year GM Ned Colletti. The baseball Gods have not particularly smiled so far on either the Dodgers or Colletti.

For two months all the Dodgers have gotten for their major, major investment in pitcher Jason Schmidt is a handful of paycheck stubs and nary a win. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Nothing.

And Schmidt is yet to throw the horsehide out of the 80s.

It might be said Schmidt throws in the 80s (and the low 80s at that), won in the 90s, and THEN came to the luckless Dodgers).

Colletti made the decision to resign first sacker Nomar Garciaparra for two years. The move would halt the succession of very promising James Loney in favor of the tried and true hitter. So far in 2007, Nomar has two new children, the twin girls, but only a single home run to show for April and May.

Only the hapless Pirates have fewer homers than the Dodgers.

Any baseball team looks for homers from the first base position. No team has fewer home runs from first base than the Dodgers. Let us repeat. No team has fewer home runs from first base than the Dodgers. Popeye has lost his spinach.

No team in baseball has fewer home runs from  their number three hitter than the Dodgers and Nomar Garciaparra. None.

Nomar Garciaparra has a nice wife, nice children, a nice past and a lousy presence. The Colletti decision over the winter has produced dividends, but not the ones the Dodgers expected or wanted.

The Colletti decision to spend $45 millions of the Dodgerdog and parking lot and new seat profits on Juan Pierre has also not particularly panned out. Pierre is mostly redundant since the Dodgers already have a burner and lead off man.

His limitations afield are well documented. $45 million turns out to be over $2 million a month, over $500,000 a week, almost $100,000 a game. So far the Dodgers and Colletti have paid new Cadillac prices for a used Chevrolet.

To be sure, on the plus side Colletti did well with Randy Wolf, with Brady Clark. The decision not to jettison left reliever Joe Beimel was a good one.

The preseason decisions to place Brett Tomko and Mark Hendrickson in the starting rotation have not produced the results desired. The decision to offer Brad Penny around in trade offers was a lousy one, saved only by the refusal of all of baseball to duck the chance. (Wouldn't Penny have been a life-saver if not saviour in New York pinstripes right now to the last place and pitching poor Yankees?).

Almost a third of the season is history. Ned Colletti started his Dodgers career behind the pack with his late hiring. In 2007, his season has started slow on big returns for his first full off season-efforts.  

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