Day 2: 30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’09: The ‘real’ O’Malley, according to an excavation of his file cabinent


The book: “Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O’Malley, Baseball’s Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles”

The author: Michael D’Antonio

How to find it: Riverhead books, 355 pages, $25.95

Where we’d go looking for it: If not at local bookstores, it’s at this link at Powell’s online (linked here)

The scoop: This is a book that we’ll cover in Friday’s media column. But for a real fan’s perspective on how this book comes across, I sought another opinion from a life-long Dodger follower who also read this book. He wrote back:

“I realized that ironically, my family moved from New York and landed at Union Station on the same day the Dodger staff arrived in L.A. — October 23, 1957. I’ve truly grown up as a L.A. Dodger. The book is incredible. The author’s ability to research and review thousands of pieces of information and present such a credible story is amazing. After reading it, I believe the O’Malleys could have accomplished anything they wanted. The insights into Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson and Robert Moses were especially interesting. I hope the McCourts read the book and get a better sense of the legacy they hold.”

The essence of this book isn’t so much revisionist history as it is giving O’Malley’s side to all that’s been written about him, based on the notes, letters and documents he dutifully kept in his files over the years.

You’ll learn to dislike Robert Moses, understand Branch Rickey’s intentions for leaving the franchise and going to Pittsburgh (he was broke), and get a better idea of what really happened in L.A. once O’Malley came West thinking everthing was in place for him to settle in.

It’s as if he knew someday, someone would want to find the truth about why he had to leave Brooklyn, and if it came from him, no one would quite believe it. He’s left his legacy for a rather unbiased, but highly qualified historian, like D’Antonio to extract from the rubble.

Even more amazing is the stuff that D’Antonio uncovers about the politics that went on in L.A. before O’Malley arrived thinking everything was in place for him to start moving forward. The land he aquired in Chavez Ravine through a swap with his Wrigley Field (on 42nd Place and San Pedro, near the Coliseum) was hardly equal, but definitely had to be done to coax this storied team West. And all those photographs of people being evicited from their houses — maybe it wasn’t all, let’s say, accurate. The book documents that further.

D’Antonio has done a great job promoting this work — he and Peter O’Malley recently went to the Brooklyn Historical Society and did a presentation there that, honestly, had its doubters.

Some other reviews of the book:

== A Q-and-A with D’Antonio for the New York Times (linked here)
== A review from David Davis in the L.A. Times (linked here)
== A review by The Associated Press (linked here)
== A story on the D’Antonio-O’Malley trip to Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Eagle on March 23 (linked here)

How it goes down in the scorebook: A line drive off the Jackie Robinson “42” logo out in Dodger Stadium’s right field.

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