Walter Francis O’Malley, the owner who dragged baseball franchises across the country and baseball management into the twentieth century, was born in New York City on October 9, 1903.
A boy who barely played the game, O’Malley wound up drawing comparisons to Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mephistopheles after moving his successful Brooklyn Dodgers franchise to Los Angeles for the 1958 season. He was called the most powerful man in baseball and the real commissioner during the 1960s, but his team wound up producing the free agent identified most closely with breaking the reserve clause and revolutionizing the economics of Major League Baseball.
Walter was the only child of Edwin and Alma (Feltner) O’Malley. Edwin was a clerk in the drygoods business who subsequently moved to the distant reaches of Queens and migrated to real estate and Democratic politics. He spent a stormy seven years as city commissioner of public markets. The increasingly affluent Edwin shipped Walter off to Culver Academy, an exclusive and expensive prep school in northern Indiana.
From Culver, Walter moved to the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1926. His main claim to fame at Penn was as a student organizer and politician. He was the first Penn man ever elected class president in both his junior and senior years, and he was selected as “Spoon Man” by his classmates, one of Penn’s high honors each year.
Walter moved to another Ivy League school, Columbia University, for law school. However, after one year, he dropped out of Columbia and moved his law studies to night school at Fordham University. He was out of the Ivy League and back with the Catholic strivers. O’Malley later said his father had lost all his money.
Walter O’Malley was already moving to take control of the
club during the 1947 season.
Edwin apparently hadn’t lost all his influence in the city, however, for Walter immediately landed a job that paid the night-school bills. It was in the city’s engineering department, and O’Malley would subsequently claim he had studied engineering at Penn. His transcript, however, reveals no engineering courses and some early difficulties with mathematics. Nevertheless, he subsequently moved to an engineering firm that did business with the city, and then he opened Walter F.