Hall Should Have Elected Both Father and Son

It is both fitting and appropriate that the Baseball Hall of Fame elected Walter O'Malley to its membership. The committee could only have done better by going ahead and electing his son Peter O'Malley at the same time.

Walter O'Malley took the game of baseball west of the Mississippi and St. Louis and made it truly a national game.

He also turned a frankly dollar-challenged franchise from a city, Brooklyn, where the demographics would only get worse, not better, and turned it into one of the game's three or four top franchises.

Walter O'Malley was baseball's Abraham, the prophet who left home and hearth, toward the promised land. Unlike the prophet Moses, he remained faithful each and every day and was not forced to spend 40 years wandering in the desert until he reached the land of milk and honey. Baseball has never had a sports economist of the stripe of Walter O'Malley - and may never again. His visions were of biblical proportions.

There are so many Walter O'Malley stories, beginning with his early days as a bank attorney, his epic battles with Robert Moses (not the biblical Moses), his use of the Giants Horace Stoneham, his getting a free oasis in Vero Beach, the acreage at Chavez Ravine for a bag of peanuts and more than a couple of heavy cocktails for Norris Poulsen, the LA mayor, at a fishing camp near Vero Beach.

Eviscerated for all time in Brooklyn, when the daggers more appropriately should have been aimed at Robert Moses, O'Malley came up with nobody on base, two out and two strikes on him when he hit the proverbial grand slam home run to literally change the face of the game.

Vin Scully probably knows more of the real stories than anybody other than son Peter, and he has kept the best ones to himself. But as the last verse in the Gospel of St. John were repeated and paraphrased, to write them all would fill more books than the world has space to hold them.

Now Walter O'Malley was one of the two or three team owners who held formidable veto power in things baseball, much in the manner of the permanent representatives in the United Nations. 

Much has been said or speculated or implied, but baseball scholars have yet to come up with a single proven instance where Walter O'Malley made a mistake. Branch Rickey got the credit for Jackie Robinson but, truth be known, old Walter had his hand deeply in that pocket as well.

The election and subsequent enshrinement of Walter O'Malley is long, long overdue.

Now comes the matter of son Peter, yet very much among the living.

Baseball has been diminished ever since the day Peter and the O'Malley family, courtesy of dumb inheritance laws, sold the franchise to a succession of, well, to be kind, owners who were only similar in that not a one of them, singly or collectively, measured up to the O'Malleys. It's like Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentson once cracked in a national political debate: "I knew John Kennedy, and you sir are no John Kennedy."

Even if Peter O'Malley hadn't been Walter's son, and the apple did NOT fall far from the tree, he has earned his way into the baseball Hall of Fame.

As Walter O'Malley was the real father of truly nationalizing the game to East AND West, North and South, Peter O'Malley truly internationalized the sport of baseball.

Now we salivate over Japanese major league players. Peter O'Malley was the first one, barnstormers aside, to nurture that linkage, alongside the ubiquitous Ike Ikuhara who played Tonto to Peter O'Malley's Lone Ranger. Peter O'Malley was first in China, first in Taiwan, first in South Korea.

We were in Moscow one wintry day and walked onto the Peter O'Malley Dodgers sponsored baseball field on the grounds of Moscow State University. As Paul the evangelist, apostle to the gentiles, Peter O'Malley took the sport to the entire world. He did it out of his own pocket, both because he believed, and it was to be done. He did not wait for permission or approval. He did it because he was right.

If for no other reason than the internationalization of baseball, there are many, many other reasons why Peter O'Malley deserves enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.  Like his father, Peter was never universally loved inside baseball, and some small city owners carry a grudge until this day, the present commissioner being included. But these are small and petty matters. In fact, Peter O'Malley would have and still would make a truly great baseball commissioner.

So, it says here the Hall Committee did, albeit belatedly, the right thing with Walter O'Malley. It is truly a shame they missed the opportunity to enshrine baseball's first father and son members at the same time.