2011 has been a difficult year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the owners going through a messy divorce (who gets the house? Who gets the team?) and attendance down, the Dodgers filed for Chapter 11 as Major League Baseball stepped in to assume day-to-day operations of the team. But all this pales by comparison to the drama surrounding the move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and the site known as Chavez Ravine where Dodgers Stadium was built.
In the Beginning
Chavez Ravine was comprised of three neighborhoods: La Loma, Palo Verde and Bishop, which covered about 315 acres north of downtown Los Angeles in the hills Elysian Park. The largely Mexican community developed quietly over the years as immigrants made their way into LA pursuing the American Dream—a better life, a chance for prosperity. At ?rst idyllic, life in Chavez Ravine changed pretty quickly after the city identi?ed the area as a “slum” with substandard housing, prostitution, juvenile delinquency and dirt roads. They saw the neighborhood as ripe for development with the help of the federal government urban renewal programs that would enable them to build freeways and affordable housing. Families living in Chavez Ravine were told they would get priority to move into the new housing development once it was built. That’s when the real trouble started.
The Dodgers Trump Communism
By 1951, certain politicians and businessmen in LA decided that a baseball team would be more economically bene?cial to the city than public housing and they moved to kill housing project plan, which was seen as espousing abhorrent "communist ideals.” Although many of the families by this time had moved out, 12 families refused to leave.
The city was now in legal possession of the land and wanted to transfer it to private corporate interests. Seeking a better location for his team, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley struck a deal with the city, giving him Chavez Ravine as part of a sweet incentive package to bring the Brooklyn Dodgers to LA.
Outraged former residents of Chavez Ravine forced the city to put the matter to a vote in 1958. But the referendum to bring the Dodgers to LA won by a margin of less than 2%. This put the city in a pickle. Not wanting to seem like communist sympathisers (I joke, of course), the city decided to evict the remaining families and used force and bulldozers to show that protests would not be tolerated. Fourteen sheriffs were needed to get the last family off the property. This was way before national BREAKING NEWS dominated 24-hour cable news stations, which didn’t yet exist, but the forced eviction was still caught on camera and aired on local news stations that night. Tensions between dark-skinned people and light-skinned people escalated. The Chicano communists lost. The Irish business owners won. A dark cloud moved over Chavez Ravine that, some say, haunt the Dodgers to this day.