Results tagged ‘ Casa Grande ’

Coast to Coast: A Future Angel, Past and Present

Paul Mosley and Stephen Smith
Paul Mosley (left) signed with the Angels in 1961. He played six seasons in the Angels minor leagues.

 

I’ve been off-line blogwise for a couple days while travelling. We’re currently in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb.

We spent Sunday night at the home of Paul and Betty Jo Mosley. Paul signed with the Angels in 1961 out of William S. Hart High School in Saugus. Roland Hemond, who was the Angels’ farm and scouting director, signed him along with head scout Rosey Gilhousen.

Click Here to listen to an April 2007 interview with Paul. Windows Media Player required.

Mosley was assigned to the Statesville Owls in the Western Carolina League. He would go on to play at every level in the system — Triple-A Hawaii, Double-A El Paso, Advanced-A San Jose, Class-A Tri-Cities.

Paul and Betty Jo produced scrapbooks from his career. What a treasure trove! Once I get to Florida and the moving van arrives with my scanner, I’ll start digitizing these articles to post online.

The scrapbook solved one mystery. I’ve been identifying where the Angels held their minor league spring training camps in the early 1960s. If you’ve followed this blog, you know they were in Riverside in 1961. In 1962, the Triple-A team was at Amerige Park in Fullerton while everyone else was at La Palma Park in Anaheim. The Angels remained at La Palma through 1964.

The Angels began play in the legendary Holtville camp in 1966, where they remained through 1981. 1965, though, was a bit of a mystery. The 1965 Angels Media Guide said “El Centro” but didn’t say where.

Paul’s scrapbook had a minor league spring training schedule for 1965. It showed that they split time between two facilities, Stark Field in El Centro and Lions Field in Brawley. Exhibition games were played at both sites.

By coincidence, I got a phone call yesterday while on the road from Bob Andrews, the man who worked with Roland Hemond to bring the Angels to the Imperial Valley. He said that El Centro/Brawley was an interim solution until the Holtville site could be built.

Mystery solved.

Mr. Andrews also explained why the Angels left Holtville. The Angels didn’t pay one penny for Holtville construction or maintenance. It was all paid for by the locals. As the facility aged, it was beyond the ability of Holtville to pay for renovation. They asked the Angels to help, but they refused. Bob said it got pretty ugly towards the end. Someone made up T-shirts that read, “Angels go home!” Instead, they went to Casa Grande.

Inside the scrapbook were box scores from several of Paul’s games. I noted one in which he pitched against an Athletics team. Future manager Tony LaRussa led off and played second base. (It was an oh-fer night for LaRussa.) There was also a roster sheet for a 1966 game between the El Paso Sun Kings and the Albuquerque Dodgers. Clyde Wright was one of Paul’s teammates, as well as Jim Spencer, Jay Johnstone and Winston Llenas. Tom Sommers, who would go on to succeed Roland Hemond as the farm director, was an infielder. On the Albuquerque roster was future Dodgers outfielder Willie Crawford. Other future big leaguers I recognize were pitcher Mike Kekich, first baseman Tom Hutton, and outfielder Jim Fairey. Also on the roster was catcher Mike Stubbins, who would later manage in the Angels system.

Paul retired after the 1966 season. He was sold to the Kansas City Athletics. He showed me a letter he received in December 1966 welcoming him to the A’s organization. “You will be receiving your contract early in February and soon after that reporting instructions and the date which you are to arrive at our spring training headquarters in Waycross, Georgia.” It was signed by assistant general manager Eddie Robinson. Paul decided he’d had enough, and retired.

Back on the road in a couple hours. The target is Tallahassee, Florida in the Panhandle. We might see another baseball friend if the schedule permits. Tomorrow is the final leg of the journey, arriving in Cape Canaveral. As my wife pointed out, “We’re heading home.”

One nice serendipity of this trip is that we’ve visited my ancestral homelands. My father was born and raised in El Centro. My mother is from New Orleans. So we’ve passed through both towns. And then it’s on to my future, which is to write a book about the history of the future Angels, past and present.

