FanPost

Rosalind Wyman, a Dodger hero fans should know

LA City Council member Rosalind Wyman greats O'Malleys as they begin their time as the Los Angeles Dodgers. - jpg1.lapl.org

Rosalind Wyman was elected to Los Angeles City Council in 1953. Born in 1930 as Rosalind Weiner, at the age of 22 she was the youngest person ever elected to the City Council, the second female, and the first Jewish councilmember in 53 years. She had graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1948, then in 1952 graduated from the University of Southern California.

One year after her elected she was married, two years after that she was a mother. A year after that baby was born, the above picture was taken where she's standing behind Walter O'Malley wearing a Los Angeles Angels (PCL) cap. The 1957 season had just ended, and the Dodgers were going to play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum next year.

This is the story of how Rosalind Wyman and Kenneth Hahn got the Brooklyn Dodgers to move to Los Angeles. It's been told before by people better informed, I'm sure. But I'm discovering it for the first time and want y'all to come with me.

In the 1953 Los Angeles municipal primary election, Rosalind Wyman managed to secure the majority of votes in the fifth district running against nine other people. At that time, the fifth district had a northern boundary of Wilshire blvd, east to Western, south to Exposition, and west encompassing Westwood and West LA. It was close enough to USC that several of her classmates helped in the campaign.

In the final election she defeated her opponent Elmer Marshrey by some 2,000 votes. She had only defeated him by 500 in the primary. It was the closest of any of the final elections, but Wyman didn't waste any time promoting the sport she loved: baseball. Wyman got her love of baseball from her mother. They'd go to Hollywood Stars games together, her mother's side of the family was nuts about baseball.

Wyman nee Weiner represented a shift in ideologies and culture in West LA. She was the rec director of a Jewish youth group, a mother's group organized to back her candidacy; she handed out balloons to young people coming out of matinees during her campaign. The future councilwoman went through 13 pairs of shoes knocking on doors.

She was trying to join a council whose chambers didn't have a women's bathroom. Where official meetings were held at the Jonathan Club, which didn't allow Jewish people or women. Wyman was not the candidate of choice for The Los Angeles Times. They pegged her as a school girl and an ultra radical. She combated these attacks by rejecting endorsements from extreme left wing groups. She also used major league baseball as part of her platform.

In her eyes, major league baseball would make Los Angeles a world class city and give a place for young people to go for recreation. LA had the PCL Angels, but at best that ballpark could hold 17,000 people and didn't have the prestige to attract all the new people immigrating to Los Angeles or the space for a growing suburban population.

With her election came a seat as the Recreation and Parks chairwoman. Yes, Rosalind Wyman was Leslie Knope before Knope existed. Her first resolution was to urge the Coliseum Commission to allow the American Legion to hold a test baseball game at the Coliseum July 18th.

In 1957, when Walter O'Malley was fighting with the city of New York over Ebbets Field (he wanted a new stadium in Brooklyn, the powers that be in New York wanted the team in Queens), Wyman saw an opportunity. She and fellow councilmember Edward Roybal met with O'Malley about moving the team to Los Angeles. O'Malley rejected their first offer to meet, but later warmed to the idea.

The plan developed was for the City to sell Chavez Ravine. Wyman wasn't the only one in LA politics that had to fight accusations of communism. With the tide of the red scare rising, Norris Paulson defeated incumbent Fletcher Bowron in the race for mayor of Los Angeles. Both candidates were Republican, but Bowron had purchased Chavez Ravine using Eminent Domain with funds from the Federal Housing Act of 1949 under the guise of building public housing. That was a bit too much communist type activity for voters at the time. Paulson eliminated the project and bought back the land.

Paulson was on board along with Wyman, Roybal, and the famous Kenneth Hahn to trade Chavez Ravine to the Dodgers for Wrigley Field and cash. On October 7, 1957 the LA City Council met to vote on a resolution to invite the Dodgers, to promise road improvements and all. Wyamn talked to O'Malley that night, asking him if they vote the deal through, will the Dodgers come? LA after all wasn't the first city to resolve to invite the Dodgers, Oakland had put its hat in the ring as well. O'Malley said he didn't know.

The measure was passed hinging on one vote (it needed ten and passed 10-4), and the next day O'Malley announced the Dodgers had drafted the Los Angeles territory. Now the voters had to pass Proposition B to give the Dodgers the permanent home they wanted. Wyman was one of the sponsors of the bill.

A slim majority of voters put Prop B through. It was the largest turnout ever for a non-presidential election (62.3%). The Dodgers had played a day game in Chicago two days before, and later that day a five hour Dodgerthon had aired on KTTV urging voters to vote yes on Prop B. Vin Scully didn't tell voters how to vote, but he urged them to turn out. The Dodgers won 1-0.

The fight wasn't pretty, and it may have cost Wyman political points by the end of it. However a grateful Walter O'Malley took her out to the dirt site where Dodger Stadium was being built and told her to chose any seat she wanted. Not wanting to look like she was getting kickbacks, she paid for eight season tickets right by the Dodger dugout. When LA was winning World Series titles, Wyman could turn to Tommy Lasorda and make suggestions.

Her husband's law firm paid for the seats, and would often use them to entertain clients. When her husband tragically passed in 1974, she had to sue to get the seats back. The firm couldn't understand why a woman with her background would place so much significance on baseball tickets.

Just look at the young woman on the steps of an airplane wearing an LA Angels cap, blinking as a group of men pose for a photo op. She wanted more than anything to bring major league baseball to Los Angeles. Lucky for us, she succeeded.

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