Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Understated Dodger legends

Up to recently my excuses for calling the LA Dodgers my 'second team' (behind Boston) were bordering on the pathetic. In my defence, at least it was an eclectic collection of reasonings. Brad Penny is my second ace (behind the marvelous Josh Beckett) on the Tusken Raiders, my fantasy 'keeper league' baseball team. I also grabbed James Loney who I saw play last summer and who has gazillions of potential. Derek Lowe and Nomar Garciaparra are on the Dodgers, both former Red Sox superstars, I always loved watching Lowe play. Just a very likeable guy.

That was it though, really. Up until I got into communication with Brent Shyer, the webmaster for Walter O'Malley's website. Through a friendly back and forth with Brent I have started to learn more about the history of the Dodgers and the involvement of the O'Malley family with same.

Walter Francis O'Malley (October 9, 1903 – August 9, 1979) was basically an American sports executive who owned the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers team in Major League Baseball from 1950 to 1979. Calling him a baseball executive, however, is not paying him anything close to his full due, he is a Dodgers legend. The Dodgers were initially successful under O'Malley's leadership, winning National League pennants in 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956. In 1958 he brought major league baseball to the West Coast, moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to LosAngeles. They remained successful on the field, winning the World Series in 1959, 1963, and 1965.

On March 17, 1970, Walter turned over the presidency of the team to his son Peter. Peter O'Malley held the position until 1998 when the team was sold on. In that time he became friendly with Anne Murphy, Mike Kindle and Mick Manning of Baseball Ireland. Peter generously funded the construction of the O'Malley baseball Fields at Corcaigh Park in Clondalkin, West Dublin in 1998 and those fields have been the home of Irish Baseball ever since. The majority of league games are held at the fields along with Ireland National Team games and practice sessions.

This morning I was delighted to find a really interesting looking book on the history of the Dodgers in my mail, sent on by Peter O'Malley via Brent Shyer of the Walter O'Malley website. No longer do I have to use Brad Penny or Nomar as my excuse for enjoying watching the Dodgers play. I am going to delve into the book and get up to speed on the rich history of the Dodgers.

Inside was a short, friendly letter from Peter himself. Just an amiable hello, which ended with a typically modest, understated line that reads as such;

'I am glad the fields are being used'.

I actually laughed to myself a little, and I thought, 'Really, Peter, if only you knew.' The fields have certainly been in use. They have been the scene of the majority of Irish league baseball games since their opening in 1998. Merely saying 'the fields are in use' though is like saying 'The Red Sox winning the World series in 2004 was a reasonably big deal to the people of Boston'.

Take this coming weekend for example. Amongst the Irish league games is an important clash between the Dublin Spartans and my club side, the Dublin Hurricanes. I can say, assuredly, it will be a quality encounter played by some of the best players in Irish league history. Here's the thing. I know Darran O'Connor, the Spartans and Ireland veteran, is already thinking about this game. I know Spartans and Irish centre fielder John Dillon is thinking about this game, as he works away in his 9-5 job. I know my Hurricanes team mates and superb infielders Steve Divito and Andy Martin are thinking about this coming weekends game.

I definitely know my long term friends and Hurricanes and Irish team teammates Chris Foy and Tom Kelley are thinking about this big game. I know that because I am. I can't wait for Saturday morning and the chance to play baseball at Corcaigh Park. I can't wait to travel there amongst friends. I can't wait for the good natured banter before the first pitch. I can't wait to kick the dust on the mound and look up at the blue Irish sky before the start of the game. And yet none of this would be possible without the marvelous backdrop of the O'Malley fields, born of the O'Malley family's generosity.

You know, too often in life we move on and forget the simple things. Simple things like how in 1998 Peter O'Malley saw fit to give Ireland two beautiful baseball fields, side by side. Since then, simply put, thousands of moments and memories have been born at that field, quite literally hundreds of great games of baseball have been played there. Peoples lives have been elevated by those fields.

Peter the fields aren't just in use. Every weekend they are part of the dreams and hopes of dozens of peoples lives here in Ireland. Play ball.





Links:

If you would like to get involved with Baseball Ireland at any level, Adult or Youth, or would like to support the game in Ireland, please refer to this link.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Nice post.

The O'Malley family is one of the great sports families in American history, along with the Mara family (NFL NY Giants) and the Rooney's (NFL Steelers). I don't suppose it's a coincidence they're all Irish names, is it?

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