Today marks the beginning of the final stretch of Interleague play this season. Love it or hate it, you learn a lot about the baseball cultures and traditions of teams from the other league during Interleague and knowledge is never a wasted thing. To that end, before the Angels and Dodgers take the field at the Big A this evening for the second half of the Freeway Series, I thought I would use my bi-baseball-cultural heritage (Dodgers fan childhood, Angels fan adulthood) to answer a few questions and clear up a few misconceptions about our two team’s shared histories in Southern California for the benefit of both fan bases.
First things’ first:
This is not a Dodgers cap.
And I don’t just mean this statement in the Magritte sense. This really is not a Dodgers cap, nor is it an “Angels Dodgers-look-alike” cap as some have called it. This is a replica of the original Angels cap, featuring our original interlocked L and A logo and a halo stitched into the top, a reminder of an era when, for better or worse, baseball uniforms were often a little more literal than they are today. Remember the nautical motif on the 1970s era Pittsburg Pirates cap and on short-lived Seattle Pilots caps and stirrup socks?
So, is it an ugly cap? Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion of course. I tend to think it’s so ugly, it’s completely awesome! But then again, you may have glanced around my blog and noted my subtle little bias.
Wait a minute! The Angels’ original logo was an interlocked L and A? What have the Angels ever had to do with Los Angeles and why were they copying the Dodgers? I have heard variations on this one from both sides of the fan divide as well. The Angels have played at the Big A in Anaheim since the 1966 season…but, from 1961 until 1966 they played in Los Angeles. Yes, Los Angeles. The first year at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field and for the next four years at – if you’re one of the folks who didn’t know this already, this is going to trip you out even more than the concept of a Wrigley Field in Los Angeles – at Dodger Stadium.
No, Angels fans, it wasn’t our field first. It was always the Dodgers’ field. We just sort of couched surfed there for four seasons until we became established in our career and were able find our own digs. And, really, can you get any more Los Angeles than that? There were occasional issues between the Dodgers and Angels in those years, but they were merely baseball variations on the sort of small slights and annoyances known to housemates of convenience the world over. Hey, I’ll bet the Angels were much better housemates than a former housemate of mine, who shall forever be remembered in my circle of friends as the girl who actually said, with real annoyance in her voice and not the slightest trace of humor, I might add, “But I paid you rent last month.”
Okay, so the Angels do have a tie to Los Angeles, but what about that logo? The interlocked L and A isn’t a copy of the Dodgers logo. It was intended as a nod to the minor league Los Angeles Angels who were the first team to use an interlocked L and A logo and played at Los Angeles Wrigley Field in several incarnations for decades before the Dodgers moved to California. I suppose that one could argue that the Dodgers copied the logo from the minor league Angels, but it’s a little more complicated than that. O’Malley had bought the minor league Angels and moved the team to Spokane when the Dodgers moved out west. If I am reading the meandering history of this particular minor league franchise correctly, the original Los Angeles Angels turned Spokane Indians went through several more incarnations and are now the Tucson Padres. Regardless, it was too cool a logo to remain unused, so I commend the Dodgers for keeping it alive.
Bet the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim doesn’t sound so silly now does it? …Okay, actually, it still does. Terribly so. Really. Which brings me to our final question:
Okay, so what about that crazy name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Well, if you were to tell me, biased though I am, that this mouthful of a name is kind of stupid, I would be inclined to agree with you. After all, we don’t refer to the A’s as the Philadelphia Athletics of Oakland by way of Kansas City, now do we? Once the Angels moved out of Los Angeles, the California Angels was my favorite name, though I liked the Anaheim Angels well enough too. Throwing in the Los Angeles was silly in my opinion, and the reason given for doing it – associating the team with a larger market – was even sillier. As we just discussed, the Angels have a legitimate historic tie to Los Angeles, and I for one am going to wear my awesomely ugly haloed LA hat with pride, but legitimacy doesn’t make the current name any less silly.
This concludes our brief, and hopefully entertaining, Angels and Dodgers history lesson. The game is about to begin. So go forth to the ballpark or get thee to the pub and enjoy one another’s company in spirited rivalry, safe in the knowledge that your heckling can now be every bit as accurate and knowledgeable as it is biting and sarcastic. And may the best Angels team win!!! Hey, my baseball heritage may be “bi-partisan’ but my adult loyalties are anything but.
