Reference Biography: Walter O’Malley

Growing the Game Internationally

The Dodgers made a return trip to Japan for a goodwill tour beginning with their arrival on October 20, following the four-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles in the 1966 World Series. It was hailed as another successful trip for international relations, as Japanese fans flocked to the ballparks to watch the much-heralded and respected Dodgers, although they wound up with a 9-8-1 record on the barnstorming tour. O’Malley received the high honor for a non-Japanese, the Order of the Sacred Treasure Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon award, as conferred by Emperor Hirohito, for promoting better relations with Japan through baseball. The presentation ceremony for O’Malley was held on November 15, 1966 at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo as he was decorated by Kiyosi Mori, director general for Prime Minister Eisaku Sato.

On the trip, Dodger shortstop Maury Wills told O’Malley that he needed to fly home for treatment of a knee injury. However, O’Malley later learned that Wills had gone to Hawaii and was playing the banjo in a well-known nightclub and had not returned to Los Angeles. Wills was subsequently traded by the Dodgers, but would later return to play for them in 1969-72.

Walter O’Malley wears the Third Class Order of the Sacred Treasure Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon award presented to him by the government of Japan, as conferred by Emperor Hirohito, for promoting friendly relations with Japan through baseball. The presentation was held on Nov. 15, 1966 at the Prime Minister’s office while the Dodgers were concluding their second Goodwill Tour to Japan in a decade under O’Malley.

The Dodgers’ international involvement was widespread, as the team staffed nearly entire teams in the Winter Leagues in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico, sent scouts to search for talent around the globe and conducted educational exchanges. They invited representatives from many countries to study and learn about coaching and training techniques at Dodgertown. As early as 1964, the Dodgers made a trip to Mexico City to play exhibition games against the Red Devils. Mexico’s President Adolfo Lopez Mateos was in attendance and tossed the ceremonial first pitch. O’Malley had developed and maintained excellent relations with countless baseball leaders in Japan, including Matsutaro Shoriki, known as “the father of professional baseball in Japan”; his son Toru; Japan Baseball Hall of Fame sports columnist and international ambassador Sotaro Suzuki; all-time home run leader Sadaharu Oh; and Tokyo Yomiuri Giants’ Managers Shigeru Mizuhara, Tetsuharu Kawakami, and Shigeo Nagashima, all Japan Baseball Hall of Famers.

Walter O’Malley dons a sombrero during the Dodgers’ 1964 exhibition series in Mexico City.

AP Photo

In 1951, a 23-year-old fan named Alistair Forbes from Aberdeen, Scotland wrote O’Malley a letter asking for an autographed Dodger Yearbook. The Dodgers sent him a book of rules and a baseball cap. The grain store employee wrote another letter in 1952 for a yearbook. While many team presidents would gladly oblige, O’Malley took the request to a completely new level, realizing he had a true fan in Forbes, who used to listen to broadcasts in Europe via Armed Forces Network. O’Malley flew Forbes from Scotland to New York so he could personally get the autographs he sought and be the club’s guest for a week’s worth of games at Ebbets Field. Murray Robinson, New York World-Telegram, June 9, 1952; Milton Gross, The Artful O’Malley and the Dodgers, True, May 1954

Sandy Koufax announces his retirement following the 1966 season, ending the Hall of Fame pitcher’s career at age 31.

© Bettman/Corbis

August 31, 1959 (L-R) Jerry Doggett, Dodger broadcaster; Wally Moon; Sandy Koufax; Vin Scully, Dodger broadcaster. There are smiles are all around on this night as the Dodgers defeat the San Francisco Giants, 5-2 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Koufax pitches a complete game and ties a major league record of 18 strikeouts in a nine inning game. Koufax fanned seven of the last eight outs to tie the record. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Wally Moon hit a “Moon Shot” a home run to the opposite field, for three runs and the win and Moon appears on the post-game show with Koufax.

Following the 1966 season, Koufax announced at a press conference that he was retiring from baseball due to an arthritic elbow. That was the first blow to the success of the Dodgers in the late 1960s and it would take them a while to recover. However, with the most successful first-year player draft ever in 1968, it wouldn’t be long until the Dodgers rebounded with some fresh, young talent that emerged as pennant contenders in the early 1970s. The 1968 draft included Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Joe Ferguson, Bill Buckner, Bobby Valentine, Tom Paciorek and Geoff Zahn, among others.

Campanis, who had been Dodger Director of Scouting for many years, was named Vice President, Player Personnel in December 1968, a position he would hold until 1987. During that time, the Dodgers would win six N.L. Western Division titles, four N.L. Pennants (1974, 1977, 1978 and 1981) and a World Championship in 1981.

Peter and Walter O’Malley at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966.

Grooming his only son as his ultimate replacement for the presidency of the Dodgers, O’Malley took Peter under his wing and taught him every facet of the baseball business, including as a camp counselor for the Dodgertown Camp For Boys in its initial year of 1954. He later was named as Director of Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL.; President and General Manager of the Spokane Indians Triple-A team; Dodger Vice President, Stadium Operations; and Dodger Executive Vice President.  Through these valuable learning experiences, plus his own outstanding education at the University of Pennsylvania, Peter O’Malley emerged not just from his father’s footsteps, but as a true leader and innovator in his own right. He did more for the development of baseball on a global scale than any other team owner, building fields, arranging for goodwill exchanges of teams, coaches and officials in Asia, Mexico, South America, Australia and Europe. Peter O’Malley continued to guide the Dodgers in a first-class manner, as his father did before him, and one recognized and honored for excellence in business.