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St. Patrick's Day Tradition

The camp grew in popularity and started accepting boys ages 10 to 16 in subsequent years. O’Malley always found time to make an annual visit to the camp, even taking an Atlantic Ocean dip with some of the boys. Campers found the following message in the recreation halls, “George Washington didn’t sleep here, but Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Carl Erskine and other Dodgers did.”41
In spring training, to rally the troops in what otherwise can be a long couple of months, O’Malley helped to break up the monotony by starting the tradition of St. Patrick’s Day parties at Dodgertown on March 17, 1952. He actually staged one in his first year in Miami Beach, but these grand affairs would continue to grow and become somewhat legendary. Fond of saying, “Half the lies they tell about the Irish aren’t true!” O’Malley’s lineage can be traced directly to County Mayo, Ireland on his great-grandfather’s side. His first party was held off-base at the popular visitors’ destination of McKee Jungle Gardens, about 15 minutes from camp. The party actually was held around an enormous 35-foot one-piece mahogany table in the “Hall of Giants” and featured music and skits in a well-decorated grand hall. Dodger trainer Bill Buhler was asked to supervise the decorations for these special parties which were later held in the old Dodgertown auditorium and finally in the on-base dining room. They were the highlight of each spring and allowed everyone to relax and share some laughs, whether they were invited players, like Maury Wills playing the banjo, or VIP guests, executives, staff and media. It was O’Malley’s big party and he certainly knew how to throw one, complete with green derbies, skits, Irish music, green beer, green ice, corned beef and cabbage and all the trimmings.
All of Vero Beach, like Brooklyn, celebrated with enthusiasm when the Dodgers won their first World Championship in 1955. Preparation for the season at Dodgertown was in evidence as the club jumped out of the gate to win their first 10 and 22 of 24 games. Bums no more, the Dodgers had shed their “Wait ‘til next year” attitude away and stood atop the baseball world under second-year Manager Alston. O’Malley spent much of his time running in circles with New York politicians trying to find a solution to the problem of Ebbets Field.
In the meantime, two developments paved the eventual way for O’Malley. First, he acquired the Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels, territorial rights and Wrigley Field in Los Angeles from Philip K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, in exchange for the Dodgers’ Fort Worth Cats team of the Texas League on February 21, 1957. Second, Los Angeles emerged as a suitor, as city and county officials there wanted to upgrade from the PCL to Major League Baseball. On September 23, 1954, a letter of interest was sent to all Major League owners by City Clerk Walter C. Peterson. L.A. City Councilwoman Rosalind Wiener Wyman had written O’Malley a letter of interest as early as September 1, 1955 asking for a meeting in New York to which he declined. On a brief stopover from New York enroute to Hawaii and eventually to Japan to play 19 games on a Dodger goodwill tour, O’Malley met with Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and other officials on October 12, 1956 at L.A.’s Statler Hotel.
Another important meeting took place with several representatives from Los Angeles, including its Mayor Norris Poulson and Hahn, at Dodgertown on March 6, 1957. Also in attendance were John Gibson, President of the City Council; Samuel Leask, City Administration Officer; John Leach, Los Angeles County Chief Administrative Officer; and Milton Arthur, Chairman of the County Recreation Commission. It was an opportunity for Los Angeles to put its best foot forward and explain its genuine hope of pursuing the Dodgers and bring Major League Baseball to the West Coast, while gauging O’Malley’s interest. During their visit and throughout that spring, Emmett Kelly, the world-famous clown, entertained everyone and his antics were well-received by the fans.

41 Joe Hendrickson, Dodgertown

Walter O’Malley and his father Edwin celebrate St. Patrick’s Day 1953 at brand new Holman Stadium.

Kay and Walter O’Malley are hosts for another memorable St. Patrick’s Day at Dodgertown.

Vin Scully (l-r), Yomiuri Giants President Toru Shoriki, Walter O’Malley and Dodger broadcaster Jerry Doggett enjoy relaxing at the St. Patrick’s Day party at Dodgertown.

Los Angeles elected officials visit Dodgertown to meet with Walter O’Malley on March 6, 1957 with hopes of hooking the major league team for their city. Front row (l-r) Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, Walter O’Malley, Los Angeles Mayor Norris Poulson, famous clown Emmett Kelly, who was at Dodgertown to entertain fans during the spring, Dodger center fielder Duke Snider and City Council President John Gibson.

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