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Guide to the Walter O'Malley Brooklyn Dodgers records ARC.294

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Brooklyn, NY, 11201
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Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by John Calhoun

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on September 14, 2016
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Last revised by John Zarrillo  , September 2016

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: O'Malley, Walter F., (Walter Francis), 1903-1979
Title: Walter O'Malley Brooklyn Dodgers records
Dates [inclusive]: 1946-1957
Abstract: This collection of documents and news clippings is a selected portion of the papers of Walter O'Malley (1903-1979), former President of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Brooklyn's professional baseball team until 1957, when the team relocated to Los Angeles, CA. The bulk of the collection comprises correspondence and memoranda from 1946 to 1957, covering the period of O'Malley's role as General Counsel to, and Vice President of, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and afterward his ascension to the presidency of the organization in 1950. The collection chiefly relates to the Dodgers' efforts to secure a site and build a new stadium in Brooklyn to replace Ebbets Field, and, failing to do so, the team's move to Los Angeles in 1957. Included in these records is correspondence with such notable figures as city construction coordinator Robert Moses, New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner, New York State Governor Averell Harriman, Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore, and architect/engineer Buckminster Fuller. A noteworthy artifact is a Brooklyn Dodgers banner that flew over Ebbets Field in 1955, the year of the Dodgers' World Series victory.
Quantity: 1.0 linear feet in two manuscript boxes.
Text [Box]: 2 of 2
Text [Box]: 1 of 2
Call Phrase: ARC.294
Sponsor: This collection was processed and described as part of the project, "Uncovering the Secrets of Brooklyn's 19th Century Past: Creation to Consolidation," funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, with additional support from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

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Biographical Note

Walter O'Malley (1903-1979) was President of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Brooklyn's professional baseball team. Born in the Bronx, N.Y., he graduated from Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan in 1930, and in 1932 was assigned to serve on the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Dodgers as a representative of the financial interests of the Brooklyn Trust Company. O'Malley became the attorney for the Dodgers in 1943, and by 1947 was Vice President and General Counsel of the organization. He became majority owner and President of the Dodgers in 1950.

Beginning in 1955, shortly before the Dodgers' first World Series victory over the New York Yankees in October of that year, O'Malley began planning for the construction of a new domed stadium in Brooklyn to replace the Dodgers' aging home stadium, Ebbets Field. However, his plans for a new, privately-financed stadium met with consistent opposition from New York politicians. In October of 1957, after failing to come to an agreement for the building of a new stadium in Brooklyn, O'Malley announced he would be relocating the Dodgers to Los Angeles, CA beginning with the 1958 season.

As President of the Los Angeles Dodgers, O'Malley oversaw the construction of the Dodger's new home field, Dodger Stadium, which opened in April of 1962 and was the first privately-financed stadium since the opening of Yankee Stadium in 1923. The Dodgers also won three World Series championships during O'Malley's presidency in Los Angeles, including one in 1959 against the Chicago White Sox, one in 1963 against the New York Yankees, and one in 1965 against the Minnesota Twins.

O'Malley stepped down as President of the Dodgers in 1970 to become Chairman of the Board, appointing his son, Peter O'Malley, as President of the organization. In 1978, Walter O'Malley became the first recipient of the August Busch, Jr. Award, which acknowledges "meritorious service by a non-uniformed front office executive." O'Malley died on August 9, 1970, and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Los Angeles next to his wife of 47 years, Kay O'Malley. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 2007.

Sources:

  1. O'Malley Seidler Partners, LLC. "Walter O'Malley: Timeline of Achievements 1903-2003." Accessed October 21, 2011. http://www.walteromalley.com/biog_time_index.php

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Scope and Contents

This collection consists of correspondence, memoranda, and reports, chiefly typewritten. Some are original letters and many are carbon copies as typed by office staff. Other items include stadium plans, city committee and consulting engineers' reports, press releases, and clippings from New York City and Brooklyn newspapers that cover the 1946 to 1957 period. The collection is arranged in chronological order.

Folder 1 contains records from 1946 to 1948, during O'Malley's tenure as General Counsel to and Vice President of the team. Correspondence between O'Malley and then-Dodgers President Branch Rickey with civil engineer Emil F. Praeger and designer Norman Bel Geddes sheds light on the desire, as early as 1946, to either increase the seating capacity of Ebbets Field or move to a new, larger stadium. Contents of Folder 2 show efforts continuing into the early 1950s, with needs for a car park emerging as an issue, as it perhaps became clearer that some baseball fans could and would drive to the stadium rather than use public transportation. Correspondence between O'Malley and Robert Moses, then chairman of the City of New York Office of Committee on Slum Clearance, introduces discussion of land acquisition at various possible sites. A letter from Moses to O'Malley in this folder, dated November 2, 1953, comments sharply and dismissively on a plan to merge stadium planning with a "Title I Slum Clearance Project" in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood.