Listening to all of the historical retrospectives on the news and writing a bit about Martin Luther King Day for work – nope, no Monday holiday in my industry – got me thinking a lot today about courage, history, equality and baseball…okay the baseball part is pretty much always droning away in the back of my thoughts these days, but you get the general idea.
I have always been proud of Major League Baseball for breaking the color barrier and playing its own part in the history of the Civil Rights Movement all on its own, without government mandate and for what, to my mind, was the best reason of all – Jackie Robinson was good baseball player and would have been an asset to any team.
Of course this act of bravery, on the parts of Robinson, the Dodgers and Major League Baseball as an institution, was just one action. And one action on its own could never solve all of our nation’s problems with racial discrimination. One action couldn’t even solve all of baseball’s issues on that front. But it was a crucial step that opened the door for other players of color to join the league and for all of America to see them playing well and together with white players, to see players of all colors showing the same amazing athletic ability, teamwork, brotherhood and honor on the athletic field of battle. Eyes, minds and hearts were opened and this became one more brave action helping to affirm all of the brave efforts at integration that preceded it and helping to set the stage and inspire all of the brave acts that were to follow.
When we work and play together, we see each other for what we really are as individuals and it becomes harder and harder to hold onto false assumptions until the relationships that result are actually based on something real. This is a concept that we all know instinctively as children but often forget as adults. Baseball offered a refresher course in this all important lesson to a generation of Americans and many took it to heart…many should continue to take it to heart today. It was one action, but it was one loud, crucial action. Whatever the sport’s current popularity may be in relation to other sports, for this reason more than any other, baseball will always be the real national pastime for me.
On December 6, 1960, the new Los Angeles Angels expansion team was awarded to Gene Autry and associates. That’s right, Los Angeles Angels. Although the current name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is convoluted and sounds geographically challenged, people tend to forget that it’s also nostalgic. Or perhaps they never knew. Personally, I always preferred the California Angels name but the current name is legitimate even if it doesn’t roll off the tongue well.
In the beginning, the Los Angeles Angels played at California’s Wrigley Field. Now doesn’t that sound odd and wonderful? The same William Wrigley Jr. who owned the Cubs and for whom the original and better known Wrigley Field was named also owned the minor league Los Angeles Angels. So their stadium, later occupied by the major league Los Angeles Angels, was also named for him. I suspect that an additional reason for the name was California trying to establish strong, obvious ties to major league baseball, which at the time did not exist west of the Mississippi. Hey, as a sometime marketing professional, I think it was a brilliant idea. An amusing side note – when California’s Wrigley field was built in the 1920’s, Wrigley also owned a controlling interest in Catalina Island, off California’s coast, so the Cubs had a least part of their spring training there through the 1940’s. That had to be a lot of fun, but really isolated at the same time.
However, California’s Wrigley Field was downright tiny – “friendlier” even than the friendly confines of its Chicago namesake – so the major league Angels only played there for one season. Wrigley Field was demolished well before I was born, so I have only seen it in pictures and movies. But you can see parts of it in the movie Damn Yankees and, apparently, Pride of the Yankees as well as a few others. The Angels’ next stop? Chavez Ravine, where they for all intents and purposes couch surfed with the Dodgers for four seasons at the newly built Dodger Stadium. Like all too many roommate situations, this arrangement was pretty awkward for all concerned. The Dodgers had the better game times, dibs on use of the training facilities and attracted an embarrassingly larger audience – hey, it was their house after all.
The Angels were never going to establish themselves sharing the stadium, so Gene Autry looked for a home in Orange County. The Big A opened for the 1966 season and the Los Angeles Angels became the California Angels. Of course, success was a long, painful time in coming. Talking to the longtime fans, you hear some serious war stories. My grandfather used to simultaneously glow when he talked about the Angels and then shake his fist over the Arson Squad – think our 2010 bullpen but much, much worse – and other calamities. The Angels didn’t win a division title until 1979. They won two additional division titles in the 1980s and then none in the 1990s. I think this is why so many Angels fans rooted for the Giants in this year’s series – the Angels understand torture. But, with a World Series win in 2002 (the only all wild card series so far, for better or for worse) and five division titles in the last seven years, the last decade has been very good for the Angels. Hopefully, 2010 was an aberration and the winning trend will continue into the next decade.
Many of you already know this history but some of you may not – hey, a lot of Angels fans do not – and an anniversary is definitely the proper occasion for sharing the family stories, as it were. I made one of the Angels’ security guard’s day when we were shooting the breeze after the last game this season by knowing about the Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium days. He worries that most of the current fans only know about the Rally Monkey days. He may be right, but they would probably be interested in learning this history given the opportunity. It sounds like the Angels front office has a lot of different celebrations and commemorations planned for the 2011 season – More Than A Season! – so this is the perfect opportunity to learn.
