Baseball didn't exactly zoom right out to the west coast once it became a major sport. For decades, westward expansion to Major League Baseball meant maybe putting a new team in Kansas City. The barriers of Major League Baseball were pretty well set in stone until the 50's, and until then, there were no baseball teams either south of Washington or west of Saint Louis. Baseball was slower than residents of New York City to catch on to the fact that there are, in fact, places outside of their regular geographical area. By the time they learned, a fledgling little league known as the National Football League had already planted a pair of teams in California, both of which were becoming mainstays.
For years, though, there had been talk of placing an existing team on the west coast, and Los Angeles - Hollywood, baby! - was always the subject of the talks. They started planning a move back in the 40's, but kept seeing excuses not to go through with it: Pearl Harbor. The sale of the Saint Louis Browns. On again, off again, blah blah blah. In the end, it took until 1957 to finally get a team out there. And what a team! They were in the midst of a string of Pennants and had won the World Series for the first time just two years before. Upon their landing in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Dodgers proceeded to fulfill the potential they first showed in their native Brooklyn, creating a dynasty right off the bat which won three World Series titles and was fronted by one of the greatest pitchers in history, Sandy Koufax. Now in most instances, this would have been game, set, and match. However, in the early 60's an enterprising baseball fan from New York City who missed the Dodgers wanted a team in the worst way. MLB, refusing to expand, laughed in his face. And so that man, William Shea, decided to create a whole new league, the Continental League. It was totally a ploy to get Major League Baseball to comply with him and force them to expand. Of course, they didn't know that, and when a bill allowing MLB to be the exclusive baseball league in the United States was struck down in Congress, it occurred to MLB that a Continental League COULD ACTUALLY BE CREATED! It would give them.... COMPETITION!!! (Gasp!) So now that Shea had everything he needed to get his new team and league, MLB finally sat down and said "Now, let's discuss this like reasonable men, shall we?"
Shea got permission to build his team, which became the New York Mets. One-team expansions are rare, though, and so the 60's saw a round of expansions. With the Mets came the Houston Astros, and before the Mets were the Washington Senators and the Los Angeles Angels. Cowboy legend Gene Autry was a baseball nut who had wanted a team, and this was the one they gave him. The Angels started playing in 1961.
For an expansion team, they actually put up a pretty respectable showing. They went 70-91 in their first year, which is actually still the best record ever put up by an expansion team. It kept them nine games in front of the Senators and Kansas City Royals. It also impressed the hell out of the National League brass, who apparently believed new teams should get to the back of the line and pay their fucking dues before being allowed to, you know, win. When the Astros and Mets were created the next year, the promising showing of the Angels convinced the National League owners to create a new rule allowing them to reshuffle their rosters before the expansion draft, and that resulted in the Astros and Mets both getting royally fucked over; the Astros were atrocious that year, and the Mets put on a display of baseball so unrelentingly ugly that they remain one of MLB's grand poster children for baseball ineptitude. They went 40-120, finished last in a ton of statistical categories, and are not only arguably the worst baseball team ever fielded, but pretty much inarguably the worst team of the Live Ball Era. It wasn't until 2003 that their ineptitude was even challenged.
In 1962, the Angels signed pitcher Bo Belinsky, who brimmed with potential. On May 5 that year, he hurled the first no-hitter in Angels history. Unfortunately, Belinsky was also a real nightlife kinda guy, a street kid from New Jersey who was into pool hustling and womanizing. His career took a turn south, and he never regained that no-hitter form. Even so, the Angels did spend most of that season in serious Pennant contention. The Angels got rid of him in 1964, and he then proceeded to burn through four more teams until 1970 closed his eight-year career. (He eventually landed on his feet, though.) Also in 1962, the Angels became tenants of Dodger Stadium, which pissed Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley off to the point where he, of course, worked a bunch of asinine conditions into their lease contract, like charging them for half the stadium supplies even though the Angels were drawing only half as good as the Dodgers. No one supported giving the Angels a new stadium, so in the end, Autry had to move his team. Long Beach beckoned, under the condition that the team be named the Long Beach Angels. Well, there was no way he was going to accept that stupid name, so he took the offer from Anaheim, who even built him a stadium. It was 1965 when Autry gave the Angels their identifying moniker, the California Angels. When the Angels led the American League in attendance that year, they knew the move was the smart choice.
