Sympathy for THIS Devil? For O’Malley? Neva!

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

The son of former Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley, perhaps the most reviled man in the history of the Western Hemisphere, will face down a borough still livid at losing its beloved Bums to Los Angeles more than half a century ago.

Peter O’Malley will make a rare public appearance at the Brooklyn Historical Society on March 21, along with Michael D’Antonio, the author of “Forever Blue,” a new biography of Walter, and New York Times sportswriter Richard Sandomir.

The junior O’Malley’s participation in the Q&A is the equivalent of a circus ringleader sticking his head into a hungry lion’s mouth. (What a surprise; he didn’t respond to requests for an interview to explain himself and his dad.)

D’Antonio’s biography was the result of that ultimate Faustian bargain: in exchange for giving the elder O’Malley a fair shake, the family gave the author access to thousands of pages of previously unavailable family documents.

As a result, D’Antonio portrays O’Malley in a more favorable light than some diehards may be willing to tolerate. Yes, sports fans, he largely excuses the hated O’Malley — whose name is typically listed with Hitler’s and Stalin’s on lists of the worst villains of the 20th century (though not always in that order) — for shipping the team to Tinseltown.

So here’s the revisionist history (or should that be “his story”?): O’Malley’s decision to flee Brooklyn only came after he “spent the better part of a decade trying to build a new stadium” in Brooklyn, D’Antonio told The Brooklyn Paper.

“The Dodgers needed to be able to seat more people. They needed more parking. They needed access to mass transit.”

D’Antonio says that the real scoundrels were Robert Moses, the master planner opposed to a new stadium in Brooklyn for Dem Bums, and an oblivious Mayor Robert Wagner.

“Wagner didn’t take seriously the problems of the Dodgers or the New York Giants — and he didn’t know what they meant to the city,” the author argues.

But facts be damned; it was O’Malley, not Moses or Wagner, who went down in history as a sun-loving Satan.

Other baseball historians understand D’Antonio’s reasoning, but refuse to let such a notorious ogre off the hook.

“I don’t see any reason to blame him 100 percent. But he didn’t do us any favors either,” said Tom Gilbert, a baseball historian.

“Baseball was mostly in the northeast in the 1950s. You had all these attractive untapped markets out there in the south and west. This enabled baseball clubs to threaten to move unless cities built them a stadium [so they] were suckering cities into giving them something for free.”

Brooklyn refused to play ball, forcing O’Malley’s hand, the book’s argument goes.

Clearly, this one will need extra innings to settle.

But Peter O’Malley may also face harsh questioning about why the Los Angeles version of the Dodgers have had such an arm’s-length relationship with the team’s birthplace.

With the wound from the Dodgers’ departure still oozing, the younger O’Malley was still enraging Brooklynites as recently as 1993 when he sued a Bay Ridge bar called “the Brooklyn Dodger” for — yes, believe it — copyright infringment.

A judge threw out the case in 1993. Yeah, great, but where was that jurist in 1957?

“Forever Blue” reading at the Brooklyn Historical Society [126 Pierrepont St., between Clinton Street and Monroe Place in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 222-4111], Saturday, March 21 at 1 pm. Free. Read an excerpt on

Updated 5:11 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
Get over it already, Brooklyn.
March 12, 2009, 4:46 pm
Rocky from South Brooklyn says:
Brooklyn's newest villian is of Australian origin.
March 12, 2009, 5:21 pm
Louis from Kensington says:
I am all for hyperbole as humor but Hitler and Stalin? Seems a tad much. Hopefully the people that go to the Historical Society can temper their outrage (jocular or not) and ask insightful, reasonable questions.
March 12, 2009, 5:49 pm
alan from sheepshead bay says:
Sorry to say, it was not O'Malley, who drove the Dodgers out of Brooklyn, it was Robert Moses.
March 12, 2009, 8:02 pm
Blue from South says:
Sounds like a lot of misplaced outrage. Madoff would be a better part of the hyperbole as old people die off because they have no funds for proper care. O'Malley on the other hand took the world's best sport and made it better. It is too bad he had to take the Trolly Dodgers and make them Diva Dodgers, but they were still the greatest franchise in baseball until sold to that was the real crime, and it wasn't forced. They'll always be the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Vero Beach Dodgers, and they represented all of those well until the Fox/McCourt fiascos.
March 12, 2009, 8:12 pm
Al from Park Slope says:
I agree with you Blue, O'malley was very bright. He wanted to move the Dodgers to a new stadium on the corner of 4th & Atlantic. I still like that idea.
March 13, 2009, 8:37 am
Sam from Bay Ridge says:
I havent read the book, but I read the excerpt in Sports Illustrated.

Seeing how Moses imposed his vision accross the city, its not hard to see him doing the same to Brooklyn fans, the Dodgers, and O'Malley.

The Dodgers left Brooklyn because they got a better deal elsewhere, who could blame them?

Baseball teams are businesses. Moving the team was strictly a business decision. Who knows what Moses' reasons were (my guess is he was a Yankee fan), but O'Malley did not move the team to spite Brooklyn residents, he was motivated like the rest of us, by $.
March 13, 2009, 10:09 am
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
Does anyone actually still care about the Dodgers? My mother was a child when they moved - it's really ancient history.
March 13, 2009, 11:26 am
Ed from Staten Island says:
"Get over it already, Brooklyn"

"Does anyone actually still care about the Dodgers? "

No Dodger fans from New York, who lived it at the time, has really "gotten over it". The team was hijacked in the name of greed. Wewill never forget!

Let's Go Mets!
March 13, 2009, 12:59 pm
Jeff S from East Flatbush says:
The types of comments we expect from people who don't know the truth...only the half truths being thrown out.

