A Cartoonist’s Dream
Walter O’Malley was a cartoonist’s dream. With his round face, Irish chin, and circular glasses, political and sports cartoonists had an easy time putting their own artistic style to describe his well-known features.
As President and later Chairman of the Board of the Los Angeles Dodgers, his involvement with the team, the Los Angeles community, and Major League Baseball gave purpose to showcasing O’Malley in more than 100 pieces of cartoon art.
Award-winning cartoonists such as Karl Hubenthal, Willard Mullin, Bill Gallo, Murray Olderman, Pete Bentovoja and artist Nick Volpe all put their pen to work in artwork featuring Walter O’Malley in some aspect regarding him and the Dodger team. Famed magazine artist Boris Chaliapin did a portrait of O’Malley for the cover of TIME magazine in April 1958.
The issues of the cartoons of O’Malley were not always serious. Virgil Partch, longtime cartoon artist in Southern California, put Walter O’Malley on Mt. Rushmore. Moe Leff, the cartoonist for the character of Joe Palooka, twice had O’Malley featured with Joe Palooka in a cartoon strip.
One strip by Leff had O’Malley conversing with Joe Palooka regarding Jerry Leemy, a friend of Palooka’s who wanted a tryout with the Dodgers. O’Malley went along with the idea and even penned correspondence to “Joe Palooka” writing “My Dear Joe: Thank you for your letter telling us about Jerry Leemy, and the fact that he desires another trial with the Brooklyn Dodgers Baseball Club. He will receive every consideration. Fresco Thompson, our Vice-President in charge of the farm system and Buzzie Bavasi will take charge. With every good wish, I remain, Sincerely, Walter O’Malley.”
Cartoonists drew O’Malley in a number of satirical roles as the owner of the Dodgers to convey their message. Among the ways O’Malley was portrayed were plucking 4-leaf clovers, college professor, Civil War Army General, contemporary Army general, using a Hula Hoop, boxer, riverboat gambler, George Washington, airline pilot, tightrope walker, Santa Claus, and a statue. Click here to see many of the above mentioned cartoons.
O’Malley’s caricature was seen on the cover of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 1962 media guide. Artist Pete Bentovoja displayed the new Dodger plane and the Dodger players aboard the flight. Bentovoja had O’Malley wearing a captain’s hat and saying, “Fasten your money belts, please...There’s heavy turbulence over Candlestick!”
The first O’Malley in cartoon form was the entry displayed in the Multimedia section of the Walter O’Malley website. The cartoon was drawn at a time in his life when he was a student at Culver Military Academy. Even then, the round glasses make O’Malley easy to spot.
The last cartoon version of Walter O’Malley was seen the day after he passed away on August 9, 1979. Bill Schorr of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner made an unmistakable, portrait of O’Malley, briefcase by his side. The cartoon has O’Malley scouting Zeus as the mythological character winds up to throw a thunderbolt from the heavens. O’Malley holds a contract in hand, offers a pen to Zeus and says, “Say, quite an arm you got there, son.”