Op-Ed

Patt Morrison Asks: Blue blood, Peter O'Malley

They got off to a rough start. Just imagine moving to another city and purchasing and leading one of the most important institutions in the city. It's a big learning curve, and I think if they had lived here for some length of time prior, they could have avoided a lot of the mistakes. It just seemed that a lot of things they touched didn't work out right, but I couldn't tell you what happened exactly.

Do people buttonhole you and want to talk about the team?

People are extremely nice. People have always said things they think you want to hear. We have heard a lot of compliments, and that means a lot. But that's past, and we're looking forward.

Has Brooklyn forgiven your father for moving the Dodgers to L.A.?

My dad tried for 10 years to solve the aging of Ebbets Field. In the beginning, he never thought about moving. Why would any sports team owner leave New York? He sincerely tried to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn, and only when he realized he couldn't make a go of it did he decide to look elsewhere. [Knowing] that has changed a lot of historians' views.

Is the era of family ownership in sports over?

I'm not sure if it's over — it's changed. Sports have gone corporate. Media is a major influence on ownership, and the values of the franchises today — for families, to own a team takes a pretty big wallet. In some respects, corporations live on, unlike individuals or family heads, and that can be good for stability. Franchises need stability, continuity. My dad and I ran [the Dodgers] for close to 50 years. We had a good run, no regrets.

What about ticket prices?

It's difficult today to price [tickets] properly. The salaries have the major impact. On the other hand you've got revenue from television. The fan is the smartest consumer I know. The fan will pay when the product is worthy of his support and will not pay if the team is not worthy of his support. Management will learn that quickly [through] ticket prices, parking prices, the novelties or the food. The fan doesn't waste his money.

You mention players salaries — free agency has really changed baseball.

When that first came about, I thought it would be tough for the fans to accept that someone they saw coming up in the minors, starting as a rookie, having three, four, five good years with the team, suddenly leaving — but I was wrong. Now it's part of the game. Yes, the result has been higher salaries. If the large revenue teams have a significantly higher payroll [than] the smaller revenue teams in smaller markets, that's out of balance, that's not good for the game. But that's why they have a luxury tax on the owners and a payroll tax and everything else. The owners and the commissioner are trying to eliminate as best they can the built-in advantage to a team that can afford a higher payroll and ensure that on opening day, theoretically, everybody's got a chance to win.

Look at what happened with the 1997 Miami Marlins, the team put together to win a World Series and then immediately dismantled in a "fire sale." Does that make fans cynical?

That was sad for Miami fans, but that's really an exception. Most owners are in it for the long haul, doing the right thing.

Do the Dodgers mean more to L.A. than other teams mean to other cities?

Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin deserve an incredible amount of credit for the longtime loyal fan support. [Then] you have the beauty of Dodger Stadium, the weather, the teams. And the Dodgers [are] one of the most important institutions in the city. However the fans may have disconnected in recent years, that connection will be made again.

How is Vin Scully doing?

He's great. I talked to him yesterday. He's had his physical, passed it with flying colors, getting ready for opening day. He's a prince of a person.

The team has built fans among Latinos and other minority communities.

I think Fernando [Valenzuela, Mexican pitcher] deserves credit for that, just as [Korean pitcher] Chan Ho Park; same is true of [Japanese pitcher Hideo] Nomo.

It's been just over a year since Brian Stow was attacked. How important is security now?

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