Dodgers sale: L.A. leaders hail Magic Johnson ownership
Their reaction mirrored the response from many fans, who broke out their Dodgers blue Wednesday morning -– for the first time in awhile.
Johnson and a group of investors are paying a record $2 billion for the team. Longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten, movie executive Peter Guber and Mark Walter, chief executive officer of a Chicago financial services company, are among the owners in the group.
Roz Wyman, a former councilwoman who in the 1950s helped persuade the Dodgers to come to L.A., said her phone had been ringing persistently since the sale was announced. She said there was a wonderful full-circle aspect to the deal.
"I think the most exciting thought is when you realize that we had the Jackie Robinson phenomenon of breaking the race barrier and at this moment you have an African American with a great following, who's successful and has a warm personality being one of the owners of the Dodgers," Wyman, 81, said. "Magic's a warm figure, he's charitable, he's helped his community grow here in L.A. and he's certainly in my opinion good for baseball."
She said that just like the O'Malleys came from New York and became L.A. icons, so did Magic Johnson, who came from Michigan.
"Magic was a great Michigan ballplayer but his effect, his warm smile and his personality as a Laker is incredible and therefore he has put down strong roots here in L.A. And Magic has gone further than just sports," Wyman said. "He calls this home."
She said no one should feel sorry for Frank McCourt given how much the new owners agreed to pay for the Dodgers.
"Mr. McCourt has certainly come out extremely well in the deal," she said. "I wish any ownership of the Dodgers be successful and I would like people to have a warm feeling toward the team, which seems to have been lost in the hassle of last year. But the American dream is to be successful and it looks like Mr. McCourt came out very successful in this sale."
Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes, whose district includes Dodger Stadium, welcomed the news, saying Johnson “brings good memories to L.A.”
“Magic Johnson is a great face for this city. He’s been amazing in his community activism, his community programs. He’s gone places people don’t typically go in terms of investment. He’s made a difference,” he said.
The news was cheered by Councilman Tom LaBonge, who said a $2-billion purchase would mean a lot more pressure on the new owners to develop the stadium site.
"I would have no problem with a football stadium there myself, if it was done appropriately," he said.
Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, who is a mayoral candidate, also issued a statement celebrating the news.
"What could be more exciting than having one of L.A.'s most iconic sports figures buying one of baseball's most iconic teams?" Greuel said. "With Dodgers' opening day just around the corner, I know this news couldn't come at a better time to raise the spirits of our fans who have been hoping for an owner to put the resources into putting a championship team on the field. I can't wait for Magic to bring 'Showtime' to the Ravine and deliver even more championships for Los Angeles."
Neil Gutierrez, 37, a receptionist at Homeboy Industries and former gang member from the San Fernando Valley, decided to wear his blue and gray Dodgers jacket Wednesday to celebrate Johnson's involvement in the Dodgers sale.
"Everyone's excited about this. Just on the way here I spoke to three or four people about it," Gutierrez said. "That's why I wore this jacket. I hadn't worn it in a month. It was about time."
He said he was a fan of the Dodgers since the 1980s. Gutierrez said he thought the team became more about making money in recent years.
"Fernando, Steve Garvey, Sax. Those are the Dodgers that I remember," Gutierrez said. "Magic's a businessman. He knows L.A. He knows what the fans like. He can't go wrong. He'll give the fans what they want. I'm sure he can bring it."
-- Hector Becerra and David Zahniser
Photo: Aerial view of Dodger Stadium. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times