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Interview with Aspiring Dodger Author/Baseball Historian David Krell


Often times I forget how far reaching the internet is. I underestimate the internet’s broad reach. It is the great equalizer. So when David Krell, a writer from the east coast, messaged me regarding a Dodger book he was writing, I was beyond honored and excited. Not only did my article reach the east coast, it inspired another writer so much to pick up the phone or email I should say and reach out to me.

Dodgers

David Krell is more than just a Baseball writer that lives in New York, he is authoring a book called Blue Magic:  The Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field, and the Battle for Baseball’s Soul. A historical narrative of the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers and their beginnings. In his book, David will be interviewing players, fans, historians, and journalists. David also will go on to capture the Dodgers rich history in Brooklyn and their move to Los Angeles. He also goes on to document the Dodgers early days in Los Angeles and their intertwined relationship with Hollywood.

David is a writer for the New York State Bar Association’s  Entertainment, Sports, art and law journal in a series of articles called Krell’s Korner. David writes for another one of the association’s books called In the Arena, which is a book for sports law practitioners. David’s particular chapter deals with licensing issues concering team mascots. David is also quite the Baseball historian. His book will include a first-hand narrative of the history of the Dodgers. David also will include an interview with Pee Wee Reese’s son Mark Reese. Even more awesome, Rachel Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson and Branch Ricky III (Branch Ricky’s grandson) will both write forwards for the book. What a wonderful honor to have those two great Dodger families writing the forwards.

Of course how ironically awesome is it to be writing a Dodger history book called Blue Magic, and then Magic Johnson’s group buys the team? Honestly, you can’t script this stuff. Anyways, David and I are both baseball Historians, and thus get along very well. I also have a deep love of Dodger and Baseball history, which have inspired me to write my Dodgers in Time series. While David is actually a Mets fan, his father was a huge Brooklyn Dodger fan. So you can see, Baseball runs deep in David’s family.

I have a special treat in store for you today. First, an article written by David with an insert from his book. It’s kind of like an article inside of an article. David goes on to explain how through an incident with a very dense classmate gave him the idea for the name of his book.  His studies of the history of the Dodgers, and his trials and tribulations of an aspiring writer on the Dodger beaten path. It really is a fascinating read. Afterwards I will provide you with an interview with David, as we talk about his family and his connection to Dodger Blue, the sale of the team to Magic, the similarities between the Dodgers ownership mess,and the Met’s ownership problems, and life as a Baseball historian.

Do You Believe in Blue Magic?

 

By David Krell

                I guess I picked the right title for my book about the Brooklyn Dodgers – Blue Magic: The Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field, and the Battle for Baseball’s Soul. Blue Magic is a historical narrative of the Brooklyn Dodgers that includes memories of players, fans, historians, and journalists. 

Certain people have passed away, so their children will share stories about them.  Interviewees include Mark Reese, the son of Pee Wee Reese.  Branch Rickey III and Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson, will write the Forewords.

The announcement last week regarding Magic Johnson’s group buying the Los Angeles Dodgers bodes well for the next chapter of the Dodgers.  Magic brings knowledge of sports branding from his “Showtime” days with the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, business wisdom from his various successful operations, and insight of the Los Angeles sports fan base from his tenure of more than thirty years in the South-land. And let’s not forget that everyone loves Magic, he of the million-watt smile that can light up Dodger Stadium.

I selected Blue Magic for the book’s title long before the McCourts entered the home stretch of their ownership that looked more like an episode of a David E. Kelley television show than a sports story.  When I pitched the idea for a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers in a writing workshop last summer, a classmate said that he did not understand why the team gets abundant attention from authors.  I responded, “Great!  Now I am writing for you.  I am going to show you why.” 

                But the book will not stop with Walter O’Malley moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958.  I cover the years immediately after the migration, where the Dodgers affirmed their Los Angeles affiliation in prime time television.

                Herman Munster trying out for Leo Durocher on The Munsters.

                Greg Brady trying to be the next Don Drysdale on The Brady Bunch.

                Mr. Ed calling Dodger Stadium to dispense baseball advice with some horse sense on Mr. Ed.

                Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Tommy Davis wearing top hats and tails, cracking jokes, and singing a specialized version of We’re in the Money while dancing on a 1963 television special. As a devotee of baseball history, I am excited about plunging into the history of one of baseball’s most storied teams.  Presently, my agent – Jason Ashlock of Movable Type Management – is looking for a publisher. I expect the book to be published in Spring 2013.

