Saturday, December 26, 2020

Highpoints of 2020: LA Dodgers Win World Series and How an Immigrant's Son Became a Dodgers Owner


Needless to say, 2020 has been a tough year.  In my closing posts of the year, I will try to list a few stories that brought some relief from the hard times.

Major League Baseball had s shortened but eventful season.  In an amazing season, with a global pandemic and all, the Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series in decades.  And, as always,  there was an immigration story to tell.  I could tell about Mexican immigrant Julio Urias closing the series with a save and how that meant much to him because Dodger star Fernando Valenzuela had opened the door to many Mexican ballplayers. As Mike Digiovanna put it in the Los Angeles Times,

"In his mind, Urías wasn’t just helping the Dodgers win their first World Series since 1988. He was carrying on the legacy of Fernando Valenzuela, the Navojoa, Mexico native who, as a 20-year-old left-hander in 1981, sparked the Fernandomania craze and pitched the Dodgers to a championship.

`Ever since I signed, since my debut, we all know which team is most popular among Mexican and Latino people, and it’s because of what Fernando was able to do,' Urías said. `The Dodgers are famous in Mexico, and you’re familiar with what it means to put that blue on. I’m very blessed to be part of the organization.'"

That is an amazing story in itself but the immigration story that I want to tell is this:  one of the Dodger owners, Alan Smolinisky, is the son of immigrants who came to the United States from Argentina with four dollars in his pocket.  In this commentary in TIME, Smolinisky explains:

"Dad embraced America, which meant he naturally fell in love with baseball. His beloved Dodgers, who played just a few miles from the garment district in their new stadium, became part of his life. He’d attend games and sing the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. He learned English by permanently tuning his radio to Vin Scully’s Dodger broadcast, which was delivered in the legendary commentator’s warm, unhurried style.

With the support of my mother . . . , Dad worked his way up from sweeping floors to the head of a department. He and Mom used their savings so Dad could start a garment business that eventually would bring 30 years of success and allow him to hire and mentor new immigrants. With guidance and encouragement from Dad, many of those immigrants went on to start their own businesses, something that brought him great joy throughout his life. . . .

I arrived at Dodger Stadium with my son for my first game as an owner, 38 years after Dad took me to my first game in that same sanctuary. We arrived early. My boy wore a Clayton Kershaw jersey, I wore Fernando Valenzuela—two legendary Dodger south-paws. We watched batting practice and grabbed peanuts and dogs before lineups were announced.

When called upon to stand for the great American tradition, we rose and removed our Dodger hats placing them firmly over our hearts for the “Star Spangled Banner.” I gazed out at our country’s flag and thought of everything it represented: freedom, opportunity, hope (and, of course, baseball). In no other country on earth would my family’s story be possible."


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