Just In From Statesville …

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’ve been researching the early history of the Angels minor leaguers.

My pet project is the 1961 Statesville Owls, one of only two minor league teams the Angels had in their inaugural year. This was a Class D team in Statesville, North Carolina.

It’s been a joy to track down the surviving members of that team and reunite them. Many of them have gotten into the spirit of this project and started to produce their own memorabilia from that year.

Today I received via UPS a big box from Statesville. I opened it and found a scrap book kept by Owls outfielder Jerry Fox. He was an independent player, not an Angels property, but like many of his surviving teammates has taken to this project. So he loaned me the scrap book for scanning.

The collection is absolutely incredible. Extremely well-kept and detailed. Newspaper articles from the Statesville Record & Landmark covering that entire season. Many of the articles have photos, including Angels players such as Dick Simpson, Jack Hiatt, Dick Wantz, Paul Mosley and more. I’ve seen one photo of Angels farm/scouting director Roland Hemond sitting atop the dugout with Owls owner Fleete McCurdy and a couple other baseball officials.

This is truly a window into another era. The Western Carolina League pretty much made it up year-to-year. The early articles report the WCL debating whether to field six or eight teams. A “baseball school” was held in Statesville for the entire league, basically a glorified one month tryout so the six teams could hold a “draft”. The rosters could only have 18 active players at a time.

There’s also a personal keepsake in the scrap book. Jerry had all his teammates sign a piece of paper with their name and home town. Jack Hiatt, “Dickie” Simpson, Dick Wantz — they’re all there.

As I work my way through digitizing the scrap book, I’ll post excerpts from time to time.

Meanwhile, I think my wife is tiring of me saying “Wow!” a lot …

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