Spring’s Eternal at Dodgertown

The Sporting News list of 100 Most Powerful People in Sports for the 20th Century, December 1999

  1. Pete Rozelle
  2. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis
  3. Roone Arledge
  4. Branch Rickey
  5. Marvin Miller
  6. David Stern
  7. Rupert Murdoch
  8. Avery Brundage
  9. Ban Johnson
  10. Muhammad Ali
  11. Walter O’Malley
  12. Steve Borstein
  13. Phil Knight
  14. George Halas
  15. Babe Ruth
  16. Walter Byers
  17. Lamar Hunt
  18. Ted Turner
  19. Paul Brown
  20. Michael Jordan
  21. Jackie Robinson
  22. Pierre De Coubertin
  23. Juan Antonio Samaranch
  24. Donald Fehr
  25. Tex Rickard
  26. Roy Hofheinz
  27. Horst Dassler
  28. Red Auerbach
  29. Bill France Sr.
  30. Arnold Palmer
  31. Al Davis
  32. Birch Bayh
  33. Billie Jean King
  34. Paul Tagliabue
  35. Charlie Finley
  36. Clarence Campbell
  37. George Steinbrenner
  38. Peter Ueberroth
  39. Bert Bell
  40. Jacob Ruppert
  41. Dick Ebersol
  42. Mark McCormack
  43. Al Neuharth
  44. Tex Schramm
  45. Bill Veeck
  46. Arthur Ashe
  47. Howard Cosell
  48. Fathers Theodore Hesburgh and William Beauchamp
  49. Don King
  50. Connie Mack
  1. David Falk
  2. John Wooden
  3. Andre Laguerre
  4. August Busch Jr.
  5. Peter Seitz
  6. Roger Penske
  7. Wilt Chamberlain
  8. Jack Nicklaus
  9. Bill France Jr.
  10. Bowie Kuhn
  11. George Preston Marshall
  12. Ed Barrow
  13. Abe Saperstein
  14. John McGraw
  15. Larry MacPhail
  16. Dick Schultz
  17. Gary Bettman
  18. Adolph Rupp
  19. Walter Brown
  20. Jesse Owens
  21. Deane Beman
  22. Phog Allen
  23. Wellington Mara
  24. Charles Comiskey
  25. Eddie Robinson
  26. Knute Rockne
  27. Arch Ward
  28. Jerry Jones
  29. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
  30. Bobby Orr
  31. Art Rooney
  32. Alan Eagleson
  33. Pele
  34. Bud Selig
  35. Tommie Smith and John Carlos
  36. Pat Summit
  37. Laurence Tisch
  38. Bobby Jones
  39. Tiger Woods
  40. Leigh Steinberg
  41. Henry Iba
  42. Bill Bowerman
  43. Anatoli Tarasov
  44. Albert “Happy” Chandler
  45. “The Voices of Baseball” — Mel Allen, Red Barber, Vin Scully, Harry Caray, Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell,Bob Prince, Etc.
  46. Sonny Werblin
  47. Ed and Steve Sabol
  48. J.G. Taylor Spink and C.C. Johnson Spink
  49. Wayne Gretzky
  50. The Famous Chicken

ABC Sports ranks the Top Ten Most Influential People "off the field" in sports history as voted by the Sports Century panel in December, 1999

  1. Branch Rickey
  2. Pete Rozelle
  3. Roone Arledge
  4. Marvin Miller
  5. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis
  6. David Stern
  7. Avery Brundage
  8. Walter O’Malley
  9. George Halas
  10. Mark McCormack

Attendance 1953-1957 Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Milwaukee Braves

Attendance 1953-1957 Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Milwaukee Braves

In 1952-53, O’Malley began to transform Dodgertown into his vision as the finest spring training site in baseball. His first step was to build a stadium with fan-friendly amenities for the loyal Vero Beach following. On March 7, 1952, O’Malley announced at a press conference in Miami that there was “a strong possibility that the Brooklyn Dodgers will build the proposed new 5,000-seat stadium in Vero Beach.”Bob Curzon, The Vero Beach Press-Journal, Sports, March 13, 1952 O’Malley noted that respected Capt. Praeger, who was consulting engineer on the United Nations building in 1953 and the White House renovation in 1949, had spent several days in Vero Beach and submitted construction cost estimates.

O’Malley wrote a letter to Holman on May 15, 1952 stating in part, “As you know, it is my intention to demonstrate, in a practical way, that the Dodgers are permanently interested in Vero Beach and in that direction we propose to build a beautiful concrete stadium seating 4200. Such a stadium will have great value to the City of Vero Beach as well as to the Dodgers.

“You will note from the plans that the new stadium lends itself to 4200 desirable seats in the event that football games are to be played there. Temporary bleachers can also be erected on the open side of the field which I am told, can accommodate 2500 people. Should some regional or especially important football games develop, the Dodgers would be willing to have the new stadium used for that purpose on a rental basis of 25 cents per paid admission plus the actual cost of converting the field from baseball to football conditions and the return of the field to baseball conditions...I have tried to make the rental as low per seat as possible but still commensurate with the substantial investment that we will have.

“You will understand that a good many people will question our wisdom in spending this amount of money in a spring training stadium, particularly when it is normally one of the inducements that the different cities offer the various ball clubs to train there. I justify the investment, not on the immediate future but on a long range forecast. I believe that Vero Beach will develop a greater interest in baseball than has been shown so far. You are familiar with the attendance figures for the two major league exhibition games we played this year. That attendance, obviously, is not an attraction to other clubs to book games with us at Vero Beach but there is a possibility with a new stadium and greater public support we can justify the playing of many more of our spring exhibition games at our winter home in Vero Beach.”

Also that month, O’Malley wrote to executive Wid C. Matthews of the Chicago Cubs regarding the possibility of sharing a spring training site, today a common practice, in Vero Beach. The Cubs had just moved camp to Mesa, AZ, after seven years at Catalina Island, CA, in 1952. “We believe that two organizations could train in the same town if we had separate fields and eating and sleeping quarters,” O’Malley wrote on May 5, 1952. “We would not be too much concerned about the problem of fraternizing. I have in mind we would give you a 21 year sub-lease or we might arrange to surrender those premises and have the new lease made out directly to your organization. You know from the general location that there is ample room for you to expand, should you wish.”Letter by O’Malley to Wid C. Matthews, May 5, 1952

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  • Bud Holman (left) bends down and checks the soil as Walter O’Malley and noted designer Capt. Emil Praeger review a possible site for a new stadium at Dodgertown.Bud Holman (left) bends down and checks the soil as Walter O’Malley and noted designer Capt. Emil Praeger review a possible site for a new stadium at Dodgertown.
  • A model of Holman Stadium, which was built in a unique and cost-efficient manner, as the dirt was pushed up to form a bowl and an embankment, a signature part of the ballpark’s setting.A model of Holman Stadium, which was built in a unique and cost-efficient manner, as the dirt was pushed up to form a bowl and an embankment, a signature part of the ballpark’s setting.