Tribute to O'Malley is long overdue
Dodgers' pioneering executive being inducted into Hall of Fame
Peter O'Malley knows how his late father, Walter, would have reacted if he had lived long enough to see his election and induction into Baseball's Hall of Fame.
"The first thing he would have done, if he was alive, he would have called all the people who worked with him and thanked them for making it all possible," said Peter O'Malley. "As president, the way he ran the business, he believed in stability and very little turnover. It was the strength of the organization. The management team worked as well as the team on the field."
The induction ceremony will be held on Sunday at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., beginning at 10:30 a.m. PT, and it will be televised live on MLB.com. O'Malley was elected into the Hall by a 12-person committee that determines worthy pioneers and executives.
Tom Lasorda will attend the ceremony as part of a Dodgers delegation that will also include Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin and executives Peter Wilhelm, Billy DeLury and Sam Fernandez. Lasorda earned election to the Hall in 1997 after managing for the O'Malley Dodgers for two decades.
"All I can say is that it's about time," said Lasorda, who attended the Winter Meetings press conference in Nashville, Tenn., at which O'Malley's election was announced. "He deserves it. He's a pioneer. He made a tremendous change in the game, opening up the West Coast to Major League Baseball."
Peter O'Malley agreed that his father's achievement was "long overdue," as the senior O'Malley died in 1979 at age 75. Peter O'Malley said that his father served for 28 years on MLB's executive council and was instrumental in the early stages of the game's international growth.
O'Malley, 70, said that his father often spoke about the Hall of Fame, but not in the context of being elected to it.
"He had the greatest respect for the Hall of Fame," he said. "He said it was so important, and not just for the game of baseball but all sports, and not just in the United States but all over the world."
Fred Claire, who eventually became the Dodgers' general manager, served as vice president of public relations for the senior O'Malley.
"He was a man of such great vision, more than anything," recalled Claire, who now writes a column for MLB.com. "I remember Jim Cour of UPI, in an interview, asked Walter what he wanted to be remembered for. Walter spun that cigar and said he wanted to be remembered for planting a tree. As good as the question was, the answer was better. It all had to do with growth, the future and going beyond what currently was.
"Look at the building of Dodger Stadium, his view of television, of marketing, of free agency and the changing game. He just had the ability to see things so clearly."
Peter O'Malley and his sister, Terry Seidler, sold the Dodgers to News Corp. in 1998. He has since established a Web site dedicated to his father, www.walteromalley.com, "featuring the words, works and achievements" of the former Dodgers owner, who moved the club from Brooklyn in 1958 and brought Major League Baseball to the West Coast.
Peter O'Malley said that his father's legacy is more encompassing that simply moving his team west.
"No. 1, he spent 10 years trying to find a way to stay, to build a ballpark that he would operate," he said. "He made a tremendous effort to stay. The HBO special ["The Brooklyn Dodgers: Ghosts of Flatbush"] focused on that effort, on my father addressing the aging Ebbets Field situation, wondering where would they play, wondering what would he do and where would they go.
"Secondly, I think his building Dodger Stadium was a crowning achievement, and it's still a jewel. He designed it, built it and privately financed it. He did more than open up the West. When he opened Dodger Stadium, he got the attention of the world. The day he opened Dodger Stadium, April 10, 1962, that was the happiest day of his life."
Although Peter O'Malley is no longer affiliated with a baseball team, the O'Malley family retains a link to the game through the efforts of Peter's son, Kevin, and his nephew, Tom Seidler, the son of Terry. The cousins own and operate the Visalia Oaks of the Class A California League. Seidler, president and general manager of his club, said that his grandfather's election to the Hall of Fame brought back memories of growing up as the grandson of the boss.
"I was lucky," said Seidler. "Today I'm thinking about all those springs at Dodgertown, of learning how to drive in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. It's a great day for our family, and we're all proud. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He was a true pioneer. He was very good for the game.
"Now that we've got our long-term renovations at Visalia, it will allow the next generation of our family to stay connected to the game, on a smaller scale."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.