Mayor: Owners must see Dodgers as part of L.A.'s ‘heart and soul’
Villaraigosa's brief remarks came as he headed into a news conference to announce the development of two new downtown hotels. But he said he has had an opportunity to speak to both Frank McCourt and Johnson.
"I know that this is a historic sale, but importantly a new chapter for the Dodgers and the city," he said. "And what I said to Earvin is the same thing I've said publicly for a long time: The Dodgers are an asset, they're a community asset. And the reason why it matters is because the Dodger brand, like the Laker, Clipper brand, like the Trojans and the Bruins, like the Galaxy and Chivas, are a brand associated with the city. But particularly the Dodger brand is something that people feel very, very connected to."
The mayor said he hopes the new owners see the Dodgers "as part of the heart and soul of the town" and continue to make a long-term commitment to the team.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles residents continued to celebrate the news.
Outside the Staples Center, where the legends of L.A. sports history are enshrined in bronze, Edward Lizama, 44, said he put on his blue Dodgers shirt and walked from his home to take a picture in front of Johnson's statue.
For him, the announcement about Johnson's role in the Dodgers is about more than money or sports glory, it's about the place that Johnson holds for people like him, who grew up in L.A. at a time when the sports star was like a super hero.
"I was raised in East L.A.," he said. "We used to get tickets from Toys for Tots to see Magic at the Forum. Going there, it was like, 'Wow!' ... I've always been a Dodgers fan and I know he's going to do good with them."
Of course, the honeymoon may last only as long as the Dodgers win.
Standing nearby, Arnold Orantes, 41, who said he's more of a soccer fan than a baseball fan, was more cautious.
"With all the investment they're doing, it better at least bring a title," he said.
-- Mitchell Landsberg and Paloma Esquivel
Photo: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, left, and Magic Johnson enjoy the moment following the unveiling of a statue of Johnson outside Staples Center in 2004. Credit: Perry C. Riddle / Los Angeles Times