Dodgers, Giants Move Approved in 1957

Fifty years ago, May 28, 1957, the Dodgers and Giants got approval from the National League to move the Brooklyn and New York franchises to Los Angeles and San Francisco, moving baseball boundaries from the left coast to the right coast -- or from the Big Apple to the Big Orange.

    The Dodgers had joined professional baseball in 1883 and moved into the National League in 1890. A bitterly competitive relationship had developed between the 'Jint and Bums and to have them agree on something, anything, was a stunning thing.

By the time Walter O'Malley took over as its principal owner late in 1950, the nickname of Brooklyn's National League club had become a self-fulfilling burden.

O'Malley realized years earlier that the Dodgers could not survive competitively in crumbling Ebbets Field. Accessibility was the key to staying in the National League race.

The Dodgers drew 1.8 million fans in 1947 and attendance spiraled downward from that time on, despite fielding the most glorious team in the storied franchise's history.

O'Malley struggled with New York officials over a new stadium for the Dodgers. It came down to a battle of wills and visions, between O'Malley and New York development czar Robert Moses who, along with almost everyone in the New York area, could not believe the Dodgers would move.

Horace Stoneham, owner of the New York Giants, was fighting the same battle in equally the dilapidated Polo Grounds. Then on this date in 1957, O'Malley, who always was thinking years ahead of the rest of Major League baseball, called Moses bluff and petitioned the league for permission to move. The eight club owners voted unanimously to approve their move of the Dodgers and the Giants to the West Coast, but only if they make the formal request before Oct. 1, then move at the same time. At the end of the 1957 season, after fruitless posturing by New York officials, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants were born. St. Louis Cardinals general manager Frank Lane had a glimpse of the future, telling the news media, "the expectancy at Los Angeles -- and I'm not stretching my imagination -- would be to draw from two to three million fans a year with a good ballclub. And San Francisco certainly is a civic-minded city also." Despite all the bitter words written and spoken over the final summer and beyond, O'Malley, Brooklyn-born and fiercely proud of those roots, really only wanted to build a park at the busy intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in Prospect Heights. In a letter dated June 25, 1953, to William Tracy, vice chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, O'Malley had proposed "a new ballpark should be built, financed and owned by the ballclub. It should occupy land on the tax roll. The only assistance I am looking for is in the assembling of a suitable plot." "It would have revitalized Brooklyn," recalled Vin Scully, the Dodgers' Hall of Fame broadcaster. Scully pointed out that after 50 years, the city recognized the site O'Malley wanted as a brilliant place for a sports franchise. The site is now being developed for the New Jersey Nets' new arena. Moses final offer was a site in Flushing, which later became the home of New York Mets. The Flushing location never appealed with O'Malley. He said if they Dodgers moved they would be the Flushing Dodgers, not the Brooklyn Dodgers, and in that case a move elsewhere would be considered. Tom Singer of MLB.com wrote, "Apparently, Moses tried to stare down the wrong guy." The move would not only expand baseball's influence it drew a vote by the Ohio state legislature to provide a new stadium for the Cincinnati Reds, who had been considered a replacement in New York if the Dodgers/Giants departed. On Aug. 19, the Giants' board of directors made it final when they voted, 8-1, to move to California in 1958. And on Oct. 8 O'Malley officially announced the team's intent to move and as they say in Hollywood, "The rest is history".

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