My husband and I spent this evening with his parents – we provided tech support services and then joined them for a nice dinner and the usual lively conversations that I have come to enjoy as a part of his family. Somehow we got on the subject of Angels games, which is odd because my in-laws are not really baseball people, a fact my father-in-law had just laughingly reminded me of when a nostalgic, childlike grin broke over his face. He’s not a big baseball guy now, but when he was a kid living in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles in the 1940s apparently he and his friends used to go watch the Hollywood Stars play. Have you ever heard of the Hollywood Stars, he asked me. But of course. I love baseball history and the history of the Los Angeles minor league teams, the Hollywood Stars and their arch-rivals the Los Angeles Angels, is a lot of fun.
My father-in-law then told us how he and the local kids would go to see the Stars play, sometimes in the stands from the beginning, other times hanging out at the back fence, jostling one another for glimpses of the game though the chain link until the team would throw the gates wide open in the 7th inning and let everyone come in to watch. Apparently the latter was known as being part of the Knothole Club. I think we all get what I call my giddy little kid feeling when we talk about our baseball memories and my father-in-law was no exception. He beamed as he told us about getting to hang out on the field and chat with the Stars while they warmed up before games. It was a completely different era, a minor league environment in a city that had never known a major league baseball team and it sounds the Stars were pretty laid back. You could be on the field before games as long as you stayed outside the foul lines and didn’t make a nuisance of yourself with the players until the umpires took the field. Once the umpires made an appearance, it was find your seats kids, it’s almost time for first pitch. It had been so long that my father-in-law didn’t really remember specific players’ names but it was clear the he remembered the feeling of being there and, although I only wish I had so many memories of being that close to the game, I can totally relate.
Oddly enough, this took me right back to my own childhood and my grandfather’s parallel stories with the rival team. In the 1920’s (or early 1930’s, my own memory gets a little fuzzy here) he and his friends hung around the old Wrigley Field watching the minor league Los Angeles Angels. The Angels would let the local kids shag balls during their batting practices and, occasionally, give them tickets to come and watch a game. I also got the impression that my grandfather and his friends snuck into a fair number of games or that any security that may have been around looked the other way, not that he would have specifically told a granddaughter such things. Regardless, the Angels paid enough attention to their youthful fans that it made quite an impression on my grandfather and he became a life-long fan, first of the minor league Angels, then of the major league expansion which included a few players from the minor league team. I remember that during baseball season the radio next to his armchair was always tuned to the Angels games. While my grandfather was alive, I was primarily a Dodgers fan along with the rest of the immediate family. But watching his passion and hearing his stories, gave me an affection for the Angels, my immediate family’s “American League Team,” that I believe helped plant the seeds for my eventual conversion as an adult.
I love history. I love hearing people’s stories. And I love baseball. I treasured my grandfather’s stories and the hand me down connection they gave me to our part of California’s early baseball history. It made me smile to discover that my husband has that connection as well.
A little Pacific Coast League history, for those who are interested, that provides background for the stories above as well as the amusing, rivaled, often intertwined and occasionally downright incestuous relationship between the Dodgers and the Angels:
The Hollywood Stars my father-in-law grew up watching were actually the second incarnation of this minor league baseball team. Several Hollywood actors owned stock in the team including one Mr. Gene Autry. The Stars had a few major league affiliations, including at one point the Brooklyn Dodgers. Their rivalry with the Minor League Los Angeles Angels came about largely because, in their first incarnation, the Stars had been tenants of the Angels and alternated playing time with them as the “B” team at California’s Wrigley Field. This is truly humorous when you consider that from 1962 until 1966, the newly created major league Los Angeles Angels had much the same relationship with the Los Angeles Dodgers and were considered the “B” team at the new Dodger Stadium. It was the Dodgers move to Los Angeles that brought about the immediate demise of the Hollywood Stars and the minor league Los Angeles Angels (whom O’Malley now also owned) move and transformation into the Spokane Indians the following year.
That famous interlocked L and A? It was originally the minor league Angels logo. When Gene Autry founded the major league Los Angeles Angels expansion team, he had to buy the rights to the Los Angeles Angels name from Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley. Stories like this are part of why I love baseball history! Seriously, how could you not love stuff like this?