First Major League Game in Los Angeles Walter O'Malley The Official Website

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History in the Making: First Major League Game in Los Angeles

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O’Malley scrambled to make temporary arrangements for Dodger home games while Dodger Stadium was to be constructed. One possibility that O’Malley investigated late in 1957 was the famed Rose Bowl in Pasadena, but the exorbitant cost of converting the football field to a baseball diamond made it untenable. O’Malley had taken title to Wrigley Field, located at 42nd and Avalon in Los Angeles, on February 21, 1957 in an important exchange with Phil Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs. Although it did give the Dodgers a place to play in a pinch, O’Malley still left his options open as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was also on his list.
Like the Rose Bowl, the historic 100,000-seat Coliseum was not designed for baseball. Football, track and field meets, the Olympic Games in 1932 and other significant events of local and national interest had been held at the Coliseum, but baseball was not among them. The Los Angeles Rams played there (since 1946), the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans played home football games there and all those tenants, as well as other regularly held events, would have scheduling priority over the Dodgers. Regarding the prospects of the Dodgers playing in the Coliseum, O’Malley had written to Capt. Praeger on April 17, 1957 asking him to “Be good enough to have someone show how this could be laid out temporarily for a baseball field.”
The problem was that the Coliseum’s dimensions were not particularly compatible with baseball, as well as its east-west orientation. The Rose Bowl had a more favorable north-south orientation which helped with the setting sun. It was due to the stress and strain on O’Malley and his sleepless nights that he came up with his best concept for shoehorning a baseball field in the Coliseum’s existing frame. His proposed “3 a.m. Plan” before the Coliseum Commission in mid-January 1958 was to place a baseball diamond on the west end of the surface, necessitating the construction of a 42-foot high screen in left field due to the short distance of 251 feet to the fence.
Certainly, by baseball standards this action would be unprecedented, but one that was deemed necessary in order to proceed with the use of the facility. Though O’Malley had no intent of making a mockery of the game or its dimensions, he reasoned that this makeshift solution at a temporary Dodger home field was acceptable. It would take a toll on the team, however, as left-handed pull hitter Duke Snider would not enjoy as much success at the Coliseum because of its cavernous right-center field dimensions. Dodger pitcher Ed Roebuck pretty well summed up the site: “It looks like Grand Canyon with seats.”1
When it was determined that the expense of converting the Rose Bowl was too pricey and the National League had also informed O’Malley that home games in Pasadena might leave the Los Angeles territory open to another team to relocate there, O’Malley dropped that idea. That left Dodger-owned Wrigley Field with its limited seating capacity (22,000) and parking (a problem similar to the one at Ebbets Field) and the Coliseum. In negotiations with the Coliseum Commission, O’Malley finally agreed on January 17, 1958 to pay $600,000 for a two-year lease as well as the nearly $300,000 needed to convert it to a baseball playing surface. The Coliseum Commission granted permission to O’Malley and the Dodgers with a unanimous 9-0 vote.

1 Arthur Daley, The New York Times, April 18, 1958

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3 a.m. Plan
By installing a removable screen on the north side of the Coliseum, it was possible to configure the football layout into a makeshift baseball field. The “3 a.m. Plan” emerges in January 1958 from Walter O’Malley’s lack of sleep as he wrestles with options for where the Los Angeles Dodgers would play that year. The baseball diamond was to be shoehorned in the closed end of the Coliseum, giving home plate a north-east orientation. A 42-foot high screen had to be installed because of the short 251 foot left field fence.

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A cartoon shows that major league baseball is flying into town as the Dodgers are scheduled to play their first game in Los Angeles against the San Francisco Giants at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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The front page of the Los Angeles Herald Express denotes its time to “Play Ball” as it welcomes the Dodgers on Friday, April 18, 1958 prior to their first game in Los Angeles.

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Construction is underway at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum early in 1958 to prepare a baseball diamond on the playing surface, previously used primarily for football and track & field events. The oval-shaped Coliseum presented numerous challenges for Dodger owner Walter O’Malley, but he resolved them at their temporary home, while designing, building and privately-financing Dodger Stadium.

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