Facing Legal Challenges
The contract would trigger legal challenges and a public referendum while the 1958 Dodgers played their first season on the West Coast at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a venue designed for football and track. At the height of the referendum debate, Los Angeles Examiner columnist Vincent X. Flaherty answered his own hypothetical question about the Dodgers’ commitment to staying in Los Angeles.
“Best way to keep the Dodgers here is to let them spend from $12 million to $15 million improving the now desolate property,” Flaherty wrote. “It will take them 22 years to pay off the debt.”
O’Malley wanted to build his ballpark without being a tenant in a municipal stadium. Others couldn’t imagine a bigger picture when O’Malley, as a member of baseball’s executive council, made a prediction in 1953 when discussing the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the “reserve clause” in baseball contracts.
“I am pleased that the integrity of baseball has been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court,” he said. “But the decision does not mean that baseball will go along with the horse and buggy days. We must clearly recognize the changing conditions and particularly the possibility of territorial expansion.”Current Biography, March 1954 issue
There were no ballparks built during the 1940s and when the National League Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee in March 1953 it was the first franchise shift in 50 years. Attendance records in Milwaukee and the emergence of the Braves as a pennant contender in the mid-1950s added pressure to O’Malley in his quest for a new ballpark.
Actor Joe E. Brown, the master of ceremonies at the Dodgers’ Opening Day 1958 festivities at the Los Angeles Coliseum, served as the general chairman of the Taxpayers Committee for Yes on Baseball, the baseball referendum measure approved by Los Angeles voters on June 3, 1958.
“A great advantage of the contract between the city and the Dodgers is that the city will exercise continuing control over Dodger plans for development of Chavez Ravine,” Brown said.Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1958
Among the early ideas from architects were special bus lanes for public transportation, a nursery for preschool-age children; a 40-acre public recreation center and a “sky terrace restaurant on the highest tier.” The Dodgers also contemplated bypassing the conventional wire screen behind home plate along the first and third base lines with plexiglass to improve visibility.
O’Malley’s original map submitted in 1959 to the City Council included what the Los Angeles Mirror described as “a myriad of commercial enterprises; auto service center, novelty and souvenir shops, restaurants, car wash centers.” The blueprints also proposed a Dodger Hall of Fame, botanic garden, a mall, drive-in ticket offices and quarters for both staff and visiting teams.