O’Malley’s Way : His Dodgers Keep Winning, the Stands are Always Full. So Why Does Everybody Say, ‘He’s Not His Father’?


THIS WASN’T PRECISELY WHAT PETER O’MALLEY HAD IN mind when he hopped a Wednesday afternoon flight from LAX for his first visit in years to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top farm club, the Triple-A Albuquerque Dukes.

The Dodger owner had discouraged Dukes President Pat McKernan from inviting him to throw out the first ball this late spring evening before the game against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. But here O’Malley stood, in his home-and-away uniform--navy blazer, white shirt, rep tie, cuffed gray slacks, black wingtips--tossing one high and outside to Dukes catcher Carlos Hernandez. And, having been called to the attention of the Sports Stadium crowd of 2,700, the proprietor of what is often described as America’s most successful sports franchise settled in for nine innings of what he most abhors: the spotlight.

A photographer snapped his picture--the disheveled McKernan in the front-row seat beside him--as the prim O’Malley gamely chewed a hamburger. A boy, 9 or 10 years old, presented a ball for an autograph. “You ought to use it,” O’Malley scolded gently. A short walk to the press box to check the score of the night’s Dodgers-Houston game turned into a crowd scene, as youngsters and grown-ups pressed him to sign bats and gloves and scorecards.


Ever the gentleman, O’Malley satisfied each request. “The fans,” he had reminded the doubting McKernan earlier, during a discussion of hot dog preferences, “are always right.”

But later, from the safety of the press box, O’Malley wondered what the fans could have been thinking. “Maury Wills, an all-time great player, is sitting down there, and nobody’s asking him for an autograph,” he said, nodding toward the former Dodger shortstop, now a minor-league instructor for the Dodger organization. “And here I am, walking around signing autographs.”

It’s not a scene you’ll see repeated at Chavez Ravine. Peter O’Malley is in his 22nd year as Dodger president--longer than his father, Walter; longer than anyone but old Charlie Ebbets back in Brooklyn; fully one-fifth the life of the franchise. But he’d rather no one notice he’s in the ballpark.

In a business notable for loudmouth or eccentric or erratic owners, O’Malley is quiet, staid and steady. His dad was larger than life--the risk-taker who outdueled Branch Rickey to win control of the team, all but ran the industry for three decades, brought baseball to the West Coast in the 1950s and turned Brooklyn’s beloved Bums into Los Angeles’ perennial contender and frequent champion. The earnest son, Peter O’Malley, often gets credit for little more than not having screwed up what his extraordinary father worked so hard to create.

Baseball’s longest-tenured chief executive at only 53, O’Malley in fact is both more and less than he seems.

Within his own organization, it is O’Malley, in his cool and deliberate way, who establishes the high expectations--for everything from clean bathrooms and quality giveaways to on-the-field success--that have made it possible for the Dodgers to draw 3 million fans in seven of the past 11 seasons.


There have been missteps. Who could have imagined that the cause celebre of the 1991 season would be whether you could get a grilled hot dog at the ballpark? The disastrous debut of the Marriott Corp.’s new food services at Dodger Stadium--another step toward making a most button-down ballclub even more corporate--has frustrated the Dodgers and preoccupied the perfectionist owner.

Until hiring Marriott, the Dodgers had been slow to modernize their food operations. They had taken years to upgrade the scoreboard. Indeed, some of the team’s marketing advisers say the unwillingness of the Dodgers and their tradition-bound owner to take bold chances handicaps the team in its pursuit of the next great commercial threshold in baseball: 4 million fans a year.

But it’s hard to argue with success. And a public-relations machine driven by O’Malley to near-paranoid guardianship of the Dodger image--the front office bleeds Dodger Blue as much as Tommy Lasorda--makes sure that even bad hops bounce the Dodgers’ way.

However, in the broader world of major league baseball, O’Malley’s impact does not measure up to his team’s success. Thrust into an unwinnable battle with his father’s ghost for the hearts and minds of baseball’s elite, O’Malley preaches a message that doesn’t match his actions. He calls for restraint in spending, yet his Dodgers have the third-highest player payroll in baseball. He sermonizes on the need for greater comity among baseball owners. Yet he is no more prepared than any other big-city owner to share his wealth with weaker teams in smaller towns--the most divisive issue in the game today.

“There’s a feeling that . . . he has the initial appearance that he has the best interest of the game in mind, when rather the truth is he has the best interest of the Dodgers, as it should be,” says Peter V. Ueberroth, the former baseball commissioner who began his fall from O’Malley’s grace by opening the owners’ books to the players in 1985, when O’Malley took home a $1-million salary.

