The spot was this: the fate of the Los Angeles Dodgers lay with some highly unpredictable voters. Nobody could tell the old pro named Walter O'Malley just how things would go. But when Warren Giles, president of the National League, warned the voters that they had better approve the Chavez Ravine site or lose the team entirely, Old Pro O'Malley sensed that the opposition was getting to his pitcher. They don't like ultimatums in Los Angeles. There was just one thing to do. Walter O'Malley called himself out of the bullpen.
With a dazzling display of curves and changeups, O'Malley went to work on the voters. He called a press conference and, while taking the sting out of Giles's ultimatum, he left the vaguely disturbing implication that maybe Giles wasn't bluffing. Suddenly, he was on more TV shows than Betty Furness. Waving his big fat cigar, he turned on the O'Malley charm. He gave his viewers warmth and dignity and, using a blackboard and pointer, he gave them O'Malley-style facts. He participated in a jolly television marathon with big name stars like Jack Benny and created an image of a gentle, kindly, fatherly type who wanted nothing in this world (at the moment) but 300 acres of city property to build happiness and parking space for all. A remote pickup from a citizen in the street brought the challenge, just as it probably said in the script: "Mr. O'Malley, who is going to pay for sewers and drains in Chavez Ravine, you or the city?" Walter O'Malley removed his cigar and replied ever so softly: "The Dodgers...and we are happy to do it."
The five-hour television show concluded with a switch to the airport and a wildly enthusiastic reception of the last-place Dodgers by 7,500 fans. Was it a stage-managed climax to O'Malley's big inning? Try to prove it in court.
Anyway, it did the trick. The voters approved Chavez Ravine by a margin of 24,293 and, give or take a couple of law suits, Walter O'Malley was free to rest the old arm until it was needed again.
For West Coast sports fans it was a history-making week. While the citizens of Los Angeles County were voting for "baseball in Chavez Ravine, other inhabitants of the area were quietly undermining the last supports of the established order in college sports on the West Coast. As of last week, in all but the formalities, the Pacific Coast Conference was a thing of the past.
It has been a long past—dating back to 1915 when the University of California got together with two Oregon colleges and the University of Washington to form a coastwide athletic league. In the years that followed, the top football competition in the Far West was staged within the nine-college membership of the PCC, and its godchild, the annual Rose Bowl game, became the apotheosis of the American football year.
But the rivalries and struggles of the PCC were seldom long confined to the playing field. Two years ago they burst like a bladder in the austere silences of the conference offices when four of the member colleges—Washington, USC, UCLA and the University of California—were slapped with heavy penalties for illegal recruiting. The first two were barred from championship competition for two years; the third for three. The fourth was fined $25,000.
The old conference has never been quite the same. Soon afterward, the three California members announced that they would quit the PCC cold after the expiration of their current agreement in July 1959. Last week, prompted by an invitation from its neighbors to the south to join in a new West Coast alignment, another PCC founding father—the University of Washington—decided to join the secessionists. On June 19 the Board of trustees of Stanford University will have a meeting and may well decide to take the same step and join the other dissidents in the formation of a new West Coast Big Five.
If Stanford goes, all that remains of the old PCC will be Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State and Idaho. Said President August S. Strand of Oregon State: "We've just about had it."