Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hall of Fame: Walter O'Malley

Walter O'Mally was inducted into the Hall of Fame last weekend, so I thought it would be worthwhile to profile him for those who may not know his contribution to baseball.

A bankruptcy attorney by trade, he ran the trust that controlled the Dodgers in the 1940s, then purchased a stake in the club with co-owner Branch Rickey. O'Malley took over completely by 1952 after a power struggle forced out Rickey.

He soon became the most hated man in the history of Brooklyn when he airlifted the Dodgers from the New York borough to Los Angeles, a maneuver the Brooklyn faithful have never forgiven.

O’Malley was one of the first owners to recognize the potential of television, making the Dodgers perhaps the most watched team in America in the 1950s. He saw the untapped potential of the West Coast and convinced Giants owner Horace Stoneham to move their clubs to California with him. And he wielded tremendous influence over league officials during a time of a weakened commissioner’s office.

When he came to L. A., he demanded and received a sweet deal that included 300 acres of choice land just a few miles from downtown. There, he built Dodger Stadium using his own money—the better to make a profit from concessions and parking.

The biggest difference between O’Malley and most of the other owners was always the fact that O’Malley made his living from baseball while his brethren treated baseball as a hobby. This put O’Malley a step ahead at all times and helped him cement a huge legacy that included the once-profitable team that plays ball in front of three million paying fans every year.

After O’Malley’s death in 1979, control of the club shifted to his son Peter O’Malley, who continued at the helm until the sale of the club to News Corp. in 1997.

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