By 1967, the Angels were contending. They were part of a five-team Pennant race that year which the Boston Red Sox eventually ended up winning. The Angels were very competitive right through the end of the 60's, showcasing guys like Alex Johnson, Clyde Wright, Ken McBride, Jim Fregosi, Albie Pearson, Leon Wagner, and Buck Rodgers. The 70's would see some bad years from the team, although the pitching rotation did have one very notable player: Nolan Ryan. Ryan had been a reliever on the 1969 Miracle Mets team which won the World Series, and all he cost the Angels in bringing him to California was Jim Fregosi. Ryan went on to set a lot of strikeout records, including 383-strikeout mark in the 1973 season which still stands. Now ordinarily, teams sign guys like him for megatons of cold, hard cash. General manager Buzzie Bavasi, however, had something different he wanted to try with Ryan: Letting him go in free agency after Ryan went 16-14 in 1979, remarking that he could easily be replaced by two pitchers who go 8-7. Ryan turned up with the Houston Astros, spending the rest of his prolific career with them and the Texas Rangers. Bavasi later admitted that letting go of Ryan was the worst mistake he ever made. It was particularly rough because 1979 was also the year the Angels finally reached the playoffs. The won their division, but lost the ALCS to the Baltimore Orioles.
That was only the beginning of what would become a very frustrating existence for the Angels from that point forward. In 1982, the Angels made their grand return to the postseason. They also had the burden of being helmed by Gene Mauch, a great manager who was also the heartbreakingest heartbreaker of possibly every baseball manager ever. The man was good, no doubt, but he was also the guy who was managing the Philadelphia Phillies during The Phold of 1964, an oft-repeated part of baseball lore in which the Phillies had twelve games left in the season, were in first, and needed one win to clinch the Pennant when they went on a losing skid that saw them fall into third place. The Angels won the first two games of the ALCS, which was a five-game series back then. Their opponents, the Milwaukee Brewers, proceeded to win the following three, giving them the only Pennant they ever won. 1986 was even worse: The Angels won the AL West again, and were leading in the ALCS three games to one. (The ALCS had been increased to seven games by now.) At the top of the ninth inning in game five, the Angels were leading their opponents, the Boston Red Sox, 5-2. They were one strike away from victory, but the Red Sox came back and managed to pull through the whole rest of the series that year, running an incredible marathon in a classic ALCS. Boston won the Pennant and was, ironically, in the same situation California was in came game six of the World Series - a single strike away from taking it all before the opposing New York Mets came roaring back.
The Angels were briefly subject of curse talk. In the aftermath of the ALCS, fans identified Boston's go-ahead homer as the moment the team had come closest to the World Series. That home run was given up by closing pitcher Donnie Moore, and fans being fans, Moore of course became the scapegoat. He became one of those infamous scapegoats, where the team was so close, except for our one guy who blew it…. He became a scapegoat at the level of Bill Buckner, who was maligned after the 1986 World Series for letting a ground ball roll between his legs which, if fielded, would have clinched the World Series for the Red Sox; or NFL kicker Scott Norwood, just as unfairly vilified by fans of the Buffalo Bills for shanking a kick wide right in the closing seconds of a Super Bowl which decided by a single point. Buckner and Norwood, while both very hard on themselves at first, accepted their errors as part of their sports and moved on with their lives. Moore - who had fought depression in the past - couldn't quite get over giving up that run. It haunted him for the rest of his life to such an extent that in 1989, Moore lost his mind in an argument with his wife. He shot her three times before committing suicide. (His wife was driven to the hospital by his daughter and survived.)
The Angels fell back out of contention for some time. They spent an enormous part of the 90's playing terrible baseball, because by this time there was quite a bit of confusion in the office. Gene Autry still owned the team, but in name only. His health was getting poor, so his wife Jackie seemed to be in charge half the time. At other times, the Disney Company seemed to be guiding the reins, since they had a minority ownership in the team. After disastrous years in 1993 and 1994, the team finally seemed to be on the rise in 1995, when they started winning games in bunches. By August, the Angels had a ten and a half game lead in their division, but they started to slump. At one point, from August 25 to September 3, they lost nine straight games. From September 13 to September 23, they endured another nine straight losses. They finally rebounded to win their final five games, but at the point that was only worth a tiebreaker game against the Seattle Mariners, which the Angels lost. When the worst baseball collapses in history are discussed, this one tends to get overlooked, but it shouldn't. No, it doesn't help that a leading team's momentum slows down, but we frequently don't give enough credit to second place teams who catch fire at the right time. Everyone knows the story of the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers, who held a 13 and a half game lead over the New York Giants only to lose to them and the Shot Heard 'Round the World. The Dodgers, however, didn't collapse badly - they went 26-22 down the stretch, which most times would be enough to hold on. In the same stretch, the Giants ran an incredible 37-7 record. All respectable baseball fans know the story of the 1978 Boston Red Sox and their loss to the New York Yankees through the Boston Massacre and Bucky Fucking Dent. Less discussed is the second half of that season, when Boston went 37-32 while New York ripped the AL to shreds in a 52-20 tear. The 1969 Chicago Cubs had a nine and a half game lead on August 14, which the New York Mets reduced to two over the next 13 days on the way to mowing them down and winning the division and their first World Series title. For the 1995 California Angels, there was no hot team. The Mariners went 16-13 while the Angels were going 13-17 for August, took first on a seven-game winning streak while California was losing nine straight, and lost first when they lost three of their last five while California was winning their final five. You think Seattle was on a hot streak? Nah, I thought not. This was a REAL collapse to a team which was merely lukewarm at best.
