What do Vin Scully, Peter O'Malley, Tommy Lasorda, Mike Piazza, and Orel Hershiser have in common, other than being classy people associated with one of sports classiest franchises (until Frank McCourt, that is)?
Tuesday is a big day for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not only is the team's famous home turning fifty years old, but tomorrow's game will be the first one Magic Johnson sees at Dodger Stadium as a team owner.
Johnson's group, of course, bought the team from McCourt for over $2 billion. McCourt spent the last couple of years dragging the team's reputation through the mud thanks to his messy divorce and revelations that he and his wife raised ticket prices on fans to finance their lavish lifestyles.
Strange behavior for someone who unfailingly supports Democrats, who supposedly are against the excesses of the one percent.
McCourt contributed to Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000, John Kerry and Wesley Clark in 2004, and Hillary Clinton in 2008. It seems winning was hard for him in politics as well.
McCourt may have bled Democrat blue, but other people high up in the team's food chain do not.
Legendary sportscaster Vin Scully gave $500 to Friends of John Boehner during the Republican surge of 2010. He gave money to John McCain and Mitt Romney in 2008. Voting against Obama automatically makes you a racist in the eyes of today's Democrats, but tell that to someone who befriended Jackie Robinson. George W. Bush in 2003, and Ronald Reagan in 1979. From what I've heard, even though he's an "evil Republican," he's a pretty nice guy out of the broadcasting booth. The Christmas before last I took my son to a church function and heard him read a story about Jesus' birth. As he ended the reading he told the kids, in his unforgettable voice, "and that kids, is a true story."
Another man that's earned the respect of the community is former Dodger owner Peter O'Malley. Dodger employees I talked to respected him, local leaders respected him, and other owners respected him. The soft-spoken Peter was the opposite of his brash father Walter, who took the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. As the team was on its way to winning its last World Series in 1988, Peter donated $10,000 to the Republican National Committee. According to public records, it seems he also donated to Bush-Cheney in 2004 and John McCain in 2008. In this election cycle he prefers Mitt Romney, and he also shelled out another $10,000 to John Boehner.
The Democrats can't even seem to convince Tommy Lasorda to join their team. One source has Tommy telling Bill Clinton:
Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda ran into Clinton at the Sons of Italy Foundation dinner at the National Building Museum in Washington.
Lasorda spoke first -- explaining that he never voted for Clinton.
"My father was a Republican, and his father was a Republican," Lasorda said. "So someone once asked me, 'If your father was a thief, and his father was a thief, would that make you a thief?' I said, 'That would make me a Democrat.'"
Lasorda was childhood friends with the father of Mike Piazza, another Dodger legend. Piazza, a 12-time All Star, is a big fan of Rush Limbaugh. According to the New York Times:
Mike Piazza, who was not in the starting lineup, spent his free time getting a baseball autographed by the radio commentator Rush Limbaugh. "It was like meeting George Washington," Piazza said.
As Piazza began his career with the Dodgers, he caught for a pitcher that was at the end of his tenure with them, at least for awhile. Orel Hershiser, who was known for being a devout Christian, would leave the Dodgers in 1994. Six years earlier, under O'Malley's ownership and Lasorda's management, Hershiser pitched the Dodgers to a World Series victory. Not surprisingly, the religious pitcher has a history of donating to the GOP.
The list of great baseball players who were also Republicans doesn't end there. Nor does it end with the Dodgers. Interestingly, many people connected to the sport that had a reputation for self-discipline and long stretches of employment with the same team ended up being connected to Republicans. O'Malley, Scully, Lasorda, Piazza, and Hershiser spent most if not all their careers with one team, and despite their high profiles rarely got into trouble off the field. The same is true for right-wing greats that played for other teams, like Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Curt Schilling, or the libertarian-leaning Tony LaRussa and Barry Zito.
That's not to say GOP players always have clean lives off the field. The Dodgers' Steve Garvey once harbored political ambitions as a Republican, but he had a rather messy personal situation.
When Magic Johnson settles into the stands behind home plate Tuesday afternoon, he'll be the second straight Democrat to plop down on the owner's seat. Hopefully Magic, who's had his own share of personal issues, will bring some conservative values back to the team despite what we may expect from him based on his party affiliation.