The Political Game - Part 2
In his response on September 10, O’Malley answered DiLeonardo’s charges: “A reading of your letter would indicate to me that you are not aware of the facts. I have not heard anyone suggest a loss of $5,000,000 in tax revenue. Where did you get that figure? I appreciate that you were not in favor of the Brooklyn Sports Stadium bill at the time when it came up for consideration in Albany. Approximately, ten years ago the site you now mention was given serious consideration by us but the cost of building over railroad yards proved to be in excess of our budget. The other point mentioned in your letter has to do with enlarging our present stadium. This too, has had considerable engineering attention and was abandoned for very practical reasons. Tell me frankly, Assemblyman, if the Sports Center were to be built in Queens instead of Brooklyn would your objections be the same?”
O’Malley had sold the Montreal Stadium in Canada on June 21, 1956 where the Triple-A Royals Dodger farm club played. On October 30, 1956, O’Malley made a much larger splash, selling Ebbets Field for $3 million to developer Marvin Kratter, who arranged to lease the aging stadium back to the Brooklyn Ball Club for five years. Kratter, who assigned the lease to Tillie Feldman for one dollar a year, even agreed to lease the property longer than that, if necessary, while O’Malley was building a new ballpark in Brooklyn. According to the New York Times, “The actual sale took place in mid-January of 1957 when title passed to Tillie Feldman, a little old lady in a small Brooklyn flat, who holds some $11,000,000 worth of mortgages in New York. She paid the Dodgers $100 and gave back the mortgage for $2,700,000 at no interest. Then she sold her holdings to Kratter and associates at a $90 loss. The Congressional Record uses sixty pages to accommodate transcripts of the papers in this real estate deal.”Arthur Daley, New York Times, December 10, 1957
The sale of Ebbets Field also enabled O’Malley to prepare for the financing of a new stadium, as he previously put all net proceeds back into the Dodger organization (drawing a salary of $50,000 per year), in order to possibly acquire land in Brooklyn, something he had hoped to do for nearly a decade with no success. It also established a ballpark timetable for O’Malley so that he would not drift forever in a sea of uncertainty. His heart told him to stay, but his head was telling him to look elsewhere.
The Dodgers made their final trip to the World Series while in Brooklyn in 1956. It was one of their finest team efforts; however, they once again fell to the Yankees, managed by the inimitable Casey Stengel. President Dwight D. Eisenhower got the Series festivities off on the right foot by attending Game One at Ebbets Field on October 3. Seated next to O’Malley, President Eisenhower stood and tossed the ceremonial first pitch from the stands in a game won by the Dodgers, 6-3. The Dodgers won the second game, as well, but then lost three straight games at Yankee Stadium, including the only perfect game in World Series history thrown by New York’s Don Larsen. The Dodgers evened the Series at three games apiece with a 1-0, 10-inning victory back at Ebbets Field, but were never in the last game losing 9-0 on October 10 on their home turf.
At the World Series of 1956, a young Los Angeles County Supervisor named Kenneth Hahn wanted to explore the possibility of bringing a major league team to the city of Angels. Hahn was to pursue the last-place team in the American League, the Washington Senators and make every effort to get their owner Calvin Griffith to commit, as they met at New York’s famed Toots Shor restaurant. He had traveled to New York along with John R. Leach, Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Administrative Officer and Los Angeles Examiner sports columnist Vincent X. Flaherty, who repeatedly was banging the drum to bring Major League Baseball to Los Angeles in his writings.
Flaherty had written to O’Malley in Brooklyn as early as October 20, 1953 in an effort to convince him that Los Angeles was the best place for the Dodgers. In that letter, Flaherty wanted O’Malley to meet with the Los Angeles Citizen’s Committee for major league baseball. The impressive committee members included Chairman Conrad Hilton, along with Leonard Firestone, Howard Hughes, Edwin W. Pauley, Gregson Bautzer, Louis B. Mayer and Reese Taylor (President of Union Oil). His letter continued, “I have said privately among them that it might be a good idea to try and get the Dodgers, even though it might be impossible. So even if it is impossible, this idea, would you come here anyway and listen to a couple of propositions?” Flaherty concludes by informing O’Malley that “the clamor has picked up astonishingly here within the past couple of years…There is no doubt whatever that the best and biggest franchise in baseball will materialize right here.”Vincent X. Flaherty letter to O’Malley, October 20, 1953
A note from Flaherty delivered to O’Malley during a 1956 World Series game from Dodger executive Arthur E. “Red” Patterson read, “Dear Walter, Supervisor Kenneth Hahn is here from Los Angeles. As things stand, he has the Washington franchise…Hahn is authorized to offer you immediate playing facilities for next April.
- Los Angeles will build finest park in world and will give you all concessions.
- LA will pay for all maintenance.
- All LA wants is the right to parking concessions which will hold 20,000 cars.
If Hahn can get Dodgers he will not take Washington.
Will you meet him after game?
P.S. LA also will buy out Wrigley. Know this is a hell of a time to bother you but
I must do this before any deal is closed with Washington.”
