LATE LAST FRIDAY NIGHT, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox made what is perhaps the largest trade in baseball history, in terms of the contractual obligations involved and the status of the players leaving the chaos of Red Sox Nation for the perhaps once again temple of Chavez Ravine. Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto went west for James Loney, Iván DeJesús, Jr., Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and Jerry Sands. It was the kind of massive blockbuster that sport doesn’t see anymore. It was the kind of trade I would have loved reading about as a kid. And it brought the Dodgers back—to me anyway.
I haven’t thought about the Dodgers much in the past 20 years. At some point they slipped away as a my mistress team from way out west. But at times this year, whether by affection for nostalgia or disappointment in the Blue Jays, I’ve found myself checking on them. I like that Don Mattingly is their manager, the ex-Yankee. Donny Baseball. As close as you can get to a Hall of Famer without being one. He missed the Yankee glory years, on both ends of his career. As I write this, the Dodgers are one-and-a-half games out of the wild card, and 3-and-a-half back of the NL West leading rival San Francisco Giants, another west coast franchise that broke New York hearts. Their star pitcher is the impossibly named Clayton Kershaw, titled like a Hemingway character. The team has escaped the failed ownership of Frank and Jamie McCourt, and is now owned by a group that includes longtime MLB exec Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson. They want to win. They’re willing to spend, to take chances. They want to return the Dodgers to past glory.
They want to return to 1988.
WHEN I WAS A KID, my maternal grandmother spent her winters in Vero Beach, Florida. On a few occasions my mum took my sister and I down to visit. There wasn’t much to Vero Beach. A beach stop on the highway. A rail line passing through. A JC Penney, who carried the unavailable-in-Canada “Underwear is Fun to Wear”. Piper Aircraft is based there. Grandmother’s hide from the Canadian winter there. But as a kid, you don’t ask much of your vacation spot. I wasn’t hungry for art galleries, museums, Gap outlets, Tilted Kilts. I just needed a pool. A beach. A store that sold baseball cards and/or comic books. Kraft Dinner reserves. An abundance of colas. Batman briefs. Despite its pedestrian nature, its Everytown, Florida charm or lack thereof, it had something that did set it apart from the Myrtle Beaches, and Pensacolas, and Dunedins. Vero Beach had Dodgertown.