September 2, 2014

What was He Supposed to Do?

February 17, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Who knew a World Series could bring such pain?

Fresh off toppling the rival Yankees in 1955, Dodgers Walter O’Malley could only rejoice for so long. Decisions loomed. Death, in a sense, was palpable. O’Malley staved off it off as long as he could. In “Forever Blue,” Pulitzer Prize winner Michael D’Antonio guides readers through the controversy that stamped the life of the Dodgers’ magnate from birth until long after Ebbets Field expired.

Read this book because:

1. D’Antonio examines Walter O’Malley beyond baseball.

Edwin O’Malley’s son entered the world as part of a dysfunctional family. The elder O’Malley ran with some of the crookedest of Tammany Hall men. Walter learned from those men, using some of those skills and grit toward a military-style prep education, followed by Ivy League distinction.

When the Great Depression hit, O’Malley saw it as an opportunity for his law practice. Quarrels escalate during crisis, he reasoned. That’s when the public needs lawyers most of all.

2. From documents, interviews and more you read that moving the Dodgers to Los Angeles was anything but an easy decision.

What was he supposed to do? Despite World Championship glory, the Dodgers attendance grew by 169 in 1955. That’s one hundred and sixty-nine people, no zeros. Five teams far short of respectability, let alone the World Series, outdrew Brooklyn. What’s more, new fans didn’t have any place to park. TV threatened to poach prime revenue. Nevertheless, O’Malley pushed to remain in Brooklyn as long as he could. “In one [newspaper] paragraph I am sailing into a distant port and in the last one I am trying to keep my anchor in Brooklyn,O’Malley said. (238, Forever) Ultimately, Robert Moses, the man who ran not just Brooklyn but the world’s most powerful city of New York, told O’Malley to shove out of the harbor.

3. You can’t help but be caught in the plight of the ill-fated Brooklyn “Bums” and their “family.”

The end neared in 1956, and it took its toll. Duke Snider confronted a fan who called him gutless. Gil Hodges lost his glove between innings before a fan coughed it up at the promise of a new mitt. Positive thinking went out the window. Norman Vincent Peale, long an advocate of optimism, took in a game at Ebbets Field and left with more than O’Malley would have liked. Rowdy fans pelted Peale and his family with fruit during the contest. The Brooklyns couldn’t dodge the reproach in Peale’s column or the panicked pleas from fans. Would you believe the Dodgers hired “Weary Willy” to help the fans feel better? The clown came with nationwide notoriety but left fans with more pain thanks to this downtrodden character. In 1957, Vice President Richard Nixon leaked that the Dodgers were headed to LA.

While in Brooklyn, O’Malley couldn’t win. The team left for LA, and the fans still feel the loss today.

Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. During the 2009 season, Miller served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Comments

One Response to “What was He Supposed to Do?”
  1. Cliff Blau says:

    He could have moved the team to Queens, to the Shea Stadium site, as Moses wanted. Yeah, it’s not Brooklyn, but it’s a lot closer to Brooklyn than LA is, and the team’s fans could have still gone to games, and there would have been parking. Maybe the team did better financially in LA than it would have in Queens, but O’Malley did have another option.

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