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Baseball in Los Angeles with a Wealthy Owner

Baseball in Los Angeles with a Wealthy Owner

Twenty- six miles across the sea

Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me

Santa Catalina, the island of spring training,

spring training, spring training, spring training

The Cubs in Catalina

Some of the best baseball ever played in Los Angeles was due to the efforts of a man and his wife who spent money on their team and its facilities while investing in commercial and residential real estate. Yes, I am talking about the Wrigley family.

Several teams played in Los Angeles and nearby cities as long ago as the 1880s. The cities of Pasadena and Long Beach were early hotbeds of baseball, and in 1911 the Boston Red Sox held their spring training camp in Redondo Beach, then a resort and recreation area for Southern California’s rapidly expanding population. By 1910, spring training was a formalized institution, with most MLB teams establishing facilities east of the Mississippi and many teams joining the new Grapefruit League.

William K. Wrigley, Jr., the chewing-gum magnate, purchased a significant interest in the Chicago Cubs in 1915. The Chicago Cubs have a long history of training in Southern California including Los Angeles (1903-04, 1948-1949), Santa Monica (1905); Pasadena, (1917-1921); Catalina Island (1922-1942, 1946-1947, 1950-1951); and Long Beach (1966). The Chicago Cubs have made it to the World Series 10 times in their long history. A total of five times prior to holding spring training on Catalina island, five times after beginning the Catalina Island spring training era, and zero times since permanently leaving Catalina and moving to the Phoenix area in the early 50s.

Catalina Island, located 26 miles outside of Los Angeles, became a majority investment of Cubs owner William Wrigley Jr. in 1919. Mr. Wrigley constructed a Wrigley field dimensional duplicate ballpark and a clubhouse on the island for the Cubs as their spring training facility. The old Cub clubhouse still exists today and is part of the Catalina County Club. His former home on Catalina Island now is a high-end bed and breakfast called the Inn on Mt. Ada.

In 1914, Mr. Wrigley purchased for his wife, Ada, a home, with adjacent gardens, on “Millionaires Row” in Pasadena so that she could watch the Rose Parade in comfort. Their former home is now the headquarters of the Tournament of Roses.

Tournament House

Many years later, Mr. Wrigley built the Wrigley Mansion as a 50th wedding anniversary gift for his wife, near the Arizona Biltmore, a hotel Mr. Wrigley once owned. The Wrigley’s winter cottage was a modest house, covering only 16,850 square feet, with 24 rooms and 17 bathrooms. It was appropriately named “La Colina Solana” – the sunny hill. It affords dramatic views of the Valley of the Sun, downtown Phoenix, and nearby Camelback mountain.

Mr. Wrigley purchased the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League in 1921 and in 1925; their west coast Wrigley Field was opened in a then nice neighborhood, South Central Los Angeles. The park was designed to be similar to the Chicago Wrigley Field, but with only 20,500 seats. After training on Catalina Island for several weeks the Cubs would often travel to Los Angeles and play spring training games against local competition, including Mr. Wrigley’s Los Angeles Angels, and periodically a MLB team would travel to Los Angeles for a series of games.

During the first half of the 20th Century, one of the main attractions in Los Angeles, after spring training, was the baseball games played in the legendary Pacific Coast League. In the opinion of many, it was a third major league, with its own traditions and records. There were no MLB teams in the west, and some players actually turned down major-league offers because they would receive a higher salary in the PCL. Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams played a season for their hometown teams. In 1952, the PCL was temporarily given AAAA status, thus raising it above farm league status and protecting their players from the major league draft.

In the Angels’ fifty-five year history, they were one of the most successful Pacific Coast League franchises, winning titles in 1905, 1907, 1908, 1916, 1918, 1926, 1933, 1934, 1938, 1943, 1947, and 1956. They actually won over 1000 games in the decade of the 30′s.

The team was called “Yankees-West,” and dominated the league into the 1950′s. The 1934 team had a record of 137-50 (.733), almost 30 games ahead of the Seals, led by Joe DiMaggio. Over the years the team featured players like Tommy Lasorda, Sparky Anderson, and Gene Mauch. In 1956, the Angels won the pennant with what many baseball historians consider to be the greatest minor league team ever built.

