Where the Future Began


A team photo of the 1961 Statesville Owls.

 

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

The Angels had only two minor league teams in their 1961 inaugural season, the Triple-A Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers and the Class D Western Carolina League’s Statesville Owls.

I’ve tracked down quite a bit of Statesville history, and last September we staged a reunion of eight surviving Statesville players at the Angels’ minor league complex in Tempe, Arizona.

My wife and I moved to Florida last summer, which put me in driving range of Statesville. We made the drive this weekend, and arrived this afternoon.

It’s raining right now, so I won’t get over to the field until Monday or Tuesday. The field still exists. It’s the home field for Statesville High School. The wooden stands, though, are long gone.

Two Statesville alumni, Ed Thomas and Jerry Fox, were independent players who lived locally. The Angels signed Thomas after the 1961 season, while Fox retired from baseball and went back to real life. I hope to take Ed and Jerry over to the field and videotape an interview that I’ll post on FutureAngels.com in the next few days.

I’ll be shooting photos of course, not just the field but also the town. The alumni have asked a lot of questions about how the town looks today. Much of it looks old enough to have been around in 1961, but other buildings are fairly new.

Wrigley Field was torn down in the 1960s, the Dallas ballpark has also passed into history, but the Statesville field remains as the only surviving remnant of 1961. Dick Wantz, Dick Simpson and Jack Hiatt all began their professional careers on this field, and eventually played in the majors for the Angels. I’m not much for sentimentality, but when I walk on that field this week I’ll be very aware that I’m where the Angels’ future began.

Click here to read all FutureAngels.com Blog articles on the Statesville Owls.

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