Timeline of Baseball's Historic Expansion to the West Coast



January 13, 1959

The California State Supreme Court votes unanimously (7-0) to uphold the contract between the City of Los Angeles and the Dodgers, reversing the lower court’s decision. A joyous Walter O’Malley said that day, “I pledge the finest stadium any sports fan ever has entered.” Chief Justice Phil S. Gibson declared the contract valid as “serving a proper public purpose” in his written (21 page) opinion. The Court explains, “In considering whether the contract made by the city has a proper purpose, we must view the contract as a whole, and the fact that some of the provisions may be of benefit only to the baseball club is immaterial, provided the city receives benefits which serve legitimate public purposes.” The Court went on to say that “the transfer of Wrigley Field, along with the twenty years of recreational facilities the Dodgers would provide at Chavez Ravine, is obviously for public purposes.”

June 3, 1959

In the office of Los Angeles City Council President and Acting Mayor John S. Gibson, Jr., Walter O’Malley signs the official contract with the City of Los Angeles and the Dodgers. The agreement calls for O’Malley to privately finance, build, pay taxes on and maintain Dodger Stadium, along with transferring Wrigley Field in L.A., valued at $2.25 million to the city. In exchange, the land at Chavez Ravine, valued at $2.2 million would be available to the Dodgers, who would also provide a 40-plus acre recreational area for 20 years (they were to set aside $500,000 and pay $60,000 a year to support such activities for youth). In his 1959 daily reminder book, O’Malley noted, “Anniversary of June 3rd 1958 Referendum!” Gibson says at the signing ceremony, “Anything worth having is worth waiting for. I am signing it as Acting Mayor because Mayor (Norris) Poulson is in Washington, D.C. on official Business on behalf of the City. Both of us have thought all along that this was a good contract and the California State Supreme Court, which upheld it, apparently thought so too...This contract-signing will help speed the day when Mr. O’Malley can begin work on the modern stadium that he plans for the Dodgers in the Chavez Ravine area.”

September 17, 1959

After numerous delays and legal challenges, a crowd of 5,000 attends groundbreaking ceremonies for Dodger Stadium, as Walter O’Malley; his son Peter; L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn and Hahn’s young son Jim (elected Mayor of L.A. in June 2001); L.A. City Councilman Gordon Hahn; Jack Yount of Vinnell Constructors; C. Don “Arch” Field, L.A. City Department of Public Works; Jack Vinnell of Vinnell Constructors; and Dodger Asst. to Executive Vice President and General Manager Dick Walsh are among the participants. O’Malley’s wife Kay, his son-in-law Roland Seidler Jr. and mother and father-in-law Peter and Elizabeth Hanson are also present, along with Stadium designer Capt. Emil Praeger. Dodger players took their positions on a mocked up diamond, but were quickly swarmed by autograph seekers. At exactly 2:20 p.m., five bulldozers and five scrapers began the leveling and grading process. A small booklet featuring an architectural model of Dodger Stadium on the cover and a 1959 Dodger team photo on the inside welcomed all guests this way: “Commemorating the Ground-Breaking Ceremonies for the new Dodger Stadium at Chavez Ravine September 17, 1959...........AND YOU WERE THERE.” Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully served as the event’s master of ceremonies and small boxes were made available to guests in order to collect memorabilia of earth from the site.

October 19, 1959

The United States Supreme Court denies an appeal request and dismisses the case trying to block the City of Los Angeles from entering into its previously approved contract with the Dodgers for land at the Chavez Ravine location. With this last legal hurdle cleared, Walter O’Malley proceeds with privately building Dodger Stadium. O’Malley states in a press release, “We trust the decision will remove any further political delays so that we may proceed to build the beautiful Los Angeles Dodger Stadium and recreation area. I look forward to a spirit of cooperation and understanding among all public officials that will permit us to complete the Stadium at the earliest possible date next fall. I wish to give our sincere thanks to the voters and public officials of the City and County of Los Angeles who have supported the Dodger contract. The decision re-affirms, and again vindicates, their judgment. I do hope there will be an end to further dilatory tactics.” O’Malley also said he hoped to make arrangements to secure a fair lease with the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission to continue to play home games in the Coliseum until the new stadium opens.


December 6, 1960

At the American League expansion meetings in St. Louis, the Los Angeles Angels are awarded to Gene Autry, Robert O. Reynolds and Paul A. O’Bryan and associates. The Angels play their first regular season game on April 11, 1961. During the 1961 season, the Angels played their home games at Wrigley Field, which had been transferred to the City of Los Angeles as part of the 1957 agreement with Walter O’Malley. The Angels shared Dodger Stadium for four seasons of home games in 1962-65.


April 10, 1962

Walter O’Malley’s dream ballpark, Dodger Stadium, opens to rave reviews and vast fan acceptance. O’Malley’s wife Kay throws the ceremonial first pitch — an autographed Dodger team ball — from seats above the Dodger dugout, while Latin diva Alma Pedroza sings the national anthem. With seating for 56,000 fans and parking for 16,000 automobiles, six-level Dodger Stadium is the first privately-financed ballpark since Yankee Stadium was built in 1923. O’Malley spent $23 million building Dodger Stadium including construction, roads and land acquisition. The Dodgers lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 6-3. Dearie Mulvey, stockholder of the Dodgers, witnesses the first game in Dodger Stadium and is the only person in the crowd of 52,564 to have seen the home opener there and at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field in 1913.


December 2, 1967

The American League grants Pacific Northwest Sports, Inc. a franchise in Seattle during Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Mexico City. The team is set to begin play in 1969. Public approval was given for funds to build a dome stadium, scheduled for completion prior to the 1972 season. The Seattle “Pilots” make their debut on April 8, 1969 at California. On April 1, 1970, the Pilots are acquired by the “Milwaukee Brewers, Inc.” organization and move to Milwaukee to play in County Stadium. Plans to build a dome stadium in Seattle are temporarily interrupted.


April 17, 1968

The Oakland Athletics make their home debut in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on this date, after owner Charles O. Finley moved the franchise from Kansas City, their home from 1955-67.

May 27, 1968

San Diego is granted a National League expansion franchise during the Major League Baseball owners’ meetings in Chicago. On April 8, 1969, the San Diego Padres make their debut at San Diego Stadium.


February 6, 1976

A partnership including Stanley Golub, Danny Kaye, Walter Schoenfeld, Lester Smith, James Stillwell Jr. and James A. Walsh, enter into a formal agreement with the American League to expand back to Seattle in 1977. Major League Baseball returned to the Pacific Northwest as the Mariners played the California Angels at the Kingdome before 57,762 fans on April 6, 1977.


March 9, 1995

At the MLB owners’ meetings at West Palm Beach, Florida, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays were named the 29th and 30th teams in Major League Baseball. The Diamondbacks played their first game on March 31, 1998. With the addition of Arizona, 10 Major League teams, or one-third of all teams, play west of Kansas City (Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Rockies, Astros, Diamondbacks, Angels, Mariners, Athletics and Rangers), where 41 years earlier none did.


September 27, 2004

Sports Illustrated ranks “The 20 Great Tipping Points — many of the most important events in sports over the past 50 years happened far from any field or arena.” According to SI, the “Dodgers leave Brooklyn” is ranked at number 2.

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