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The Coliseum on April 15, 1958, the day of the Dodgers’ first game in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

 

FIRST OF A SERIES

Over the course of the rest of this year, I’m going to take a look at the first season of the teams that call the greater Los Angeles area home.

My plans are to look at these first seasons by seasons; the beginnings of SoCal’s major college and pro football teams – UCLA, USC, the Rams and the Chargers – will appear on this site sometime in September.

For now, however, we’ll take a look at the teams currently playing – L.A.’s baseball teams, the Dodgers and the Angels, as well as Major League Soccer’s Galaxy and the WNBA’s Sparks.

Which we will start with as I want to do this in reverse chronological order…

And now, on with our history lesson…

 

Lisa Leslie, SoCal basketball icon (Inglewood’s Morningside High, USC) and the Sparks’ first star. Photo courtesy of sportsretriever.com

 

LOS ANGELES SPARKS

First Season: 1997

Championships: Three – 2001, 2002, 2016

Record: 14-14, Second place in the West, Did not qualify for the playoffs

Coaches: Linda Sharp, was replaced by Julie Rousseau after going 4-7

First Game/First Home Game: Lost to the New York Liberty, 67-57, on June 21, 1997

First Win: Beat the Charlotte Sting, 74-54, on June 25, 1997

Team Leaders:

  • Lisa Leslie, 15.9 points per game, 9.5 rebounds per game
  • Penny Toler, 5.1 assists per game

 

A shot of the first Galaxy team from 1996. Photo courtesy of kyledane.blogspot.com

 

LOS ANGELES GALAXY

First Season: 1996

Championships: Five – 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014 (most in Major league Soccer)

Record: 19-13, First place in the MLS West, Lost to D.C. United in the MLS Cup Championship Game, 3-2

Coach: Lothar Oslander

First Game/First Home Game/First Win: April 12,1996, at the Rose Bowl. Beat the New York/New Jersey Metrostars, 2-1

Team Leaders:

  • Eduardo Hurtado – 21 goals, 7 assists
  • Mauricio Cienfuegos – 11 assists
  • Jorge Campos (goalie) – 4 shutouts, 1.20 GAA

 

The Original Angels! Photo courtesy of twitter.com

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

First Season: 1961

Championships: One – 2002

Record: 70-91, Eighth place in the American League, 38.5 games behind the New York Yankees

Manager: Bill Rigney

First Game/First Win: Beat the Baltimore Orioles, 7-2, on April 11, 1961

First Home Game: Lost to the Minnesota Twins, 4-2, at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field on April 27, 1961

Team Leaders:

  • Leon Wagner, LF – .280 average, 28 HR, 79 RBI
  • Ken Hunt, CF – .255 average, 25 HR, 84 RBI
  • Steve Bilko, 1B – .279 average, 20 HR, 59 RBI
  • Ken McBride, P: 12-15, 3.65 ERA, 180 strikeouts
  • Art Fowler, RP: 5-8, 3.64 ERA, 11 saves

 

 

Can anyone please tell me why the Angels don’t switch from those ugly caps that they’re wearing now to these lids?! Photo courtesy of sportsunlimitedinc.com

 

 

 

 

Straight Out Of Brooklyn – The Original L.A. Dodgers! Photo courtesy of brooklyndodgermemories.com

 

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

First Season: 1958

Championships: Five – 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988

Record: 71-83, Seventh place in the National League, 21 games behind the Milwaukee Braves

Manager: Walter Alston

First Game: Lost to San Francisco Giants, 8-0, on April 15, 1958

First Win: Beat the Giants, 13-1, on April 16, 1958

First Home Game: April 18, 1958, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Beat the Giants, 6-5

Team Leaders:

  • Duke Snider, CF – .312 average, 15 HR, 58 RBI
  • Carl Furillo, RF – .290 average, 18 HR, 83 RBI
  • John Roseboro, C – .271 average, 11 HR, 43 RBI
  • Johnny Podres, P: 13-15, 3.72 ERA, 143 strikeouts
  • Clem Labine, RP: 6-6, 4.15 ERA, 14 saves

 

A Few Brief Thoughts:

From looking at this, it’s clear that the Galaxy, by far, had the best inaugural season among this group.

The Sparks? Not so much, as their first coach, Linda Sharp, was fired after just eleven games; management must have felt that there were some pronounced problems to fire a coach not even halfway during a team’s first year.

The Angels? A typical first year franchise. They did well to not finish last, in a “There’s someone worse than us!” kind of way.

And as for the Dodgers, my goodness! Their “Boys of Summer” stars from their glory days in Brooklyn were starting to decline, particularly the pitchers as their best guy on the mound at Ebbets Field, Don Newcombe, was shown to be through as he went 0-6 with an earned run average over seven!

Combine that with the hurlers who essentially put the L.A. Dodgers on the map, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, not being ready for prime time just yet as they were a combined 23-24 with an ERA over four,

And you had a Dodger team that desperately needed to rebuild, which – their World Series title in 1959 notwithstanding – they eventually did.

Coming In September:

The first seasons of L.A’s football kingdoms – both college and pro as we’ll take a look at USC’s and UCLA’s beginnings as well as the Rams and the Chargers.

 

 

Dodger Stadium under construction in 1960. Photo courtesy of kcet.org

 

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