Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and let’s get right to No. 16 in our countdown.
The 25 greatest Dodgers, No. 16: Walter O’Malley (56 first-place votes, 7,192 points)
Walter O’Malley made the decision to move the Dodgers from Brooklyn to L.A. in time for the 1958 season. He did not have a stadium ready so he rented the Coliseum for $200,000 a year and then moved to Dodger Stadium in 1962. The rest, as they say, is history.
O’Malley is not without his detractors, however. They include many people in Brooklyn who still curse his name for moving the Dodgers away, and some people in L.A. who feel they (or their parents or grandparents) were unfairly forced from their homes to make way for Dodger Stadium.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. In 1999, the Sporting News named O’Malley the 11th most powerful person in sports in the last century, while ABC Sports ranked him in its top-10 most influential people “off the field” in sports history.
O’Malley died of congestive heart failure on Aug. 9, 1979. He was 75.
To say O’Malley was a controversial figure is understating the case. There is far too much, good and bad, that happened in O’Malley’s life than can be captured here. You can read a detailed biography of his life at walteromalley.com. You can read more about the controversy about the Dodgers moving to Chavez Ravine if you click here.
Four quotes about Walter O’Malley:
“At the time I began as executive director of the Players Association in 1966, Walter O’Malley was really running the game. His fellow owners relied on him in terms of direction and major policy decisions to an extent you wouldn’t believe until you looked into it. There’s no question that whatever O’Malley wanted, [Commissioner Bowie] Kuhn did it. First, he was brighter than most of them, if not all of them. Secondly, when I asked an owner why [he had] that great influence, he said, ‘The owners come to a meeting and they typically don’t even know what’s on the agenda. They just don’t even pay attention to it, or any of the literature that was sent them. In contrast, O’Malley comes not only knowing what’s on the agenda, but prepared to speak on every point.’ Even O’Malley came around, before he died, in a surprisingly warm fashion. There was no time in the last years before his death when I went to Vero Beach in spring training that he didn’t send somebody out to me to ask, ‘Have you forgotten to visit me?’”
--Marvin Miller in 1997.
“Walter O’Malley helped to bring Los Angeles from minor league to the top of the big league in every way. Other teams tried to come here but we weren’t interested. We always wanted the tops and the Dodgers fulfilled that. They proved a great benefit for the city financially and spiritually.”
--Norris Poulson, L.A. mayor (1953-61) in 1979.
“A lot of people didn’t know the man for what he was. He stood by me every minute after my accident, helping me to see my way through. No one knows that after that wonderful night he had for me in the Coliseum when 93,000 showed up, he gave me a check for $50,000. And he continued my salary, which was more than $50,000 a year, for years after that.”
--Roy Campanella in 1979.
“I remember early in my career when I wasn’t doing too well. I pitched a ballgame and I pitched fairly well, but got beat anyway. A day later, I received a telegram from Mr. O’Malley saying, ‘Don’t worry about that. Things will get better.’ And I guess they did. ... There was nothing about him that was not sort of exceptional. Some people liked him and some people didn’t, but I don’t think anybody felt nothing at all.”
--Sandy Koufax in 1979.
Note: I received 8,382 ballots from newsletter readers who sent me their choices for the top 10 Dodgers of all time. Points were assigned based on ranking, with the first-place choice getting 12 points, second place getting 10, third place eight, down to one point for 10th place. After tabulating the ballots, I will be presenting the top 25 in points. We will be counting down Nos. 25 to 11, one each weekday, for the next three weeks. Then we will time the top 10 so No. 1 unveils March 29, the day the season opens. There will be separate newsletters for any news that comes out of spring training.
We’ll get to No. 15 Monday as we edge closer to the top 10.