MICHELE NORRIS, host:
The World Series battle between the Yankees and the Phillies may seem tame compared to a battle brewing in Los Angeles, a far more personal battle. Frank and Jamie McCourt, the married couple who own the Dodgers, are heading for divorce.
As NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports, their split is worrying Dodgers fans.
KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Tom Bergin's Irish Pub has been in Los Angeles more than two decades longer than the Dodgers have and is filled with many long-suffering fans who, these days, are wondering what's next. If the McCourts really do split, what happens to the team? The Dodger faithful are pondering the many ugly possibilities, says bar manager Phillip Fox(ph).
Mr. PHILLIP FOX (Manager, Tom Bergin's Irish Pub): I know they're a little worried because, you know, whenever parents get a divorce, you always wonder what's going to happen to the children. You know, in this case, it's our Dodgers.
BATES: The team is an expensive asset and could be sold to meet the obligations of a divorce settlement. Frank and Jamie McCourt have been married for more than 30 years. They now live in California, where community property laws apply, but that doesn't necessarily mean things will be divided straight down the middle, says Steven Mindel, a top L.A. divorce lawyer.
Mr. STEVEN MINDEL (Divorce Attorney): So in the case of, like, the Dodgers, the very first thing that will have to be determined is whether or not the asset is community property. And if it's community property, then accordingly, the judge will have to decide what is half.
BATES: Mindel says there are several things that could occur next.
Mr. MINDEL: One person may be bought out, the other person would then get to run the team, or it could be that they have joint management of the team.
BATES: That's highly unlikely, since Frank McCourt fired his wife from her CEO position two weeks ago. T.J. Simers, a sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times, says he's skeptical about how Jamie McCourt even got that job.
Mr. T.J. SIMERS (Sports Columnist, Los Angeles Times): She had a nice husband who gave her the title, which I wondered about a couple of years ago. What did he do, roll over one night and say, jeez, I think you ought to be CEO?
BATES: But in court filings, Jamie McCourt says she is the public face of the Dodgers. Plus, she says, she's worked hard to increase the numbers of women who attend games, noting that women make up 40 percent of the Dodgers' fans. Those fans might be a little anxious because they saw how a similar case played out last year, when the San Diego Padres were sold so owner John Moores could settle up with his now ex-wife, Becky.
Mr. BERNIE WILSON (Sportswriter, Associated Press): John Moores is going to get his money and San Diego got a fourth-place team.
BATES: Associated Press sportswriter Bernie Wilson says the Padres' payroll was slashed, and star players, like pitcher Jake Peavy, were traded to save money. Club owners didn't hike the ticket prices, but Wilson says the Moores' divorce took a big toll on the Padres.
Mr. WILSON: Fans are not happy to be essentially paying Major League prices for a minor league team.
BATES: Wilson says Padres' attendance has dipped as fans decline to pay the same price for a now lackluster lineup.
Mr. WILSON: I know a lot of Padres fans who are still Padres fans, but they're no longer season ticketholders because they realize it's just not a good value.
BATES: Steven Mindel, the divorce attorney, says don't expect a decision on who really owns the Dodgers any time soon. The bitter wrangling over the team has just begun and will probably go on for a good long while.
Mr. MINDEL: My best estimate would be somewhere between 24 and 36 months before we hear the end of this story.
BATES: Which for loyal fans gives an entirely different meaning to the term Dodger blue. Back at Tom Bergin's pub, some are still grieving over the Dodgers' failure to make it into the Series, but that's nothing compared to the curveball of a nasty, expensive divorce battle, says Dorothy Kosak(ph).
Ms. DOROTHY KOSAK: Historically, the fans out here have been so loyal to the Dodgers through thick and thin and earthquakes and fires. So I think it would be really sad.
BATES: Cheer up, Dorothy. Things may yet turn out okay. As Yankee great Yogi Berra liked to say: It ain't over 'till it's over.
Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.
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