Angels played first game 59 years ago today

Happy Birthday, Angels! On this date in 1961, they played their first American League game.

Fifty-nine years ago today, the Angels played their first game in franchise history, defeating the Baltimore Orioles, 7-2 in front of 37,352 fans at Memorial Stadium.

Having established themselves as a Major League team, the Los Angeles Angels embarked on their inaugural season in the American League in 1961. The team name, Los Angeles Angels, purchased by owner Gene Autry from the rights owners of the Pacific Coast League team that previously played under the moniker.

The Angels were one of two expansion teams established in 1961, along with the Washington Senators (who are now the Texas Rangers).

In the franchise’s first game, Eli Grba, who had previously pitched for the Yankees, hurled a complete game, allowing only two runs (one unearned), and sprinkling six hits between five strikeouts and four walks.

Wed, Apr 12, 1961 – 6 · The Colton Courier (Colton, California) · Newspapers.com

Ted Kluszewski was the star of the day, announcing the Angels to the baseball world in the top of the first inning with a two-run home run, his first of two long balls on the day. Kluszewski, a 6-foot-2 first baseman, had arrived as the 51st pick in the 1960 expansion draft. He made four All-Star teams earlier in his career with the Cincinnati Reds.

The win left the expansion team in good spirts after the game.

“Well, we’re ahead of the Yankees and there are only 161 more games to go,” Angels outfielder, Albie Pearson, was quoted at the time.

The good feelings wouldn’t last long. The Angels proceeded to lose their next eight games. However, they would show fight throughout that first season in which they lost 91 games. They went 12-16 in May, and had an impressive 17-10 July.

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Their 70 wins becoming even more impressive when the New York Mets entered the National League the following season and won only 40 games.

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