Mere hours before the first pitch was thrown on Opening Day of the 2012 MLB season, Los Angeles Dodgers fans received invigorating news that magic was on the way. The Dodgers have suffered a tumultuous three years, kick-started when owner Frank McCourt, and his then wife, Jamie, announced that they were separating on the eve of the 2009 NLCS. Since then, there has been bitter divorce proceedings between the McCourt’s, league takeover of the team, a high-profile lawsuit against the team brought by a San Francisco Giants fan who was severely beaten in the Dodgers Stadium parking lot, and a bankruptcy petition filed by McCourt. All of this culminated in today’s announcement that a bidding group led by Magic Johnson was the winning bidder in the auction to own the team. A man who has won the adoration of Los Angeles citizens, the hearts of philanthropists and the respect of businessmen, after all of the Dodgers’ recent despair, Magic Johnson’s ownership of the Dodgers will return captivating magic to the Dodger blue.
In recent years, baseball fans and sports commentators alike have whispered about the potential destruction of the Dodgers franchise as a result of actions of the McCourt’s. These whispers were no small matter, given that they concerned a team which originated in Brooklyn some 129 years ago which went on to establish a significant fan base in Los Angeles. The Dodgers have a storied and admirable history, having won, amongst other things, six World Series and 21 National League pennants. Perhaps, though, the most noble act achieved by the organization occurred 65 years ago, when a 28-year-old who went by the nickname “Jackie,” broke baseball’s color barrier.
Since that afternoon on April 15, 1949, when the Brooklyn Dodgers played Jackie Robinson at first base, the Dodgers organization has become synonymous with breaking barriers. By allowing Magic Johnson to become a part-owner of the team, the Dodgers are continuing that legacy.
In recent memory, no other athlete of the caliber of Magic Johnson has done more to break down society’s barriers. Just over 20 years ago, Johnson stood at a podium in the Los Angeles Forum at the height of his career and succinctly stated, “Because of the virus I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers.” The “virus”–HIV–at the time was considered a death sentence contracted only by mainstream society’s perceived miscreants.
Yet, rather than succumb to society’s ignorantly misconceived notions of HIV and AIDS and hide away from society’s ill judgment, Magic broke barriers. He educated the world about the disease. He was proactive and open in his treatment, and as such, helped pave the way to further research and understanding of the virus. His selflessness in opening himself up to the judgment of the world by sharing his diagnosis broke down the barrier which was the uneducated stigma of HIV.
Magic’s legacy will always be that of teaching the world to show compassion to victims of HIV and AIDS. Yet, he has broken down other barriers. He is an esteemed philanthropist and sharp businessman, whose company is reportedly worth $700 million. The barriers he has broken down in the business world, including helping to generate urban development in low-income and minority neighborhoods, will serve him well as a part owner of the Dodgers. It is this philanthropic leadership and business acumen which the organization needs most during its current state of weakness.
Less than one week before the 1947 season, the Dodgers made magic by calling up a young African-American first baseman to play in the major leagues.
65 years later, the Dodgers once again worked their magic days before the start of the MLB season.