Finally ... Walter O'Malley in Hall of Fame

Walter O'Malley, who was light-years ahead of his time and his contemporaries, was voted into baseball's Hall of Fame. A visionary who opened the western two-thirds of the United States to Major League Baseball, moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958 and his team's success has been legendary

. Selected by the Veterans Committee, O'Malley, who passed away in 1979 at age 75 joins two other former Dodger executives so honored: Branch Rickey (inducted in 1967), who served as club president from 1942-50 and Larry MacPhail (1978), who preceded Rickey as president from 1938-42.

This year's induction ceremonies will be held on Sunday, July 27, 2008 at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.  

During his 29-year tenure with the Dodgers, which included 19 seasons as club president (1951-69) and 10 years as Chairman of the Board (1970-79), Walter O'Malley earned a reputation as an innovator. In December 1999, O'Malley was recognized by The Sporting News as the 11th most powerful person in sports over the last century.  

Peter O'Malley, who will turn 70 next week, told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com his father often spoke about the Hall of Fame, but not in the context of being elected to it.

"He had the greatest respect for the Hall of Fame," he said. "He said it was so important, and not just for the game of baseball, but all sports, and not just in the United States, but all over the world."

Peter O'Malley noted that Monday's announcement was "long overdue," as Walter O'Malley died in 1979 at age 75. Peter O'Malley said his father served for 28 years on MLB's executive council and was instrumental in the early stages of the game's international growth.

O'Malley said his father tried for 10 years to stay in Brooklyn when it became apparent that little (32,000) Ebbets Field was starting to crumble.

When he was unsuccessful in soliciting help from the New York city government in finding a suitable place to rebuild in Brooklyn, he moved the team to Los Angeles and built Dodger Stadium, "his crowning achievement" Peter O'Malley said. The day Dodger Stadium opened, April 10, 1962, was "the happiest day of his life."

Fred Claire, who served as general manager for the senior O'Malley, lauded his great vision. Claire told Gurnick, who now writes a column for MLB.com.

"I remember Jim Cour of UPI in an interview asked Walter what he wanted to be remembered for. Walter spun that cigar and said he wanted to be remembered for planting a tree. As good as the question was, the answer was better. It all had to do with growth, the future and going beyond what currently was.

"Look at the building of Dodger Stadium, his view of television, of marketing, of free agency and the changing game. He just had the ability to see things so clearly."

"This is a historic day for the Dodger franchise," said Dodger Owner and Chairman Frank McCourt. "Walter O'Malley was a visionary who changed the face of baseball forever and we couldn't be more proud to see him earn his rightful spot in Cooperstown. We're very excited for both him and Dick Williams as they join the many Dodger players, managers and executives in the Hall of Fame."

Peter O'Malley and his sister, Terry Seidler, sold the Dodgers to News Corp and have since established a Web site dedicated to his father, www.walteromalley.com, "featuring the words, works and achievements" of the former Dodgers owner, who moved the club from Brooklyn in 1958 and brought Major League Baseball to the West Coast.

Peter is no longer affiliated with a baseball team, but Peter's son, Kevin, and his nephew, Tom Seidler, the son of Terry, own and operate the Visalia Oaks of the Class A California League.

Seidler said, "It's a great day for our family and we're all proud. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He was a true pioneer. He was very good for the game."

Others elected to the Hall of Fame include:

v Williams, the only living honoree among the five who will be inducted next summer, played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1951-1954 and again in 1956 before moving on to a Hall of Fame managerial career. In five seasons with Brooklyn, Williams batted .232 (52-for-224) with four homers and 23 RBI. He appeared in three games during the 1953 World Series.

v Barney Dreyfuss owned major league teams for more than 40 years, most famously the Pirates from 1901 until 1932. He was chiefly responsible for the first "World's Series" in 1903, and his Pirates won six National League pennants.

v Billy Southworth, Among managers with at least 1,500 games, Southworth's .597 winning percentage ranks second all-time, behind Joe McCarthy.

v Overlooked were umpires Dug Harvey, Hank O'Day and Cy Rigler; general managers Buzzie Bavasi (GM in both Brooklyn and L.A.), Bob Howsom of Cincinnati and Gabe Paul.

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