The Angels of Baseball: The Los Angeles Angels Story

Los Angeles Angels, (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Los Angeles Angels, (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Think about the name Los Angeles Angels. Los Angeles means City of Angels and their nickname is Angels.  A little bit redundant, but it works.

So let’s dig into our Los Angeles Angels team mascot. What is an Angel? A heavenly soldier sent down to protect the every-man from his own sinful plight? A winged storybook figure exaggerated to help children with fears of what’s under the bed sleep at night?

An Angel can also be an every day person doing good for others at the expense of their own self interest? Maybe even a professional baseball player diving horizontally to save a struggling pitcher from being embarrassed on Pinterest? Is it a word that like a familiar story simply causes positive “angelic” vibes? Can it be interpreted or does its very meaning decompress a fight? Is there a definition that is accepted as right?

"Dictionary [ A spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, conventionally represented in human form with wings and a long robe. ]"

What does the word mean to you- Angel? Can it mean that perhaps instead of a spiritual being, that it is a spiritual experience? A religious exercise in awe inspiring belief instead of a physical church of faith?

In life the most superhuman feats are those in the world of athletics. Born in adornment where the most skilled and gifted do things the rest of us can only clamor over like puffy clouds from high above. As if a dream we momentarily ascend to sensory imagination allowing us to capture running FASTER, jumping HIGHER, and being BETTER.

Wrapped up in this is the admiration of how difficult it must be to achieve what we once could or never came close to being able to do. Everyone has that exaggerated “I used to” story- sports annihilates the need for exaggerations by performing them before your very eyes. Even stretching old stories doesn’t get as lofty as what the best prime athletes call a regular day on the job. Almost… like Angels.

What happens when you combine all of that with a team actually harboring the name as its own identity? How about when you add a historic major city and its name to the docket too? Many baseball teams in the 1940’s and beyond from the old St. Louis Browns, to the Washington Senators, and even the Philadelphia Athletics(yes, those Athletics) were tied to Los Angeles moves.

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With Pearl Harbor in 1941 thwarting a real West Coast trip, the Browns were instead sold and moved to Baltimore, where they still operate as the Orioles. Talks broke off between the Senators(now, the Minnesota Twins) and city officials which stymied relocation plans.

Then, in 1955 the Philly A’s moved to Kansas City instead of Los Angeles, where they would Play as the Kansas City A’s until another move in 1968; becoming our Halo beloved Oakland Athletics.

Cool to hear the expanded story huh?

Storytelling within the factual shell of sports is my favorite pastime. To relive the accolades of special moments through the scope of a new magnified and somewhat artistic kaleidoscope lens. This story is no different.

To examine the word Angel, which transcends sports, but is also is a part of it. To tell what is known but whisked over often in the pursuit of a bigger current headline. Today’s modern sports climate, especially in Los Angeles, is not kind to what is not featured click-bait. Providing an alternative to under-covered moments is vital for full perspective of masterpieces that don’t have elaborate exhibits in the daily National Sports Museum.

Not to spin; to endure the fleeting minutes of time so that once they expire through natural attrition- we have eternal material to re-appreciate the moments that made us smile.

History reviewed to provide a fresh perspective on teams, relationships, or words you already know. Within that re-appreciation, nostalgia immerses us like a fine wine that keeps aging by the carefully placed barrel. For most of us, “Angels” immediately pops a facade of Darin Erstad making the catch and Bengie Molina jumping into Percy’s arms. Reinvigorating our senses with a half-filled aroma glass from a time that conjures feelings we thought may never experience or taste again.

In baseball, aged wine is enjoyed through the Hall of Fame, the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, CY Young, MVP, and other awards in a timeless never ending reel of who the best of the best could be. By position, talent, draft position, scouting report, and more recently saber metric superiority defining an album of historical recognition that’s kind to those who fit the bill. Because of that, context becomes master and commander of the very words used to paint those pictures.

