So Walter O’ Malley is in the baseball Hall of Fame. The article about it in the Times today spoke approvingly of the “the decline of anti-O’Malleyism in Brooklyn” and found two feckless yuppies, who, in the time honored language of thieves and swindlers defending their ill-gotten gains, told those who still bear a grudge against O’Malley to “get over it,” while another one-time Brooklyn Dodger fan called O’Malley a “genius”
The article’s author labeled those who begrudge O’Malley his induction “sore sports,” and the point seems to be that fifty years ago Brooklyn was a crumbling mess of a slum, and now it’s a really hip, happening place, and those who are still thinking about the Dodgers are just mossbacks too wrapped up their ancient grievances to realize the world around them has changed, or something like that. And the author also seems to support the theory that Robert Moses is the real villain in the Dodgers’ exodus, further muddying the waters around O’Malley.
What can I say? The revisionist theory is untenable. O’Malley made unreasonable demands of Moses and the city, wanting all sorts of public monies to be expended for the privilege of keeping the Dodgers in Brooklyn (as well as spurning Moses’s perfectly reasonable suggestion that the Dodgers play in a new stadium in Flushing Meadows, as the Mets eventually would.) The essence of O’Malley’s rapacity is less his screwing of Brooklyn, but his opening of a new era in which sports teams would shamelessly pilfer the public fisc for their private profits, and sell their services to the highest bidder, an era we are still iving in.
But the ultimate the point of the article seems to be the Brooklyn and Brooklynites have become wealthy enough not care about the past, with the sort of genial historical lobotomizing that is at the heart of Bloomberg’s New York. Look, not all causes are worth fighting for or remembering, and if it was up to me I would make a gigantic bonfire of every confederate flag in existence. But the Dodgers leaving was about more than baseball; it was about people trying in some small measure to control their collective destiny, with the moral being that O’Malley was a “genius” because he knew enough to kick the people who had supported him for all those years in the stomach, and sell out to the highest bidder. The Dodgers leaving Brooklyn for sunny Los Angeles was a parable of the deindustrialization of New York City.
And look at the other plug-uglies who were elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday, among them Bowie Kuhn, the utter nonentity of a commissioner from the mid-1960s to the 1980s, who is perhaps the least worthy person ever voted into the Hall. And who was again excluded, Marvin Miller, the peerless leader of the players union who defeated Kuhn again and again, destroyed the reserve clause, and was probably the most influential non-player in the 2nd half of the 20th century. It was Miller who finally started to get for the players some of the riches that owners, following O’Malley’s lead, had accumulated for themselves.
In the end, what can I say? If I may speak as a former Brooklynite; If Brooklyn thinks itself too trendy to care about the Dodgers and the implications of the fight to keep them in New York City, it has become a borough of whores.