“The more seasoned owners realize that . . . he’s frankly no different than them,” Ueberroth explains. “Once they discover that, then they’re less likely to follow (his) leadership.”


For all its cantankerousness, you see, the cozily fratricidal world of baseball would dearly like a poo-bah to order its ways and quiet its waters. Somebody like Walter O’Malley. And Peter--though he works as hard as his father ever did, draws bigger crowds, wins more championships (three National League and two World Series titles since 1970), gives away more tickets to A students, takes care of more hard-luck veterans--simply, and unapologetically, isn’t Walter O’Malley.

“People do different things in different times,” says O’Malley fils, who, when he comes closest to comparing himself favorably with his father, allows that Walter O’Malley lived in a simpler baseball era.

Peter O’Malley’s only sibling, Terry Seidler--half owner of the team--says that every time she enters Dodger Stadium she can sense her parents’ satisfaction. “He’s more than a younger brother who’s been successful,” says this vivacious Pasadena woman, a mother of 10 who was Walter O’Malley’s secretary when the team first moved to Los Angeles. “He’s done the right thing, and he’s done it so well.”

Others are less generous in assessing Peter O’Malley’s career. “His father was unusual,” says Marvin Miller, who led the players’ union through its first 25 years of warfare with the owners. “And he is not.”

IF HE WAS NOT QUITE BORN TO RUN THE DODGERS--HIS FATHER took charge of the team in 1950, when Peter was 12--O’Malley surely was bred for the job. His early Dodger memories are of playing catch and pepper at spring training in Daytona and later Vero Beach, washing Joe Black’s car and hanging out with such heroes as Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella; of afternoon games at Ebbets Field and rides home to Amityville, on Long Island, with his cigar-chomping father or his gentle, baseball-loving mother Kay; of trips to visit minor league teams in Montreal and St. Paul and Ft. Worth.

In high school (at the Christian Brothers’ LaSalle Military Academy on Long Island, where his schoolmates included White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu) and at college (he followed his father to the University of Pennsylvania, doing nothing stupendous in the classroom but becoming president of Phi Gamma Delta), O’Malley’s adult personality was already formed.


“He’s always a little bit tended to guard against letting his guard down,” says Roy Jackson, O’Malley’s roommate at Penn and now a player agent.

In 1957, Peter’s freshman year at Penn, Walter O’Malley had stunned the world of baseball and reaped the loathing of a generation of New Yorkers by announcing that the Dodgers would leave Brooklyn. By the time Peter collected his economics degree from the Wharton School in 1960, the L.A. Dodgers, playing in the Coliseum, had won a World Series, and construction was under way on Dodger Stadium, the first privately owned baseball park since Yankee Stadium was built in the ‘20s.

Working in the family business, in short, was an appealing prospect. “It was intriguing,” O’Malley recalls. “It was exciting.”

He undertook a classic apprenticeship. The younger O’Malley ran Dodgertown in Vero Beach, making sure fields were tended and meals served at the spring training camp. For two years he operated the team’s Spokane farm club, selling scorecard ads during dreary Washington winters from an office in Bob’s Chili Parlor restaurant. He came to Los Angeles in 1967 to run Dodger Stadium.

O’Malley’s memories of those years of grooming are wistful--the kind of nostalgia for tougher times in which only the successful indulge. It gets the best of him in the hour before the May ballgame in Albuquerque.

“Could anything be better?” he asks, settling into the stands as the Sky Sox take batting practice. “Just listen to all those sounds,” he says a few minutes later. An infielder whistles. A vendor hawks hot dogs. A pitched ball socks the catcher’s glove. “It’s a symphony. You don’t get that in Dodger Stadium--too many people.” You can almost hear McKernan, the Dukes’ president, rolling his eyes skyward.


The training only magnified O’Malley’s inbred attention to detail. His father--both an engineer and a lawyer--was a stickler, whether about the stadium he’d built or the way his farm teams were run. The owner’s son was cut no slack.

“Peter was never given anything on a silver platter,” says E.J. (Buzzie) Bavasi, Dodger general manager from 1951 to 1968. “I chewed him out many a time,” over paperwork or broadcast contracts or a player’s complaint, Bavasi says. “I would tell Walter, and he’d tell me, ‘If you don’t do it, I’ll do it.’ ”

In 1970, his dad made him president of the club, and Walter O’Malley gradually began spending more time golfing. Onlookers say the transition was so smooth that it was hardly apparent. But until his death in 1979, less than a month after Kay’s, Walter O’Malley and his immense personality dominated the Dodger offices on the stadium’s club level.

