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The Biography of Walter O'Malley

Dodger Stadium Groundbreaking
Finally, on September 17, 1959, groundbreaking ceremonies were held for Dodger Stadium and O’Malley knew that his longtime dream of building his own stadium would be fulfilled. He thought it would be achieved in 1960, but later had to push back completion until April 1962. Because of the extensive delays, the price tag had also increased by $2.5 million to a new total of $23 million (including construction, roads and land acquisition). The Dodgers were forced to remain in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for two more seasons, with less than favorable last-minute lease terms from the Coliseum Commission.
Dodger Stadium was as well-designed as any park before or since. Most of its success was in the detailed planning process by O’Malley, along with Vice President Stadium Operations Dick Walsh, architect Capt. Praeger and Jack Yount of Vinnell Constructors. Two of O’Malley’s closest financial advisors during this stage were Dodger Directors Sylvan Oestreicher and Jim Mulvey, husband of part-owner Dearie Mulvey and President of Samuel Goldwyn Pictures. Union Oil, the team’s first major sponsor, and Bank of America were key players in the financial aspects of Dodger Stadium construction.
During the complicated construction process, O’Malley was totally immersed in the project, as he resided in downtown Los Angeles at the Statler Hotel at 930 Wilshire Boulevard. He never wanted to be far away from the site. Almost every conceivable idea for the new ballpark was discussed and considered by O’Malley: ease of parking; transportation from the lots to the stadium; exclusive Club Level seating; lighting; colors; width of seats; concessions; landscaping; artwork; fountains; restroom availability; cleanliness; sightlines; escalators; fine dining; and a milk bar for kids, among others. When the Dodgers were in Japan in 1956, O’Malley noted the unique ground’s eye view provided from dugout box seats and he incorporated the concept into his new stadium. The influence of Disneyland for its layout, parking facilities and high level of customer service did not go unnoticed by O’Malley, who had his executives visit the Magic Kingdom and take notes.
O’Malley’s efforts resulted in rave reviews for Dodger Stadium which opened on April 10, 1962, becoming an instant hit and favorite from the casual fan to the season ticket holder. His wife, Kay, tossed the ceremonial first pitch from behind the Dodger dugout on the Field Level to catcher John Roseboro. Fan acceptance of Dodger Stadium, as evidenced by the Opening Day enthusiasm, was O’Malley’s proudest moment. With column-free construction, an unobstructed view of home plate made every seat in Dodger Stadium a good one. While some writers played up the fact that there were only two drinking fountains at Dodger Stadium when it opened, Dodger executive Red Patterson conveyed to O’Malley that only a handful of complaints had been received by fans on that topic. Immediately, the minor oversight was corrected to the satisfaction of all.
Fans were impressed by the beauty of the multi-colored levels and its symmetry, plus the stunning views of the San Gabriel Mountains and downtown Los Angeles. O’Malley was always interested in horticulture and spent an additional $1.5 million on colorful landscaping in 1963, including gardens and planting a variety of trees11 making Dodger Stadium more than just a baseball park, but an oasis and showplace in Los Angeles. Since the day it opened, more than 140 million people have attended games at Dodger Stadium through the 2006 season.

11 Trees include 1,000 Eucalyptus, 1,000 Acacia, 750 Fiscus-Nitida, 150 California Peppers, 95 Olive, 85 Canary Island Pine, 75 Washingtonia Palms, 75 Brazilian Peppers, 36 Evergreen Ash, 34 Chinese Elms, 20 Orchids, 20 Jacaranda, 20 Date Palm, 12 Mediterranean Palms, 12 Evergreen Pear and 10 California Rosewood, in addition to 300 Olympic Rose bushes according to 1990 “Dodger Stadium A to Z” brochure

Groundbreaking ceremonies for Dodger Stadium are held on Sept. 17, 1959 with hundreds of onlookers.

Copyright © 1959 Delmar Watson Photography Archives

Bulldozers begin the mammoth leveling and grading process of the site as soon as ceremonies are completed on Sept. 17, 1959.

Construction of Dodger Stadium, delayed by additional legal challenges, finally begins in earnest following Labor Day, 1960. The 19-month timetable is short, but O’Malley and the Vinnell Construction team vow to meet the 1962 opening.

The First Lady of the Dodgers, Kay O’Malley, was the perfect choice to throw the ceremonial first pitch from the Field Level above the Dodger dugout at Dodger Stadium’s Opening Day festivities on April 10, 1962. An enthusiastic fan of the Dodgers, Kay kept score of every Dodger game, at home and on the road. Standing next to Kay is son Peter, who became President of the Dodgers on March 17, 1970.

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