Wyman's Historic Efforts Bring Dodgers to Los Angeles
What were you doing to ensure that the opposition’s resolution, eventually on the June 1958 ballot as “Proposition B,” didn’t thwart the city’s contract and Walter O’Malley’s efforts to privately build Dodger Stadium?
“We weren’t moving fast but we were trying to move along, so we would be ready when all the legal challenges were finished. We were also a little nervous as was Roger Arnebergh, the City Attorney, who had worked out all the details regarding the contract to make sure the city met its obligations. Arnebergh was still dealing with the Referendum and lawsuits, which even went as high as the California State Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court (which refused to hear the case).”
Was the election as close as it turned out?
“It was closer than expected. O’Malley and I always said that had the Dodgers not won the day game in Chicago, 1-0 (on June 1, 1958), we would not have won. It is one of the most important (Dodger) victories ever. I don’t think it’s ever gotten its due. Vin Scully did not say how to vote, but he told people to go out and vote. I thought Scully was accepted by the City of L.A. immediately upon the Dodgers’ arrival and the fact he told people to vote was helpful. And to this day, everybody adores and sets Vin Scully on a pedestal. He has been always accepted by this community as a trusted spokesperson.”
If “Prop B” failed, what would have happened?
“I just felt there was enough goodwill between the City and the Dodgers and we could convince the City that it was good business for L.A. We would just have to find another way to get that stadium built. I don’t believe I would have ever given up after what we’d been through.”
When you first saw Walter O’Malley’s plans for Dodger Stadium, what did you think about his and architect Capt. Emil Praeger’s modern design?
“Loved it. I thought the contour of the land was well used. That impressed me a lot that he used what he had. I liked that part of it the most. I was very worried about the roads, because I thought we’ll never have enough money and will it work? I thought they were close to freeways and that would provide good access. I loved the plans from day one. And then when prominent Hollywood director Mervyn LeRoy made the (stadium) model it was a beautifully done job because the Hollywood artist knew how to do it. It was made from architect’s plans before the stadium was built. The model became useful to show people that this was going to become a great asset for the city. I continued to look at it as a good business proposition for the city and a lot of new jobs for them were created in the building of Dodger Stadium and many more new jobs when the stadium was in operation.”
All of the roadblocks that came in the form of the Proposition, legal challenges and the eventual dismissal by the U.S. Supreme Court, must have taken a toll on both you and Walter O’Malley. How did you find the strength to stay the course and eventually succeed?
“We sweated that out. If you are an elected public official, you’ve got to take the good and the bad. It also took a toll on City Attorney Roger Arnebergh. I didn’t think the Dodger issue would be so controversial when I said, ‘Let’s Bring Major League Baseball to L.A.’ I always enjoyed being an elected public official of the City of Los Angeles and I tried to be responsive to the people of the city. I had a wonderful husband who gave me incredible strength and support. People who knew Gene and me said if we had gone into a computer program, we would have come out perfectly suited for each other. When things were tough, he was always there. He was a good listener. I knew that even if I were not re-elected for City Council, I had a very good life ahead of me.”
In your many day-to-day dealings with Walter O’Malley, how would you describe your relationship with him?
“We became just wonderful, wonderful friends. His family became my family. I always said if I write my book, Walter would have a huge chapter. And he will probably be one of the most unforgettable persons I will have ever known in my life. Remember, I’m very active in politics nationally. Walter was a Democrat. Walter knew many Democrats from New York. We often talked about them. (Former Speaker of the House from Massachusetts) Tip O’Neill was one of my favorite people, a great Irish politico. Walter O’Malley was Tip O’Neill — storyteller, a hunter, loved good food and had an incredible sense of humor. This description also fit my dear friend Walter. Now, Walter and I love to eat ice cream. For my 40th birthday, Kay O’Malley went out to Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors and bought me 40 sundaes, which I happily put in my freezer! I mean we had so much fun in Walter’s box at Dodger Stadium. I often stood over in the right corner of that box and Walter used to sit on the end. We socialized and we shared. Walter used to say, ‘That’s Roz’s spot.’ It gave us a good chance to talk. We spent a great deal of time together so the O’Malleys and the Wymans were like family.
“Kay was just wonderful. We went up to Lake Arrowhead with them. We went on the boat together. We cooked together. He loved to cook and eat.
