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Influential O'Malley inducted into Hall

Influential O'Malley inducted into Hall

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- A half century after Walter O'Malley moved to California to trigger dramatic shifts in the Major League landscape, he returned to New York for eternal rest as one of the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The late patriarch of the Brooklyn-Los Angeles Dodgers was inducted into the shrine on Sunday as one of three electees by the Hall's Veterans Committee on pioneers and executives, joining former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and former Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss in sharing the posthumous honor.

"Dad enjoyed many of you, and he would appreciate visiting with you and thanking you personally," Peter O'Malley, Walter's son and successor as president of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said in accepting the Hall of Fame plaque on his behalf.

That plaque, in part, portrays Walter O'Malley as an "influential and visionary owner who inspired baseball's move west" and someone who "maintained affordable ticket prices while generating record attendance."

He was all that, and for precisely that he is still reviled in Brooklyn while reveled west of the Mississippi. O'Malley indeed left a murky and misunderstood legacy, which explains why on Sunday every mention of his name evoked a smattering of boos from New Yorkers who never let go.

While arguably the most influential pioneer of baseball expansion -- both in terms of teams and geography -- he left a trail of bad blood by leaving Brooklyn, and in a sense taking the New York Giants with him.

"He spearheaded a long, unprecedented effort to build a new stadium in Brooklyn," Peter O'Malley again reminded. "He spent 10 years planning and designing a new stadium to replace Ebbets Field, starting in 1946.

"Ten years later, he realized he couldn't do it in Brooklyn. Then, and only then, he began to look for alternatives. And when Dodger Stadium opened [in 1962], it was the culmination of a dream ... and also his happiest moment."

Peter O'Malley held the grateful spotlight, but was surrounded by a large contingent of family members who had made the pilgrimage to Cooperstown to honor their patriarch's memory.

Those present included both of Walter O'Malley's children (Peter and older sister Terry O'Malley Seidler), a dozen grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

"Everyone is very proud," Peter O'Malley had remarked earlier. "And he [Walter] was very close to Bowie Kuhn and would have been pleased to know he was being inducted alongside him. They both cared deeply about the integrity of the game."

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O'Malley's induction comes 38 years after he turned over the Dodgers' presidency to his son, and nearly 29 years after his death.

"To see Walter O'Malley finally recognized is very special," said Steve Garvey, the former first baseman in one of the Dodgers' most glorious eras.

During O'Malley's tenure, talk would often center around "the Dodger family." All the time he ran the Dodgers, O'Malley hired only two managers -- Charlie Dressen in 1951 and Walter Alston in 1954.

That kind of practice is a relic, but some of that Dodgers family remains intact.

"In all honesty, he was like a second father to me," said Vin Scully, who has been announcing Dodgers games since Brooklyn.

Jamie Jarrin has been the voice of the Dodgers' Spanish radio network since they alit in Los Angeles and said, "[O'Malley] was the first person who understood the potential of the Hispanic market in southern California."

"Dad would be proud to know he was a member of the class of 2008, and he'd be organizing a party for each of you," Peter O'Malley said in summary. "And he could throw a heck of a party."

"Everyone in the family just loves Cooperstown," Seidler said. "It's terrific here."

O'Malley family members have passed through here often. This time, when they left, a big part of them stayed behind.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["hall_of_fame" ] }
{"content":["hall_of_fame" ] }
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