Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley
Under his ownership,
Dodgers won several pennants in Brooklyn and Los Angeles
January 29, 2007 | Tom Singer
NY: Baseball is the province of divided opinion.
Attitudes about issues and players differ, depending on which end of the
country or of the standings you ask, and Walter O�Malley typifies this
In Los Angeles, he is revered. In Brooklyn, he is still reviled.
But personal sentiments aside, no argument exists over the
influence and foresight of a brilliant businessman who shifted the Major
League landscape with seismic force in the late �50s.
No doubt, baseball would have gradually reached its current scope
and size, in response to geographic and demographic forces. Still, the
historical evidence is that O�Malley was the catalyst for this
expansion by maneuvering to move the Dodgers to the West Coast in 1957,
and convincing Horace Stoneham to do the same with the New York Giants.
O�Malley and Stoneham were baseball�s Lewis and Clark. They
pushed MLB past the Mississippi, opening up the Western frontier. The
game had already had its Golden Age in the �20s, but O�Malley
started the Gold Mine Age.
America of the late �50s was already in the jet age of television
and post-war prosperity. But before O�Malley made his daring and
unpopular break, MLB consisted of 16 teams, none West of St. Louis, 15
of which drew fewer than 1.5 million fans. Forty years later, MLB had
grown to 30 teams, 13 of them left of the Mississippi, 18 of which drew
more than 2.3 million.
Nearly 30 years after his death at the age of 75, O�Malley
returns on the Composite Ballot of the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee.
In 2003, the most recent Composite balloting, he attracted 48.1 percent
of the votes, finishing second behind famed umpire Doug Harvey�s 60.8
A candidate must get 75% of the vote to gain election.
Results of the 2007 Veterans Committee election will be announced
on February 27, and the Induction Ceremony will take place on July 29 in
O�Malley, a scholar with a Fordham law degree, never pretended to
be a baseball man, overcoming that shortcoming by surrounding himself
with keen talent maven such as Branch Rickey and Buzzie Bavasi.
As a persuasive and visionary businessman, however, O�Malley had
no peer. Even better evidence of that than his plot to move to Los
Angeles � and out of Brooklyn�s dilapidated Ebbets Field, where the
Dodgers typically barely drew a million while winning NL pennants -- was
the deal he made once he got there.
O�Malley purchased the downtown-abutting Chavez Ravine area, the
sprawling current site of Dodger Stadium, for $494,000. That actually
was a premium price for an underdeveloped tract valued at $92,000 �
but O�Malley could clearly see gold among the palms and makeshift
And that�s what the Dodgers became under the O�Malley
stewardship � the gold standard of baseball franchises. Since Dodger
Stadium�s 1962 opening, the club has never drawn fewer than 2 million
and in 1979 became the first to crack the 3 million barrier.
Ironically, O�Malley never saw that threshold crossed. He passed
away on Aug. 9 of that year, nine years after having handed the Dodgers�
reins over to his son, Peter, who held them until the club�s 1997 sale
to Rupert Murdoch.
O�Malley had acquired controlling interest in the Dodgers in
1950, thus he and his son ran the franchise for a half-century, the kind
of stability that was their operation�s keystone. Their Brooklyn
Dodgers featured the Boys of Summer core that remained intact most of
the decade. In Los Angeles, they became famed for keeping an infield
(Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey) together for another
And, of course, in a sport wherein change was inevitable and
usually wholesale, the O�Malleys employed two managers (Walter Alston
and Tom Lasorda) from 1954 to 1996 and two general managers (Bavasi and
Al Campanis) from 1950 to 1987.
Just another example of the walking contradiction that was Walter O�Malley.
He didn�t change managers or players, only coasts. But as for his
indelible role in the game�s history and evolution... there is no
Tom Singer is a
reporter for MLB.com
Walter O'Malley pioneered Major League Baseball's move to the west coast.
(National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)
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