The Return of Home Run Derby


The 1950s classic Home Run Derby is now available on DVD.

Home Run Derby is one of my cherished memories of childhood. I was too young to watch it in its initial airing, but was it repeated many times over the years.

The basic idea was to take two major league sluggers and pit them against each other in a home-run hitting contest. The winner got $2,000, the loser $1,000. This was back in the days when that meant a lot of money to a ballplayer, who usually spent winters moonlighting to make ends meet.

The series was filmed at Wrigley Field — not the Chicago version, but the Los Angeles version. The same Wrigley family that owned the Cubs also owned the Pacific Coast League L.A. Angels. They built a stadium called Wrigley Field in what is now south-central Los Angeles.

(And if you didn’t know, the Wrigleys at one time also owned Catalina Island. The Cubs used to travel west to hold their spring trainings on the island, which no doubt helped cut down on extracurricular activities.)

When the Dodgers came to town in 1958, the PCL Angels moved to Spokane, Washington. (The franchise today is the Las Vegas 51s, a Dodgers affiliate.) Wrigley Field sat empty except for Home Run Derby until 1961, when the American League awarded a franchise to Gene Autry in Los Angeles. The A.L. Angels played there for 1961, then moved to Dodger Stadium for 1962-1965. Wrigley Field was finally demolished in 1966.

**** Beverage, president of the Pacific Coast League Historical Society and their newsletter editor, wrote in this month’s edition that the three-disc set is available on Amazon.com. If you go to www.amazon.com and search Home Run Derby you’ll find the three volumes. Volumes 1 and 2 are $8, Volume 3 is $13. Not a bad deal.

So if you want to see the ancestral homeland of today’s Angels — when they really were in Los Angeles — treat yourself to at least one of these discs.

This article is copyright © 2008 Stephen C. Smith DBA FutureAngels.com. It may not be reprinted elsewhere without the prior expressed written permission of the author. To obtain permission, e-mail Stephen at home@futureangels.com.

1 Comment

The mention of Wrigley field brings fond memories for me and becoming an Angels fan in 1961, of course their first year of existence.

A few things standout with the team that year. Wrigley Field had short dimensions, especially the power alleys, and balls flew out of there in abundance. The Angels had five players with 20 + homers and thier team total was at the 200 mark….quite the feat when one considers the Yankees had 233 in 1961, a league record, I believe was eclisped by the Orioles in the late 1990′s. The 1961 Yankees had 6 players with 20 + homers, of course 105 of that total were from Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, Maris’s 61 breaking Babe Ruth’s single season record, albeit with a 162 game schedule.

The 61 Angel’s win total of 70 still stands as the most by an expansion team, noteworthy compared to formats given to expansion teams in the 1990′s, for example, whereby those teams not only had a more talented pool of players to choose from the existing teams, but free agency also, to enhance their rosters.

When the Angels filled their roster in the draft to prepare for their expansion year, each existing team was allowed to protect 25 players, as compared to 15 with more recent major league expansions.

One other thing, I loved the team hats in the early years, with the embroidered halo on top…..I wish they still had that design.

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