Walter O'Malley The Official Website

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Dodger Planes Take Flight with Holman at Controls

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Initially, Bud Holman’s devotion to the sleepy-eyed Vero Beach community led to his pursuit of the Dodgers and their 26 minor league teams. As time passed, his interest grew in watching and enjoying baseball, especially the Dodgers. “He got to be a big fan,” said son Bump.
Holman explains that since most of the time the Dodger DC-3 airplane was parked and waiting to be flown following Spring Training, an experiment took place with a minor league affiliate which changed the course of history.
“After Spring Training, they hardly used the airplane during the ‘off-season,’ maybe once or twice,” said Holman. “In 1954, Dodger executives came to me and said pick one of these (minor league) ballclubs and go see if you can fly one for a season. See if the airplane is dependable enough, if we can overcome the weather problems and all the obstacles to see if we can fly a ballclub all year. So, we picked out the St. Paul (MN.) ballclub in the American Association. I flew them all that summer. We made all the games. We didn’t have any problems — no breakdowns, no mechanicals and no weather issues. So, the next year, they kind of branched out...we flew St. Paul all year and then they threw in the Ft. Worth (TX.) club. I flew St. Paul on every trip, but when they were staying at home, I’d run down and fly Ft. Worth and run them around for a couple of weeks. This was in 1954-56.”
By then, the successful experiment complete, it was time for O’Malley and others to locate a larger airplane in which the Dodgers could travel on a regular season basis. The purchase of a twin-engine plane for more than $700,000 meant the Dodgers were the first team in baseball history to own their own airliner to transport the team.
“In 1957, they bought a Convair 440, brand new right from the factory,” said Holman. “It was like double the airplane. Twice as much horsepower and twice the seats — it had 44 seats in it. Eastern ordered 20 of them and O’Malley and my Dad got wind of it. They waited until (Eddie) Rickenbacker was down at the Convair factory in San Diego and they went out there the same time he was there and said up your order to 21. It was identical to the Eastern airplanes with the same interior.
“The only thing we did to that airplane was put an automatic pilot in it. Eastern didn’t believe in auto pilots. Of course, they flew short trips, little 30 minute trips. We had long ones, so I finally talked them into letting me put an auto pilot in it.
“It was painted with the same Eastern duck hawk on the tail. But, where their’s said, ‘Fly Eastern Airlines’ ours said, ‘Brooklyn Dodgers’ on the side. Where the round duck hawk was on the nose on the Eastern paint job, they put a baseball on there.
“As soon as we switched to the Convair, we jumped over to the Dodgers and flew them exclusively. I flew them on that plane during the seasons of 1957 to 1960.”
One of Holman’s most memorable flights was piloting Dodger officials and select players from New York to Los Angeles on October 23, 1957.

Bump Holman stands in front of the DC-3 with Lee Pike, his first flight instructor and first co-pilot with the Dodgers in 1954. Holman got his commercial pilot’s license at the age of 18.
Photo by Barney Stein

The Brooklyn Dodgers Convair 440 Metropolitan twin-engine plane was purchased on January 4, 1957. The Dodgers took delivery of the plane in mid-March. At the time of purchase, Dodger President Walter O’Malley announced to Associated Press, “This is the first time a major league club has bought an airplane.”

Dodger President Walter O’Malley and Dodger Director Bud Holman are on the steps of the 44-seat Dodger Convair 440 Metropolitan twin-engine plane. Holman’s son Bump is visible in the cockpit window. O’Malley added to the order of Eastern Air Lines to purchase the plane directly through the Convair factory, with the assistance of his friend Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, President of Eastern. Bud Holman served as a Director of the Dodgers and was Eastern’s representative at the Vero Beach Airport.

The Dodgers became the first major league baseball team to own their own airplane, as they purchased a Convair 440 Metropolitan twin-engine. From left to right, Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, President of Eastern Air Lines, Dodger Director Bud Holman, Dodger President Walter O’Malley and Dodger Director James Mulvey show a model of the Convair 440. The Dodgers made the purchase of the airplane on January 4, 1957, piggybacking on Rickenbacker’s order of airplanes for Eastern.

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