55 years ago, May 3, 1957, Walter O'Malley, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, meets with Los Angeles city officials, including City Attorney Roger Arnebergh at the Statler Hotel (now the Wilshire Grand) located at Wilshire and Figueroa in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. It was at this meeting where O’Malley agreed in principle to relocate the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.
The meeting produced the infamous ```Arnebergh Memorandum. ‘’
According to the memo: ``At a conference today, held at the Statler Hotel, discussion was had involving the possibility of bringing Major League Baseball to Los Angeles. It was indicated that the City and County should be prepared to make an offer containing the following provisions: ‘’
The first of 10 provisions read as follows: 1.) ``City and/or County to acquire and deed to the Major League Baseball club 350 acres in Chavez Ravine, including the present 257 acres now owned by the City, the additional acreage to be adjacent thereto. Such 350 acres to comprise an approximate circle, if possible.’’
Mr. O’Malley made it painfully clear to New York City planning officials that he needed a new stadium to replace the dilapidated Ebbets Field (the team’s home since 1913), a stadium built by Charles H. Ebbets, which included inadequate parking and a seating capacity of only 23,000. Attendance at Ebbets Field, moreover, had been declining every year since 1948. Specifically, O’Malley wanted a 40,000-seat ballpark with 12,000 parking places.
Talks seemed to go nowhere with the Dodger owner and city officials. New York City planner Robert Moses stipulated the city would own and operate a new ballpark, not in Brooklyn, but in Queens at the site of the 1939's World's Fair at Flushing Meadows, the eventual site of Shea Stadium.
6,702 Brooklyn fans attended the final game at Ebbets Field on September 24, 1957 not knowing if this would be the last time they would see their beloved Dodgers in a Brooklyn uniform. The Dodgers blanked the Pirates, 2-0 in the season finale, finishing in 3rd place with an 84-70 record, 11 games behind the Milwaukee Braves.
The official announcement that the Dodgers were bound for L.A. didn’t come until October 8, 1957. O’Malley expressed regret for the relocation, citing four reasons which forced his hand: 1.) A new ballpark for an aging Ebbets Field; 2.) Poor attendance; 3.) Insufficient parking; 4.) A New York City amusement tax of 5% on admissions.”
Los Angeles offered O’Malley 400 acres of land in Chavez Ravine, an area in Sulfir Canyon, with an additional 40 acres to be developed for recreational purposes. The city additionally gave O'Malley $4.7 million to begin construction on a premier baseball facility, Dodger Stadium.
When the Dodgers announced they were leaving Brooklyn, many New Yorkers felt as if they had just been delivered a swift sucker punch, especially members of the press. Milton Gross of the New York Post imagined O'Malley saying, ``Damn the fans, L.A. Here we come.’’ Journalists Pete Hamill and Jack Newfield, meanwhile, compiled their list of 10 worst human beings of the 20th Century; their top three included: Hitler, Stalin, and Walter O'Malley. Newfield once wrote that O'Malley`` killed a generation's innocence.'' Hamill, a Brooklyn native, later wrote: ``After 1957, it seemed like we would never laugh again. Of course we did. It's just that we were never young again.''
The Dodgers had represented Brooklyn in the National League since 1890. The Brooklyn Dodgers won the National League pennant 12 times and the World Series once, in 1955.
Despite his pariah status among Brooklynites, the late Walter Francis O’Malley was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.
May 3, 2012