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Perspective on the Dodgers: The Level Playing Field that Inspired Us All - Part 2 of 2

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What is entirely inspiring about the show is its revealing account about the Dodgers’ role in what both Kimura and Langill articulated, through community building, globalization, and civil rights. As a spectator, fan, and journalist, I had not expected to experience such a moving show insofar as history and the art of storytelling.

When it comes to globalization of the game, the Dodgers are at the head of their game, especially when it comes to reaching out to talented players they have signed from Asia; mainly Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. In 1980, former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley started clinics in Korea and China, and the Dodgers became the first major league team to open an office in Asia.

Former Dodger owner Peter O'Malley speaking at the opening reception at the Japanese American National Museum (Photo by Mike Palma)

The exhibition includes historic text and moving images that includes the story of how “Hall of Fame” owner Walter O’Malley furthered integration of the Dodgers and led the West Coast expansion of Major League Baseball by bringing the Dodgers to L.A. Peter O’Malley’s legacy is also captured so visitors can learn about how he advanced the international growth of baseball as he fought to recruit players from around the globe.

“Their history with the Dodgers, across two generations, was one that anticipated what we now think of as the globalization of sports,” said Kimura, commenting about the O’Malley family. “They were the vanguard in reaching out to minority and multicultural communities and to Asia and beyond, when it was not possible to do so.”

In 2008, the Dodgers had 5 Asian players, more than any other major league team which included Japanese pitchers Takashi Saito and Hiroki Kuroda; South Korean pitcher Chan Ho Park; and Taiwanese pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo and infielder Chin-Lung Hu.

The exhibit also highlights the career of Tommy Lasorda, who personifies everything that is legendary, iconic, and characteristic about the Dodgers. In 2009, Lasorda marked his sixth decade with the Dodgers, the longest non-continuous tenure anyone has had with the team. In 1997, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager.

Tommy Lasorda in the gallery (Photo by Mike Palma)

Lasorda is also a former Major League baseball player, became the Los Angeles Dodgers manager in 1976 and compiled a 1,599-1,439 record as Dodgers manager, won two World Series championships in 1981 and 1988, four National League pennants, and eight division titles in his 20 year career as Dodgers manager.

According to Langill, some of the memorabilia in the show has never before been available for public display. “The museum complemented the historical timelines and collectibles with a series of biographical videos. The Dodgers look forward to sharing their history through the museum’s variety of community programs during the 2014 season.”

Whether you are five years old, 105, or somewhere in between, and if you love the game of baseball and the Dodgers, you are sure to take something meaningful away from this exhibit for its visual imagery, historical artifacts, and the story that it tells in such a comprehensive and yet straightforward manner.

And hopefully you will also appreciate the fact that it is not “merely an exhibit” about baseball or the Dodgers, but rather, a showcase that reveals the tenacity, triumph, courage, and if you will, “the sportsmanship of the human spirit.”

(Photo by Vicky Murakami-Tsuda)

The legacy of The Dodgers tells the story of a team and a franchise that has helped to propel individuals, communities, and progressive ideologies to reach new heights never before dreamt or realized.

I will leave you with the following passage from my father, the most passionate Dodgers fan that I know personally. Here, he explains on an emotional level just why the game of baseball holds such a special affinity in his heart, a reflection that may resonate with those who enjoy the sport, and on so many levels.

“Baseball in Spring, baseball in the dog days of summer, and baseball in October are three different games. Played with few time limits, baseball has an outwardly leisure aspect. However, depending on where the ball is at any given moment, there is intense concentration. The battle between pitcher and batter is the classic moment of concentration in sports. There is nothing else like it. And the more you know about the two players and their history, the more interesting and exciting it becomes.”

“Or take the lonely outfielder who stands on one leg and then the other spitting out sunflower seeds trying to ignore the heckling of the fans, who must suddenly move on a ball simultaneously judging its trajectory and speed—because baseball isn’t in a hurry as everything else in life. You have the time to notice skillful moments of the game, become philosophical about the manager’s decisions, enjoy the outdoors with friends and family, and eat everything you’ll never eat again, so help you God” …Les Biller

Yes Dad, and thank you for beautifully capturing our favorite pastime in the only the way that “you can.” With your reflective words, I am at once taken back to childhood as I recall those swift spring evenings when we enjoyed games at Dodger Stadium.

These were the days of magic, of memories sewn in generational wonder, when we held our baseball caps to our chest as we sang the national anthem under fireworks that complimented games; games that were always played with honesty and passion, and on a level playing field that illustrated the unison that we all felt, and at always just the precise time that we needed.

* * * * *

Japanese American National Museum
March 29 through September 14, 2014

Dodgers: Brotherhood of the Game will give visitors the opportunity to look beyond the statistics and the memorable performances on the field. Baseball fans and those new to the game will gain an understanding of the importance of these players and the Dodgers’ role in shaping American culture, contributing to advancements in civil rights, and promoting international baseball.

For more information >>

 

© 2014 Francesca Biller

community diversity Dodgers Dodgers: Brotherhood of The Game exhibition janm Los Angeles sports