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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dodgers' Sale Spells The End Of an Era

WASHINGTON -- Why, you may ask, would anyone want to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers? And what does that proposed sale by Peter O'Malley tell us about baseball?


These days, baseball gets its socks rocked on a regular basis. But Monday's shocking news -- that O'Malley wants to sell the crown-jewel franchise of the entire sport -- has left the game dizzy and disoriented. When O'Malley jumps in a lifeboat and starts rowing for shore, who's left on board except the rats?


"Family ownership of sports today is probably a dying breed," said O'Malley who, since 1970, has run the team that his father Walter controlled since 1950 back in Brooklyn. "You need a broader base than an individual family to carry you through the storm. Groups and corporations are probably the wave of the future."


Owning a big league ballclub in an enormous market such as Los Angeles was one of America's great businesses for decades. Only the Federal Reserve could print money faster. Estimates of the worth of the Dodgers franchise seem to grow daily. Guesses started at $200 million. Some are up to $500 million.


Now, however, even a plum franchise with a mythic history in a gorgeous private ballpark is just a pretty good business. Sometimes. If you don't have a strike that erases the World Series and knocks down attendance, plus TV ratings, by about 20 percent. If baseball were still a fabulous business, or offered the prospect of becoming one again, O'Malley would never put his team up for sale. He's only 59. He could have delayed this decision for 10 years.


The fact that he didn't is a blow to the baseball union's credibility in its never-ending crusade to convince the public that owners still make lots of money. Now, O'Malley has given baseball's owners a sword. Every time the union gets on its soapbox, the owners can say, "Your salaries are so high that even O'Malley sold."


Everybody in Los Angeles is realizing the civic treasure, of a sort, they had in the Dodgers. Just watch -- the legends will grow about the O'Malley "Kill 'em With Kindness" philosophy of business. If a cloud crossed the sun, you got two rain checks -- one for you and one on general principles. Life in Dodgerland wasn't quite this pristine under O'Malley. But it was close.


Baseball will lose a fine owner on the day O'Malley sells. But, even sadder, is the opportunity O'Malley himself wasted over the past few years of crisis. Had he fought for his entire sport, not just his team, baseball might still be in such fine health that no O'Malley would ever dream of selling.