Short Stops

Chad McClellan

The date is September 9, 1957 and the president and principal owner of the Old Colony Paint Company, Harold McClellan, better known as Chad, is waiting in the Denver airport waiting to return to Los Angeles from a business trip. There, he writes a document to Walter O’Malley that as much as anything helped to bring the Dodgers to Los Angeles.

Note from Los Angeles negotiator Chad McClellan to Walter O’Malley on September 9, 1957.

The city of Los Angeles was eager to have a major league baseball team. However, the city officials knew the best thing to do was to have an independent, prominent, successful businessman negotiate with O’Malley and the Dodger organization. As McClellan put it, “As official negotiator for the city in this matter I was party to these commitments (negotiations with the Dodgers). I know why they were made. I was there. The citizens of this community are entitled to know the whole truth. I didn’t volunteer for the negotiating job. Our then Mayor Norris Poulson phoned me early in July, 1957 from Baker, Oregon where he (Poulson) was vacationing and (Poulson) said ‘Don’t say a word till you have heard me out.’ He (Poulson) described the desirability of obtaining a major league club, told me the Brooklyn Dodgers might be obtainable and said that he (Poulson) had been authorized to ask my services in the matter on behalf of city and county.” Chad McClellan, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1963

McClellan was exactly who the city of Los Angeles needed to best negotiate a contract with the Dodgers. “No one could describe me as a baseball fan,” said McClellan. “I had seen only one major league game in my life—that was 10 years earlier. In thinking about the idea, it was not clear to me whether or not this community wanted major league baseball—or whether for that matter, the community would benefit, if the effort were successfully undertaken. During the days permitted me to accept, I talked with numerous community leaders about the subject, not sport fans particularly but college presidents, businessmen, civic minded leaders in various categories. Without exception, the responses were favorable and mostly enthusiastic, provided we sought a top club.” Chad McClellan, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1963

The businessman, who served three years as the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs for the Eisenhower Administration, did his homework before the negotiations with O’Malley started and he received his marching orders from the city of Los Angeles. McClellan was given a memorandum written by city attorney Roger Arnebergh that “I (McClellan) was asked to negotiate if I could, a meeting of minds somewhere within the general terms outlined in the memorandum, keeping in mind there must be a business-like basis for any agreement reached with the Dodgers.” Chad McClellan, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1963

The memorandum possessed by McClellan permitted the city to exchange land and build access roads with the Dodgers, but required the Dodgers to pay property tax for the land received, to construct and maintain the ballpark by the Dodgers, to exchange Wrigley Field to the city, and finally, to make available a recreation area for the citizens of Los Angeles.

McClellan realized how special this negotiation would be for the city. He writes, “One feature in this project as contemplated made it unique indeed. This would be the first stadium built with private risk capital since 1923 (Yankee Stadium). This would strictly be a free enterprise proposition. This concept of the project was stimulating to the business community, to say the least.” Chad McClellan, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1963

He started to do his homework on the negotiation in the middle of July and was criticized for his preparation. “I recall during the early days of my work, while I was still searching out the facts on such matters as acreage available in the(Chavez) Ravine area, topography, zoning problems, deed restrictions and other items, and before I felt well enough informed with solid facts to start actual negotiations, a member of the City Council took me sharply to task in a radio newscast for ‘needless delay’—promising to seek my removal as city representative if I didn’t go to New York at once and show more speed of action.” Chad McClellan, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1963

The negotiations began in the third week of August, 1957 with Walter O’Malley in Brooklyn. Before his meeting with O’Malley, McClellan described his intentions during the negotiations with the Dodgers. “I met with the city attorney, with the mayor, with the City Council, and with the individual members of the County Board of Supervisors. I explained to these officials my purposes were to serve their objectives; to negotiate a sound agreement recognizing that no business transaction is sound unless it serves to benefit all of the parties to it. I declared that in my judgment our greatest risk in this matter was not to lose the Dodgers; it was not to make any arrangement unfair either to the city and county or to the Dodgers. It was my position that any inequitable arrangement agreed upon would in the end only do injury to all concerned. This philosophy was acceptable.” Chad McClellan, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1963

Critics would later claim the city of Los Angeles had literally given O’Malley the land to build a stadium. McClellan was adamant that what was to take place was a negotiation. “The negotiations with O’Malley were not simple,” said McClellan. “He (O’Malley) wanted a lot. I made it clear from the outset that this would be no one-sided deal in his favor. I reminded him that no business proposition was sound unless it served to benefit all parties concerned. Melvin Durslag, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, August 2, 1963

A second negotiation session with Walter O’Malley was held in Rawlins, Wyoming in the first week of September, 1957. It is here that negotiations became contentious between the two parties. McClellan let O’Malley know this. “I was angry with his (O’Malley) indecisiveness,” said McClellan. “I told him that what we had offered was the best we could do.” Melvin Durslag, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, August 2, 1963

On his return from Wyoming, McClellan has a stopover in Denver, Colorado. Gathering some Trans World Airlines stationery, McClellan writes this letter to O’Malley:

“Dear Walter: I’m sorry we didn’t have more time together—perhaps we did clear up a few points. Enclosed you will find a brief outline of the alternative suggestion I offered in trying to find a practical solution. I thought you might like to have this prior to calling me Tuesday. Regards, Chad McClellan.”

After O’Malley received the letter from McClellan, the deal points became narrower. “He phoned me two days later,” said McClellan “and the final stages of the negotiation got underway.” Melvin Durslag, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, August 2, 1963

Not long after this negotiation of figures, O’Malley accepted the offer from the city of Los Angeles to play in Los Angeles and build Dodger Stadium where the Dodgers continue to play, more than 60 years later.

McClellan summarized the successful negotiation by the city and the Dodgers. “The benefits our city and county have derived defy description. Millions upon millions of dollars flow into our community yearly from payrolls, visitor purchases, hotel accommodations, restaurant patronage and general economic activity. Taxes are generated on many, many transactions aside from property assessment. Trains, planes, autos and charter buses bring visitors from far and near. Youngsters everywhere have new, wholesome recreation available—and they like it.” Chad McClellan, Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1963

Millions of fans who continue to enjoy baseball’s most beautiful stadium to this day now know it couldn’t have happened until the president of a paint company writes a letter to Walter O’Malley in the airport in Denver, Colorado!