“There was no way for Peter to really make any huge impact as long as his father was alive--I mean there was no way,” says Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully.

Nor would Peter O’Malley have wanted to diminish his father’s stature. Peter was a “hero-worshiper” as a child, according to Seidler; their father was his close companion and mentor. And just as Walter O’Malley was the most powerful force in every meeting of baseball executives he ever attended, his will prevailed in the family circle. “Peter is a member of a Catholic family,” explains Stephen (Bud) Mulvey, a retired film executive whose family was the O’Malleys’ last outside partner, in control of a one-third interest in the Dodgers until the mid-1970s. “The father rules--period--at all times until he says, ‘Son, take over.’ ”

Reflecting on his father--reflecting on anything--is something O’Malley does clumsily, boiling down what obviously was a complex relationship into a few catch phrases. “Outstanding father,” he says. “Husband. A friend--and not just to me, but his friends enjoyed being with him and he enjoyed being with his friends. All-around person. . . . Well-liked. Respected. Courageous. Would take a chance.”


Twelve years after Walter’s death, comparisons of the two are inescapable; that is the fate of the children of celebrated people. And, as is often the case, the son cannot measure up to the father’s legend. Ask baseball people about Peter, and, inevitably, they start talking about Walter. Walter O’Malley was impish, gregarious--and a man who wrote baseball history. Peter O’Malley is dry, reserved--and content to let others judge his accomplishments.

“He’s like the prince in a royal family,” says Scully, who has worked for the O’Malleys since 1950. “Almost from the day he was born . . . he was the heir apparent to this storybook organization. That has an immense impact on a youngster growing up. So he was older than his years. . . .

“And what a tough act to follow, his father!” Scully says. “All that made him more serious, more withdrawn maybe. He wanted things at his own pace.”

THE PACE PETER O’MALLEY HAS SET FOR HIMSELF IS RELENTLESS. Gone, with his father, are the safaris and Alaskan hunting trips they once took. (It was at a dinner after one such expedition that O’Malley met his wife, Annette, who was chief costume designer for the Denmark Royal Theater and had never seen a baseball game. Married in 1971, they have three children--Katherine, a sophomore at Georgetown University, and Kevin and Brian, who attend the Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City. Annette O’Malley serves on the school’s board and is active in Music Center charities.)

By 8 a.m. most days, the Dodger president drives up to the stadium in his 16-year-old Mercedes. (Walter O’Malley, a noted penny-pincher, also kept cars a long time; Scully remembers a particularly ancient Buick.) O’Malley works from his father’s old office high above the third base line, at the end of a long hallway carpeted in Dodger blue. His desktop is adorned with baseballs he’s collected around the world.

When the club is out of town, O’Malley goes nowhere without a portable radio. On game days, he is still at the ballpark at least into the seventh inning. Others have noted his occasional adherence to the Los Angeles custom of leaving before game’s end. About this--and all criticisms, however slight--he is defensive, noting on first meeting that he heads home early not because he doesn’t care about the outcome, but because he needs to be back so early the next morning.


There is no off-season in a company with more than 200 full-time employees and annual revenues estimated at anywhere from $65 million to $100 million--the family declines to reveal any information about the club’s balance sheet.

O’Malley jets to New York for baseball meetings, serves (like his father before him) as president of the Little League Baseball Foundation and devotes time to a range of prime charities--from the Music Center to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

His cause is the spread of baseball internationally. O’Malley built China’s first baseball stadium, persuaded a Japanese industrialist to build one in the Soviet Union and is helping rebuild the sport in post-Sandinista Nicaragua. (President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro is a friend.) He underwrote the exhibition baseball games in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics; without his money and attention, baseball would not be a medal sport in Barcelona next summer.

But O’Malley’s obsession is the Dodgers.

His style is to labor at length in the selection of top employees, give them a mandate and then leave them room to operate. Fred Claire, executive vice president for player personnel, completes trades without consulting the owner, though O’Malley makes the final call when massive chunks of his change are invested--in free agent Darryl Strawberry’s five-year, $20.25-million contract, for instance.