Then in 1957, Phil Wrigley sold both the team and Wrigley Field to Walter O’Malley for $3,000,000 and the rights to the Dodgers’ Texas League franchise in Fort Worth. O’Malley reassured PCL directors that the Angels would continue as part of the Pacific Coast League, but rumors spread quickly that he was considering moving the Dodgers out of old Ebbets Field to Los Angeles. O’Malley’s purchasing of the Angels and their stadium gave him territorial rights to the Los Angeles area.

The Dodgers finally moved to Los Angeles in 1958, and since the fans choose the Dodgers over the Angels, a “minor league team”, the Angels’ franchise was moved to Spokane in order to eliminate competition; I mean to find a new fan base. The former Angels’ team stayed in Spokane until 1972, and then was moved to Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Dukes then moved in 2000, and are now the Portland Beavers, a Padre AAA team. – Written by Ken

About Ken

Ken is a professional working in multiple disciplines who has participated in various sports from elementary school through post intercollegiate level. He may be the only athlete in intercollegiate sports history to have started as both a middle blocker on an intercollegiate volleyball team and as a hook on an intercollegiate rugby team during the same season. He has been a Dodger fan since youth and now regularly watches over 150 Dodger games per season.

14 Responses to “Baseball in Los Angeles with a Wealthy Owner”

  1. A Shot of Haeger says:

    Interesting little history piece.

  2. steevo17 says:

    Interesting history..I enjoyed reading it. This the kind of history thats always overlooked by our eastern-biased way of sports mindedness. Its easy to forget that baseball actually existed before the Dodgers arrived. Thanks Ken, hope you have a few more of these history lessons planned for the future.

  3. Bill Russell says:

    I wanted to say great post but the system isn’t letting me post.

  4. Badger says:

    Anybody read “Odds and Ends” today?

    Some think those of us who feel the Dodgers aren’t moving in the right direction are nothing more than naysayers and being “negative”. But, the “wise men” mentioned in that article agree with us.

    And Boston intends to get richer. Big surprise there.

    I got a bit of interesting historical trivia for you – who invented baseball? (ok, who is going to google it just to make sure?)

  5. DRomo says:

    Badger, Wasn’t it Abner Doubleday? There is dispute wheather he refined another game to form what we call baseball. But, it is widely accepted he is the “Father of Baseball” isn’t it?

    I could be wrong…and no I didn’t google it. Maybe I should?

  6. SpokaneBob says:

    I saw the Yankees and Angels play one Sunday afternoon in Wrigley Field. Mickey and Yogi both hit home runs. It was a real cozy park and they filmed Home Run Derby there, I went to one game there and sat behind the Angel dugout ,,,,,, Bill Rigney, the Angel’s Manager, yelled profanity at the home plate umpire the whole game and everyone in the lower grandstand could hear him. I was about 14 and it kind of shocked me. welcome to the school of reality.

  7. Badger says:

    The first game I ever went to was the A’s vs. the Yankees in Kansas City, I believe it was 1958. Bob Cerv hit 2, Mickey Mantle hit 2, Gil McDougald hit 1, and Tony Kubek hit 1. I think the Yankees won 14-7.

    Romey most people believe Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball, and of course he is given credit for it, but, no, he is not the Father of Baseball.

    Maybe I’ll do an official post on it later. Got no time right now.

  8. Erik says:

    Dodgers and Eric Gagne have agreed to minor league deal… I know its a long shot but I would love to see him get even halfway back to what he was and be an option for the 7th inning.. I know I know, hope in one hand and crap in the other, see which one fills up first. But it would be great.

  9. DRomo says:

    I guess Todd Worrell was busy this year. I cant wait to see the “GAME OVER” sign in the 6th inning of mop up duty. I bet Frank still has a couple of Gagne shirts and Beards to get rid of….that earns a little cash. Not to mention the bobblehead that will be available for purchase! I can’t wait!

    I wonder what Steve Sax is doing these days? Roll his old butt out there too, we signed every other outta work middle infielder?

  10. Badger says:

    Gagne? I don’t think so.

    Geez, start the season already.

  11. steevo17 says:

    Gagne? Guess what’s next? LIMA TIME!!!

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