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The Biography of Walter O'Malley

L.A. Dodgers A Hit
While the Dodgers struggled in 1958 making the transition to an unfamiliar environment in Los Angeles, the next season they made a 180-degree turn. The Dodgers tied with the Milwaukee Braves for the best record in the National League and won two straight games in a best-of-three playoff to win the Pennant and earn the right to play the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. The Dodgers defeated the White Sox in six games to bring their first World Championship banner to the city and fans of Los Angeles. The L.A. love affair between a team and its fans was cinched and continues to this day.
From the day they arrived in Los Angeles, O’Malley realized the importance of the diverse marketplace in which the Dodgers played. Long before other sports teams placed games on radio in multiple languages, O’Malley’s Dodgers were available in Spanish beginning in 1954 on WHOM Radio in New York. In Los Angeles starting in 1958, the games were first re-created and then in the mid-1970s, the broadcasters traveled to all road games. English-language radio, with the brilliant and fan-favorite Vin Scully and his long-time broadcast partner Jerry Doggett, grew to immense proportions, initially in the Coliseum and later at Dodger Stadium. Scully’s unparalleled descriptions captured the feel and excitement of each game, providing a storyline that kept fans glued to their transistor radios. More and more women became fans of the Dodgers in Los Angeles and brought their radios with them to the ballpark. Popular Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin arrived on the scene in 1959 and completed his 45th season in 2003, expanding the interest and listenership in that market to record numbers. He, like Scully before him, was named recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award winner in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Two Hall of Famers off the field and many more on it are a testament to O’Malley’s extraordinary management skills and knack for identifying quality talent.
In 1965, O’Malley’s coaches included an African-American, Jim Gilliam, and a Cuban, Preston Gomez. When black Dodger players were precluded from playing golf in Florida during spring training, O’Malley built two golf courses (the first was a 9-hole built in 1965 and the second 18-hole opened in 1972) on Dodgertown property.
To O’Malley, an employee’s ability to give it his all and to do his job properly were the important factors in hiring. Ability also led to stability, a hallmark of O’Malley’s Dodger organization. O’Malley had just two managers, Hall of Famers Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda, from 1954-79. He had three General Managers — E.J. “Buzzie” Bavasi, Fresco Thompson and Al Campanis — during that period, as well. And only two farm directors, Thompson and William P. Schweppe. And two scouting directors, Campanis and Ben Wade, also. Loyalty, dedication and hard work meant something. O’Malley did not replace managers, even when pressured by outside sources, because it was his opinion that, if the team did not compete successfully, it was an entire organizational breakdown and the blame should not be shouldered by the manager alone.

Walter O’Malley borrows a trumpet from a musician and toots on it at a postgame party at the Hilton Hotel to celebrate the Dodgers’ 1959 World Series title in Chicago on October 8. The Dodgers defeated the “Go-Go” White Sox, four games to two, winning the final game in Comiskey Park, 9-3.

Popular Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully is in the broadcast booth with Walter O’Malley in 1972. Scully’s first season with the Dodgers was in 1950 and he completed his 54th season in 2003. He entered the National Baseball Hall of Fame as recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award in 1982.

E.J. “Buzzie” Bavasi (from left) and Fresco Thompson join forces with newly-named Dodger President Walter O’Malley on Oct. 26, 1950. O’Malley named both Vice Presidents, while Bavasi was also the General Manager and Thompson was also Director, Minor League Operations.

AP/Wide World Photos

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