Even so, you haven’t heard O’Malley complaining about Strawberry’s tepid performance this year, any more than he’s strutted over the team’s solid lock on first place in the National League West for most of the season. “We’ve had owners dancing on the dugout roof. We’ve had them on the field in uniform--not here, but in other cities--constantly in the clubhouse, constantly on the telephone to the manager,” he says. “I think that’s disruptive. I don’t think it’s really a good way to run an organization.”

There’s nothing impulsive about Peter O’Malley. The painstaking owner interviewed former basketball star and broadcaster Tommy Hawkins 10 times over five months before hiring him to head the Dodgers’ publicity department in 1987. “Peter O’Malley never scrambles,” says Hawkins, “and there is no doubt in your mind that he is the boss.”


Dodger executives are an intense breed--an upshot of the boss’ standards. Workaholics, like O’Malley, they talk about his challenging them to perform at the highest levels--to make their “8s” into “9s and 10s.” Some call O’Malley’s style intimidating; others say it is an inspiration.

They are richly rewarded--not just with salaries more generous than his father paid the front office, but with lavish off-season vacations for the entire staff to such destinations as Rome, Hawaii and Vero Beach; gold jewelry after championship seasons and a profit-sharing plan. When the Dodgers move into first place or extend a lead, O’Malley brings in Haagen-Dazs for all.

Such gestures build loyalty, the quality O’Malley most values in employee relations. Pro sports teams are notorious for the alacrity with which everyone from managers to marketing directors is hired and fired. The Dodgers are a singular eye in that storm. Walter Alston managed the club for 23 seasons, and Lasorda has held the job for 15 years, after rising through the organization over the past four decades. “There are two people I will never turn my back on in my lifetime,” Lasorda says. “My wife of 41 years and Peter O’Malley and the Dodgers, of 42 years.” In what for Lasorda is the highest compliment, he says O’Malley is a greater humanitarian, even, than Frank Sinatra.

Claire, too, has been an employee for 23 years. Ticketing Vice President Walter Nash and Stadium Operations Vice President Bob Smith both joined the team in 1962, when Dodger Stadium opened. Others--including traveling secretary Bill DeLury and Community Relations Director Don Newcombe, a Cy Young Award winner--were with the Dodgers in Brooklyn. “If it isn’t broken,” says O’Malley, citing what is without doubt his guiding management principle, “you don’t try to fix it.”

Indeed, if free agency could only be wished away, O’Malley would still like to build his team with players trained from their first professional experience in the Dodger way, making it, like the front office, “family” too. The club’s expenditures on scouting and minor league operations have tripled to $9 million a year in the past decade, according to Bob Graziano, the Dodgers’ vice president of finance. (Today, only seven players on the Dodgers’ 25-man roster are products of the Dodger farm system, but scouts say the organization has more top prospects in the minors than any other.)

Despite the premium it places on stability, however, change does not always occur smoothly in the Dodger organization. When several key officials resigned or retired in the late 1980s and younger men were hired in top positions, baseball writers said that the organization was in turmoil, that the Dodger commitment to “family” was empty.


That, indeed, was how it seemed to Bob Schenz, who for years was in charge of transport and the Stadium Club, caring for the Dodgers’ season-ticket holders and special guests. Schenz has refused to set foot in Dodger Stadium for the past three years--ever since, he says, he was pressured by the youth movement to retire at age 66.

“It’s not the place it used to be,” Schenz says with disgust--a feeling shared by some other former employees. “It’s hard to find anybody down there who’s happy.” Other critics say O’Malley’s mistake has been moving too slowly, not too fast. Al Campanis, for instance, would not have remained the Dodgers’ top baseball executive at the start of the 1987 season had O’Malley eased him into retirement before he passed his prime. But he lasted long enough to appear on “Nightline” opening night, commemorating his friend Jackie Robinson’s hurdling of baseball’s color line 40 years earlier by telling Ted Koppel that blacks might lack “the necessities” to run ballclubs.

The public outcry was immediate, and O’Malley quickly fired the 70-year-old vice president. Just as other sports executives did, he immediately launched a reassessment of the organization’s hiring and promotion practices. The club began advertising job openings in minority-oriented newspapers and positioning blacks and Latinos in jobs that could prepare them to move up in the organization. Hawkins came on board. Former Dodger utility man Jerry Royster, also black, became a minor-league manager. O’Malley met with leaders of Los Angeles’ black community. The team increased its support of inner-city youth activities. And Campanis was rarely seen around Dodger Stadium.

Four years later, black leaders say the Dodgers have made progress--as has baseball, where the National League president is Bill White, who is black. But Los Angeles Urban League President John Mack says “the floodgates have not opened up” for minorities in the game, who are still underrepresented in the front offices.