Without going through the whole thing, Moses could not do as O'Malley wanted due to the eminent domain laws of New York State. The property did not belong to the City of New York, it belonged to the Pennsylvania Railroad which at the time owned the Long Island Rail Road. Whether Moses was inclined to help O'Malley or not, his hands were legally tied.

He did offer O'Malley the same sweetheart deal that was later given to the Mets at a location easily accesible from Brooklyn and from the area where many of the fans had moved. This lease has enabled the Mets to become a much more valuable franchise than the current Los Angeles franchise.

O'Malley used Flatbush/Atlantic as a smoke screen. He made a secret deal to move the team to Los Angeles in his need for greed. The Brooklyn Dodgers were by far the biggest money makers in baseball before the theft of the franchise.

Learn the facts before you throw out such silliness as get over it etc. It was wrong in 1957 and it is just as wrong today for the imposter organization on the left coast to use the name it stole from Brooklyn.
March 13, 2009, 2:04 pm
Jimmy from Park Slope says:
O'Malley was offered the same Shea deal that made the Mets rich. He could easily have stayed in the Brooklyn area.

He didn't accept it because Los Angeles was willing to steal the land of Mexican-Americans at Chavez Ravine, kick them out under the pretext of building affordable housing, and give the land to O'Malley.

To his credit, Moses would not steal hundreds of acres in Brooklyn for O'Malley's benefit. He legally couldn't anyway: Look at how impossible it's been for Bruce Ratner to clear the legal hurdles to his arena at Atlantic and Flatbush. The lawsuits would have gone on for years. And the area Ratner wants to use would not require the extensive use of eminent domain that O'Malley's proposal required.

But O'Malley could have stayed in New York and continued to own the most lucrative team in the league by accepting the proposal at Flushing Meadow. Having the most lucrative team wasn't enough, though. He wanted the hundreds of acres in downtown Los Angeles, too, even if it meant doing enormous damage to Brooklyn.

Which is why a generation rightfully hated the man.

O'Malley's son isn't happy with the family's ill-gotten millions alone - he's been expending considerable effort 50 years later to clear his father's foul name.

But his father's name is foul for a reason.

It's a shame the ignorant are falling for his lies.
March 13, 2009, 3:09 pm
George S. from Cobble Hill says:
The new book is that big a deal, there have been several of them on this subject, one by a college prof who studied everything he could get his hands on. They all agreed that O'Malley had a documented 10-year campaign to build a Brooklyn stadium and was thwarted at every turn, and frustrated by the failure of the NY pols to listen to him. They did eventually offer him the Shea site, everyone agrees on that. But how would that have helped hold the center of Brooklyn together? Might as well move them to Yonkers. He did the right thing. As to greed, he had a real mountain to climb in LA to get his way, and almost lost a very close vote to get the Dodger Stadium site. So, he gets some credit there, it was not a sure thing. The safer choice as far as money was concerned would be to move to Queens, not to move to LA.
March 15, 2009, 3:39 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
Robert Moses ruined New York City with his lies & corrupt ways. Robert Moses got rid of the New York Aquarium because they did not let him build a bridge. He told city officials that in order to build the Brookln Battery Tunnel the aquarium had to go because it s weight would collapse the tunnel. This is a Moses Lie, the aquarium was not in the tunnel's path. Tell why would a family owned and operated business for over 50 years want to leave Brooklyn and take to Queens? Robert Moses forced O'Malley to take the better deal that was on the table. That was the L.A. deal. All of Robert Moses' parks got our kids Breathing poison because they are all located by a Parkway, Expessway or Highway.
March 18, 2009, 8:08 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
The Queens Dodgers? I don't think so.
Check out
March 18, 2009, 8:15 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
A groundbreaking, comprehensive biography about Walter O’Malley is due for release on March 19, 2009. Although he has been mentioned in hundreds of books, this is the first book that solely features the Hall of Fame owner of the Dodgers. Author Michael D’Antonio, who shared a Pulitzer Prize while reporting at Newsday, used never-before-seen documents from the personal archives of O’Malley, his own independent thorough research and interviews to provide an intimate portrait of baseball’s most significant owner in “Forever Blue” (Riverhead Press, hardcover, 368 pgs.).
March 18, 2009, 10:03 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
For an unprecedented 10 years, O’Malley searched for solutions to privately build a new stadium for the Dodgers in Brooklyn to replace aging Ebbets Field. But, the struggle with New York officials to assemble land for the stadium in Brooklyn, which O’Malley would have purchased, led to his eventual decision to relocate the Dodgers to Los Angeles.

O’Malley’s legacy includes that historic expansion of Major League Baseball westward, bringing the Dodgers to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, making baseball truly national and privately building 56,000-seat Dodger Stadium, the first and finest baseball ballpark of the modern era. Also presented are O’Malley’s countless challenges on two Coasts; the love of his life; the modernization of Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida; and the successful organization that he led that won four World Championships.
March 18, 2009, 10:04 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
Two polls in December 1999 provide the backdrop for the significance of O’Malley’s career, as ABC Sports Century panel ranked him 8th in its Top 10 Most Influential People “Off the Field” in sports history, while The Sporting News named him the 11th “Most Powerful Person in Sports” in the 20th Century.

D’Antonio has been a journalist and nonfiction author for 30 years. He has published more than a dozen books including Atomic Harvest, Tin Cup Dreams, Mosquito, The State Boys Rebellion, and Hershey. The author of hundreds of magazine articles, his work has appeared in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Discover, and many other publications. He has also written and sold original stories for film, including two—Deacons for Defense and Crown Heights—that were produced and aired by Showtime.
March 18, 2009, 10:05 pm
Sady from Greenpoint says:
The Brooklyn Historical Society is hosting an open forum on the BHS blog to discuss the book Forever Blue:
March 19, 2009, 4:19 pm

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: