The center of baseball in Los Angeles for over 30 years: Wrigley Field, on the corner of 42nd & Avalon, home to the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels from 1925-1957 & the American League’s Angels’ first home in 1961. Photo courtesy of southland.gizmodo.com
PAYING HOMAGE TO THE TEAMS REPRESENTING LOS ANGELES IN THE VERY SUCCESSFUL MINOR LEAGUE THAT WAS A FOCUS OF BASEBALL AND SPORTS IN SOCAL BEFORE THE DODGERS’ ARRIVAL IN 1958
Before the Dodgers and the Angels, there were the Angels and the Stars.
I reckon not too many folks under the age of 70 would know this – or even care – but SoCal was a baseball hub long before Walter O’ Malley brought his Dodgers west from Brooklyn in 1958 and Gene Autry began his Angel franchise three years later.
Speaking of Angels…
That was precisely where Autry got the name of his team as from 1903 to 1957, baseball in Los Angeles was represented by a team called the Angels, who played in the Pacific Coast League, which was considered a minor league but in many ways was an equal to the two major leagues back east.
A cool advertising logo for the Angels. Image courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
These Angels enjoyed much success in winning eleven PCL titles, including four in a six-year span from 1903-1908, when they played in Washington Park just south of downtown.
This success was particularly prevalent in 1934 as they sported a record of 137-50, blowing away their competition; so much so that their opponents in the Pacific Coast League’s championship series was, rather than another team, an all-star team made up of the best players from the other seven PCL clubs.
The other L.A. baseball entry in those days, the Hollywood Stars, was partly owned by celebrities such as George Burns, Bing Crosby, and movie mogul Cecil B. DeMille and provided a good rivalry to the Angels for nearly twenty years, playing their home games at Gilmore Field, located on the corner of Beverly Blvd. and Fairfax Ave, where CBS Television City now stands.
Gilmore Field, home of the Hollywood Stars from 1939-57, on the corner of Beverly and Fairfax. Photo courtesy of pclhistory.wordpress.com
That rivalry was heated at times, much like UCLA vs USC, with fights between the Stars and the Angels happening on a fairly regular occurrence, one brawl, on August 2, 1953, becoming so big that then-police chief William Parker had to send fifty cops in riot gear to break it up.
A promotional film of the Pacific Coast League from 1946, which includes features of Los Angeles Angels and Hollywood Stars. Courtesy of YouTube.
Tons of guys who would go on to play in the big leagues were Angels or Stars, including Detroit Tigers legend (and teammate of Ty Cobb) “Wahoo” Sam Crawford, longtime Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, and 1960 World Series hero Bill Mazeroski.
Not to mention local Angels legends Steve Bilko and Jigger Statz.
Washington Park, home of the PCL’s Angels from 1911-25, located on the corner of Washington Blvd. and Main Street, just south of downtown L.A. Photo courtesy of waterandpower.org
It all ended on a Hiroshima Atomic Bomb-like scale at the end of 1957, when Los Angeles’ city council okayed the deal with O’Malley to bring Major League Baseball to the West Coast, moving his Dodgers from Ebbets Field to (for the first four years, anyway) the Coliseum.
The Stars subsequently moved to Salt Lake City, Utah and became the Bees, while the Angels relocated to Spokane, WA, changing their name to the Indians.
Gilmore Field was razed by 1959, while Wrigley Field survived for a few years, hosting the new American League Angels for a season and TV’s “Home Run Derby” before falling to the wrecker’s ball in 1969.
A quartet of Hollywood Stars players from 1946. Photo courtesy of pclhistory.wordpress.com
That didn’t erase a baseball history that rivaled any other city’s; even though it technically wasn’t “The Show”, it brought a big sports pleasure to SoCal residents giving homage to what was the focal point of sports in American society.
While today’s Dodgers and Angels are big, particularly the Dodgers as they are having a great season to date,
The fact that they have to share attention with so many other teams, especially the Lakers and USC football, triggers an appreciation of what it used to be in this part of the West.
The current Los Angeles Angels wearing throwback uniforms of their PCL ancestors during a game with the Seattle Mariners. Photo courtesy of pinterest.com