Context is key in understanding how things came to be quite so heavenly in the City of Angels and later in Orange County. Fans know for the most part that Gene Autry bought the team for $350,00, establishing the ML club officially in 1961 as one of two expansion teams, the other being a second version of the Washington Senators(later the Texas Rangers). At conception, a lot of the naming rights, stadium, and even some players were already in place to transfer to the Majors.

Los Angeles and the former SoCal Wrigley Field were the teams home at birth, though Angels Stadium in Anaheim has since become their storied foster parent. It’s complicated, alright? The team name is obviously a translation of the city itself. Technically, it started in 1892, though it has lasted through various incarnations including the 1903 Pacific Coast League club and its history that “Cowboy” Gene agreed to adopt on the sales receipt from Walter O’Malley. You may remember O’Malley as Owner of the Dodgers.

Ironically, the Angels would move to an ML stadium the following year. One they called “Chavez Revine” as a Dodger tenant until 1965. Chavez has since become Dodgers Stadium’s affectionate nickname because of the L-shaped canyon where it resides and the combined ravines it was built on top of in Elysian Park(originally owned by Julian Chavez).

So as much as the current Angels fans in Orange County try, the Dodgers and Angels are intertwined forever in twin histories of a city, stadium(s), and even ownership. Which brings us back to the name. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved and kept their name. So as an adopted history, the Angels really are literally the original team in Los Angeles as current owner Arte Moreno has tried to make abundantly clear. Even the very land Dodger Stadium was built on was acquired in a trade with the city for the land around the former Wrigley location that hosted the Angels PCL and debuting ML teams by O’Malley.

Sure, the Dodgers played in 1958-61′ at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but the Angels already existed. Obviously, Los Angeles has a very passive aggressive relationship with its namesake; then getting the Dodgers, followed by the Angels  promotion to the BIGs only added situational confusion.

Loyalty became an adversarial choice in an already competitive place. It became what often feels like a Shakespearean tale of two star-crossed houses divided by family turmoil. Step siblings trying to share the same room from bunk beds to twin beds for nearly 60 years. Of course, over that time the “room” or city has grown dramatically providing market share and fan bases devoted by generations to each.

Autry would choose to let the Dodgers continue a solo pursuit in their new ballpark closer to the inner city by Griffith Park. Instead of living in the shadow of downtown, he chose to take his Angels  to… Disneyland! Well, sort of. Anaheim, at the brand new Angels Stadium, which opened its very different from Dodger Stadium doors in 1966.

It was fitting to take advantage of a flourishing decade-old theme park, and far enough away in the marketplace to form an individual Major League identity as the re-dubbed “California” Angels. It was a move that reminded some of Walt Disney in ambition, the well thought of Angel-like every-man who defied the odds to transcend our imaginations.

Hope, perception, opportunity, endurance, and location matter, because many franchises lose the will to fight through such factors. Stability but limited success(3 playoff appearances) would follow that move until the late 90’s. In 1996, Disney would take over the team before later selling high to Moreno for 183 million in 2003(they lost 100m as owners), after a practically fairy tale 02′ World Series run.

Needless to say, since then, changes have come and gone with all the Edison, Anaheim, of Anaheim, and Los Angeles of Anaheim labels, but yeah- it’s still been… complicated. One thing has remained uncomplicated and true throughout the entirety of the teams history in different towns, leagues, and owners… the Angel name.

When it comes right down to it, a history including Los Angeles, Orange County, Disney, a magical Championship, and many superb players has built a legacy no location could redefine. When you think of the Angels, your minds storytelling device comes back to the nostalgia once again… and all the parts of its timeline only enhance the story that makes it lure.

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The Los Angeles Angels, California Angels, Anaheim Angels, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, LAA, Halos; it all begins and ends in the same place… you. In a mindful cloudy instant of remembrance, hope, and history. Defining what the word means in your own mind. An idea originated in a word so divine. Then within the echo’s of a pastime. In whatever forged reality you recall. The Angels of baseball.