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Forever Blue

Posted: April 21, 2009 10:28 p.m.
Updated: April 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Author Michael D’Antonio said Walter O’Malley might have been a driving force in the growth and identity of the city of Los Angeles.

It’s such a dichotomy because O’Malley feuded with a growth specialist in urban planner Robert Moses and was known in Brooklyn as the man who stole the burrough’s identity away.

D’Antonio examines the life of the colorful former Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers owner in his new book: “Forever Blue.”

D’Antonio said O’Malley was misunderstood and that he tried to make things work in Brooklyn, but urban planner extraordinaire Robert Moses kept putting up stop signs in the owner’s efforts to build a new ballpark.

Moses, who helped transform New York into a modern metropolis. wouldn’t budge in his efforts to move the Dodgers to Queens. He halted O’Malley from building a new stadium in Brooklyn.

O’Malley took heat from many Brooklynites for the move to Los Angeles, but D’Antonio tries to shift a lot of that blame off the owner’s shoulders.

In the end, it became Los Angeles’ gain.

“My book is about the history of Los Angeles,” D’Antonio said. “You can read how L.A. became a major world-class city in those years and O’Malley was in the middle of all this city economically. But the identity came together during that time.”

D’Antonio is not a Brooklynite, not a diehard Dodgers fan, but an author that said he found interest in O’Malley the person.

He came up with the idea to write a book on the owner and put it on a dry erase board. The idea stayed so long on the board, he said, it couldn’t be erased anymore.

Nearly three years ago, he made contacts and ultimately met with O’Malley’s son and former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley and through his permission gained access to the family archives.

He interviewed Johnny Podres, the pitcher who won Game 7 of the 1955 World Series, right before Podres’ death early last year. He also had one of the final extensive interviews with longtime Dodgers general manager Buzzy Bavasi before he died in 2008.

A couple of gems that D’Antonio came across in his research was a memo from Moses and a reconciliation letter from Jackie Robinson to O’Malley.

Robinson became bitter and was hurt by the Dodgers because they had not offered him a spot in their front office.

But in Robinson’s latter days in life, he and O’Malley communicated through a series of notes that indicated some healing.

Ultimately, D’Antonio wants people to understand the importance of O’Malley’s contribution to not only baseball, but the business world and the city of Los Angeles.

“O’Malley was a tremendous energetic and creative guy and the stadium and team were an expression for his love of life and the game,” D’Antonio said. “Anybody that thought he was a bad guy and driven by greed doesn’t know him. Read the book and get to know him.”

cosborne@the-signal.com

Forever Blue is published by The Penguin Group and is available in bookstores now.

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