One of the most exciting aspects of the research is learning the origins of the Dodgers.  Later this month, I will present my findings at the Society for American Baseball Research’s Frederick Ivor-Campbell Conference on 19th Century Baseball held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  My paper is titled Bridegrooms…Superbas…Dodgers…Oh My!  The Birth of Brooklyn Baseball in the 19th Century. The paper’s title refers to the revolving door aspect of team names.  Actually, in baseball’s infancy, they did not even have names.  Teams were known simply by their city.  After a few years, the Brooklyn team enjoyed several monikers – Bridegrooms, Foutz’ Fillies, Ward’s Wonders, Superbas, Trolley Dodgers, Dodgers.  From 1914 to 1931, the team was frequently known as the Robins, named after manager Wilbert Robinson.  When Max Carey became the manager in 1932, the team was known simply as the Dodgers.  And it has been the name ever since. With the team’s roots firmly entrenched in a rich history, Magic Johnson and his co-owners join a lineage of Dodgers ownership that begins in the early 1880s with a newspaperman from The New York Herald named George Taylor.

On the advice of his doctor, Taylor chose a less stressful job than city journalism.  As a baseball fan, he wanted to bring professional baseball to Brooklyn, theretofore a fertile ground for amateur baseball.  But he needed capital.  After a Wall Street investor backed out, Taylor visited his lawyer.  Fate intervened.  The lawyer, John Brice, introduced Taylor to Charley Byrne, a fellow renting a desk in Brice’s office.

Byrne was a bon vivant that enjoyed the elite culture of New York City – operas, museums, theatres.  But Byrne either did not have enough money or did not want to invest all the money that Taylor needed.  So, he brought his brother-in-law into the deal – Joseph Doyle.  Doyle, in turn, brought Gus Abell. Doyle and Abell ran in the same circles. They were casino operators. And they left the day-to-day operations of the Brooklyn ball club to Byrne. Dodgers lore says that Byrne hired an office worker on the date of the Brooklyn team’s first home game at Washington Park in 1883. His name was Charles Ebbets.  Eventually, Ebbets rose the ranks of the team’s hierarchy and became the president of the team thanks to George Chauncey, a Brooklyn mogul that owned part of the Dodgers.  

Chauncey, a former player with the amateur Brooklyn Excelsiors, had owned part of the Brooklyn Wonders in the Players’ League, a renegade league that only lasted the 1890 season. After the Players’ League disbanded, Chauncey’s group merged operations with Byrne’s group. Byrne was bleeding money, so he made a smart business move, perhaps a necessary one to keep pro baseball in Brooklyn.

After Byrne died in 1898, Chauncey endorsed Ebbets to fill the leadership void. Thereafter, Ebbets became an owner of the Brooklyn team. He bought pieces of land in a section of Brooklyn called “Pigtown” because its trash heaps attracted pigs looking for food. Ebbets Field rose on the site.

Without Byrne’s connections, Taylor’s vision, and Chauncey’s business sense, it may never have happened. The positive reaction to Magic Johnson’s investment in the Dodgers recalls the reaction when the team’s roots formed in Brooklyn, thanks to Messrs. Byrne and Taylor. In When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms, a wonderfully readable study of the team’s 19th century origins, author Ronald G. Shafer cites the view of the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper.

 

                “It is well to state that the club is in the hands of gentlemen of means ample enough to carry the enterprise through to a successful issue.  Moreover, the management is of a kind that will insure the club’s being run on a basis of honorable professional planning in every respect, and it will be one which will not include the customary corner lot rough element from which source too much of the professional recruiting is already done.”

                The more things change, the more they remain the same. And so, the magic continues. Literately, literally, and figuratively.

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Q: What was your inspiration originally to begin writing about the Dodgers and their rich history?

My dad was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, so I guess you could say “blue” blood runs in the genes!  I start the book with a story about him going to a 1953 World Series game where Mickey Mantle hit a grand slam.  He told me that Ebbets Field was so quiet when Mantle rounded the bases, you could hear a pin drop. 

As a kid, I devoured baseball history books.  My favorite was “The Story of Baseball” by John Rosenburg.  The Dodgers’ history is one of the richest in baseball.  Because I am interviewing a lot of fans for Blue Magic, I get the opportunity to learn about the glory years of the 1950s Dodgers through their eyes.  It’s an amazing opportunity for a baseball history buff!

