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The Biography of Walter O'Malley



Aging Ebbets Field
Always one to be involved with extracurricular activities, O’Malley took time for recreation, organizing and serving as chairman of the popular U.S. Atlantic Tuna Tournament in Belmar, NJ in 1938 and in the 1940s, with the exception of the war years.
O’Malley purchased J.P. Duffy, a building supply company and, in 1950, the New York Subways Advertising Company.
In October 1950, O’Malley purchased additional stock from Rickey. The partners had agreed to offer their shares of stock first to each other with a right to match the terms, rather than to an outside buyer if they were ever to sell. O’Malley and Smith’s widow, May, were offered Rickey’s stock at $1,050,000.
With his 50 percent ownership, 47-year-old O’Malley became President and majority owner of the Dodgers on October 26, 1950. His top priorities were to make the needed improvements on aging Ebbets Field and to continue Branch Rickey’s theory that a strong minor league system results in a competitive major league team.
Utilizing his diverse educational background, O’Malley concentrated his efforts on identifying a site to privately build a new stadium in Brooklyn to replace an aging Ebbets Field, built in 1913, with its limited parking for 700 cars. He focused his energy on a location at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn, which included the Long Island Rail Road terminal, access to every subway line in New York and the Ft. Greene Meat Market. O’Malley’s plan was to improve and redevelop the congested area, if he could get assistance in assembling the land, which he was going to purchase and build his stadium with ample parking. On June 25, 1953, in a letter he wrote, “It is my belief that a new ball park should be built, financed and owned by the ball club. It should occupy land on the tax roll. The only assistance I am looking for is in the assembling of a suitable plot and I hope that the mechanics of Title I (of the Housing Act of 1949) could be used if the ball park were also to be used as a parking garage.”2
Powerful Robert Moses, the New York parks commissioner and master planner for bridges, highways, housing and construction in the entire area, had other plans. While he seemed to be more than a little interested in O’Malley’s ideas and plans through their numerous exchanges of correspondence over several years, Moses in reality was not willing to improve the Long Island Rail Road site in Brooklyn, since the very thought of massive public transportation would have cost jobs and cut the very heart out of the highways and bridges system used by automobile transportation to the suburbs which he was trying to promote.3

2 Walter O’Malley letter to William Tracy, Vice Chairman, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, June 25, 1953
3 George DeWan, The Master Builder, www.lihistory.com and Neil Sullivan, The Dodgers Move West, Oxford University Press, 1987, pp. 50-51



As a youngster, Walter O’Malley always had an interest in fishing which continued through his adult years. He was the organizer of the U.S. Atlantic Tuna Tournament in 1938 and chairman of the popular event, which began in Belmar, NJ. The tournament was also held in the 1940s, with the exception of the war years.


A shift of Dodger Presidents on Oct. 26, 1950, as 47-year-old Walter O’Malley purchases controlling interest in the Brooklyn ballclub and takes the reins from the departing Branch Rickey.


An aerial view of Ebbets Field, which could park 700 cars in the scattered lots surrounding the aging ballpark.

AP/Wide World Photos



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