Reference Biography: Walter O’Malley

Moving to Chairman of the Board

On March 17, 1970, 32-year-old Peter succeeded him as Dodger President and the elder statesman moved gracefully to the background as Chairman of the Board. It was an important move that would set the tone for the organization for many years to come and strengthen the Dodgers’ family atmosphere as the sceptre was symbolically passed. Peter, though free to run the day-to-day business, still had his father’s voice and opinions to lean on for more than nine years.

Walter O’Malley, left, and Casey Stengel, former Dodger player and manager, are at the Dodger Old Timers’ Day luncheon on August 23, 1975 at the Stadium Club at Dodger Stadium. Stengel played for the Dodgers in 1912-17 and was manager from 1934-36. In 1966, the colorful Casey was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

AP Photo

In preparing Peter to succeed him as Dodger President, O’Malley remarked, “He’s been given difficult jobs deliberately. If you want to make silver strong you beat it with a hammer.” Akron Beacon-Journal, August 10, 1979

Walter O’Malley’s business card as the Dodgers’ Chairman of the Board.

The younger O’Malley made his father most proud and achieved a tremendous amount on the international scene. Although O’Malley never saw it to fruition, Peter gave baseball impetus to become a gold medal sport in the Olympics by arranging and hosting an eight-team 1984 exhibition tournament at Dodger Stadium before sellout crowds.

In 1972, O’Malley advanced Dodgertown to new heights, constructing state-of-the-art accommodations to replace the old Naval barracks, which were eventually torn down. In addition, improvements at the spring training home included a new 23,000-square foot building housing clubhouses, dining room, medical offices, working press room, radio studio, photo darkroom and equipment storage areas in 1974.

O’Malley, an avid reader of light and heavier books and a renowned poker player, was always one to have a good time. The jovial O’Malley knew all of his employees by name and would frequently walk up and down the halls of the executive offices at Dodger Stadium making small talk and greeting them with a smile or a joke.

Walter O’Malley always enjoyed playing poker, especially at the team’s spring training headquarters in Vero Beach, FL.

His St. Patrick’s Day parties at Dodgertown were legendary. They were jammed-packed with entertainment, food and drink (corned beef and cabbage and green beer), plus a comedy sketch or two put on by employees of the ballclub. At one such memorable evening, Messers Campanis, Patterson and Lasorda went “on stage” dressed with large barrels around their waists and danced to the Irish music. It was a time for laughter and frivolity, but always presented in the manner that Walter O’Malley did everything — first class. Umpires, league presidents, Players’ Union Chief Marvin Miller, former players and even the Baseball Commissioner himself were guests at the famed O’Malley St. Patrick’s Day shindigs. No one would have missed it for the world. O’Malley knew how to throw one terrific party and acted as the perfect host! But, surrounded by his many friends and family, the man who undoubtedly enjoyed the wing-dings the most was O’Malley himself. The true gentleman was most proud of his Irish heritage and had a famous saying that has been repeated in many articles about him. O’Malley was fond of kidding, “Half the lies they tell about the Irish aren’t true!”

Walter and Kay O’Malley were hosts of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parties at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida.

O’Malley also used to take the players’ wives and special invited VIP guests on exotic excursions from Dodgertown. He would fly a whole group to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Mexico City for magical fun, picking up the entire tab, of course. Big-hearted and family-oriented, these delightful annual junkets were highlights that Dodger family members talk about to this day.