I once went to a Dodgers game with a showbiz big shot who knew Frank McCourt, so we ended up sitting with Frank and Jamie in the owner's box. The most amazing part of the experience was walking around the stadium with McCourt, who was treated like visiting royalty, with his subjects -- the hot dog vendors and security guards and promotions staff -- all bowing and scraping, as if in the presence of a Sun God. Whenever McCourt asked how things were going, everyone said things couldn't be going better, which is what loyal retainers always say right up to the moment when the mob carries the king off to be beheaded.
McCourt hasn't gone to the guillotine yet, but the king has been dethroned. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced Wednesday that baseball was taking control of the Dodgers, appointing a trustee to run the club because of "deep concerns" about the Dodgers' finances. My son and I went to Dodger Stadium Wednesday night with some friends for our first game of the year and it was quite a shock. For years, we've always obsessed about what side streets to take to approach the ballpark and fretted over the long lines of cars backed up at the stadium entrance.
But Wednesday night it was smooth sailing. Hardly any traffic, barely anyone in line at the entrance. When we grabbed our seats down the first-base line, it felt eerie to look around the park and see it half empty. The box-score Thursday said 29,473 tickets were sold, but there's no way that many people showed up. It felt like a ghost town. The Dodgers won the game 6-1 behind Jon Garland, who pitched a four-hit complete game -- sparing us the tsuris of being subjected to the Dodger bullpen -- but the stadium had a melancholy air, suddenly looking its age. It was like seeing a great actress, known for her youthful Broadway triumphs, reduced in late middle age to starring in a bad Neil Simon revival in a dumpy regional theater in Kansas City.
It may take many months, if not years, for MLB to install new Dodgers ownership. But from where I sit, what the Dodgers need is a Hollywood makeover. Like all sports today, baseball is really a form of entertainment, so why not find a showbiz entrepreneur who could right the sinking ship and provide some much-needed razzle dazzle? I thought I'd throw out a few possibilities, which might seem farfetched, but surely not as farfetched as the idea of Donald Trump running for president. Here goes:
Good News: Full of infectious energy, a tireless promoter of his products, he'd bring a much-needed 10,000 volts of electricity to the team, not to mention convincing Vin Scully to let Tom Hanks sit in as his color man.
Bad News: Everyone would have to wear 3-D glasses during the seventh-inning stretch and watch trailers for upcoming Dreamworks 3-D movies.
Good News: Anyone who can make Gwen Stefani a pop star and help stop the ratings slide at "American Idol" surely has the kind of magic touch needed to help save the Dodgers.
Bad News: Will have Lady Gaga on hand every night in a different outfit to sing "God Bless America."
Good News: He already owns the Kings, the Galaxy and 30% of the Lakers, not to mention Staples Center. Why not make it a clean sweep?
Bad News: Hoping to finally get his money's worth from the lavish contract he gave to David Beckham, he may force Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to platoon Beckham in left field with Jerry Sands.
Good News: He'll take that crazy computer program he uses to help pick his movies and let it figure out who should be the Dodgers' closer.
Bad News: Will insist on center field landing rights for his helicopter.
Good News: Grew up as a Dodgers fan, still knows every player's batting average and would give the team a much-needed fan-friendly front man.
Bad News: All the players would have to get a Brian Grazer hairdo.
Good News: He's the movie business' most avid proponent of new technology and has shown, via his ownership of the Dallas Mavericks, that he knows how to win games and successfully market his product.
Bad News: Judging from his ref baiting in the NBA, may get tossed out of more games than Matt Kemp and Davey Lopes combined.
-- Patrick Goldstein
Photo: Jeffrey Katzenberg, left, with Tom Hanks at Game Two between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press