The Dodgers honor Rosalind Wyman, who helped bring the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.
By JOE McDONNELLFS West
LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers are Los Angeles’ longest-tenured professional sports franchise because of an ambitious 22-year-old woman who wanted to make her political mark in the City of Angels.
“I didn’t have a platform to run on, so after I talked with some politicians and business people, I decided that I’d make the Dodgers my platform,” said Rosalind Wyman, the youngest city council person ever elected in L.A. and who threw out the first pitch before Tuesday's game vs. Arizona. “I truly believed that we couldn’t be a major city without a major sports franchise.
“The Dodgers were the most popular franchise in the country at the time — everybody followed what they did. And when word came down after the 1953 season that they might not get a new (domed) stadium in Brooklyn, I decided that having them come here would be my focus.”
“Look,” Wyman said at Dodger Stadium,” I know we had the Rams and professional football, but in our minds it wasn’t anything compared to the Dodgers as far as credibility. Myself, Kenny (Hahn, city supervisor) and other politicians and business leaders would meet every Monday to come up with ideas and strategies to convince (owner Walter) O’Malley to bring the Dodgers west."
Wyman began corresponding regularly with O’Malley, “who wasn’t very nice at first,” Wyman said, laughing. “But when we convinced him we were serious about moving the team to L.A., he began to be a lot friendlier.”
Eventually, Robert Moses, the New York planning commissioner, nixed the idea of a new Ebbetts Field and O’Malley decided to trek to the West Coast.
“We were also talking to the (New York) Giants and Washington (Senators),” Wyman remembers, ”but we really wanted the Dodgers. Well, we got them and when the Giants decided to move to San Francisco, it created the perfect situation. O’Malley would have had to pay travel expenses for every team after the first three games they played west of the Mississippi, but with Horace Stoneham going to San Francisco, he had to pay for half of everything.
“I think it was meant to happen — and it did.”
Wyman — the last living person involved in the Dodger negotiations — is now 82 years old, but with the wit and presence of a much younger woman. She spent 12 years in city government and she’ll always be remembered as the driving force in bringing major league baseball to Los Angeles.
“I think we were able to get the greatest sports franchise in the world at the time — and still to this day — to relocate here,” she said after tossing out the ceremonial first pitch. “It gave us the type of big-time image we were looking for here in Los Angeles and it allowed me to keep my promise to the people who elected me.
“I’m very proud of being able to be a part of something that has been so wonderful for our city — and will continue to be for a long, long time.”
It was a brilliant decision that has produced some iconic moments in American sporting history, beginning with Roy Campanella Tribute Night at the Coliseum on May 7, 1959.
Fifty-four years ago on a Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum shut off its lights, but never shined brighter.
The Dodgers and Yankees were playing an exhibition game before more than 93,000 fans to benefit Campanella, the Dodgers catcher who had been paralyzed in a car accident prior to the 1958 season, the year the team relocated from Brooklyn.
The massive light standards were rendered dark and the fans were asked to light a match, candle, lighter or flashlight in honor of Campy, who had been wheeled out to second base by teammate and fellow future Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese.
The stadium lit up like a bright Los Angeles summer day, and the team finished the season by winning the first World Series in L.A. history, making it the “big-time” city Wyman and Hahn envisioned it would become.