In 1996, the Disney Company took control of everything, and the curse rumors started getting serious. The Curse of the Cowboy is what it would be called, and it would have made sense because of the whole Cowboys and Indians image. Gene Autry, who died in 1998, was known as a singing movie cowboy and his team played in a stadium built on an ancient Indian burial ground. (Or so that's the rumor, anyway. Anaheim historians haven't been able to either confirm or deny it.) The team also officially changed its name to the Anaheim Angels in 1996, prompting an outcry from fans that calling them after Anaheim would make them a small time team. Those protests eventually fizzled out. The uniform designs also changed. The spelling of "Angels" on the front was replaced with a Disney-made logo featuring a large angel wing to the left of the A on new vest jerseys with pinstripes. The new design was hated by absolutely everyone. Chris Berman called them softball beer league uniforms. Angels fans themselves called them the periwinkle jerseys. In 2002, due to universal ridicule, the jerseys were scrapped and the old jerseys were brought back.
That was just the beginning of a very eventful year. The baseball gods smiled upon the Anaheim Angels in 2002. First, they got rid of a disgusting jersey design which caused millions of retinas to howl in agony. Then, all the curse talk was scrapped. Sure, the Angels started the year with a pathetic 6-14 record. In the end, though, they came through when it counted, and managed to win 99 games in the regular season. It was four games behind the Oakland Athletics, but still more than enough to qualify for the wild card spot, which would give them the privilege of getting killed in the ALDS by the Yankees, still in their dynasty years and defending their Pennant from the previous year. At least, that's what everyone thought would happen. The Yankees won the first game, but Anaheim won game two. A few days later, they clinched the series in four games after scoring eight runs in the fifth inning during game four. In the ensuing ALCS against the Minnesota Twins, the Angels split the first two games at the Metrodome before clinching at home with three straight victories, winning their first Pennant. They moved on to face the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, a highly underrated, high scoring affair which went the distance and featured an Earth-shattering clutch performance from Giants star Barry Bonds, who by most logic should have won the MVP and probably would have had he not made a deadly fielding error in game six which let Anaheim continue six-run rally that began in the seventh inning and grabbed San Francisco's momentum. In a decidedly anticlimactic game seven, the Giants took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, which the Angels matched with a run of their own at the bottom of the second. The Angels added three more runs at the bottom of the third. The 4-1 score was the final, and the Anaheim Angels won the World Series. After so many decades of bad baseball interspersed with heartbreaking near-misses, Angels fans were at last able to hold their heads high and look Dodgers fans in the eyes.
In 2003, Disney sold the team. In 2005, the team lost a lot of goodwill by making the worst name change on Earth. Hoping to expand on their fanbase and piggyback off Los Angeles, they went back to their original name. Sort of. They were the Los Angeles Angels again, but not exactly. They embarrassed themselves by officially renaming themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. (And just when fans were finally getting over the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles!) Everyone thought this name was fucking stupid, and argued they shouldn't name themselves after Los Angeles if they didn't play there (even though the NFL's Los Angeles Rams spent a very long time in Anaheim and no one cared) and said the name was a lingual farce because it mixed an English term - "Angels" - with the Spanish word for Angel - "Angeles" - in a heavily Spanish-speaking city. The cities of Anaheim and Los Angeles, The Walt Disney Company, and Orange County all banded together and sued the team for it, claiming a lease violation! The team countered that the lease demanded a name that merely CONTAINED the word "Anaheim." Fan resistance eventually subsided, but legal resistance continued until 2009, when the Anaheim city council dropped the case. The full name, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is used on official press releases and documents. In other contexts, the name Angels or Angels Baseball is used. MLB simply uses the affiliation of Los Angeles, as do most sportscasters and writers.