My web site www.davidkrell.com will launch later this month.  I am aiming for publication of Blue Magic in 2013.  I will post information about my research experiences on the site’s blog so readers can track the book’s progress. 

Q:In what way does the Dodgers’ recent ownership troubles parallel the New York Mets’ situation?

They are two separate matters.  The Dodgers’ ownership woes stem from a nasty divorce and mismanagement of the team’s finances.  The Mets’ problems are sourced in the owners’ financial fallout caused by the Bernie Madoff “house of cards” investment scheme.  In both cases, though, the focus of the sports media moved from the field to the front office.  Hopefully, the sale of the Dodgers to Magic Johnson’s group and the settlement of the Mets’ owners — the Wilpons — in their Madoff lawsuit are the first steps back to normalcy for these two storied National League teams.

Q: How perfect is the title of your book in light of Magic Johnson buying the Dodgers?

I’m writing about the magic of the Dodgers and a gentleman named Magic buys the Dodgers.  Perfect?  Maybe.  Magical?  Definitely!

Q:What was your first reaction to the news that Magic Jonhson and the GBA had won the bid to purchase the Dodgers?

Appropriate.  Magic Johnson is a Los Angeles institution.  After the controversy involving the McCourt reign, fans of the Dodgers deserve an ownership that prizes the underlying value of the Dodgers brand.  Magic Johnson brings an unparalleled knowledge of sports branding, particularly in the Los Angeles market.  Undoubtedly, he will restore the luster to the Dodgers franchise that suffered greatly during the McCourt reign.  Plus, Magic Johnson is a winner.  He won with the Lakers and he wins in business.  Dodgers fans can look forward to prosperity on the field in the next few years.

 Q:For you and your family, how big is the connection between the Dodgers, Mets, and New York?

The Mets enjoy an unbreakable connection to the Dodgers.  Citi Field is largely modeled on Ebbets Field.  The Jackie Robinson Rotunda features an homage to Mr. Robinson and the “boys of summer” that is composed mainly of blown-up photographs and video clips. Further, professional baseball flourishes in Brooklyn with the Cyclones, a team in the Mets’ minor league system.  In essence, the Mets are inheritors of the National League legacy of excellence carved by the Giants and Dodgers in the 1950s.  Don’t forget that the Mets’ blue and orange colors derive from Dodger Blue and Giant Orange! 

Q:Describe the honor of having Jackie Robinson’s Daughter and Branch Rickey’s Grandson writing the Forewords for your book?

Words fail me.  Mr. Rickey and Ms. Robinson are thoughtful custodians of their family’s baseball lineage.  They speak frequently about the importance of the partnership enjoyed by Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, a partnership that not only changed baseball, but also struck the first blow for civil rights.  I am deeply honored that they will participate in Blue Magic.

David will be speaking at a number of events on the east coast over the next few months, including at the Baseball hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York. Here is a list of David’s schedule, perhaps if you are over in the east coast and in the area, you can drop in and hear David speak.

Author – Blue Magic:  The Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field, and the Battle for Baseball’s Soul Represented by Jason Ashlock, Movable Type Management-(Expected Publication: 2013)
 
Speaker – Society for American Baseball Research’s Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Base Ball Conference
Topic:  Bridegrooms…Superbas…Dodgers…Oh My!:  The Birth of Brooklyn Baseball in the 19th Century
National Baseball Hall of Fame – Cooperstown, NY
April 20-21, 2012
 
Speaker – The 50th Anniversary of the New York Mets Conference
Topic:  Meet the Mets:  A Song, A Team, A History
Hofstra University – Hempstead, NY
April 26-28, 2012
 
Moderator – The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture
Topic:  TBA
National Baseball Hall of Fame – Cooperstown, NY
May 30-31 and June 1, 2012
Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention Topic:  The Brooklyn Dodgers — America’s Team Hunt Valley Marriott — Hunt Valley, MD August 9-11, 2012
 
Email-[email protected]
 You can follow David on Twitter @ www.twitter.com/davidkrell
Facebook-www.facebook.com/davidkrell
Linkedin-www.linkedin/in/dkrell
David’s Web address is- http://www.davidkrell.com (the site is still under construction)

 

David is going to be publishing his book sometime in 2013. I am looking forward to reading it. We will be keeping in touch with David, as we document his journey through the Dodger literary world leading up to the release of his book. We’ll have more interviews, articles, and book info with David in the near future. I would again like to thank David for his time, and wish him all the best in 2012.

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