Baseball-the good, the bad, the weird

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    Four brothers decide to republish their father’s book

    detailing behind-the-scenes in the golden age of baseball.

    By David Wallace/Special to The Malibu Times

    All writers dream of writing a bestseller; it’s not only a validation of their talent-a best-selling book has the potential of making money as well. But few would like their book to become a bestseller in the way Harold Parrott’s “The Lords of Baseball”-a tell-all memoir of his front office career in major league baseball (primarily the Brooklyn Dodgers)-did when it was published in 1976. Of a publication run of 15,000 copies, 14,000 were bought and destroyed by Walter O’Malley, owner of the Dodgers, who has been called irascible and slippery.

    Last year, Parrott’s four sons, who spent much of their growing-up years in Malibu, arranged to bring the book back to life again with added family pictures and a new foreword by New York Times sportswriter Dave Anderson. The result is an engrossing, anecdote-packed, behind-the-scenes look at baseball’s golden age and the personalities-the good, the bad and the weird-who defined the era. Sportswriter Jerome Holtzman of the Chicago Sun Times called the republished saga, ” … revisionist history at its absolute best, written with [a] flaming and accurate pen.” Appropriately, Parrott’s journalistic nickname, a tribute to the speed of his writing, was “bonfire.”

    During a recent visit to Malibu, where he moved with his family after the Dodgers came west in 1957, Brian Parrott, Harold Parrott’s youngest son and tennis division director for Leader Productions, a sports marketing company, talked of his memories of the Malibu community, his father (who died in 1987) and the republished history.

    “I was 10 when we moved to Malibu and entered the sixth grade of the first class at Our Lady of Malibu School,” he recalls.

    As grades seven and eight were added annually afterward, Parrott also has the added distinction of being a member of the school’s first graduating class. (His mother, Josephine, to whom the book is dedicated, headed the church’s first Altar and Rosary Society)

    “We bought a house in the colony in 1959 for $47,000,” he smiles ruefully. “In 1965, dad sold it for $99,000, and thought that he had made a killing.”

    Although his family’s residence (#89) was torn down later, similar homes sell today for upward of $6 million (the actor Jim Carrey just bought into the Colony for $9.5 million).

    For 45 years, Brian’s dad knew baseball as only an insider could. As a journalist with the Brooklyn Eagle for the first 15 of those years, he covered the borough’s beloved Dodgers. He then joined the team itself as traveling secretary and publicist for an event-packed tenure that garnered headlines still familiar today.

    Far more important than the unflattering portrait of O’Malley that caused the tycoon to buy and destroy most of the press run of “The Lords of Baseball,” is the still-astonishing saga of Jackie Robinson, the sport’s first African-American player, recounted in detail in the book. Brought to the Dodgers in 1947 by manager Branch Rickey, it was a move that changed America’s sport-and many believe, America itself-forever.

    When Robinson was hired, he was immediately subjected to some of the most scurrilous racial epithets imaginable from both fellow players as well as other major league players, managers and owners-all laid out in excruciating detail by Parrott. Then, despite being Rookie of the Year when the Dodgers won their league pennant in 1947 (they subsequently lost the World Series to DiMaggio’s Yankees in a seven-game battle during which Brian, appropriately, was born), O’Malley precipitously traded him to the Giants. So much for loyalty … as Red Smith, who wrote the original foreword for the book observed, “Many years ago, a wise man (Bill Terry) wrote that baseball must be a great game because it survived the men who ran it.”

    Parrott also was the point person during the turmoil over owner Walter O’Malley’s decision to move the team to Los Angeles in 1957, an event that resonates emotionally, at least in Brooklyn, to this day.

    Harold Parrott, who subsequently worked for Gene Autry and his California Angels, the Seattle Pilots and the San Diego Padres, died in 1987 in New York City after living in retirement for a number of years in Palm Desert. “God’s waiting room,” Brian laughs.

    During their Malibu years, the Parrott family, who loved sailing, kept a 29-foot Lapstrake Chris-Craft sea skiff named Dodger IV docked in Marina del Rey. They would often sail it up to the Colony and swim ashore, or water ski at Paradise Cove.

    But for Brian, the fondest memory of his youth in Malibu was the day his Little League team, the Malibu Lions, beat the Colony As. “And,” he adds with a broad smile, “the day I watched the making of a porn film next door in the Colony.”

    “The Lords of Baseball” is available in many bookstores, online, and direct from the Parrott’s Web site: www.lordsofbaseball.com.