Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Los Angeles Angels (PCL)
For the American League franchise see: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
From 1903 through 1957, the Los Angeles Angels, a minor league baseball team, were one of the mainstays of the Pacific Coast League, winning the PCL pennant 12 times. The Angels, along with the Portland Beavers, Oakland Oaks, Sacramento Solons, San Francisco Seals, and Seattle Indians were charter members of the Pacific Coast League which was founded in 1903. From 1903 through 1925, the team played at 15,000-seat Washington Park, at Hill and Eighth Streets in downtown Los Angeles. During this time, the Angels (or “Seraphs” as they were sometimes called), won pennants in 1903, 1905, 1907, 1908, 1916, 1918, and 1921. In 1918, the team finished second in regular season play, but won the postseason series against their cross-town rivals at the time, the Vernon Tigers.
In 1921, the team was purchased by chewing-gum magnate William K. Wrigley, Jr., the owner of the Chicago Cubs of the National League. When Wrigley could not get the city of Los Angeles to make the improvements to Washington Park he requested, he began construction of his own 21,000-seat stadium, appropriately named Wrigley Field, at 42nd Place and Avalon Blvd. in what is now known as South Central Los Angeles. The Angels began play at Wrigley in 1926, and responded by winning their eighth PCL pennant, finishing 10½ games ahead of the second-place Oakland Oaks.
The Seraphs won the pennant again in 1933. In 1934, they fielded what is regarded as the greatest team in the history of the minor leagues. The 1934 Angels finished at 137-50 (.733) -- 35½ games ahead of the Mission Reds on an annualized basis (the PCL used a split season format that year). They were so good that their opponent in the postseason series (which the Angels won) was an all-star team comprised of players from the other seven PCL teams.
The team won pennants in 1938, 1943, 1944, and 1947, with the 1943 team being considered among the best in minor league history. For the next eight years, however, the Angels struggled to remain mediocre at best. In 1949, the Seraphs finished in last place, for only the third time in 47 years. Then, after finishing third in 1955, the Angels won what would be their last pennant in the PCL in 1956. Led by their portly, popular first baseman Steve Bilko, the Seraphs finished 101-61 (.637), 16 games in front of the runner-up Seattle Rainiers.
In 1909, the PCL added two teams to become a six-team league (in 1919 it added two more). One of the new teams was located in the nearby town of Vernon, and the Angels had their first cross-town rival in the Vernon Tigers. Why Vernon, a small town? Simply because Vernon was one of only two cities in Los Angeles County that was “wet” (i.e., where the sale and consumption of alcohol was legal)! With alcoholic beverages as an attraction, the Tigers attracted big crowds by the standards of the day, and won three pennants during their 17-year history. With the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment and the criminalizing of alcohol consumption, however, crowds became sparse and the Tigers were sold to San Francisco interests and moved there for the 1926 season.
The move of the Tigers, though, prompted the owner of the Salt Lake Bees to move his team to Los Angeles for the 1926 season, where the team began play as the Hollywood Bees, but soon changed their name to the Hollywood Stars. This first version of the Stars, though supposedly representing Hollywood, actually played their home games as tenants of the Angels at Wrigley Field. Though the Stars won pennants in 1929 and 1930, they never developed much of a fan base. They were merely a team to watch when the Angels were on the road. After the 1935 season, Angel owner Wrigley doubled the Stars’ rent, whereupon the Stars moved to San Diego for the 1936 season, becoming the San Diego Padres, and Los Angeles became a one-team city once more for the 1936 and 1937 seasons.
In 1938, the old Vernon Tigers, who had played in San Francisco as the Mission Reds since 1926, moved back to Los Angeles, this time as the second version of the Hollywood Stars and, like their predecessors, played their 1938 home games in Wrigley Field. After one season, though, the team was sold to new owners, among them Robert H. “Bob” Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby restaurant and for whom the Cobb salad is named. They sold stock in the team to movie stars, movie moguls, and Hollywood civic leaders. Moreover, the team actually played in the Hollywood area, beginning in 1939 when Gilmore Field was opened in the Fairfax district adjacent to Hollywood.
The new Stars (or “Twinks”) caught on and became a very popular team, winning three pennants before 1958. They were genuine rivals to the Angels, and it was not uncommon for fights between the teams to break out during Angels-Stars games. In fact, on August 2, 1953, a brawl between the two teams lasted 30 minutes, broken up only when 50 riot police were sent to Gilmore Field by Chief of Police William Parker, who was at home watching the game on television when the fight started.
Early in 1957, Philip Wrigley, who had inherited the team from his father, sold the Angels and Wrigley Field to Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley for the then-astronomical sum of $3,000,000 PLUS the Fort Worth Panthers of the Texas League. O’Malley assured the PCL owners that he intended to operate the Angels as a PCL team as had the Wrigleys. He kept his promise – for one season.
After the 1957 season, the Angels and the Stars were forced to relocate when the Dodgers confirmed their long-rumored move to Los Angeles for the 1958 season. The Angels became the Spokane Indians in 1958. The Stars, in a sense, "returned" to Salt Lake City (from whence the original Stars had moved in 1926) in the same year, becoming the Salt Lake Bees once more.
In 1960, the American League announced plans to place an expansion team in Los Angeles, to begin play in 1961. Gene Autry, former actor and owner of a number of radio and TV stations on the west coast, attended the Major League Owners’ meeting in St. Louis in 1960 in hopes of winning broadcasting rights for the new team’s games. After two different bids to acquire the new A.L. team failed, it was suggested to Autry that he acquire the team itself. Autry (who had been a minority stockholder in the Stars) agreed, and purchased the franchise. He named the new team the Los Angeles Angels, after the long-successful PCL team, paying Walter O'Malley $300,000 for the rights to the name, which O'Malley still owned. The new Angels played their 1961 inaugural year -- where else? -- in Wrigley Field.
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