Where Were You in ’62?


Dallas-Ft. Worth manager Dick Littlefield leads batting practice during 1962 minor league spring training at Amerige Park in Fullerton. Quad Cities manager John Fitzpatrick is to the right.

 

Born in December 1960, the Angels’ first major league spring training was in March 1961 at the old Polo Grounds in Palm Springs.

Under the radar of the local press, farm and scouting director Roland Hemond labored to put together a minor league system within three months. The Angels that first year had only two farm clubs — a Triple-A team in Dallas-Ft. Worth, and a Class D team in Statesville, North Carolina.

Minor league affiliations were very different in those days. The minor league clubs were free to sign and sell their own players, and could have an affiliation with more than one major league team. The Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers had players from both the Angels and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phils had a Triple-A team in Buffalo, and sent their leftovers to DFW.

Much has been written in this blog about that 1961 minor league season.

It’s time to talk about 1962.

With a year under their baseball belts, the Angels front office was able to expand their farm system to five affiliates.

The Angels were still affiliated with DFW, but they also hooked up with the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders. They added the San Jose Bees in the Class C California League, the equivalent of today’s Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in High-A. Abandoning Statesville, the Angels’ new Class D affiliate was Quad Cities in the Midwest League, the same league as today’s Low-A Cedar Rapids Kernels. They also added the Class B Tri-City Braves in the Northwest League, known in 1961 as the Tri-City Atoms but inexplicably changed their name to Braves although they were an Angels affiliate. Go figure.

As previously discussed, the first minor league spring training was held in March 1961 at Evans Park in Riverside. Technically speaking, it was the Rangers’ camp, not the Angels’, and the players wore DFW uniforms. Most of the players were assigned from the Angels, although eventually a few players trickled in from the Phillies.

Still nominally independent in 1962, the Rangers moved their minor league spring training to Amerige Park in Fullerton. Amerige had its own rich history. Built in 1934, it was used by old Pacific Coast League teams for spring training.

The Angels’ “official” minor league spring training camp was at La Palma Park in Anaheim. La Palma was the home field for the Anaheim Aces in 1941, the only year that Anaheim was in the California League before it shut down during World War II.

According to A Guide to Anaheim, La Palma Park opened in 1939 and was the spring training camp for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. The A’s trained there from 1939-1941, until World War II restricted cross-country travel.

Another minor league operation in the Sunset League played there in 1947-48, but after that La Palma Park was used by pro ball only as a spring training site for various minor league operations, including the old PCL’s Hollywood Stars in 1952-1957.

A 1962 promotional film produced after the season by the Angels included a segment about their minor league spring training at La Palma Park. Click Here to watch the minor league segment. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required. The clip runs about five minutes.

Although DFW had most of the Angels’ Triple-A players, some went to the Hawaii club, which trained in San Bernardino at Fiscalini Field, then called Perris Hill Park. The original structure built in 1934 was demolished in 1985, and replaced by the current facility. Fiscalini Field was home to the Cal League’s San Bernardino Spirit from 1987-1992; the team moved to Rancho Cucamonga in 1993 and became the Quakes. Ken Griffey, Jr. played for the Spirit at Fiscalini Field in 1988. The park was used by various PCL teams in the late 1950s as a spring training site; in 1961, the Vancouver Mounties had been based there.

During the 1961 spring training, the Angels had four Triple-A teams in the Inland Empire to play so they didn’t have to travel that much to Arizona — the Rangers in Riverside, the Mounties in San Bernardino, the San Diego Padres in Indio and the Hawaii Islanders in Ontario. But as the minors began to evolve into what we know today, by 1962 the only teams in Southern California were the Angels in Palm Springs, the Rangers in Fullerton, and the Islanders in San Bernardino — with the latter two Angels affiliates.

And so it was that the Rangers and Islanders wound up playing each other nearly every day during their 1962 spring training, save for occasional games against an Angels “B” squad or a local college team.

I recently spent a day going through microfilms on file in the UC Irvine library from the Fullerton News Tribune and Santa Ana Register for March 1962. Reading through old newspapers is always fascinating, because you not only get a lot more detail than just box scores, but you find intriguing photos and human interest stories you didn’t anticipate.


Dallas-Ft. Worth manager Dick Littlefield chats with Quad Cities Angels manager John Fitzpatrick. The Angels’ minor league coaching staff helped out at the Rangers’ camp until the Angels’ official minor league camp opened at La Palma Park in Anaheim.

 

The Fullerton paper reported that Rangers returning from 1961 were pitchers Dick Littlefield (who was also named the team’s manager over the winter), Jack Hannah and Tom Qualters; catcher Pete Gongola; infielders Tom Burgess (who just passed away on November 24), Ray Jablonski and Ted Kasanski; and outfielders Chick King, Chuck Tanner (who later went on to manage the White Sox and Pirates), and Faye Throneberry (Marv’s brother).

