More from John Helyar's Lords of the Realm:
They played in tiny, decaying Ebbets Field, capacity 32,000. And, like much of the rest of middle-class urban America, their most loyal fans were moving in droves to the suburbs. The borough was turning poorer, browner, and blacker.
. . .
O'Malley was, in a sense, crying all the way to the bank. The Dodgers were the most profitable club in the National League in the fifties. Their 1956 net profit was $487,000, compared to the Braves' $362,000. The truth was, however, that they had to make the Series to vault from marginally profitable to solidly so. They couldn't stay at that pinnacle forever. The Boys of Summer were graying. And O'Malley knew that his club's history was rife with boom-and-bust cycles. "The history of the Brooklyn club," he once said "is that fiscally you're either first or bankrupt. There is no second place."
. . .
Finally the alarm bells rang. Already the voices of moral outrage were being raised. Walter O'Malley simply didn't hear them. It was, as Don Corleone would say, just business. O'Malley was a son of the city and the protege of one of its most powerful men. But he wouldn't even tell the Brooklyn Trust's president, George McLaughlin, what he was up to. "It's great to have loyal friendships from the past," he explained to PR man Irving Rudd, "but sometimes you have to cut the cord to seek new horizons, and you can't be tied down by the past."
. . .
Walter O'Malley had broken every heart in Brooklyn; he had also broken the mold in baseball by radically changing the major league map. In the mid-1950s, all sixteen major league clubs were in the Northeast and Midwest, clustered so closely that teams still commonly traveled by train. O'Malley took baseball where the population was migrating. By the end of the 1960s, there were six West Coast teams.
He'd also redefined baseball as a business. The Dodgers weren't the first team to move, but they were the first team that wasn't in distress to do so. The Brooklyn Dodgers had a supremely loyal following and a lofty place as cultural icon. This, however, was supremely irrelevant to their owner. He was scolded in Congress, vilified in editorials, and hanged in effigy. It all made no difference to Walter O'Malley. The grass was simply greener in California.
"It had always been recognized that baseball was a business, but if you enjoyed the game you could also tell yourself that it was also a sport," columnist Red Smith once wrote. "O'Malley was the first guy to say out loud that it was all business---a business that he owned and could operate as he chose."