New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

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Leo O’Mealia


Leo O’Mealia (Cartoonist.  Born, LeRoy, NY, Mar. 31, 1884; died, Brooklyn, NY, May 7, 1960.)  On the day after the Brooklyn Dodgers won their first (and only) World Series in October 1955, the front page of the New York Daily News was adorned for the first time in its history with a cartoon, entitled “Who’s A Bum?”  That drawing was the work of Leo Edward O’Mealia, the regular sports cartoonist for the tabloid.   Then known as “New York’s Picture Newspaper,” the Daily News prided itself on its photographic coverage of events in the city and the world but no photo captured the mood of delirious  Dodgers fans like Leo’s drawings.  All of his work was signed with a little lion figure that made the connection between his name and the name’s zodiac sign.  O’Mealia had a long and varied career as an artist and cartoonist for newspapers throughout New York State starting in 1907 when he joined the Rochester Herald near his hometown. From 1909 to 1912, O’Mealia was a cartoonist doing both sports and politics for The Rochester Times. In 1912, he came to New York to join Hearst’s Evening Journal where he drew a comic strip entitled “Wedlocked,” which was distributed for 17 years by the Associated Newspapers Syndicate. In 1929, he joined the Daily News and several years later became the principal daily sports cartoonist, a position he held until his death when he was succeeded by his understudy, a young man named Bill Gallo.

Walter O’Malley


Walter O’Malley (Baseball.  Born, The Bronx, NY, Oct. 9, 1903; died, Rochester, MN, Aug. 9, 1979.)  While reviled by fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers everywhere, Walter Francis O’Malley actually made a serious effort to keep the team in the borough of its birth.  O’Malley became president of the Dodgers in 1950 and shortly began to try to find an alternative to the team’s deteriorating ballpark, Ebbets Field.  He proposed building a new stadium (possibly domed) at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues in downtown Brooklyn, atop the Long Island Railroad terminal.  However, he was unable to acquire the site from the Pennsylvania Railroad, owners of the L.I.R.R., and unable to convince the administration of Mayor Robert F. Wagner to condemn it, even though he offered to pay the construction costs of the new stadium.  After over two years of fruitless effort, O’Malley signalled the seriousness of his intentions by scheduling seven Dodgers games at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, N.J., for the 1956 season (one game against each other National League team).  As the departure scenario reached its endgame, that pattern was repeated in 1957.  Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller entered the fray with a plan for the downtown Brooklyn location, but on the off-day between the fifth and sixth games of the Yankees-Milwaukee World Series (Oct. 8, 1957), O’Malley announced that the team was moving to Los Angeles.  A graduate of Pennsylvania (1926) and Fordham Law School (1930), O’Malley was an executive with the Brooklyn Trust Co. when he assembled a consortium that bought control of the Dodgers.  The group then bought out club president (and general manager) Branch Rickey, naming O’Malley president.  He served as team president until 1970, by which time he had become virtually the sole owner and he was succeeded by his son Peter.  O’Malley was a powerful voice in the councils of the National League for decades and was considered a reactionary by many observers.  But he foresaw the prosperous prospects for major league baseball in Southern California despite some opinion to the contrary and purchased the Chicago Cubs’ minor league in Los Angeles (the Angels) in the spring of 1957, preparatory to the Dodgers’ move.  During his years in Brooklyn, the Dodgers won the N.L. pennant in 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1956, as well as the borough’s only world championship (1955).  O’Malley sold Ebbets Field to real estate developer Marvin Kratter in 1955 and it was demolished in 1960, replaced by an apartment development.

Bobo Olson


Bobo Olson (Boxing.  Born, Honolulu, HI, July 11, 1928; died, Honolulu, HI, Jan. 16, 2002.)  A middleweight champion (1953-55), Carl Olson became famous for four legendary losses to Sugar Ray Robinson and three of his five New York fights.  In 1953, Olson won the American middleweight title with a 15-round decision over Paddy Young June 19 and another over Randy Turpin at the Garden earned him the world championship Oct. 21.  On June 22, 1955, Archie Moore knocked him out in the third round of a light heavyweight title fight at Yankee Stadium.  That December, Olson lost to Robinson for the third time and Robinson regained the middleweight crown.  Following his fourth loss to Robinson, May 16, 1956, Olson announced his retirement (Oct. 3), but made a comeback.  He fought until 1963, scoring a couple of impressive victories but never challenging for another title.  None of his bouts with Robinson was in New York.

Jordan Olivar


Jordan Olivar (College football.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, Jan. 30, 1915; died, Inglewood, CA, Oct. 17, 1990.)  A Villanova player who started his head coaching career there, Jordan Olivar earned his renown at Yale.  Olivar graduated from Villanova in 1938 and became head coach of the Wildcats in 1943.  In six seasons (1943-48), he was 33-20 before going to Loyola of Los Angeles (Calif.) for three seasons.  Olivar succeeded Herman Hickman at Yale in 1952 and his first team was 7-2, routing Harvard, 41-14, at Cambridge in the season finale.  With the formalization of the Ivy League in 1956, Yale was 8-1 and won the first league title.  Olivar’s 1960 team was unbeaten (9-0) and swept to another Ivy championship, winning 11 straight until an 11-0 loss to Columbia in Yale Bowl Oct. 14, 1961.  He finished with a 61-32-6 record for 11 seasons (1952-62).

