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The Biography of Walter O'Malley



Dome Stadium Vision
O’Malley wanted to build the first domed stadium for baseball (as well as other sports). The idea was at least 10 years ahead of its time, as the Astrodome in Houston, Texas was not opened until 1965. In the early 1950s, O’Malley talked to Norman Bel Geddes about renovating Ebbets Field or a dome stadium design. Later, O’Malley worked with famed innovator-architect R. Buckminster Fuller to design a 50,000-seat geodesic clear span dome with a retractable roof for Brooklyn. He wrote a letter to Fuller on May 26, 1955, “I am not interested in just building another baseball park.” This was followed by Fuller’s students in a graduate class at Princeton University architecturally designing a domed stadium. Graduate student T. William Kleinsasser, Jr. heard the tail end of one of Fuller’s lengthy “guest” lectures. Later, he was prodded by his French class professor to incorporate Fuller’s ideas to help the situation involving the Dodgers and their search for a new stadium by designing a domed model in November 1955. The Dodger domed stadium would have been a showcase for all of baseball and, practically speaking, avoided costly rainouts and provided year-round entertainment for the citizens of Brooklyn and beyond.
The net effect on Brooklyn would have meant the Dodgers stayed put, playing in a privately-financed state-of-the-art stadium; a new meat market; improved and modern rail service; and less traffic congestion in the redeveloped area.
While he explored all options off the field, O’Malley’s Dodgers enjoyed success on the field. In 1951, the Dodgers had lost the National League Pennant in devastating fashion to the New York Giants and Bobby Thomson’s legendary “Shot Heard ‘Round The World.” In 1952 and 1953, the Dodgers won the N.L. Pennants but lost to the Yankees twice more in the World Series. Following the 1953 season, O’Malley rebuked Manager Charlie Dressen for seeking a multi-year contract and turned to a relatively unknown baseball man, Walter Alston. The “Quiet Man” from Darrtown, OH, who played in one major league game, became Dodger Manager amongst blaring headlines “Walter Who?” However, Alston had been a successful organizational manager, piloting St. Paul (MN) to the American Association Pennant in 1948 and the Montreal Royals to the “Little World Series” title against the New York Yankees’ Kansas City club in 1953. He signed the first of 23 consecutive one-year contracts in a gentleman’s agreement with O’Malley.
On September 23, 1954, Walter C. Peterson, City Clerk for the City of Los Angeles, sent a letter to O’Malley and all team owners expressing the City Council’s desire to “start action in an effort to bring Major League Baseball status to the City of Los Angeles.” O’Malley received a letter in September 1955 from L.A. City Councilwoman Rosalind Wyman who reiterated the interest of the city and tried to persuade him to meet with her and others about relocating the Brooklyn Dodgers there.4 Since he was focused on a solution in Brooklyn, O’Malley responded to her that he was not interested in meeting.5

4 Rosalind Wiener Wyman, Councilwoman 5th District, L.A., letter to Walter O’Malley, Sept. 1, 1955
5 O’Malley letter to Rosalind Wiener Wyman, September 7, 1955



Architect and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller worked on fulfilling Walter O’Malley’s dream of a multipurpose translucent domed stadium in Brooklyn. Fuller’s architecture graduate class at Princeton University prepared models in November 1955 for O’Malley to view.

Photo by Wil Blanche. Copyright © 1955. All Rights Reserved.




In November 1955, R. Buckminster Fuller and Walter O’Malley peer inside a model of what would have been baseball’s first domed stadium, built in Brooklyn years before the Houston Astrodome opened in 1965.

Photo by Wil Blanche. Copyright © 1955. All Rights Reserved.




Walter Alston is named Dodger Manager on November 24, 1953. The “Quiet Man” from Darrtown, OH sits at a press conference with Walter O’Malley. Alston had a solid minor league managing background, but was relatively unknown to the press and fans when the selection was made. Four Dodger teams won World Championships with Alston at the helm and he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.

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