Friday, April 8, 2011

Covering Bases


     By Ross Newhan

    It should be common knowledge, by now, that the Angels—by any location name-- will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. They will actually mark the 50th anniversary of their first game on Monday, the 50th anniversary of a young reporter beginning his first season on a major beat.

   I need no remarks about time flying. The memory of their debut as part of baseball’s first expansion and my debut is still fresh.

   Even from here I can still see home runs by Bob Cerv and Ted Kluszewski providing Eli Grba with an early lead, and the Angels ultimately wrapping up a 7-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in Memorial Stadium, an improbable event that Gene Autry would always call the highlight of his 36 years as the club owner and an event that the late Irv Kaze, the club publicist then, would toast that night with a champagne party in his hotel suite.

    Who could have predicted in those vintage hours that Autry would never taste the sweet champagne of an  American League title and a trip to the World Series? The Angels’ attempt to get the Cowboy to the one rodeo he missed led to many mistakes in continuity—from the front office to the field. A lot of it now, given the World Series title of 2002 under the Walt Disney banner and the consistent success and stability under Arte Moreno, has become a faded memory, the highlights diluted by so many frustrations.

    For the late owner, however, he would always have Day One, and the once young reporter who looks back now through a pair of much stronger lenses, finds it difficult to believe he would still be writing about baseball 50 years after his debut coincided with that of the team he was assigned to cover.


   We have heard much about the changed and charged atmosphere at Dodger Stadium since the parking lot attack on a fan wearing Giants paraphernalia by two unidentified thugs.

   Has the atmosphere changed? What are my thoughts, friends ask, and then tend to tell me that it has, that they have experienced it first hand.

  Attempting to simplify a complicated subject, I believe stability breeds civility, and there has been an absence of stability since Peter O’Malley sold the Dodgers. The turnover in management and players under the ownerships of Rupert Murdoch and Frank McCourt has been ongoing, breeding cynical and argumentative reporting and a cynical and argumentative atmosphere in a once charmed ballpark that now draws a different element of fans---in the upper decks and outfield corners particularly.

  There are other factors involved, including the absence of security being a priority under McCourt—or should it be the McCourts? In recent months the position of security chief was basically one of several assignments falling to the director of stadium operations.

   It took the parking lot attack to get McCourt’s attention. Bringing in former Los Angeles police chief William J. Bratton as a security advisor was a smart decision, as was the decision by current chief Charlie Beck to appreciably increase the police presence in and out of the ballpark when the Dodgers are at home.

  Perhaps, it would have come to this under O’Malley as well. After all, the atmosphere in Washington and the entire country has come to lack a certain civility. In a ballpark, however, you should be able to cheer for either team without worrying about ending up in a hospital, but at Dodger Stadium that was no longer the case—a product of the changing environment. Maybe, with the besieged owner finally thinking and calling on blue, a once familiar and popular atmosphere willl be restored..


   So another potential Hall of Fame career has gone up in flames with the announcement by Major League Baseball that Manny Ramirez has retired rather than continue treatment under the sport’s drug program for a second time. Ramirez reportedly tested positive for a performance enhancing during spring training. Just Manny being Manny one last time.

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