By John Torenli
How do you go from a messy divorce to a marriage made in heaven?
Magic! That’s how.
With news breaking this week that the embattled Los Angeles Dodgers will be sold to a group led by NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson for an estimated $2.3 billion, it may finally be time for embittered Brooklynites to re-embrace the franchise that left them stranded 55 years ago.
Or at least recognize the historical significance of the deal.
Johnson, a Tinseltown icon and arguably one of the most beloved figures in American sports over the previous three-plus decades, will reportedly have none other than Rachel Robinson, wife of trailblazing Dodgers second baseman Jackie Robinson, on the team’s board of trustees.
When the sale is approved next month, Johnson will become the first-ever African-American owner of a Major League baseball club.
He will also be following in the ever-present footsteps of Robinson, who broke baseball’s color line in 1947 before going on to a Hall of Fame career on the playing field as well as an even more significant role as a civil rights activist off it.
According to a New York Post report, Mrs. Robinson and Johnson have been working closely together during the orchestration and, ultimately, the consummation of this historic deal. How appropriate that the two will get to realize the dream Jackie Robinson, who died in 1972, had of black ownership in Major League baseball.
It couldn’t have happened at a better time.
The once-proud Dodgers have hit the skids of late, watching attendance and overall fan interest plummet as current owner Frank McCourt’s ugly divorce battle threatened to destroy much of the good will the Dodgers had built since arriving in Los Angeles following the 1957 season.
Johnson’s charisma, business acumen and drawing power, combined with Mrs. Robinson’s determination and link to the team’s long, storied history in Brooklyn as well as Los Angeles, should help restore the Dodgers’ marquee status. And most importantly, regenerate fans’ faith.
“As soon as you hear the name Magic Johnson, it turns into a positive,” Dodgers manager and former Yankees great Don Mattingly said. “There’s positive energy around the ball club, around the city.”
News of the pending change in ownership has already paid off as the Dodgers announced a sellout for Opening Day just months after drawing less than three million fans a season ago, an almost unfathomable occurrence in the City of Angels.
With the Magic Man and the First Lady of Baseball running the show, the Dodgers just might return to being the majors’ darlings rather than a perpetual downer.
Though they’ll likely never be our Bums again, even the most bitter of abandoned Brooklynites have to be heartened by this history-making ownership change. And if they’re not, they’re probably just Yankee fans.