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The Dodgers' 'Magical' Rise From The Cellar

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The Los Angeles Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball. They've won 40 of their last 48 games, and Wednesday night, they came from behind in dramatic fashion to beat the New York Mets in 12 innings.

It's a remarkable turnaround for a team that was near the cellar before the All-Star break. Now, they're calling Dodgers Stadium the Magic Castle. Attendance is up, TV ratings are up, star power is up. And the on-field play is "magical," according to legendary announcer Vin Scully.

Since the break, the Dodgers are 23 and 3. And they've lost only one game in month of August. For those who don't follow baseball, that's hot. Really hot. To put it in perspective, the last team that was this hot was the 1942 St. Louis Cardinals.

"You know, that kind of streak just doesn't happen in baseball. There's so many days when things just ... things go the wrong way," says Peter Gammons, a Hall of Fame baseball columnist who covers the sport on his website, GammonsDaily.com.

"The way this team has morphed from just being a team of stars that struggled early at times to being a team that really plays as a team, to me, is just remarkable," he says. "I think it is the No. 1 story in baseball."

Which is a much needed relief for America's game. Suspensions and steroid use have stolen most of the headlines in the past month. The surging Dodgers are a welcome change. Gammons says they're a positive for baseball and have helped bring credibility back to the game.

"It's really important for baseball that the Dodgers are good," he says.

They are, he says, one of the two most important franchises in the sport.

And for years, good wasn't a word you'd use to describe them. Ask baseball fan Gus Castanis. "I went through the Frank McCourt Dodger years. They were so miserable," he says.

Frank McCourt is a curse word in Dodgers Stadium. He is the team's former owner, pretty much universally despised for putting profits over play. It got so bad, Major League Baseball forced him to sell the team a year ago. He kept the parking lots.

The new owners — a group that includes Lakers icon Magic Johnson — shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the team, and the fans, back. Castanis was there through it all.

"So I figure this must be payback," he says. "Penance."

And maybe that's where the magic is coming from here in the Magic Castle. Down by two runs, 2-4 at the bottom of the ninth, the fans still have hope.

"It's exciting no matter what because you feel like you have a chance," Castanis says.

Which is why he stands when Andre Ethier takes the plate, down two, facing two outs. Ethier hits a two-run homer, tying the game at 4.

"There's always a chance," Castanis says. "And I don't know, maybe there's something about, how many people are left here? Twenty thousand people? All believing we have a chance that maybe makes Andre Ethier think that he's got a shot of hitting out to left field. That was exciting."

Exciting. Magic. That's the new era of Dodgers baseball.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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