In 1959, my father took me to the World Series, which the Dodgers won. I fell in love with Sandy Koufax and Maury Wills, my two all-time childhood heroes. I loved Frank Howard, Ron Fairly, Willie Davis, Tommy Davis andDon Drysdale.
The Dodgers marketed Southern California at the grass roots, like a small Midwestern town. They had "Straight A Night," "Rotary Night" and an endless series of promotions.
Vin Scully's dulcet tones came from millions of transistor radios and unified Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire. They sold the concept of going to a Dodger game, and Dodger Stadium was state of the art and fan friendly. It didn't matter who the Dodgers were playing or who was pitching, the concept was a unique fan experience.
Dodger Dogs, bobblehead dolls and Union 76 giveaways were an attractive part of the mix. An amazing love affair between Southern California was created that weathered all future storms.
Anyone who thought that Southern California was a passive, non-involved sports community — that fans left early to avoid the traffic — wasn't looking at the relationship with their baseball teams.
The Dodgers had a set lineup, the players were together for years. Garvey, Lopes, Cey, Russell and Baker continued the tradition. There was stability at the ownership level with Walter O'Malley handing the team down to his son, Peter.
Walter Alston managed the team for years followed by Tommy Lasorda. Rookie of the Year after Rookie of the Year. Dominance at the pitching position — Bob Welch followed by Fernandomania.
The first crack in the traditions and continuity was the purchase of the team by Fox and the trading of fan favorite, Mike Piazza. When Fox decided to sell the team, Major League Baseball chose to allow Frank McCourt to buy the team, rather than other excellent suitors, like a Peter Ueberroth group (and no one understands Southern California and marketing better than the legendary Peter.)