Many Angels prospects were still at Palm Springs. News reports mention Dick Simpson, Dan Ardell, Paul Mosley, Ed Thomas and Jack Hiatt — all players I’ve contacted the last year as part of my Angels minor league history project. All were eventually reassigned to minor league camp. All of those eventually wound up with San Jose, except for Thomas who went to Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Several future Angels stars were asserting themselves in major league camp. Jim Fregosi, Bob “Buck” Rodgers and Dean Chance had all played for DFW in 1961, but they were all key members of the 1962 Angels who would challenge the Yankees for first place all the way into September.

The Rangers’ camp opened on Monday March 19. They were scheduled to play thirteen home games at Amerige and two at La Palma Park. Their first home game was Saturday March 24 against Hawaii, and they were to break camp on Monday April 16.

Photos in the papers of the Rangers’ camp show manager/pitcher Littlefield in a Rangers uniform, but the managers for Quad Cities and San Jose wearing their teams’ uniforms. At today’s minor league spring training, everyone wears Angels jerseys. But in the early 1960s, these minor league teams were much more independent, so the players and coaches were the minor league team’s jersey, not the parent club’s.

The News Tribune reported that Littlefield “is being helped out this week by John Fitzpatrick and Red Marion, managers of two of the Los Angeles Angels’ other farm teams on a lower level, but they’ll begin working with their own teams, Quad Cities and San Jose, next week at La Palma Park in Anaheim. Angels advisory coaches Joe Gordon and Bob Lemon are expected to help out after the L.A. breaks camp in Palm Springs. Scout Al Monchak is also aiding Littlefield.”

Lemon went on to manage in the Angels’ minor leagues, but is perhaps best known for managing the Yankees during the turbulent George Steinbrenner era in the late 1970s-early 1980s. A star pitcher with the Cleveland Indians in the 1940s-1950s, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976.

Gordon played second base for the Yankees and Indians in the 1940s, hitting 253 homers in his major league career. He managed in the old PCL during the 1950s and went on to manage four big league clubs. Gordon was also an instant trivia question when the Indians traded him in 1960 to the Tigers for manager Jimmy D_ykes, the only time managers have been traded in major league baseball. Gordon is currently under consideration by the veterans’ committee for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2009.


Rangers starting pitcher Bob Lee pitched five no-hit innings on March 31, when the Angels travelled to Fullerton to play their Triple-A affilate. Steve Bilko is on base in the background; behind him is the team bus that brought the Angels from Palm Springs. Lee went on to become the Angels’ closer in 1964-66.

 

Perhaps the most anticipated event during that camp was the arrival of the Angels’ “A” squad on Saturday March 31, the first time the Angels would play in Orange County. (Although several “B” rosters came to play DFW at Fullerton as well.) The Rangers won that day 8-2, before a reported 1,921 fans. Tom Burgess and Chuck Tanner homered for the Rangers. DFW starter Bob Lee pitched five hitless innings; he went on to be the Angels’ ace reliever in 1964-66, recording 58 saves in an era when starting pitchers were expected to go nine innings.  Lee’s catcher was Phillies property Pat Corrales, who would go on to manage the major league Rangers, Indians and Phillies.  Corrales also homered for DFW that day.


Catcher Pat Corrales crosses the plate after he homered for the Rangers in the Fullerton game against the Angels. Corrales was a Phillies property; the Phillies and Angels both sent players to Dallas-Ft. Worth.

 

The Angels went on to play the Dodgers for the first time, in what would eventually be known as the Freeway Series, at Palm Springs. The Rangers, meanwhile, played a two-game home-and-away series against the USC Trojans, NCAA champions in 1961. Dan Ardell, a member of the 1961 Trojans, had been signed out of college by the Angels and briefly played for the parent club in September. In March 1962, he began spring training with the Angels but was on the DFW roster when the Rangers played his former college mates. On the USC roster was Mike Gillespie, who went on to manage the Trojans.


DFW first baseman Dan Ardell is forced at second by USC infielder Mike Gillespie. Ardell had been the first baseman on the 1961 USC NCAA championship team. He signed with the Angels after graduating from college. Although he played on the Rangers’ roster this day, he eventually reported to La Palma Park in Anaheim where was assigned to the San Jose Bees.

 

One other tale I came across was news to me.

A 20-year old Santa Ana man named Bernie Young was cleared by a “coroner’s jury” of charges that he had killed a Marine during a party. The Register described Young as “a young baseball star” and “the latest ‘bonus baby’ of the Angels, receiving $5,000 and a contract with the club.” But I couldn’t find any record of him actually playing for the Angels; I’ll have to ask Roland Hemond if he remembers Young.

In 1963, DFW ditched the Angels and affiliated with the Minnesota Twins. They held their 1963 spring training in Fernandina Beach, Florida (on the Georgia border near Jacksonville). The Angels continued to base their official minor league camp at La Palma Park in Anaheim through 1964. In 1965, the camp was in El Centro, then in 1966 they relocated to a new complex at Holtville, near the Mexican border.

Professional baseball returned to Anaheim in 1966 when the Angels relocated from Chavez Ravine … but that’s a different story.

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