The Kings who weren’t Royals

THE SACRAMENTO KINGS almost became the Anaheim Royals (Flickr/Lisa Nottingham photo).

We let April Fool’s Day go by without much of an effort, but we can’t miss this opportunity. Sports Illustrated, in its latest edition, took up the subject of “What If?” Much of the April 17 issue is devoted to the might-have-beens, almost-was and coulda-been moments of sports.

So why not do the same for the Orange County area, with a special emphasis on the Garden Grove-Huntington Beach-Westminster area? So we did. Here’s some of the “what-ifs” for us.

The Long Beach Angels. Almost as soon as the Los Angeles Angels moved into Dodger Stadium (which they called Chavez Ravine) in 1962, owner Gene Autry started looking around for another location where the team would be the landlord, not the tenant. The first, and best, pick seemed to be Long Beach. That’s the second-largest city in L.A. County, and pretty close to both a bunch of freeways and the team’s base in Los Angeles. It was also much larger than Anaheim, the other suitor.

The sticking point, according to reports, is that the city fathers insisted that the team be called the Long Beach Angels, which didn’t sound big league to the Singing Cowboy. When the LB crew wouldn’t budge on the issue, he turned to the more pliable Anaheimers, who smiled at the name “California Angels.” And look who’s smiling now.

Chivas Santa Ana. There have been big league – so to speak – pro soccer teams in Orange County before, but that was in an era when futbol wasn’t taken too seriously by the mass of American sports fans.

The first team was the California Surf, a member of the now-defunct North American Soccer League. The home pitch was at Anaheim – now Angel – Stadium and the Surf operated from 1978 to 1981 before folding. The NASL itself sank in 1985.

But it was a new era for American soccer after the turn of the century. The “new” Major League Soccer league was on more solid ground, and the rising number of Hispanic residents in Southern California suggested that a team aimed at that demographic might be a success.

So Chivas USA was founded in 2004 as a “little brother” to the popular C.D. Guadalajara club in Mexico. It played at what is now StubHub Center in Carson, sharing it with the LA Galaxy. After soon initial success, the owners got the itch to try to get out of the shadow of the Galaxy, and maybe get a bit closer to their fans.

The idea, then, was floated to move the team to heavily-Hispanic Santa Ana where its own stadium might be built. The location, however, was a bit of a problem. The “ideal” site was the Willowick Golf Course, which is within Santa Ana city limits but owned by the adjacent City of Garden Grove. The lack of direct freeway access was also an issue, and the notion fizzled out just as the team did, folding after the 2014. It will be replaced in the MLS by the Los Angeles Football Club in 2017.

The Anaheim Royals. Few teams in major league sports have moved around quite as much as the franchise now known as the Sacramento Kings. Started as the Rochester Royals, the team later became the Cincinnati Royals, then the Kansas City-Omaha Kings and finally the Sacramento team. But the owners of the team flirted seriously with moving the whole shebang once more, to Anaheim.

The Maloof family, which owned the team, started in 2006 shopping the franchise around to various suitors, including Seattle, Anaheim and Virginia Beach. In 2011, a deal move the team to Honda Center as the Anaheim Royals seemed inevitable; the owners even filed for a trademark under that name.

But the relocation application had to be approved by the league’s board of governors and before that happened, billionaire Ron Burkle stepped in with an offer to buy the team and keep it in Sacramento.

That, and strong lobbying efforts by Mayor Kevin Johnson, saved the day for the Kings. But as long as Honda Center remains vacant of an NBA team, and other franchises get antsy, the possibility of big league hoops in the OC remains a possibility.



As we head into the second half of April, here’s a look at the high school baseball standings for teams serving the Garden Grove-Huntington Beach-Westminster area going into Monday.

BASEBALL and softball standings for the Garden Grove-Huntington Beach-Westminster area.

Empire League

Kennedy 2-0 (10-12), Tustin 2-0 (10-10-1), Cypress 1-1 (9-11-1), Valencia 1-1 (11-8), Pacifica 0-2 (8-13), Western 0-2 (6-15)

Garden Grove League

Garden Grove 6-1 (11-5), Santiago 5-2 (7-6), La Quinta 4-3 (8-10), Rancho Alamitos 4-3 (9-8), Los Amigos 2-5 (4-9), Bolsa Grande 0-7 (4-11).

Golden West League

Loara 4-1 (10-11), Ocean View 6-2 (11-9), Santa Ana 3-3 (9-8), Segerstrom 2-2 (10-9), Westminster 1-5 (1-13), Orange 0-3 (4-15).

Sunset League

Huntington Beach 7-1 (15-3), Marina 6-2 (11-8), Los Alamitos 5-3 (13-8), Fountain Valley 3-5 (8-8), Edison 2-7 (10-10), Newport Harbor 1-6 (9-9).

The best matchup of the week looks to be Friday when Garden Grove hosts Santiago in a battle for the Garden Grove League lead. The Sunset decider – Marina vs. Huntington Beach – will have to wait for May 3 and 5 when those two teams clash on the Viking diamond.


And … a look at prep softball standings in the area.

Empire League

Pacifica 2-0 (12-8), Valencia 2-0 (11-3), Cypress 1-1 (10-11), Tustin 1-1 (5-10), Kennedy 0-2 (7-8), Western 0-2 (3-11).

Garden Grove League

Garden Grove 4-0 (10-10), Santiago 3-1 (17-1), Los Amigos 2-2 (9-10), La Quinta 2-2 (11-5), Bolsa Grande 1-3 (4-7-1), Rancho Alamitos 0-4 (11-6).

Golden West League

Loara 3-0 (8-9), Santa Ana 1-0 (2-9), Ocean View 2-1 (5-7), Segerstrom 1-1 (13-6), Westminster 1-3 (3-14-1), Orange 0-3 (3-18).

Sunset League

Los Alamitos 4-0 (18-3), Huntington Beach 4-1 (9-6), Marina 3-1 (5-8), Edison 2-3 (11-6), Fountain Valley 1-4 (12-13), Newport Harbor 0-5 (5-15).

Best matchup of the week looks to be on Tuesday when Valencia visits Pacifica is a contest for the Empire League lead. Also on Tuesday, Santiago visits Grove in a GGL crucial.

Pete Zarustica writes Monday Morning Coach.

Categories: Sports

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