The baseball, however, has been stellar ever since. The new owners want the team to win again, and are shelling out the big bucks to make it happen. In 2004, they went all out to get Vladimir Guerrero. In 2006, the team paid up All-Star Gary Matthews Jr. Not a GREAT pickup, but it fueled speculation of getting Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada, or even Alex Rodriguez. In 2007 the Angels ponied up for outfielder Torii Hunter, stealing him right from under the noses of the Chicago White Sox, who wanted him badly, were willing to pay, and made no secret about any of it. In 2008, they traded for first baseman Mark Teixeira. They got Bobby Abreu in 2009, Hideki Matsui for 2010, Albert Pujols in 2011, and most recently, they signed Josh Hamilton. Yeah, the Angels want to WIN, and they want their fans to believe in their team as well. And they've been winning the division a lot - five times, to be exact. They just haven't been winning the postseason games that count.
There have been twelve Hall of Fame players with the Angels, but none of them are depicted wearing an Angels cap. Still, the list includes Reggie Jackson, Whitey Herzog, Nolan Ryan, and Dave Winfield. Their list of retired numbers includes Jim Fregosi, Gene Autry, Rod Carew, Nolan Ryan, and Jimmie Reese.
The Angels have developed rivalries in and out of their division. They have rivalries with the Yankees and Red Sox as well as their great divisional rival Texas Rangers and area NL rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox rivalry goes back to a bet between Gene Autry and Tom Yawkey over who would win more games. The two teams have endured a lot of theatrics, from fights to rallies to the 1986 ALCS, and heartbreaker for Angels fans for which the Angels got even in 2009 by sweeping the Red Sox out of the playoffs. The Angels and Rangers have a lot of former players now playing for each other. Vladimir Guerrero going to Texas while Josh Hamilton plays for the Angels is a prominent example. The Dodgers just happen to share the territory, so there's a turf war and a fight for fans. The Angels have had a share of huge, memorable moments in their history. The 1982 ALCS, the One Strike Away game, game six of the 2002 World Series (hell, the World Series itself), Nolan Ryan's no-hitter, and Bo Belinsky's no-hitter are there to whet the appetites of baseball fans.
The reigning image of the Angels is unfortunately their Disney tenure. It's because of Disney that the Angels are still seen as the cute little sibling to the Dodgers, and it's not without reasonable justification. Would those awful wing uniforms in the late 90's and early millennium have existed without Disney? What about a crappy 1994 remake of the movie Angels in the Outfield? Even the non-Disney traditions have come to be resented. If you're not a fan of thunder sticks, the blame can be laid at the feet of the Angels. They created them. They also created the Rally Monkey, a mascot monkey named Katie who jumps up and down on the video board if the Angels fall behind. And in a similar vein of the Chicago Cubs hoisting a flag with a W or an L on it depending on whether they won or lost the game that day, the Angels light up a 230-foot high letter A with a giant halo after every Angels victory.
The downside of the Angels is accepting a tragic history. I'm not talking about heartbreaking baseball; I've covered that. Remember when I mentioned the suicide of pitcher Donnie Moore up there? That was part of the reason the Angels got so much talk about a curse, and it wasn't the only time someone from the team was killed. In 1978, they had a star outfielder named Lyman Bostock who was shot to death paying a visit to a few friends of his in Gary, Indiana. In 1992, the team bus crashed in a very nasty way. No one was killed, but twelve players were injured.
The Angels don't have the great originality of the Dodgers, but they've been very prominent and important in their own right. They've had a dramatic history, perfect for a Hollywood script, and now is a better time than ever to get on board with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Even despite the embarrassing name.
The Los Angeles Angels, as the team was originally known as, had its home base at the Los Angeles Wrigley Field (aka Dodger Stadium) and was founded in 1961. Mid-season 1965, the team changed its name to California Angels to establish their move to the Anaheim Stadium and to distinguish themselves as the only American League team in California.
In 1997, Walt Disney Company took over in order to attract more tourists to nearby Disneyland, they renovated the stadium and bought the team under the circumstance that both would change their names to include Anaheim.
In 2005, the new owner, Arte Moreno, wanted to attract the Los Angeles media market (second largest in the country). Therefore, he changed the name to include Los Angeles. After many protests, the name was upheld in court, making the Angels- the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
To this date, there aren't any Hall of Famers that chose to wear their Angels cap for their official picture- though many of them spent time on the Angels.
Minor League Affiliations:
AAA: Salt Lake Bees, Pacific Coast League
AA: Arkansas Travelers, Texas League
Advanced A: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, California League