One of Supervisor Hahn’s business cards was attached with the note and his seat location Section 5, Row T, Seat 10 was jotted down, as well.
O’Malley wrote on the note and returned it to Patterson to tell Flaherty, “Not interested as our Brooklyn Stadium matter is progressing satisfactorily. Will be at Yankee Headquarters tonite. WFOM”
Still focused on completing an agreement to build a Dodger stadium in Brooklyn, O’Malley did, however, consent to meet with Supervisor Hahn briefly on a stopover in Los Angeles, as the Dodgers were embarking on their goodwill trip to Japan. The wheels of change had been set in motion at that moment. Aptly, as he was exploring new territory, on October 12, Columbus Day, the Dodger President listened to Hahn and other officials in Los Angeles.
The incredible Dodger tour of Japan to play 19 games was an important step in the continuing growth of global baseball and for furthering international relations. It certainly was not the first time that a major league team or players had visited the Land of the Rising Sun. But, it was an important visit, encouraged by the State Department, coming only a decade after the conclusion of a dramatic and bitter ending to World War II, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Dodgers were at the height of their popularity after beating the Yankees in 1955.
Under O’Malley’s guidance, the Dodger organization fostered friendly relationships with people from all over the globe. In fact, at 17 years of age, King Faisal II of Iraq was a visitor to Ebbets Field on August 13, 1952. He sat in O’Malley’s box and enjoyed watching his first baseball game between the Dodgers and the New York Giants. After winning the 1955 World Series, O’Malley thanked His Majesty King Faisal II for his cablegram of congratulations and commented in his letter, “One of our biggest thrills in winning our first World Championship was the knowledge we brought joy to so many of our friends all around the world as evidenced in letters from twenty-six countries.”Walter O’Malley letter to His Majesty King Faisal II, Iraq, December 2, 1955
O’Malley believed that a “true” World Series could be achieved and he felt that the game of baseball brought nations closer together, thus its global expansion was critical to overall unification and potentially peaceable relations.
The Dodgers played in Tokyo against the Yomiuri Giants and enjoyed success on their trip, visiting wonderful sites and meeting many officials. O’Malley and Matsutaro Shoriki, the “father” of professional baseball in Japan and the founder of the Giants in 1934, became good friends. An exclusive group of Dodgers were permitted to make a trip to Hiroshima. The Dodger organization presented a commemorative plaque on November 1, 1956 which read: “1955 World Champions and 1956 National League Champions Brooklyn Dodgers in Japan WE DEDICATE THIS VISIT IN MEMORY OF THOSE BASEBALL FANS AND OTHERS WHO HERE DIED BY ATOMIC ACTION ON AUG. 6, 1945. MAY THEIR SOULS REST IN PEACE AND WITH GOD’S HELP AND MAN’S RESOLUTION PEACE WILL PREVAIL FOREVER, AMEN. The plaque’s inscription included the words Brooklyn National League Baseball Club, followed by the names Walter F. O’Malley, President; Walter Alston, Manager; Pee Wee Reese, Captain; Fresco Thompson, Vice-President; Bud Holman, Director; Sylvan Oestreicher, Director; Harry Hickey, Treasurer; Richard Walsh, Road Secretary.
The Dodgers went 14-4-1 on the trip. While the long trip from New York to Hawaii, to Wake Island to Tokyo, Japan tired Dodger players, who had just completed a grueling season and World Series, it was nevertheless an honor to represent the country on a goodwill tour.
When O’Malley returned from his around-the-world family trip with Kay, Terry, Peter and family friend Bud Holman in November 1956, he found that no progress on the stadium issue was being made. In December 1956, when O’Malley learned that the Sports Center Authority was to receive only a small amount of the requested budget from the Board of Estimate, he was very disappointed. “I understand Mylod and Blum have been on the verge of resigning,” O’Malley wrote in a letter dated December 6, 1956 to Peter Campbell Brown, Corporation Counsel for the City of New York. “If there is anything I can do without muddying the waters and adding to the confusion, let me know.”
O’Malley wrote Brooklyn Borough President Cashmore on December 7, 1956, “...let’s be patient a little longer and if things do not seem to be working out we will have to be practical and reluctantly go elsewhere.”
In later testimony to the Study of Anti-Trust Laws Special Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives, O’Malley remarked, “...when the Sports Center Authority went in for a budget so they could have their studies made in keeping with the time table which Mr. Moses had carefully prepared, that Mr. (Abe) Stark at that time showed dissent in the matter and he said, ‘What Brooklyn needs more than a new stadium are two legitimate theaters and an opera house.’ Well, that one really threw me because here was Abe, my pal, he has a sign right out in the middle of Ebbets Field on the score board. I let him have Ebbets Field each year for Music under the Stars for the benefit of the Israeli Institutions. I said, ‘Abe, you know I tried to get you in to see me to show you the model and all, but I understand you are busy with other very important civic matters.’ Now, he is a swell little fellow but he doesn’t know what this is all about. He still thinks that the city is supposed under this plan to be subsidizing the Dodgers.”Official Verbatim Transcript of Hearings Before Special Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives in Connection With Its Study of The Anti-Trust Laws, June 26, 1957