Thursday, January 11, 2007

Everybody Who's Anybody in Dodger Universe Associated with Bobby Kennedy

The recent movie Bobby has brought Bobby Kennedy's assassination back into the headlines, and with it a connection with the Dodgers. Ben Platt's article at sets the stage:

LOS ANGELES -- On June 4, 1968, just a few miles apart, Dodger Stadium and the Ambassador Hotel were both celebrating historical victories.

At Chavez Ravine, Don Drysdale, the popular right-hander who was the franchise's last tie to its Brooklyn roots, hurled his sixth consecutive shutout, a 5-0 gem against the Pittsburgh Pirates, setting a new Major League record. The Ambassador, a venerable hotel that had become a Southern California institution for decades, was the scene for Sen. Robert Kennedy's California presidential primary victory party.

The 42-year-old senator from New York, bounded on to the stage of the hotel's ballroom at 11:30 p.m. to declare victory over Eugene McCarthy, and in his opening remarks, Kennedy paid tribute to the Dodger hurler.

"I want to express my high regard to Don Drysdale for his six great shutouts," said the senator to a jubilant ballroom.

Kennedy, who had been a late entrant to the 1968 presidential campaign, had been quickly gaining the momentum needed to get the Democratic Party nomination. Moments after completing his victory speech, it would all end at the hands of assassin Sirhan Sirhan, who would shoot Kennedy in the head as he exited through the Ambassador Hotel's kitchen.

A recent screening of the movie for the Dodgers gave an opportunity for everyone to break out their Kennedy stories:

"The [McCourt and Kennedy] families are good friends with one another, going back several generations."

—Frank McCourt

"Don did talk about [that night] a few times and he was close to the Kennedys."

—Anne Meyers Drysdale, Don's widow

"I can actually remember living through this. It was the night of my mother's birthday and also one of Bobby's closest friends practiced law at the law firm I ultimately went to."

—Jamie McCourt

"My wife, Jo, and I, ate lunch at the Ambassador that afternoon. My good friend, Zach Manasian, who was the food and beverage manager, told me that Kennedy wanted to meet me and talk to me, which was an invitation I was honored to accept....

"We decided to skip the dinner at the Ambassador. When we got home, we turned on the TV and saw that Kennedy had been shot. There was a possibility I could have been with him."

—Tommy Lasorda

Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts also has a Kennedy story from that night:

It was a Tuesday night, the night of the California presidential primary. The game ended in two hours and 20 minutes, and so my father and his friend made the short drive to the Ambassador Hotel, where Robert F. Kennedy was being crowned the winner of the Democratic primary, to take in the scene there. My dad recalls seeing Kennedy at the hotel, which was torn down this year, though he didn't stay long enough to hear him speak.