John Olerud


John Olerud (Baseball.  Born, Seattle, WA, Aug. 5, 1968.)  John Garrett Olerud joined the Mets Dec. 20, 1996, after eight seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays in a trade that sent pitcher Robert Person to Toronto.  The smooth-swinging lefthanded hitter (the A.L. batting champion in 1993 when he hit .363) immediately became the Mets’ incumbent first baseman.  He hit .294 in 154 games in 1997 but added 60 points to his average the next season as the Mets jumped into playoff contention.  His .354 average set a Mets club record, surpassing the .340 by Cleon Jones in 1969.  Oddly, Olerud was drafted by the Mets in 1986 but elected to go to Washington State Univ., signing with Toronto in 1989.  Olerud went directly to the Blue Jays that season, and became only the fourth player since 1965 to play his entire career in the majors without ever playing the minor leagues.  On Dec. 7, 1999, Olerud signed a three-year contract with Seattle after hitting .298 with 19 homers and 96 r.b.i. in his final season with the Mets.  He also played briefly with the Yankees in 2004, hitting .280 in 49 games.  In Game 3 of the 2004 A.L. championship series, while the Yankees were winning their third straight over Boston, Olerud was injured and had only one at-bat the rest of the series as the Red Sox won four in a row to complete their historic comeback.

Daniel O’Leary


Daniel O’Leary (Pedestrian.  Born, Carrigroe, County Cork, Ireland, June 28, 1842; died, Los Angeles, CA, May 29, 1933.)  A sport that reached its popular apogee in the years following the Civil War, walking, or pedestrianism, saw Daniel O’Leary become the world champion.  O’Leary twice beat Edward Payson Weston in challenge matches and then won the Astley Belt, emblematic of world supremacy.  He outwalked Weston on Nov. 20, 1875, in a six-day match in Chicago, Ill., and in another six-day Apr. 7, 1877, in London, England.  O’Leary often competed in walking contests, which were generally held indoors, in the years before bicycles were invented.  His frequent appearances in the New York area excited great public interest, but the sport was supplanted by bike racing six-days in the 1890s.  O’Leary later turned to cross-country endurance walks, many tied to the dedication of athletic facilities.

Murray Olderman


Murray Olderman (Sportswriter.  Born, New York, NY, Mar. 27, 1922.)  A multi-talented sportswriter, cartoonist, and executive, Murray Olderman filled all three roles with the Newspaper Enterprise Association for 18 years (1953-71).  Olderman was not only a nationally-known cartoonist and writer, but also became executive editor of the N.E.A.  He authored several books on sports such as baseball, pro football, and tennis, and served as president of the Football Writers Association of America before moving to California to become a freelancer.

Herman Olcott


Herman Olcott (College football.  Born, New York, NY, Jan. 1, 1879; died, Wallingford, CT, Jan. 4, 1929.)  A Yale all-America center in 1900, Herman P. Olcott was the N.Y.U. football coach for six seasons (1907-12).  Olcott had an unbeaten (6-0-1) team in 1909 and was 18-18-7 as Violets coach.  He came to University Heights after two seasons (1902-03) at North Carolina, where he was 11-4-3, and later coached Kansas (1915-17) to a three-year record of 16-7-1.

Al Oerter


Al Oerter  (Track and field.  Born, New York, NY, Sept. 19, 1936; died, Fort Myers, FL, Oct. 1, 2007.)  Alfred Adolf Oerter, Jr., earned his permanent place in the annals of American sports heroes by becoming the only man ever to win an Olympic gold medal in his specialty in four successive Olympics.  Oerter turned this amazing trick by winning the discus gold in 1956 (Melbourne), 1960 (Rome), 1964 (Tokyo), and 1968 (Mexico City).  However, his performances around the metropolitan area were also somewhat more than noteworthy.  That began with his setting a national schoolboy record in the discus while still in high school at Sewanaka.  Only two years later, he was an Olympic gold medalist for the first time.  As a representative of the New York Athletic Club, Oerter continued his active career for more than 20 years after that first gold.  In 1980, his career-best throw of 227 feet, 11 inches was the second best in the world.  That came at age 43.  In 1962, Oerter became the world record holder.  By 1964, he was back at Randalls Island in the Olympic trials and set what was then a stadium record with a toss of 201 feet, 11 inches.  Although his distances improved over the years, Oerter never evidenced any interest in throwing farther than anyone else in the world.  He only evidenced interest in throwing farther than anyone competing with him that day.  A classic example of that premise came in the A.A.U. Nationals in 1966 (also at Randalls Island), when he tossed 193 feet, 9 inches.  He won the event by more than two feet.

Lefty O’Doul


Lefty O’Doul (Baseball.  Born, San Francisco, CA, Mar. 4, 1897; died, San Francisco, CA, Dec. 7, 1969.)  Although he has the fourth-highest career average among players with 10 or more years’ service as a hitter, Francis Joseph O’Doul started his career as a pitcher.  During the course of his 11 major league seasons, O’Doul played for all three New York teams, starting in 1919 with the Yankees.  He was 0-0 in six games over two seasons as a pitcher and was shipped back to San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League.  There, O’Doul hit .338 and was 25-9.  The Yankees brought him back in 1922 but he was 0-0 and hit .143 in six games, and was waived to Boston.  O’Doul had four more sensational seasons in the minors and came back to the majors in 1928 with the Giants.  He hit .319 as an outfielder but struggled defensively and was sent to Philadelphia, where he won the N.L. batting title in 1929, hitting .398.  In 1931, he and second baseman Fresco Thompson were traded to Brooklyn.  O’Doul hit .336 that year and .368 in 1932, winning another N.L. batting title.  He went back to the Giants in 1933 and ended his big league career the next season, finishing with a .349 lifetime average.  Only Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Joe Jackson have higher averages for their careers.  O’Doul then became a manager in the P.C.L. (1935-57), winning three pennants and managing talent such as Joe DiMaggio.  He made many trips to Japan, playing a substantial role in establishing pro baseball there, and also owned a highly successful restaurant in San Francisco.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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