Monday Coach: Baseball before freeways

THE DODGERS and Angels begin a four-game series on Monday (Flickr/Malingering).

It may seem like the Los Angeles Dodgers are the oldest established major league team in the Southern California by a wide margin, but the truth is that the Los Angeles Angels have a history that predates them by generations.

The Dodgers came to L.A. from Brooklyn in 1958 and the Angels are an expansion team that began play in 1961, a mere difference of three years. The guys from Chavez Ravine took a stronger grip on fans, though, because they made it to the World Series in 1958, 1963, 1965 and 1966 when The Other Team struggled to play .500 ball with any consistency.

I bring this up because of the Freeway Series between to the two “Los Angeles” teams is starting on Monday. The first game of this interleague series began in 1997. The Angels lead overall 61-49.

But that’s only part of the story. The two teams met in exhibition games starting in 1962, and the Angels won the first four and five of the last six games. That led to the Dodgers opting out of the embarrassing matchups after 1965 until peace was made years later.

Getting back to the history of the teams, the Angels’ presence in the L.A. area, the team name – Angels – dates back to 1892 in the California League. The Angels of the Pacific Coast League ran from 1903 to 1957. The Dodgers bought out the Angels’ name and rights when they moved to California in 1958, later selling the name back to Gene Autry when the “new” Angels franchise was granted.

At this point it should be pointed out that by the late Forties and early Fifties, the Pacific Coast League was so strong that there was some agitation to reclassify it as the third major league. It had nurtured stars such as Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, and the crowds at PCL parks often topped attendance at stadiums in the American and National leagues.

In 1952 the PCL was given the “open” classification, setting above the AAA status that signifies the highest level of the minor leagues. But the arrival of major league TV broadcasts and the move of the Giants from New York and the Dodgers from Brooklyn stopped what once seemed like the inevitable elevation of the PCL – and the Angels – to official top tier status.

Today the PCL is anything but a Pacific Coast league: of its 16 teams (located as far east as Iowa, Tennessee and Texas) only two are located in Pacific Coast states.

So the Los Angeles Angels are much older than the Los Angeles Dodgers, and played what arguably could be called big league baseball when their opponents this week were still running the bases on Flatbush Avenue.

As it’s turned out, the latter-day team is the one that’s captured the hearts of most Southern Californians, and the old-new Angels have their heartland in Orange County, an area that was still largely a rural backwater when official big league ball came to the Golden State.

Pete Zarustica writes Monday Morning Coach.



Leave a Reply