Walter O’Malley autographed baseball sells at auction for $28,096
A rare, single-signed baseball by former Dodger President Walter O’Malley sold at auction for $28,096 to an undisclosed buyer. The auction was handled by Lelands Auction House, NY and the remarkable baseball is in excellent condition.
The online auction was completed on March 23, 2018, with 34 bids recorded to reach the hammer price.
O’Malley, who passed away in 1979, rarely signed baseballs so finding a baseball with his autograph, in this condition, is uncommon.
Lelands, founded in 1969, is the largest and one of the most respected sports auction houses in the world. In just the past five years alone, more than $40 million worth of vintage sports memorabilia and cards has sold through Lelands. This O’Malley signed baseball is only the second of its kind they have handled.
O’Malley was inducted into National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. He established a legacy as one of sport’s top visionaries and businessmen, building a first-class organization based on long-term stability and success. As President of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, one of baseball’s most enduring and beloved teams, he inscribed his reputation as an astute owner.
Not only did he set the gold standard for sports organizations, his pioneering move of the Brooklyn Dodgers to the West Coast in 1958 advanced the nationwide growth and success of the sport. His crowning achievement was designing, privately financing and building Dodger Stadium, opened on April 10, 1962, the finest baseball ballpark of its time and, more than 55 years later, it remains as one of Los Angeles’ most recognizable and popular landmarks. Family-friendly ticket prices remained unchanged for 18 seasons (1958-75), while the Dodgers consistently set and shattered attendance records.
In 1953, he privately built Holman Stadium at Historic Dodgertown – Vero Beach, Florida, which is still in use for professional and amateur baseball games, training and special events.
O’Malley began his ownership interest in 1944. In 1946, as Dodger Vice President, O’Malley began addressing the need to enlarge or replace aging Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and its parking for only 700 cars. For the next 10 years, and accelerating his commitment after becoming Dodger President in 1950, O’Malley was focused on trying to build and privately finance a new domed stadium for the Dodgers in Brooklyn. His preference and independent appraisals determined the best location for a new stadium was at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
O’Malley had sought the assistance of New York officials to assemble land, which he would purchase, where he would privately design, build and maintain a stadium. His decade-long efforts to remain in Brooklyn are unprecedented.
In 1957, when it became apparent that Brooklyn was no longer a possibility and that officials were pointing him to areas outside of Brooklyn, where they would no longer be the Brooklyn Dodgers, he rejected the idea. O’Malley had to make a difficult decision. He had already sold Ebbets Field in 1956. After his plan to remain in Brooklyn was deemed unfeasible, only then did O’Malley explore all options, including Los Angeles.
Under his leadership, the Dodgers won World Championships in 1955, 1959, 1963 and 1965 and 11 National League Pennants.
O’Malley played an active role in the integration of Major League Baseball. In 1945, he was a club stockholder and part-owner of the Dodgers and a member of the Dodgers’ Board of Directors, which gave approval for then Dodger President Branch Rickey to sign Jackie Robinson. In 1947, Robinson became a Dodger, the first African American to play MLB. In 1948, the Dodgers were also the first MLB team in the South to fully integrate their Spring Training camp at Dodgertown. In 1962, the O’Malley family integrated the seating areas and other facilities at Holman Stadium, Dodgertown. This was seven years before the local schools became integrated in Vero Beach.
O’Malley also privately built golf courses (a pitch-and-putt, a nine-hole and an 18-hole) so that African American players could participate and enjoy the recreation on site. At the time, private golf courses in Vero Beach were off limits to African Americans.
In December 1999, The Sporting News named O’Malley the 11th Most Powerful Person in Sports over the last century, while ABC Sports ranked O’Malley in its Top 10 Most Influential People “off the field” in sports history as voted by the Sports Century panel.