Judas at the Plate?

Dodgers- O'Malley
4.18.1958 – Dodger president Walter O’Malley presents the home plate of Ebbets Field, signed by all the Dodger players, to Mayor Norris Poulson during welcoming ceremonies at City Hall in L.A.

The Brooklyn Dodgers were gone before I was old enough to appreciate such fun and games. However, I soon learned of the legendarily treacherous deal that O’Malley had struck, moving the team to Los Angeles. Whenever the conversation amongst the “older kids” would turn to the departed Dodgers, the name O’Malley was sure to follow; the conversation quickly taking a more “linguistically colorful” turn. Many considered burning O’Malley in effigy if not in actuality. In those days, you felt as though you knew O’Malley and the Brooklyn Dodgers all your life…whether or not you knew them at all.

But Walter O’Malley was arguably no better or worse than many other baseball moguls that preceded or followed him. To be fair, he didn’t just pack up the team and high tail it out of town like a thief in the night. Ebbets Field was in a serious state of neglect and disrepair; by the 1950s, the place was practically falling apart. In spite of the fans’ nostalgic love and devotion, the Dodgers couldn’t pack the house even during the heat of a pennant race. In short, the team was losing money.

After gaining ownership of the Dodgers in 1950, O’Malley was planning to build a more attractive, more accessible, ballpark for the team somewhere in Brooklyn. But the all-powerful Robert Moses, in his role as New York City Construction Coordinator, squelched O’Malley’s ambitions.

Moses decreed that the Dodgers’ new ballpark would be a city-built, city-owned stadium in Flushing Meadows, Queens (site of the future NY Mets’ Shea Stadium); a take-it-or-leave-it deal. Deprived of an adequate locale in Brooklyn for his team (through the contrivances of Moses, it’s suspected), O’Malley went into his infamous Goodbye, Brooklyn-Hello, LA mode. The rest is often inaccurate history, pointless controversy and, of course, charming nostalgia.

photo:  New York Baby Boomers and Everyone Who Loves Brooklyn