Wrigley Field (Los Angeles)

From BR Bullpen

Home of the Los Angeles Angels, 1961

BUILT: 1925

CAPACITY: 22,000 (1925); 20,457 (1961)

FIRST GAME: April 27, 1961, vs. Minnesota Twins (Twins 4, Angels 2)

LAST GAME: October 1, 1961, vs. Cleveland Indians (Indians 8, Angels 5)

LARGEST CROWD: 19,930 - August 22, 1961, vs. New York Yankees

SEASON ATTENDANCE: 603,510

Ballpark History[edit]

Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, CA, was the home of Los Angeles affiliated baseball from 1925 through 1957. After that, the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League moved to a new ballpark in Spokane, WA, as the Spokane Indians.

The Hollywood Stars also played there from 1926 through 1935 and in 1938; while the ballpark was not located in Hollywood, Stars ownership wanted identity separation.

Its last hurrah as a baseball stadium was its highest, hosting tthe American League's expansion Los Angeles Angels in their first season, 1961.

Built of concrete and steel in 1925 and originally owned by the Chicago Cubs, the playpen cost over $1 million and was designed to be like what Chicago then still called "Cubs Park". This was actually the first Wrigley Field - Chicago's opened in 1914 but wasn't renamed for Cubs owner William Wrigley Jr. until 1926.

When it opened, the ballpark was considered the equal of any MLB facility, featuring a roofed, double-decked grandstand with uncovered bleachers behind a nine-foot screen in right center. A 15-foot concrete wall, which was covered with ivy over the years, ran from the leftfield foul pole to centerfield. The park's outfield fences were slightly angled toward the infield, producing very short power alley dimensions of 345 feet, only five feet deeper than the foul poles. A 12-story, 150-foot clock tower stood between first base and home plate above the grandstand and was dedicated to all baseball players who died in World War I. Named the Memorial Tower, it was a well-known local landmark and housed offices, including that of the president of the Pacific Coast League from 1936 to 1941. Lights were installed in July 1931, and the bottom of a light tower was in play in left center.

Being near Hollywood, Wrigley was a filming location for scripts involving baseball: The Bush Leaguer (1927), Babe Comes Home (1927), Just Pals (1932), Meet John Doe (1940), The Pride of the Yankees (1942), It Happens Every Spring (1947), The Stratton Story (1947), The Geisha Boy (1947), Armored Car Robbery (1950), Angels in the Outfield (1951), The Kid from Left Field (1953), Fear Strikes Out (1957), Damn Yankees (1958), and TV shows including Home Run Derby (1960), The Twilight Zone episode "The Mighty Casey" (1960) and The Munsters episode "Herman the Rookie" (1965).

The Majors had looked west before, in at least the 1940s - in fact, at Wrigley. The St. Louis Browns had tentatively planned to move there for the 1942 season, but the attack on Pearl Harbor ended the idea as it occured the day before American League were to vote on approving the move.

Ultimately, it was the Brooklyn Dodgers who made the move, before the 1958 season. They mitigated resulting travel costs for other National League teams by convincing the New York Giants to take up residence in San Francisco. These moves bumped three PCL teams: the Angels and the Stars, as well as the San Francisco Seals.

The Stars had by then moved into their own ballpark, Gilmore Field, at the present-day location of CBS Television City. Now forced completely from the market, they moved to Salt Lake City, UT. The Angels' move was at least technically voluntary: Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley bought the team from the Cubs to obtain professional baseball rights to L.A., so it was actually Angels ownership that decided to move to Spokane. The Seals went to Phoenix, AZ, and the Giants played at Seals Stadium until Candlestick Park opened.

O'Malley's purchase also included this Wrigley Field. He originally considered building another deck and using the park as the club's new home, but instead opted to play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until a new stadium could be built. From 1958 through 1960, the Dodgers used Wrigley Field as office space - then leased it to their new crosstown rival for the 1961 season. Attendance here was rather low for the Angels, never exceeding 20,000 fans for a game in an area that had become run down and had almost no nearby parking. During the course of the season, 248 home runs were hit here - a record for one park in a single year that was not broken until the thin air of Coors Field allowed 271 in 1996. After their only season here, the Angels moved into the Dodgers' new ballpark - still as their tenants. The ballpark's official name was Dodger Stadium, but the Angels referred to it as "Chavez Ravine Stadium".

The city of Los Angeles and O'Malley swapped the land that would be used to build Dodger Stadium for Wrigley Field. It then hosted various events such as a civil rights rally by Martin Luther King Jr. on May 26, 1963 - one of the civil rights leader's biggest.

Wrigley Field was torn down in 1969.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Chris Epting: Los Angeles's Historic Ballparks, Arcadia Publishing, Mount Pleasant, SC, 2010.
  • James Gordon: "Los Angeles' Wrigley Field: The Finest Edifice in the United States", in Jean Hastings Ardell and Andy McCue, ed.: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 41, 2011, pp. 109-112.

Related Sites[edit]