O’Malley has no second thoughts about the timing of his own front-office moves. “If I were making the mistake of letting somebody go a day too early or a day too late, I’d rather do it too late,” he says.

Some things, though, move so slowly that they appear not to be moving at all. O’Malley, for instance, still belongs to the all-white Los Angeles Country Club. He inherited the membership from his father and has held onto it, even as the golf club has faced community protests and action by the Los Angeles City Council--so far ineffective--to force changes in its policies. He declines to comment on his membership.


Campanis, meanwhile, is once again a frequent visitor at Dodger Stadium--in O’Malley’s private box, Hawkins’ office and the clubhouse. Loyal even in his humiliation, he has titled his unpublished autobiography, “Once a Dodger, Always a Dodger.”

THE NATIONAL PASTIME HAS NOT ONLY MADE PETER O’MALLEY rich--Financial World magazine in July valued the franchise and its properties at $200 million--it has given him every opportunity to be powerful.

His 16-seat box next to the KWKW broadcast booth “is a showcase for the ‘Who’s Who of America’ or even the world,” notes former baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, an O’Malley intimate.

During one home stand in June, O’Malley’s guests for dinner and a ballgame included not just the Dodger oldtimers on whom he dotes, but also such business executives as Carl’s Jr. founder Carl N. Karcher, La Opinion Editor in Chief Ignacio E. Lozano Jr., KABC Radio President and General Manager George Green and Unocal Vice Chairman Claude S. Brinegar; opera stars Placido Domingo and Justino Diaz, and baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.

Not to mention President Bush. O’Malley spent the Dodger-St. Louis game June 14 chatting with Bush about baseball, golf, tennis, the President’s health and international baseball. They first met in Tokyo a dozen years ago. “I’m not an old friend,” says O’Malley. “I don’t claim to be a good, close, personal friend of the President at all. But I find him to look upon me as an old friend, and that’s a very comforting feeling for me.”

Characteristically, O’Malley declines to state a political preference, though his set is conservative and monied. He is not one to alienate fans without reason. His family foundation contributes to the right-to-life movement, for instance. But unlike Detroit Tigers owner Tom Monaghan, whose embrace of the abortion opponents’ cause has spawned boycotts of his Domino’s Pizza chain, O’Malley’s support is low key.


Says a close friend, John Gavin, the one-time film actor and later U.S. ambassador to Mexico: “He strikes me as a person who can walk away from an issue as well as toward it.”

In his own ballpark and in baseball as a whole, O’Malley is, in fact, a declared foe of conflict. The Dodgers pride themselves on keeping their crises a secret. Executives walk out of staff meetings with an official line on the issues that matter. Several ex-employees who left under tense circumstances were required to sign pledges that they would not talk about the terms of their departures.

O’Malley’s goal is that every impression a fan gets of the Dodgers--at the stadium, over the air, in the newspapers, in person, by mail or by phone--is positive. The team’s image as a proud and wholesome provider of family entertainment is, after all, the franchise.

“I don’t believe in that ‘as long as they spell your name right’ at all,” O’Malley says.

Don’t expect the talent on Dodger flagship radio station KABC, consequently, to be relentless in their criticism. The team’s 17-year relationship with the station has given O’Malley tremendous influence over not just the play-by-play broadcasts he owns but the hours of Dodger-related programming that surround each game.

“Although it’s our radio station and we run it as such, how (O’Malley) feels and what he thinks about our people are very important,” Green, the general manager, says. “We treat (the Dodgers) with a great deal of understanding.”

In part, figures Ed (Superfan) Bieler, it was the station’s commitment to keeping O’Malley happy that cost him his talk show last winter. “The Dodgers monitor everything that’s said on KABC,” the rough-edged, irreverent broadcaster says. “And Lord help you if you say anything that causes any waves with the Dodgers, because George Green will hear about it, and George Green lives and dies with the Dodgers.”


O’Malley’s penchant for conflict resolution sometimes wins him praise. This spring, he offered to mediate a long-running labor dispute between the company that makes Farmer John Dodger Dogs and its union. His efforts failed, and the United Food and Commercial Workers circulated pamphlets criticizing Clougherty Packing Co. outside Dodger Stadium one night. Still, Local 770 President Rick Icaza says, “I respect Peter O’Malley very much. He’s certainly very credible.”

