Stadium Beautification Program
The 1962 Dodgers were exciting on the field as Tommy Davis won the first of two consecutive National League batting titles, and his 153 RBI remains a single-season franchise record. Drysdale won 25 games and the Cy Young Award while Wills stole a record 104 bases en route to Most Valuable Player honors.
The pennant race, though, caused problems for the Dodgers’ original practice of selling tokens instead of paper tickets for admission to the pavilions. Problems began when fans bought extra coins to insure against a future sold-out game, such as the San Francisco Giants series in mid-September, only to find early birds could buy coins on a particular day, leaving those with pre-purchased slugs on the outside. Another issue was the use of the stadium’s two elevators, which were never designed to accommodate 50,000 people. O’Malley promised a new parking plan to eliminate the reliance of elevators.
The Dodgers won 101 games during the regular season, but dropped a three-game playoff to San Francisco. The third and deciding game on October 3 provided the first Dodger Stadium heartbreak as the Giants rallied for four runs in the top of the ninth inning for a 6-4 victory.
Undaunted, O’Malley turned his sorrow to the soil. A $1.5 million beautification program, originally slated as a five-year project, was packed into one offseason. The bare hills in the back of the stadium were covered with the golden California poppy, along with a solid sea of blue and purple flowers. Palms and eucalyptus worth more than $104,000 were planted in the area fronting the ballpark. The hills in the background were laced with pipe for the sprinkler system. Poppy seed, containing its own fertilizer and hormones, was shot in with a gun.
To his season ticket customers, O’Malley sent a handkerchief with the Dodger logo and a promise: “We won’t blow it next year.” The Dodgers would win the World Series in 1963 with a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees, but an even bigger picture remained on O’Malley’s mind heading into the winter of 1962.
“Everything will be in bloom by June,” he predicted. “The setting will not be just beautiful, but dramatically beautiful so that people will come out raving.”Los Angeles Times, December 9, 1962
Mark Langill is team historian for the Los Angeles Dodgers. His 128-page book “Dodger Stadium” was recently released by Arcadia Publishing.