Late Dodger Owner Elected to Hall of Fame

Walter O'Malley, the man who brought big league baseball to Los Angeles, finally has made it into baseball's hallowed Hall of Fame. The late Dodger owner was one of five baseball legends selected for induction this year. KPCC's Special Correspondent Kitty Felde has this portrait.

Kitty Felde: Walter O'Malley was a lawyer, an engineer, and a New York Irishman with a silver tongue – all talents he put to good use in 1958. O'Malley wanted to keep his baseball team in his hometown, but city leaders were pushing him to build a stadium east of Brooklyn, in Queens.

Instead, O'Malley looked west, all the way to Los Angeles. But the cost of plane travel meant O'Malley needed a second team on the west coast to make the move economically feasible. In a 1970s interview, the late Dodger owner gave his version of how he persuaded then Giant owner Horace Stoneham to move his team not to Minnesota, where he had a minor league franchise, but further west.

Walter O'Malley: And I told him, if he went to Minneapolis, and I stayed in Brooklyn, the old Giant-Dodger rivalry would be dead, and maybe both of us should consider moving, and I told him there were possibilities in both San Francisco and in Los Angeles. He expressed a strong feeling toward San Francisco. I said, well, that's fine. We'll go to Los Angeles.

Felde: O'Malley apparently didn't mention to Stoneham that he'd already spoken with officials in Los Angeles. One of those officials was then City Councilwoman Roz Wyman, who ran for office on the platform of bringing big league baseball to town. Wyman says O'Malley was unforgettable.

Roz Wyman: He, as I say, was devoted to his family, but yet he was a hunter, and a golfer, and a storyteller, and an Irish drinker. (laughs) I mean, he had it all.

Felde: Longtime Dodger announcer Vin Scully described O'Malley as an old fashioned man's man.

Vin Scully: He was like my extra father. He was warm, genial, jovial. His favorite day, if anybody asks me about a Walter O'Malley favorite day, would be to get up very early, and plant. He loved the earth. Then, he would love to play golf, he would love to watch a ball game, he would love to have maybe a steak dinner, and then he'd love to play poker with the boys. I mean, he was just that kind of a man.

Felde: Walter O'Malley died in 1979. Next season marks the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers' move west. Hall of Fame induction ceremonies for O'Malley will be held in July in Cooperstown, New York.