Likewise in June, when baseball’s owners met in Santa Monica, O’Malley called in The Times’ Ross Newhan to give an interview that he knew each of his peers would read. “I’ve never seen the game more fractionalized,” he said, lecturing the owners to pull together and keep their “dirty laundry” to themselves.

Despite record popularity, O’Malley’s game is, he readily agrees, riven by deep conflicts and endangered by ticking economic time bombs.

After refusing to bid on free agents between 1985 and 1988 (baseball owners had to pay the players’ union $280 million for collusion, an ethical lapse on which O’Malley has no comment), teams desperate to stay competitive in the era of free agency have boosted player payrolls to stunning new levels. The average major league player salary when the 1991 season opened was almost $891,000--more than half again the average just a year earlier, and five times the level of 1981. The average Dodger’s pay this year is $1,242,840.

Overall, baseball revenues have climbed faster than expenses, but that is because of a $250-million-a-year broadcast contract that CBS now regrets. Absent a shift to pay-per-view television for the playoffs and World Series, “we’ve pretty much seen the end of the big bursts of money,” says Graziano.

That means the pressure will only grow for the most profitable big-city teams, such as the Dodgers and the New York Yankees, to share revenues with weaker teams in smaller markets, such as the Seattle Mariners or Cleveland Indians. And baseball’s miserable record in labor relations--the strikes, lockouts and shortened seasons--will be further tested in pinched circumstances.


But when baseball looks to its most experienced executive for leadership on these issues, it finds O’Malley, by instinct, lying low.

He is a paradox. O’Malley is described by his fellow owners as one of the most effective and influential among them. Even banished Yankee owner George Steinbrenner--a man O’Malley mocks, and who he wishes would sell his team--is an admirer these days. “To me, he is a guy whom I haven’t listened to,” says Steinbrenner. “If I ever get back in the game again, I’ll listen more.”

Yet O’Malley’s position on baseball’s key challenges is vague--he describes himself as “in the middle of the spectrum.” The status quo, after all, serves his interests well. “It’s the Dodgers’ revenue everyone wants to share,” observes players’ union Executive Director Donald Fehr.

So, in his aristocratic way, O’Malley often seems to be doing little more than exhorting his colleagues to give problem-solving the old college try. One top baseball insider calls him “a hollow man.” Ueberroth, more generously, says O’Malley’s “natural leadership is behind the scenes. It’s not out front or at risk.”

Walter O’Malley worked the back rooms, too. But no one termed him hollow, and no one questioned his willingness to take risks.

Peter O’Malley admits that he doesn’t know the answers to the game’s troubles, but he’s happy with his role. “I’m pleased with my performance,” he says, leaning back a bit in his big office chair, sounding very much content. “I don’t think I’ve participated too much or too little.”


Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott, who has urged O’Malley to be a bolder leader, says he simply has the same disease that afflicts other baseball executives.

“We mostly sit around a room,” she says with a sigh, “and shake our heads ‘yes.’ ”

HIS 6-FOOT-1 FRAME FOLDED, SOMEWHAT AWKWARDLY, INTO A front-row seat on the early morning flight back from Albuquerque, Peter O’Malley takes an accounting of the game he has watched--from the best seats in the house--since he was a boy.

Yes, owners must forge a better relationship with the players, he says. But baseball itself is sound; no one is calling for orange balls or designated runners. Beyond the addition of National League teams in Miami and Denver in 1993, there probably won’t be further expansion for a long time. But soon--perhaps in 10 or 15 years--the major league champion will play an Asian team in a truly World Series.

In other conversations, O’Malley explains how the Dodgers are reaching out to Los Angeles’ ethnic communities to bring a wider range of fans into the ballpark. He’s broadcasting a few games each season in Korean, for instance, and there’s no denying that his scouts would love to identify the first Thai all-star or the like.

Some in the organization say the demand for ever-greater revenue means changes at Dodger Stadium: luxury boxes, perhaps, or advertising on the outfield walls. Maybe they will build a Dodger museum.

And perhaps a third generation of O’Malleys will reign one day at Chavez Ravine. Already, one of O’Malley’s nephews, Tom Seidler, is working full time for the Kissimmee, Fla., Dodgers. His daughter Katherine, O’Malley notes coyly, calls from college in Washington to get the scores of late West Coast games.


Wherever his team is headed, Peter O’Malley--ever the optimist, ever the fan of rosy endings, and never, ever one to second-guess himself--won’t be looking back.

“You’ve got a happy guy here,” he says, preparing to sprint for the car that will carry him to another 15-hour day at the ballpark. “I’m a happy guy.”