“The night before Opening Day we had a dinner (at Dodger Stadium). They were going to try out the organ. We were all invited to dinner at the (Stadium) Club and he said Roz would you come out — let’s say it was six — and he said would you come out at five. Well, why do you want me at five? What am I going to do out there for an hour? He said, ‘I just would like you to come.’ So, I said, Okay and told my husband, you go separately and I’ll meet you. Walter took me into his office and we sat down and he said, ‘I cannot thank you enough for what you have done.’ He said, ‘It is certainly a different life for us and it has changed our lives. And you have certainly been a huge part of it.’ He said, ‘I want to walk outside with you.” As we came out, the organist began to play and Walter said ‘That’s for you.’ The organist played a medley including ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game.’ Forty years later and that still brings tears to my eyes. And then we went to dinner. It was very special that he did that. When Walter died, Peter (O’Malley) sent me a key that was made to open every door in the Stadium. There were only two made. Walter had one and I don’t know who had the second one. When Walter died, they found the key and Peter sent it to me with a beautiful note and the note and key are framed and hung in my den. Peter said there is only one person who should have Dad’s key and that is you.
“The interesting thing is you do a lot of things when you are elected for office. You help a lot of people. Nobody was as gracious as the O’Malleys were. Obviously, the move of the Dodgers meant great success for the O’Malley family. I’ve been in politics 50 years and most people do not remember what you do for them especially when you are out of office. The O’Malleys always remembered me and my family because we became lifelong friends. It has been one of the most important friendships of my life. I also said if I could rear my children as nice as the O’Malleys had done as regards to Terry (O’Malley Seidler) and Peter, I would be a very successful mother.”
What do you feel the Dodgers have meant to the City of Los Angeles since they arrived in Los Angeles for the 1958 season?
“It was a project that unified the City of Los Angeles for the first time. I felt the city had been a part of the new project and as it turned out was excited about it. I knew that to be true. I always felt the first thing that I was so proud of was when Scully said (after winning the 1959 National League Pennant in Los Angeles by defeating Milwaukee), ‘We go to Chicago,’ you felt a rooting for something. We found that once we had the Dodgers and then the arts, the corporations and the small businesses wanted to come to Los Angeles, too. Our city became big league.”
What about O’Malley’s involvement in the community?
“When the O’Malley’s moved here, they really embraced Los Angeles. They came here to live. They came to put roots down. They became a part of the community and he became well known. Hollywood really embraced the Dodgers in a big way. We had the Hollywood Stars game in those days and they were Hollywood Stars. You would have Milton Berle, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra all involved with the annual event, which the fans just loved. It was big. The stars loved the Dodgers and they loved Walter. Walter would have numbers of them in the box...Milton, Danny Kaye, Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Lauritz Melchior. In other words, Hollywood became a part of the Dodgers and Walter, not that he ever was considered “Hollywood,” was fun for them.
“Walter was a storyteller, he was a great host. Walter loved that (president’s) box. He loved to have people for dinner and he schmoozed with them, talked with them. But, I must say sometimes at the game, it was very serious. We had to win this game. But, he had the philosophy, ‘Roz, that’s one game. There are 80 some more. We cannot die over each one.’ I would die over every one. He’d say, ‘There’s another day.’ And he was the best sport, and always optimistic, as was Peter, if the Dodgers lost, I must say. It was really quite incredible. Those who knew him and those who spent time with him would say I had the best time with Walter. He was a person’s person. He loved people. It just showed. It came out all over him. I was with him hundreds of times. I always had a good time.”
“Because of the Dodgers, it made Walter a big part of the community. But, I know that Peter O’Malley has had a much more active community participation. Peter helped enrich the Dodger (Community) Foundation, Jackie Robinson Foundation, Little League Baseball, both locally and nationally, and his activities with The Music Center of Los Angeles. Also, I believe we would have had a NFL team here if we would have followed the plan Peter had for L.A.”
When did you go to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida?
“My first trip to Vero Beach (in 1959) with Walter was something. Stanley Mosk (California State Attorney General and later a justice of the California State Supreme Court) and I were there. It was the first time Roy Campanella had been to Vero Beach since his automobile accident (which left him paralyzed from the neck down). When he was taken from the airplane, there was utter silence because people realized that one of the greatest ballplayers of all time would play no more. I’m sure it reflected by those baseball people around him that careers are so fragile that you just don’t know what life will bring. As it turned out, Roy Campanella was an inspiration the rest of his life for people who saw him or had the privilege to know him.
