“Wow! Wow! Wow!” pgs. 192-194
Copyright © 2009 Michael D’Antonio and Riverhead Books
Baseball was becoming such a big issue in Los Angeles that even the most unlikely political candidate could use it to great advantage. Rosalind Wiener (soon to marry and take the name Wyman) had been raised by parents who displayed FDR posters in their drugstore. At eighteen she was Helen Douglas’s driver during the Senate race she lost as Richard Nixon smeared her with the charge that she aided Communists. Undiscouraged, she threw herself into the 1952 Stevenson campaign for president – another loss – and then put herself up for city council. (Besides baseball, her issues included bringing museums to the city and a proposed ban on the sale of horror comics in places where young children could see them.) She was all of twenty-two years-old.
The Wyman council campaign of 1953 was a months-long display of earnest door-to-door effort headquartered on the dining room table at her parents’ house. Weekends brought young Democrats from all over the state to work as volunteers. They stuffed envelopes and made phone calls, taking breaks only to eat and catch I Love Lucy on TV. Every weekday Wyman walked five miles or more, determined to meet every voter in her district. Her main publicity piece, a card listing her priorities, emphasized boosting the city with new cultural institutions and baseball. When she received a donation of several thousand bars of soap, these were given away with some sentiment about cleaning up local government.
On election night, Wyman’s campaign team listened for the results on the radio and heard the announcer say something under his breath. As Wyman would recall it was “Stop handing me these reports that say Miss Wiener is winning. They can’t be right.”
The reports from the precincts were correct. Miss Wiener did win, becoming the youngest person ever elected to the council. The next year she was part of a majority on the council who approved a resolution urging every city, county, and state agency to cooperate in every way possible in order to bring a major league team to the city. Every club in the country received a copy of the documents. The one sent to Brooklyn landed on Walter O’Malley’s desk.
Between the Los Angeles City Council’s correspondence, Bill Veeck’s two thick reports, and press accounts about the buzz over baseball in the West, Walter O’Malley was fully aware of the opportunity available in California. But in addition to these documents, which every owner in the league possessed, O’Malley also had constant contacts – letters, telegrams, phone calls – from Vincent X. Flaherty, Los Angeles Examiner columnist, baseball fanatic, and ceaseless promoter.
In one letter after another Flaherty tried to persuade O’Malley to either move the team to Los Angeles or sell it to someone who would. Although O’Malley often ignored him, Flaherty kept pitching with a combination of flattery, promises, and warnings that “someday you’ll realize” what a “wonderful opportunity” awaits. At one point in the summer of 1954, O’Malley finally responded with a long letter explaining the Dodgers’ situation in great detail and outlining his views on a business that seemed poised for big changes.
The way O’Malley saw it, the recent purchase of the St. Louis Cardinals by the beer giant Anheuser-Busch heralded a new era of corporate investment in the old game. A number of big corporations – including another brewery, a distillery, and an auto manufacturer – were trying to buy teams, said O’Malley, and Wall Street “lads” were “working their slide rules overtime” to figure out deals that combined pay television systems and ball clubs in one entity. Everyone, it seemed, saw great potential in a sport with momentarily depressed revenues but great long-term growth potential.
As owners of one of the strongest teams, O’Malley and his minor partners had already turned down a $6.5 million offer from a serious and well-qualified bidder. The decision was based on both the team’s potential and an estimated $10 million value for the franchise, its players, and real estate holdings scattered from Montreal to Vero Beach.