The first mention of a possible move to Los Angeles occurs in a 1954 letter (Folder 3) between O'Malley and Frank D. Schroth of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which also mentions the initiation of talks and design plans relating to a proposed new Long Island Railroad Terminal on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues in Downtown Brooklyn, and the possibility of building a new Dodgers stadium over the station. Many of the 1955 records in Folder 4 relate to this site, including O'Malley's May 26, 1955 letter to Buckminster Fuller regarding the possibility of designing a domed stadium, further correspondence with Robert Moses and with Brooklyn Borough President John Cashmore, and a telegram from Cashmore to New York City Mayor Robert F. Wagner touching on the railroad terminal plans. A number of documents in Folders 5 and 6 relate to the creation in 1956 of the Brooklyn Sports Center Authority to oversee the development of the LIRR stadium site. Correspondence regarding approval of this administrative entity is between various public officials, including Moses, Cashmore, Wagner, and Governor Averill Harriman.

Records indicating that the firm of Madigan & Hyland was hired to do a feasibility study are found in Folder 7, along with several file memoranda about events. Items of particular note are a letter from one R. Cucco to Mayor Wagner, dated February 27, 1957, and a March 1, 1957 telegram from Wagner to O'Malley promising to do his best to keep the team in Brooklyn. A file memorandum of April 11, 1957 (Folder 8) describes a meeting with Moses in which Moses stated that "political apathy" had doomed the Atlantic & Flatbush LIRR project. During that meeting a Flushing Meadow Park stadium site was discussed as a possibility. Also in Folder 8 is an invitation to a luncheon for the "Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn Committee."

Madigan-Hyland's August 1957 report (Folder 9) estimates total stadium costs at around $20 million, of which Dodger management indicates willingness to fund $5 million, and is followed by a series of documents, including press releases, a telegram of imploring tone from Cashmore to O'Malley, and a hard-edged letter from Moses to city corporation counsel Peter Campbell Brown (F. 9) noting that the proposed Atlantic Avenue stadium site is a "dead" issue. The announcement of the Dodgers' departure from Brooklyn is dated October 8, 1957. Placed in Folder 10 is a 1954 letter to O'Malley from a boy signing himself "Roddie Rose, 12 years old," in which Roddie pleads for the Dodgers to remain in Brooklyn, along with O'Malley's response. Copies of letters written by O'Malley's secretary in response to additional correspondents advocating for new stadium sites are in Folder 11.

The collection also contains some correspondence from the offices of Dodgers Vice President E. J. "Buzzy" Bavasi and Assistant General Manager Arthur E. Patterson from 1956 to 1957 (Folder 12). News clippings were placed in folders and envelopes, and are here foldered separately. Several publications are present in Folders 20 and 21.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Moses, Robert, 1888-1981
  • O'Malley, Peter
  • O'Malley, Walter F., (Walter Francis), 1903-1979

Document Type

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Memorandums
  • Press releases
  • Reports
  • Site plans

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball team).
  • Ebbets Field (New York, N.Y.).

Subject Topics

  • Baseball fields -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Baseball team owners -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Baseball teams -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Baseball -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Sports -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Politics and government
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Los Angeles (Calif.)

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access note

Open to users without restriction.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Walter O'Malley Brooklyn Dodgers records, ARC.294, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Related Materials

Brooklyn Historical Society holds numerous photographs, books, archival collections, and memorabilia relating to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Other Finding Aids note

An earlier version of this finding aid, containing a complete container list, is available in paper form at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Please consult library staff for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Peter O'Malley, 1995, 2004, 2011.

Processing Information note

The collection combines three accessions: 1997.471, 2004.003, and 2011.025. The bulk of the collection consists of the 1997.471 and 2004.003 accessions. 2011.025 is a single folder of press releases, dated 1949.

At the time of acquisition, documents had been placed in tyvek envelopes in very rough chronological order, while items that had been scanned and posted on the Walter O’Malley website were encased in plastic sheets and placed in a separate notebook and envelope. Many of the documents have a “stadium” or “new stadium” filing designation at the top, presumably hand-written by either O’Malley or a secretary. The plastic-encased records have been interfiled with the other O’Malley correspondence, as were copies of correspondence between third parties, reports from various bodies, and other records relating to the stadium.

Accessions 1997.471 and 2004.003 were initially processed and the finding aid was authored by John Calhoun in September 2004. The finding aid was then revised by Marilyn H. Petit in November 2004 and January 2007. The finding aid for the collection was further revised by Nicholas Pavlik in October 2011. In 2014, accession 2011.025 was added to the collection and the finding aid subsequently revised by John Zarrillo. Zarrillo further revised the finding aid in September 2016 upon discovery of the January 2007 version of the finding aid.

The collection is minimally processed to the collection level.

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