Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mystery History -- Solved!

Ben, our resident baseball guru, got it right off the bat (get it?) with his 6:30 a.m. Tuesday guess "Walter O'Malley checking out the Rose Bowl as an option to house the Brooklyn Dodgers."

In the 1957 photo above, National League President Warren Giles, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley and Pasadena City Manager Don McMillan stand on the field of the Rose Bowl Stadium during contract negotiations that would enable the Dodgers to play at the stadium for up to two seasons during their transition to Los Angeles.

O'Malley, a real estate mogul, decided to move the Dodgers out of Brooklyn because the decrepit Ebbets Field was no longer a viable option for league play and his proposal for building a modern stadium in that burrough fell through when he could not get support for suitable land.

In May 1957 the National League approved the move to Los Angeles, and in October 1957 the L.A. City Council made it official.

But where would the newly named Los Angeles Dodgers play their 1958 season? And how about 1959?

O'Malley's grand plans for a stadium at Chavez Ravine couldn't take shape in time for a number of reasons that I won't go into here (look it up), so he and L.A. city officials turned to Pasadena to discuss a possible temporary home at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

Here from left to right, Los Angeles Mayor Norris Poulson, Pasadena Mayor Seth Miller and O'Malley pore over a map of the Rose Bowl Stadium on Dec. 11, 1957:

During the Dec. 17, 1957, meeting of the Pasadena Board of City Directors (now called the City Council), the chamber was packed with people, many in favor and many opposed to the Dodgers using the stadium.

Excerpt from the minutes of that meeting:
The Chairman announced that the matter of use of the Rose Bowl by the Brooklyn Dodgers would now be taken up and on the order of the Chairman, the City Clerk announced that to this hour, 150 letters were received expressing opposition to the use of the Rose Bowl by the Dodgers, which includes 5 organizations, and that 40 letters were received favoring the said use by the Dodgers which includes 9 organizations.

There was plenty of testimony in the chamber during the meeting.

Here's Oliver B. Prickett representing the Linda Vista Association in opposition of the proposal:

Richard Spaulding representing sporting groups in favor of it:

And James B. Wilcott speaking in favor on behalf of the Pasadena Quarterbacks:

Dozens of people gave their public testimony, for and against. After all was said and done:
Moved by Director Benedict,
"That we direct the City Manager to work out the details of a contract with Walter O'Malley for his Dodgers Baseball Club to use the Rose Bowl as a temporary location for a period of one and one-half to two seasons".

The motion passed six to one.

Excerpts from a Los Angeles Times article Jan. 6, 1958:
Walter O'Malley will climb aboard the Dodger merry-go-round again today, hopeful that he can grab the brass ring -- temporary tenancy for his big leaguers in the Rose Bowl.

This morning the Dodger prexy will resume his discussions with City Manager Don C. McMillan of Pasadena, which were broken off temporarily last month when O'Malley flew east to bring his family back to California.

Their initial negotiations merely were exploratory, but with time running out -- the Dodgers' first home game will be April 18 against the San Francisco Giants -- O'Malley realizes that he must get down to brass tacks.

There is some organized opposition to the Dodgers in Pasadena, principally from residents in the vicinity of the bowl. However, the bulk of the Crown City's citizenry, including leading merchants, labor groups, service and fraternal organizations, are enthusiastic about the prospect of hosting O'Malley's homeless waifs.

Joining O'Malley in his negotiations with McMillan and Rose Bowl Manager Bob McCurdy will be his legal eagle, Harry Walsh; Amos Buckly of the Allied Maintenance Co., Dick Walsh, assistant director of the Dodger farm system, and an engineer.

Business Manager Harold Parrott will be back at his Wrigley Field office today after a brief trip, and Vice President Buzzie Bavasi is expected to return from the East shortly.

Here are Don McMillan (left), Bob McCurdy, Warren Giles and Walter O'Malley going over tentative plans on Jan. 6, 1958:

But here's the thing: Just because a motion passes and negotiations begin, that doesn't mean a contract will actually be executed.

Los Angeles Times - Jan. 14, 1958:
After weeks of careful study the Dodgers' engineers reported that it would cost a minimum of $750,000 to transform the 100,000-seat Rose Bowl into a ball park of major league standards.

A joint statement issued by McMillan and O'Malley asserted that "this amount of money could not be amortized in a short-term, two-year lease." Furthermore, they agreed that "the alterations would leave physical scars on the beautiful Rose Bowl."

During the Pasadena discussions the Coliseum Commission declined to deal further with O'Malley, but some members said they would be willing to revive negotiations if the Rose Bowl plan failed.

The Dodgers would play four seasons in the Coliseum until Dodger Stadium opened on April 10, 1962.

Many thanks to Pasadena Public Library, the City Clerk's Office and USC.


ben wideman said...

What a cool story. To think, they could have been the Pasadena Dodgers!

Patrizzi Intergarlictica said...

Congrats Ben!