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The Story of Walter O'Malley
There have been many books dedicated to the history of the Dodgers. Everyone knows about that third playoff game at the Polo Grounds in 1951 sickeningly known as “The Shot Heard Around the World.” We all know about Branch Rickey and his decision to make Jackie Robinson the player to break the color barrier in 1948. Tommy Lasorda, the six World Series, the 21 pennants - we all know about that.
But never has a book been written about legendary owner Walter O’Malley himself. In Forever Blue, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael D’Antonio documents the history of the elder O’Malley with unprecedented access to the O’Malley archive which includes 30,000 documents and artifacts. Stuff like handwritten letters from Jackie Robinson to letters O’Malley wrote to his family give insight into the man behind the franchise.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book details the construction of Dodger Stadium. While the plight of the uprooted residents in Chavez Ravine have been detailed, D’Antonio contends that most of the residents had already left and the ones remaining were posing as poor immigrants despite owning property around the city. It wasn’t the city and O’Malley who were the bullies but these recalcitrant squatters.
Another thing rarely discussed was the financial difficulty in getting the stadium built. With the cost of Dodger Stadium escalating banks wouldn’t give O’Malley funding. He showed his creativity by getting into one of the first sponsorship deals in sports with Union Oil. In exchange of financing Union Oil would get exclusive signage in the stadium hence the 76 signs all over the place.
Michael D’Antonio will be at the ESPN Zone at LA Live tonight from 7pm to 9pm for a book signing.