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The Last Inning
The Biography of Walter O'Malley

As he arrived for a visit to Los Angeles on May 1, 1957 the good-natured O’Malley was wearing a lapel pin that read, “Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn” to which Supervisor Hahn kindly removed in a friendly tussle with him. O’Malley was intrigued with the Chavez Ravine site because, on a 50-minute sheriff’s helicopter tour on May 2, he could view the many freeways that converged near the area. With his keen knowledge of engineering, O’Malley instantly envisioned the possibilities that existed with the little-used rugged and hilly terrain, which at one time had been designated as a Federal Public Housing project in the early 1950s, before the plug was pulled due to the charge of “creeping socialism” by key real estate interests and newspaper editorials. The aborted public housing project was comprised of 24 13-story and 163 two-story buildings, which had been designed by famed architect Richard Neutra.
Originally, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles had sent a letter to all residents on July 24, 1950 informing them that “a public housing development will be built on this location for families of low income...It will be several months at least before your property is purchased. After the property is bought, the Housing Authority will give you all possible assistance in finding another home.” Residents were later offered independently assessed valuation for the properties and were evicted. The 169 acres had been sold by the federal government back to the City of Los Angeles in 1953 for $1,279,204 with the proviso that it be used for a “public purpose.” This did not have to include housing.
In fact, Mayor Poulson, who had run his 1953 campaign against the housing project and ousted supporter Mayor Fletcher Bowron, said a zoo, an opera house and a cemetery were considered by city officials, but nothing had materialized before the stadium project emerged. In O’Malley’s view, it was an ideal location as fans could easily access a stadium built on the site from any direction due to the confluence of freeways. It might have been the scariest ride of his life in a helicopter with an open door, but it was also the most important.
“I swear that I was sitting part in the machine (helicopter) and part out of it,” said O’Malley, recalling the mechanics removed the side door, and the pilot tilted the helicopter to give him a complete view of the topography. “I remember thinking, ‘I hope the seat belt holds.’ I was never so scared in my life.”68
O’Malley was able to accurately estimate the amount of earth that would have to be moved to build his stadium at nearly eight million cubic yards.
While some Chavez Ravine land, trod by goats, was used for limited oil exploration, there were a handful of residents who remained there illegally, despite being told repeatedly by city officials to relocate.
O’Malley declared in the Long Island Press on May 7, 1957, “If we pull up our roots in Brooklyn, it won’t matter whether we go five miles or 50 miles away. So it’ll be Los Angeles or some place like that before it’ll be Queens.” Asked about Moses’ proposal to build a Dodger ballpark in Flushing Meadows, O’Malley replied, “I have not asked anybody, at any time or place, to build me a stadium. There is no appreciable change in the situation since Vero Beach (March 6 meetings with Los Angeles officials).” He said that he was willing to spend $8 million for a ballpark at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.69

68 Sid Ziff, The Inside Track, Los Angeles Mirror News, 1957
69 Jack Lang, Long Island Press, April 7, 1957

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn welcomes Walter O’Malley at the airport on May 1, 1957. O’Malley is wearing a pin that states, “Keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn” which is subsequently taken off his lapel in a friendly tussle by Supervisor Hahn.

Courtesy of University of Southern California, on behalf of the USC Specialized Libraries and Archival Collections

On May 2, 1957, Walter O’Malley takes a 50-minute helicopter ride to view prospective sites for Dodger Stadium. From left is Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, Undersheriff Peter Pitchess, Del Webb, co-owner of the New York Yankees, O’Malley, and pilot Capt. Sewell Griggers at Biscailuz Center.

The helicopter ride gave Walter O’Malley a complete view of the topography for potential Dodger Stadium sites. The door on the side of the helicopter had been removed and O’Malley said, “I was never so scared in my life.”

© Getty Images

This July 24, 1950 letter from the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles outlines for residents a proposed “public housing project” which will be built on the site, as well as the appraisal process and the fact that their property will be purchased.

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