Wyman's Historic Efforts Bring Dodgers to Los Angeles Walter O'Malley The Official Website

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Wyman’s Historic Efforts Bring Dodgers to Los Angeles

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McClellan said in the Los Angeles Times on September 17, 1957, “If the Dodgers accept the plan and build the stadium this will be the biggest bargain any city has had in getting major league baseball in 20 years.”1
That was because public funding was necessary for ballparks built in Milwaukee (1953), Kansas City (complete ballpark renovation in 1955) and in San Francisco (in order to relocate the New York Giants for the 1958 season). Major League Baseball officials would permit the Dodgers and Giants to move in tandem, if at all, and it was O’Malley who mentioned to Giants’ owner Horace Stoneham to explore San Francisco instead of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The two teams’ longtime rivalry would continue, while scheduling and air travel to the West Coast would be more feasible and less costly. When the City Council passed the September 17, 1957 resolution, 11-3, to offer a definite deal to the Dodgers, Wyman spoke of the fact that the Dodgers would not increase taxes in Los Angeles, but would put the hilly Chavez Ravine area on the tax rolls. Since the dissolution of a public housing project in the early 1950s, in which the residents received compensation through the public court system for their properties, no tax revenue was being generated on the property, despite a few residents who were living illegally there. The City of Los Angeles would initially receive nearly $350,000 a year in real estate taxes (which continued to increase beginning in 1963) from Dodger Stadium.
As part of the negotiations for the land on which to build and maintain the ballpark, O’Malley was legally bound to privately finance and construct 50,000-seat Dodger Stadium. Also, the Dodgers exchanged land at Chavez Ravine for Wrigley Field, which O’Malley had acquired on February 21, 1957, with its estimated value of $2.2 million. Additionally, O’Malley was contractually obligated to fund a youth recreation area near the adjacent Police Academy with an initial investment of $500,000 plus annual payments $60,000 for 20 years.
Prior to the council’s final vote on October 7, Wyman spoke with O’Malley on the telephone, as a nervous Mayor Poulson was unable to talk to him and handed her the phone. Although O’Malley never told her officially he was going to accept the Los Angeles offer if voted favorably by the City Council that evening, Wyman was not asked by fellow members and she did not relate that O’Malley never said for certain he was headed to Los Angeles. The council adopted ordinance 110204 that night by a 10-4 margin. The next day, the Dodgers announced, “In view of the action of the Los Angeles City Council yesterday and in accordance with the resolution of the National League made October first, the stockholders and directors of the Brooklyn Baseball Club have today met and unanimously agreed that the necessary steps be taken to draft the Los Angeles territory.”
Wyman had a feeling of unbridled exhilaration and accomplishment, as the Dodgers, one of the most storied franchises in baseball history since 1890, were packing their bags for Los Angeles and the 1958 season. She was one of the members of the official welcoming party which greeted the Los Angeles Dodger Convair-440 airplane at L.A. International Airport on the chilly night of October 23, 1957. Several thousand cheering fans met the plane on the tarmac, most of them friendly, but not all.
Elation would turn to frustration as a damper was put on the Dodgers’ arrival when a group of dissidents rallied support for a petition by the end of 1957, forcing a referendum known as “Proposition B” on the June 1958 ballot. A “Yes” vote meant the contract between the City of Los Angeles and the Dodgers was to be approved and in force, while a “No” vote rejected the previously signed contract. Sentiment was running high in both camps and O’Malley was caught in the middle of the politics, even stating, “I was not aware of a thing called a referendum. We don’t have them in New York.”2 Wyman would comment years later, “We didn’t know who was supporting the opposition. It took us a while to figure it out.”

1 Paul Zimmerman, Los Angeles Times, Deal For Dodgers Gets L.A. Council Approval, September 17, 1957
2 Boston Globe, Sports Plus, July 28, 1978

The Dodger Convair 440 airplane arrives at the Los Angeles International Airport carrying club executives and select players as the welcoming committee is ready to greet the contingent on October 23, 1957. Because of strong headwinds, which necessitated a fuel stop, the plane arrived more than two hours late, but it did not put a damper on the celebration as bands played and the Dodger personnel were properly welcomed to their new home. Wyman meets O’Malley for the first time on the steps of the airplane.

Click here to see a larger image

Press Release, Brooklyn Dodgers

A portion of the 1958 brochure in favor of Proposition B. A “Yes For Proposition B” vote would confirm the previously-approved contract between the City of Los Angeles and the Dodgers.

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