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Robert Moses
July 22, 1957
New York's outspoken park commissioner, accusing the Dodgers' O'Malley of bad faith, presents a plan for a National League site in N.Y.
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July 22, 1957

Robert Moses On The Battle Of Brooklyn

New York's outspoken park commissioner, accusing the Dodgers' O'Malley of bad faith, presents a plan for a National League site in N.Y.

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Since 1952 Brooklyn fans alternately have been treated to visions of super-stadiums and bedeviled by the specter of no team at all. Throughout this period, Walter O'Malley has professed a desire to stay in New York—if city officials, including Moses, would cooperate with him. Nonetheless, this year the Dodgers received permission to move to Los Angeles, provided the New York Giants also shifted to San Francisco. Herewith, Commissioner Robert Moses' account of the clouded Brooklyn baseball situation.

Whether sport or business, domain of the player, spectator, owner or manager, openly competitive or secretly monopolistic, baseball is rapidly becoming our No. 1 domestic headache.

Before an effective cure can be offered, we must invite honest and frank diagnosis. To date, excepting the refreshing advice of George V. McLaughlin, such diagnosis has been singularly lacking. In its place we have had little more than quack remedies from assorted tribal doctors, medicine and confidence men, shills, barkers, swamis and self-anointed pundits, addressing themselves to an increasingly bewildered and disgusted public.

If the subject is not lifted out of this welter of words and obscure and obscene shenanigans, the Great American Game will be about as respected, attractive and inspiring as lady wrestling and as sporting as a battery of Las Vegas slot machines. The Great Umpire has already called two strikes on the eastern seaboard, and before long the bell may toll around the country.

I am no diagnostician, merely a builder of parks and public works, much concerned with recreation in its broader phases, and can offer only a clinical record of the New York case and a suggestion of proper local treatment. Perhaps an outline of our experience may be of value elsewhere. At any rate, it is the truth as I see it, offered without hope of thanks or fear of punishment.

Let me begin with the Dodger rhubarb. Some time ago, Walter O'Malley announced that he could not remain much longer at Ebbets Field because it was too small, too inaccessible, lacking parking space, etc. Subsequently, he sold the field subject to a three-year lease ending in 1959 with option to lease until 1961.

This news was accompanied by heart-rending appeals not to leave Brooklyn flat. Walter then memorized a speech indicating that he would die for dear old Brooklyn. He also announced that he would at least postpone a decision while he and other simple, open-handed, guileless businessmen waited for scheming politicians to build him a new field. I have heard this speech over and over again ad nauseam. From time to time Walter has embroidered it with shamrocks, harps and wolfhounds and has added the bouquet of liqueur Irish whisky. It makes me think of the story of the original Rothschild, who listened with streaming eyes to the appeal of a beggar and then said to the butler, "Take him away, he's breaking my heart."

For years, Walter and his chums have kept us dizzy and confused. First everything was geared to rapid transit customers, then it was all for the carriage trade. On one day they pictured a vast, modern arena, putting Rome to shame, with tier on tier of seats and seas of eager, downturned faces. The next day they conjured up an outdoor studio occupying little space, without stands, bleachers, parking fields or people, and with the players lightly doffing their hats to an unseen audience that is far away from weather, oafs, oaths, hecklers and bottle throwers, buoyed up on home cushions, chewing chocolate nuts, drawing cigaret smoke lazily through a million filters or lapping up somebody's dry beer and rising only to feed a meter or turn a closed-circuit gadget. When they are following this line, the owners hint darkly that nothing short of a constitutional amendment authorizing on-the-field pari-mutuel ball will blast the fans out of the home cushions. They generously offer to use the breakage after betting to support players' pensions. Meanwhile, having hypnotized New York, these gentlemen continue mysterious negotiations with other less goofy cities.

Walter O'Malley's first substitute Brooklyn site proposal was nothing if not nervy and Napoleonic. He asked that we turn over to him the entire Cadman Plaza in the Brooklyn civic center. No one took this seriously, but it showed that Walter's heart was in the right place so far as Brooklyn was concerned. Next he shifted to the Long Island Rail Road terminal at Atlantic Avenue. This site included not only the station and tracks but also an old, decrepit, dated meat market and other structures. This area had already been studied by us for a slum clearance project, and we had concluded that street improvements and off-street parking facilities were in any event desirable, whether there was to be a stadium or not.


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