Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Galaxy, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles Sparks, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, SoCal, Southern California, Southern California sports, sports, WNBA, Wrigley Field
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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