Yahoo! Sports reported on an op-ed in the March 29 issue of the Los Angeles Times in which the writer, Leon Furgatch, suggested a name change for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The question now seems to be if the original article was a serious suggestion, as the response from Yahoo! Sports was certainly not.
“As a fan and a history buff, what continues to disturb me,” Furgatch wrote in the Times, “is that Los Angeles’ team is nonsensically called the Dodgers. That name is a vestige of nostalgia for a time when Brooklyn fans of the team had to dodge heavy trolley car traffic to enter Ebbets Field. It has no relationship to the Los Angeles or meaning for local fans.” This is a good time to mention Furgatch is a former Brooklynite.
So what is Furgatch’s idea? As you read in the title, it’s to change the time name to the Los Angeles Yang-nas.
“I know it’s not a name that rolls of the tongue easily,” Furgatch says in the piece, “But let me explain.” He goes on to do just that, weaving an interesting story of how when the Brooklyn Dodgers were relocated to Los Angeles, specifically the Chavez Ravine area, in 1958, owner Walter O’Malley didn’t know a thing about the historical significance of the site. “Neither do most Angelenos,” Furgatch writes, “unless they attended Los Angeles public schools in the 1950s or earlier, when Yang-na history was still being taught.”
Furgatch goes ont to explain that the Chavez Ravine, where Dodger Stadium stands, was first peopled by the Yang-na Indians. The Yang-na are now extinct, but this peaceable, Shoshone speaking tribe were living in their village when the pobladores from Mexico settled nearby. One of these pobladores, a priest by the name of Father Juan Crespi, kept a diary for the Gaspar de Portola Expedition, and later became famous as one of two priests who helped Spain establish Roman Catholic missions, presidios and pueblos throughout California.
He encountered members of the Yang-na in 1769, who came to visit bearing a gift of baskets of pinole made from seeds of sage and grasses and strings of beads made form shells. Frugatch explains how this is where the diary entry ends, and little is known about the Yang-nas save for the fact that they spoke in their Shoshone dialect and that they lived in huts made from the surrounding brush, and that their diet included pinon nuts.
“Had O’Malley known of this connection, he surely would have jumped at the chance to rename his team and the stadium in honor of the first Los Angeles residents,” Furgatch writes. “Visualize his portly body shaking with laughter at the thought of pitting his Los Angeles Yang-nas against their former bitter New York borough rivals, the Yankees, in a World Series in Yang-na Stadium. It’s not too late to correct this missed opportunity. At the same time, the team would provide a valuable civic service by immortalizing the forgotten Yang-nas, who deserve a better fate.”
The Yahoo! Sports writer, Kevin Kaduk, mostly has fun with Furgatch’s op-ed, wondering aloud if Furgatch is actually serious. Kaduk’s response article is itself not serious, as he quotes from the film The Big Lebowski in a footnote at the end (without accreditation, which is probably less an attempt to pass the line off as his own as it is a shout-out to all the diehard Lebowski fans out there, especially considering the film was set in Los Angeles.)
So was Furgatch genuine, or just trying to have a little ‘fun’ writing a freelance article for the LA Times making a suggestion he knew would be met with suspicion or levity?
And if you were to take Furgatch at his word and assume his op-ed was genuine, the question that he would have to answer next would be, what would a proper mascot honoring the peaceful Yang-nas look like? If he’s serious, perhaps he’ll have some ideas on this front. If not, his original Times op-ed seems to be a disservice to the memory of the people he based the piece on.