Green Thumb and More
“Growing orchids is much easier than running a ballclub.”
So stated Walter O’Malley who spent a great amount of time in his greenhouses, first in Amityville, NY and later at his Hancock Park residence in Los Angeles.
Giving him an opportunity to relax and shed the headaches of the work week, O’Malley and his wife Kay both were active in cultivating orchids, many of them exotic varieties. Kay was involved with gardening groups in New York, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She was the one who first ordered a 16-foot long greenhouse for their yard in 1950. O’Malley got up early, spent 30 minutes each morning, starting at 7:15, to work in the greenhouse located on the south side of his house on Great South Bay, which included a “wide variety of 350 plants from all over the world.”
After the first public mention of the Dodger President’s green thumb and fondness for cultivating orchids, he acknowledged that his baseball family would tease him. “I’m in for some ribbing. It’s been a pretty well-kept secret up to now,” he said.
Nevertheless, it was quality time spent with Kay, as they shared the hobby and responsibilities of a successful greenhouse. Kay showed and catalogued the orchids, while O’Malley transplanted and re-potted them.
For his 50th birthday on October 9, 1953, the First Lady of the Dodgers presented her husband with a new 32-foot long greenhouse. He even added a telephone to the location so he wouldn’t have to run back to the main house to catch a call.
They later set up a greenhouse at their home in Los Angeles and continued their love of growing plants.
O’Malley liked to kid that unlike ballplayers “not a single plant will expect a salary check!”
Source: Mary O’Flaherty, Sunday News, Kings Section, February 14, 1954