Walter O'Malley Enshrined in National Baseball Hall of Fame Ceremony
Walter F. O’Malley, visionary owner of the Dodgers, who set the gold standard for baseball franchises of the 20th Century, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in ceremonies held in Cooperstown, New York on Sunday, July 27th, 2008.
O’Malley established a legacy for expanding Major League Baseball westward, bringing the Dodgers to Los Angeles for the 1958 season and making baseball truly national. At that time, no major league team played west of Kansas City. Since 1998, 10 major league teams, or one-third, now play west of Kansas City.
In addition, O’Malley’s crowning achievement was building, privately financing and helping to design Dodger Stadium, which opened in Los Angeles on April 10, 1962. He also built, privately financed and was influential in the design of Holman Stadium, opened in 1953 at Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Florida. O’Malley modernized Dodgertown, which many baseball experts consider to be the premier Spring Training site.
On December 3, 2007, O’Malley was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee as part of the “Class of 2008.” Of the 286 members enshrined in the Hall of Fame, there are only 26 in the category “Pioneers/Executives,” including O’Malley, who was born in the Bronx, New York on October 9, 1903 and passed away on August 9, 1979.
“Our family is most appreciative of this recognition, as my Dad is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Peter O’Malley, Walter’s son and President, Los Angeles Dodgers from 1970-98. “Over time, I believe that people understand the extraordinary decade-long efforts my Dad made to remain in Brooklyn and build a stadium there to replace aging Ebbets Field. When that was not deemed feasible, only then did he consider his options, which included Los Angeles. He was most proud of building and privately financing Dodger Stadium, one of L.A.’s most popular landmarks.”
As owner of the Dodgers from 1950-79, O’Malley led an emblematic organization based on stability, success on the field and at the turnstiles. Under his leadership, the Dodgers won 11 National League Pennants and 4 World Championships (1955, 1959, 1963 and 1965). Family-friendly ticket prices remained unchanged for 18 seasons (1958-75). The Dodgers shattered and established attendance records and were the first team to draw three million home fans through the turnstiles in 1978.
In December 1999, ABC Sports Century panel ranked O’Malley 8th in its Top 10 Most Influential People “Off the Field” in sports history, while The Sporting News named him the 11th “Most Powerful Person in Sports” over the last century. O’Malley served on Major League Baseball’s decision-making Executive Council for 28 years, the longest tenure ever of any owner.
In 1956 and 1966, the Dodgers made two Goodwill Tours to Japan, with O’Malley advancing international baseball and making many other cultural exchanges, including team visits to Dodgertown in Vero Beach.
On July 9, 2008, the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission unveiled a bronze plaque honoring Walter O’Malley in its “Coliseum Court of Honor.” Located at the Coliseum’s peristyle end, it is only the 55th plaque that the Coliseum Commission has awarded to those “that have had a definite impact upon the history, glory and growth of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.” In addition, the City Council of Los Angeles also declared it “Walter O’Malley Day” in the City of Los Angeles and presented Peter O’Malley with the proclamation.
O’Malley became a part-owner of the Dodgers on November 1, 1944, along with partners Branch Rickey and prominent Brooklyn insurance executive Andrew Schmitz. The three partners purchased 25 percent of Dodger shares of stock from the Ed McKeever estate. In a second transaction on August 13, 1945, O’Malley, Rickey and John L. Smith purchased an additional 50 percent of Dodger shares of stock through the Brooklyn Trust Company, one of three executors of the estate of former owner Charles Ebbets. Schmitz relinquished his stock to the other three in the second stock purchase. The remaining 25 percent was owned by Dearie McKeever Mulvey, daughter of former Dodger President Steve McKeever, who, along with his brother Ed, were contractors that helped financially-strapped Ebbets complete construction of Ebbets Field in 1913 in exchange for part-ownership.
This ownership arrangement continued until October 26, 1950, when O’Malley purchased Rickey’s shares of stock for $1,050,000 and became Dodger President, expanding his ownership interest to 50 percent. Later, O’Malley purchased stock from Smith’s estate to increase his holdings to 66 2/3 percent, and he became the sole owner with the acquisition of stock from the Mulvey family in the early 1970s.
In 1946, as Dodger Vice President, Walter O’Malley began addressing the need to enlarge or replace aging Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. 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 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.
O’Malley’s “golden era” of baseball was marked by some of the game’s most recognizable names and biggest contributors. In addition to the seven players who played a majority of their career with the Dodgers – Roy Campanella, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Don Sutton -- and two managers – Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda – enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, O’Malley also employed four broadcasters who reached the highest heights in their profession and were inducted into the Hall of Fame as winners of the Ford C. Frick Award — Red Barber, Vin Scully, Buck Canel and Jaime Jarrin.
The “2008 Hall of Fame Class” also includes premium relief pitcher Rich “Goose” Gossage; Bowie Kuhn, fifth Commissioner of Baseball from 1969-84; Barney Dreyfuss, first owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates and one of the “fathers” of the modern World Series; Cardinals’ and Braves’ Manager Billy Southworth, who has the fifth-best all-time winning percentage at .597 and two World titles; and Manager Dick Williams, who managed 21 seasons with six different teams, winning two World Championships for Oakland.
An exhibit featuring several unique O’Malley items is currently on display in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. They include: 1) his master key for Dodger Stadium with O’Malley’s name engraved on it. 2) O’Malley’s shovel used during groundbreaking ceremonies for Dodger Stadium on September 17, 1959. 3) O’Malley’s 1963 World Series ring, with a large “4” etched on the shank, representing the four-game sweep of the New York Yankees. 4) a hand-carved and painted model of the Dodger-owned Lockheed Electra II airplane, named “Kay ’O” in honor of O’Malley’s wife Kay, and used to transport the Dodgers from 1962-70. 5) O’Malley’s Executive Box, Seat No. 1 ticket to Opening Day of Dodger Stadium on April 10, 1962, which is inscribed to his wife Kay. 6) Four autographed Sandy Koufax baseballs – one from each of his Dodger no-hitters, including his perfect game on September 9, 1965 – personalized to O’Malley. 7) the “Spoon Man” Award presented to O’Malley, honoring him as the outstanding overall student of the 1926 class at the University of Pennsylvania. 8) a pennant from a luncheon welcoming the Dodgers to Los Angeles on October 28, 1957 at the Statler Hotel.
Inscription of the bronze plaque for Walter O’Malley in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum:
BROOKLYN, N.L., 1943-1957
LOS ANGELES, N.L., 1958-1979
AN INFLUENTIAL AND VISIONARY OWNER WHO INSPIRED
BASEBALL’S MOVE WEST IN 1957. RELOCATED DODGERS FROM
BROOKLYN TO LOS ANGELES AND OPENED NEW MARKETS FOR
THE MAJOR LEAGUE GAME. SERVED AS PRESIDENT AND
PRINCIPAL OWNER WHEN HIS CLUBS WON FOUR WORLD SERIES
CHAMPIONSHIPS (1955, 1959, 1963 AND 1965) AND 11 PENNANTS.
MAINTAINED AFFORDABLE TICKET PRICES WHILE GENERATING
RECORD ATTENDANCE. DRIVING FORCE BEHIND DESIGN,
CONSTRUCTION AND FINANCING OF DODGER STADIUM, A
BENCHMARK FOR A NEW GENERATION OF MODERN BALLPARKS.
Listen to Vin Scully read the inscription from Walter O’Malley’s Hall of Fame plaque.
Listen to Jaime Jarrin read the inscription in Spanish from Walter O’Malley’s Hall of Fame plaque.