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No violent crimes have been reported at Dodger Stadium since March 31, according to the LAPD, but then again there are far fewer people at the games. Two years ago the Dodgers led the major leagues in attendance. Last year they were third. This year they are 10th. It's hard to say whether fans were put off by the Stow beating or by the security lockdown that followed—or by how poorly the team, only two seasons removed from a second consecutive NLCS appearance, has performed. "The question has become, 'How much is too much?'" says Councilmember Reyes. "Does it feel like a ballpark or an institution? That's the balancing point they're trying to reach right now."
The same question—How much is too much?—can be put to the LAPD. In 1993, 22-year-old Veronica Ultreras and her three-year-old daughter, Cynthia, were strangled in their home in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. "We got two detectives working part-time," says Veronica's father, a 66-year-old plumber named Luis Navarro. The murders were never solved. When Navarro hears about the number of detectives on the Stow case, he starts to shake and tears form in his eyes. "I get so angry," he says, "so frustrated."
He is on his hands and knees at the Oakdale Memorial Park cemetery in Glendora, scrubbing his daughter's and granddaughter's graves with WD-40. He brings fresh flowers every Wednesday, never the same kind twice. Navarro believes he knows why 110 detectives worked the Stow case and only two worked his. "It's because the city is trying to protect the Dodgers," he says. In 1960 fewer than 2.5 million people lived in Los Angeles. Now, the population is nearly four million. The Dodgers helped trigger the migration west. Although the tie between town and team has nearly been severed by McCourt, the civic uproar after the Stow beating was a symbolic attempt to repair it.
L.A. is waiting for McCourt to sell the franchise, but there is no telling how long the bankruptcy court will let him hold on. General manager Ned Colletti says he plans to sign outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to contract extensions this off-season, but he is only assuming he will have the money. Even the Stows' lawsuit cannot proceed until the Dodgers are out of Chapter 11. The family is listed on the Dodgers' official creditors committee.
Into this mess stepped Don Mattingly, a rookie manager who has a slogan for his fourth-place team. "No excuses," Mattingly says. "Sure we'd like a full house, energy in the building, but you can't sit there and feel sorry for yourself."
Mattingly has decorated his office with black-and-white photographs of the Brooklyn Dodgers, snapshots of an era that still inspires not just nostalgia but optimism. In the 1930s the Dodgers were near bankruptcy. Ownership factions fought for control, and the team earned the nickname the Bums. But president Leland MacPhail, hired in 1937, turned the organization around, starting with his interview: "Sure I'll take the job," MacPhail told the board of directors, "if you lay the kind of dough I want on the line for me, give me a free hand, and fix it up with the bank so that when I want some real money for operating purposes I can walk in there and get it." Neil J. Sullivan's book The Dodgers Move West describes how MacPhail renovated Ebbets Field, turned the farm system into a player development powerhouse, spent on talent and even improved stadium security. Attendance spiked, and in 1941 the Dodgers went to the World Series. "Perhaps no team has ever been transformed so dramatically in so little time," Sullivan writes.
Sixty years later the Dodgers are looking for another quick fix. They are coming off five mediocre drafts. Last year they spent only $314,000 on international amateur free agents, lowest in the majors. This season they have used 10 leftfielders. They fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland. They also fired franchise icon Steve Garvey, who attempted to buy out McCourt while working in the club's community relations department.
But there was at least one redeeming element to the season. Los Angeles and the Dodgers set a new standard for how cities and teams respond to fan violence, an accomplishment met with equal parts shame and pride. "Twenty-nine other teams have taken their security and stadium operations up several notches since March 31," says Baer, the Giants' president.
On Aug. 9, the Stows returned to Los Angeles for the first time since Bryan was transferred to San Francisco General, and when they walked into the downtown Marriott the front desk erupted: "The Stows are back!" A plate of chocolate chip cookies, with a card, was waiting in their room. The Stows met with the LAPD. They hugged the nurses at LAC-USC Medical Center. They gave updates on Bryan, how he puckered his lips to kiss Bonnie, how he waved his arm when Erin tried to change the channel from a Giants game. Those who met the Stows in the spring and saw them again this month said they looked different, more relaxed. Bryan remains in the intensive care unit at San Francisco General, but his family gathers hope from Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who walked onto the floor of the House of Representatives this summer, less than eight months after she was shot in the head.
The Stows are grieving for another fan who was at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day: Matt Lee, one of the friends who accompanied Bryan to the game, died on July 31 from an intense peanut allergy after he ate a salad he did not realize contained nuts. "It's been 4½ months," Erin says, glancing at her watch, "and it doesn't stop." She was standing on the outdoor terrace of The Shack, a bar and burger joint in Santa Monica, where Los Angeles--based Phillies fans were holding a fund-raiser for Bryan. The line was out the door. "We have passionate, smack-talking fans," says Debbie Axel, who organized the event, which included a silent auction and five professional comedians performing for free and raised over $10,000. "This could have easily happened to one of us."