Reference Biography: Walter O’Malley

1963: A Taxing Year with a Positive Finish

A five-year beautification program was packed into one offseason during the winter of 1962. A total of 3,899,247 fans attended both Dodger and Los Angeles Angel home games at the new Dodger Stadium in 1962.

O’Malley was always interested in horticulture and he spent an additional $1.5 million on colorful landscaping to Dodger Stadium grounds in 1963, including gardens and tree plantings, 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  making it much more than just a baseball park, but an oasis and showplace in Los Angeles.

Off the field, O’Malley endured slings and arrows once again as, on July 23, 1963 the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor amazingly increased the value of the Dodger Stadium property to $32.3 million, meaning the Dodger tax bill would jump from $345,000 per annum to about $750,000. O’Malley contended the property was worth $19.5 million. He was asked whether he would sell the property for the $32.3 million assessed value. O’Malley’s answer, “You’re darned right I would.”

Walter O’Malley reviews the headline from the Herald Examiner on July 24, 1963 discussing the County Tax Assessor’s desire to increase the assessed value of Dodger Stadium to $32.3 million on July 23, 1963. O’Malley was asked if he would be willing to sell the property for the new assessed value and he answered, “You’re darn right I would.”

McClellan clearly remembers during the negotiations that “taxes were never a part of the negotiations. It was established during my first meeting with O’Malley in New York City that no free gifts or subsidies would be provided. The Dodgers would pay taxes like any other enterprise. It was essential, as a matter of common sense business judgment that the Dodgers know their budget and operating costs before committing themselves.

“Walter O’Malley asked me what he could expect as a property assessment tax on the completed stadium. I referred him to the County Tax Assessor. We all knew that it is unusual to state in advance of construction just what the tax bill will be. But the circumstances here were unusual too. The Dodgers had a real need to know. No special rate was sought or expected — that issue had already been settled. But it was exceedingly important to Walter O’Malley to know where he stood. The whole Chavez Ravine area had been producing only $7400.00 per annum in City and County tax revenues for ten years. Studies were made...the Dodgers were instructed by the then County Assessor, in his office that, presuming the same tax rate as then prevailed, the tax on the completed stadium would be approximately $330,000.00. Later, when 6000 additional seats were added to the stadium plan, the tax estimate was increased to $345,000.00. This figure was accepted at that time by all concerned. It was used in publicity employed by both sides in the subsequent controversy.

“This tax commitment was not a concession to get the Dodgers here. It was not a negotiated figure. The only concession given was that of telling the Dodgers in advance what they would be up against, tax wise, before they made the move.

“I realize of course that some of our citizens still contend that the Dodgers got a land bargain. The record clearly shows however, that the Mayor didn’t think so, the City Council didn’t think so, that the Board of Supervisors didn’t think so, that the Chamber of Commerce didn’t think so, that the foremost appraisers in the area didn’t think so. O’Malley didn’t think so and neither did I. The Dodgers have kept their part of the bargain.” “The Truth About the Dodgers” by Chad McClellan, August 9, 1963

Walter and Peter O’Malley attend a County Board of Supervisors meeting on July 24, 1963 regarding the increased property taxes at Dodger Stadium.

O’Malley and his son, Peter, attended a County Board of Supervisors hearing on July 24, 1963 regarding the tax matter to protest the huge and sudden increase by Philip E. Watson, County Assessor. O’Malley attorney James J. Arditto claimed that one of the main differences in the assessed value had to do with the 41 acres of land for recreational use that the City held title to until O’Malley had spent $1.2 million, which Watson placed a value of $425,000. Arditto argued the Dodgers would not even take ownership of this land for another 18 years and it should therefore be eliminated from the tax discussion. O’Malley’s position was rejected by the vote of the Board, a blow that he vowed to change in court.

However, O’Malley had much to smile about on the field in 1963. With the exception of 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers had fallen repeatedly in World Series to the cross-town American League New York Yankees. The Dodgers were 99-63 in 1963 and finished strong by winning 19 games in the final month. Tommy Davis won his second consecutive N.L. Batting Championship with a .326 average to lead the offense, while Drysdale had a league-leading 25 wins, Koufax notched a Dodger record 11 shutouts and relief specialist Ron Perranoski amassed 21 saves to guide the pitching staff. Now, they had an opportunity to face their old nemesis once again. In uncharacteristic style, the Dodgers earned sweet revenge for all of those years of frustration, sweeping the Yankees in the 1963 World Series in four games. It is the only time the Dodgers won a World Series title on their home field. While winning the World Series in Brooklyn in 1955 was unforgettable, the 1963 sweep stood out to O’Malley as his favorite. Interview with Bud Furillo on KABC Radio’s Dodgertalk Show, 1974

For the second time in only six seasons in Los Angeles, the Dodgers were World Champions and the city’s fans embraced their team ever tighter.

The Dodgers celebrate their first World Series sweep — a stunning four-game triumph against the New York Yankees in 1963.

Copyright © Los Angeles Dodgers, Inc.

As one whose mind was always active, even to the point that he could not sleep but a few hours at night, O’Malley had an idea to enhance the usage of Dodger Stadium, which he felt was underutilized at 81 home games a year. In December 1963, O’Malley wrote a letter to old acquaintance R. Buckminster Fuller in New York regarding the possibility of designing a geodesic dome at Dodger Stadium that would start at the skin of the infield extending to behind home plate on the Reserved Level. The design would enable hockey and basketball games to be played at Dodger Stadium with 20,000 covered seats. Fuller wrote O’Malley a reply letter stating that a 100% demountable dome was completely feasible. Letters from O’Malley to R. Buckminster Fuller and Fuller to Walter O’Malley, December 1963  The brainstorming idea, however, was not pursued.