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The Biography of Walter O'Malley

1955 World Champions
Meanwhile, in 1955, the Dodgers jumped out of the starting gate with 10 straight victories, went 22-2 and never looked back. Second-year Manager Alston led the Dodgers to their first and only World Championship in Brooklyn, as they defeated their old nemesis, the Yankees in seven games. On October 4, 1955, as the Dodgers and Johnny Podres won 2-0, finally the old adage of “Wait ‘Til Next Year” could be retired once and for all, as the Borough of Brooklyn overcame its second-class citizen complex and glowed in the spotlight.
But attendance, though good, was not keeping up with other clubs like the Milwaukee Braves, who had relocated from Boston in 1953 into a new municipal ballpark and were drawing in excess of two million fans at home (see chart) compared to Brooklyn’s one million. This was of major concern to O’Malley who wanted his Dodgers to remain competitive in all areas on and off the field. In the long term, he believed, the Dodgers would have to build a new family-friendly stadium with improved sightlines and increased parking facilities since a large number of fans were moving from Brooklyn to the suburbs of New York. By expanded use of the automobile, it became feasible to live in the suburbs and commute. After a 50-year drought of shifting of teams, relocation became one possible solution to a number of franchises.
O’Malley built and maintained Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL, the highly-regarded spring training site, which included 5,000-seat Holman Stadium, which was designed and engineered by Capt. Praeger. Dodgertown was once the site of a U.S. Naval Air Station in World War II, but the Dodgers leased the land and held spring training there beginning in 1948, using the old barracks to house the major and minor league players and coaching staffs.
As part of the player development system, it was Rickey’s vision to have a baseball factory where the players were the widgets and he could push the best ones up the ladder to the majors. The raw talent of more than 600 young ballplayers on 26 minor league teams was developed through instruction and practice at Dodgertown. The players would eat in the mess hall, sleep in the temporary Naval barracks with no heating or air conditioning and train on the numerous fields, in the batting cages and pitchers’ strings area. Nearly every Dodger great trained at Vero Beach. With his vision of how to develop the complex, O’Malley took the bare bones training camp and elevated it to a new level, first signing a 21-year extension on a lease with the city on January 30, 1952 and later purchasing the land in the early 1960s. On March 11, 1953, O’Malley dedicated the intimate new ballpark to Bud Holman, the influential General Motors automobile dealer in Vero Beach and Eastern Air Lines director, who had originally encouraged the Dodgers to train in Vero Beach.

Jubilation in the Dodger clubhouse as Walter O’Malley and second-year Manager Walter Alston embrace as the Dodgers win their first World Championship on Oct. 4, 1955. The Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees, four games to three, with a 2-0 clincher in the seventh game at Yankee Stadium.

Dodgertown aerial view showing the old two-story barracks at the former U.S. Naval Air Station. Walter O’Malley worked on a series of improvements to develop the spring training site in Vero Beach, FL beginning in the spring of 1951, his first year as Dodger President.

Photo courtesy of Indian River County Historical Society, Inc.

Walter O’Malley is presented the key to Vero Beach, FL as Dodgertown becomes the long term home for spring training activities.

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