“We had barracks (to sleep in) in those days. O’Malley said, ‘Oh, you’ll love it here Roz.’ The first night I said I’m frozen. He said, ‘Roz you have got to go out and get fresh orange juice. We have a machine here. He was so proud. ‘We have this machine that makes it, you get it fresh.’ So, I go outside and it’s frozen! Frozen! I go back in and said Walter it’s frozen. He says, ‘Oh. We’ll get the thing (working right).’ There was no heat in the barracks. I’d say Walter I’m freezing. He’d say, ‘Here, here’s a sweater. This makes men out of them.’ But, I’d say, but I’m not a man! Walter I’m freezing down here. There is a picture of me with Don (Drysdale). I called my husband Gene and said I just hit a pitch that Don Drysdale pitched to me. He said, ‘You are making up a story.’ I said I have a piece of film and I’m bringing it home to show you that I hit a pitch that Don Drysdale threw. Now, I get home and set the camera up and Don pitched like this (she shows a slow underhand motion and laughs!)...I hit the ball. I hit the ball. I was so excited!”
How would you describe what you are doing now?
“I have continued my interest in politics to this day. I am on the Democratic National Committee and I continue to help people I believe in to help them get elected. I am native born and I enjoy giving back to my city, so I am serving on a number of civic boards like The Music Center; “A Place Called Home”; Thelma Howard Board/California Foundation; The County Music and Arts Commission; and many other boards. I am continuing my interest in women serving in public life. Therefore, I am part of a bi-partisan project (‘The White House Project’) to elect a woman President. I get great enjoyment from spending time with my family. I have been blessed with great children and three grandchildren. My philosophy is that you have to give back to your community. I have tried to give a great amount of time to charity. I often will volunteer to take on fundraising for many of the worthwhile groups in Los Angeles.”
How close are you to the O’Malley family today?
“As I stated, I have always felt the O’Malley family is like my own family. I have found both Terry and Peter two of the most caring people I’ve ever known in my life. I have never heard Terry say an unkind word about anyone. After Walter’s death, Peter’s kindness shown to all of Walter’s friends who returned to visit Dodger Stadium and Dodgertown at Vero Beach was amazing. He took care of everyone’s needs and many of the people who came after Walter’s death were quite elderly. He had great respect for his parent’s friends. I have learned a lot about the O’Malley family, especially how to be great hosts and be gracious when you lose a ballgame. I cherish that friendship, now and forever.”
THE LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL VOTE ON ORDINANCE 110204 OCTOBER 7, 1957:
Not Voting: Edward Roybal was on vacation and did not cast a vote.
DODGER VICTORY IN CHICAGO KEY TO PASSING “PROPOSITION B”
Rosalind Wyman and Walter O’Malley were convinced that one of the most important Dodger games ever played was on June 1, 1958 in Chicago. The reason was because the “Proposition B” referendum on the June 3 ballot hinged on the public’s view of the team and whether it would vote “Yes” or “No” on the issue of the previously approved City of Los Angeles contract with the Dodgers.
Wyman felt, and she says O’Malley agreed, that the day game on June 1 was critical because a five-hour Dodgerthon aired on KTTV Channel 11 later that afternoon and evening. The Dodgerthon, chock full of celebrities, sports stars and civic leaders speaking about the benefits of “Prop B” to the city and its residents, culminated its coverage on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport with the triumphant arrival of the Dodgers from Chicago as thousands of adoring fans crashed the gates and celebrated.
In the day game in June, strange weather invaded the Windy City as the game-time temperature was a chilly 48 degrees with 20 mile-per-hour north winds. Stan Williams, a 20-year-old rookie, made his first major league start for the Dodgers and allowed just two hits to the Cubs. Only 3,674 brave souls attended and battled the elements at Wrigley Field.
The Dodgers’ lone run was scored in the fourth inning and Williams made that stand up with his masterful shutout. Carl Furillo doubled to lead off the fourth inning and advanced to third on Charlie Neal’s infield out. Shortstop Don Zimmer grounded a single to left field, scoring Furillo with the game’s only run. The Dodgers finished their long road trip with an 8-9 record.
Williams posted a 19-7 record and had been the American Association’s strikeout king in 1957, while pitching for the Dodgers’ farm club in St. Paul (MN). The 6-foot-4 right-hander had only pitched in three previous innings for the Dodgers prior to getting his initial start in Chicago. He struck out three Cubs and walked two in notching his first career win.
The Dodgers arrived home in Los Angeles to nicer weather and, two days later, celebrated the passing of “Prop B.”Back to top