Coast to Coast: Return to Casa Grande

We awoke this morning in the guest tower at the Francisco Grande Hotel and Golf Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona. This complex was the longtime spring training home of the San Francisco Giants. The Angels were here for 1982-1984 in late February before returning to Palm Springs for their March exhibition games.

As with so many other subjects of that era, my go-to guy for Casa Grande history is Jack Hiatt, who recently retired as the Giants’ farm director. Jack began his playing career in the Angels’ farm system in 1961. He was traded to the Giants in November 1964 for Jose Cardenal, so he spent many springs at Casa Grande. Hiatt returned to the Angels organization for 1982 as the manager of the Double-A Holyoke Millers. 1982 happened to be the year the Angels moved from Holtville to Casa Grande.

The Angels used Holtville and later Casa Grande as a facility for players to work into shape before moving on to Palm Springs. Once the big leaguers left, the minor leaguers would report.

Jack told me that Giants owner Horace Stoneham and singer Pat Boone built the hotel in 1960, believing it was strategically placed for future highways to pass nearby. That never happened, so it was a big money loser. The facility isn’t really in Casa Grande, but several miles to the west. Quite simply, there was nothing else nearby then, and nothing nearby now.

The complex has a hotel tower, which is where we stayed last night. Jack said that was reserved for paying guests and team executives. The players stayed in dorm rooms to the east, near a clubhouse. Beyond the dorms and clubhouse to the east was a stadium used by the Giants to play exhibition games before the locals.

To the north of the clubhouse is a concrete slab. I asked Jack if he knew what it was. He said it was built by the Angels in 1982 as an outdoor weightlifting facility. He said the players loved it.

To the northwest of the clubhouse, and to the northeast of the hotel tower, was an observation tower and three practice fields. The fields are long gone, but the tower remains.

Tractors are grading where the fields and the stadium used to be, for a new complex that will include soccer fields, tennis courts and a facility for the United Football League. The clubhouse and the dorms still exist. In the hotel itself, a commissary has been converted into a restaurant. The bar is still a bar, called Duke’s after John Wayne who was a frequent guest.

Here are some photos I shot this morning:

 


The top deck of the hotel tower was intended to simulate the bill of a cap, according to hotel lore.

 


Looking east from the hotel tower towards the clubhouse. A spring training stadium used to stand beyond the clubhouse. Note the concrete slab north of the clubhouse; that was installed by the Angels in 1982 as an outdoor weightlifting facility.

 


A closeup look at the old clubhouse, now used as a storage facility by the hotel.

 


The clubhouse with the hotel tower in the background to the west.

 


These dorms were used by the big leaguers until they moved on to spring training exhibition games in Phoenix. The minor leaguers then moved in.

 


The observation deck is all that remains from the three-leaf clover configuration once used for practice fields. It’s being graded to build tennis courts and soccer fields.

 


Most of the memorabilia on display in the hotel is from the Giants days, but this plaque shows baseball cards of Angels players who were at Casa Grande in 1982.

 


It’s kinda hard to see due to the reflection, but this framed photo looks west past the spring training stadium towards the cloverleaf practice fields and the hotel tower.

 

We left Casa Grande around 9 AM local time and ended the day in El Paso, Texas. Tomorrow is the longest drive of the journey, about 485 miles until we reach a small town in west Texas called Kerrville.

Casa Grande

Francisco Grande Hotel
The Francisco Grande Hotel during its Giant years. (Original photo source Francisco Grande Hotel, as posted on the Phoenix Magazine web site.)

 

The two legendary minor league complexes in Angels history are Holtville and Mesa. The Angels were in Holtville from 1966 through 1981. They were in Mesa from 1985 through 2005.

Inbetween, there was Casa Grande.

The March 2009 issue of Phoenix Magazine tells you all you need to know, so no reason for me to regurgitate it here. It’s mostly about the Giants years, but it does briefly mention that the Angels camped there from 1982 through 1984.

The Angels’ major league camp was in Palm Springs where Gene Autry lived, but the park formerly known as the Polo Grounds had little room to handle so many players, major and minor. Palm Springs also had many temptations for young hormonally raging ballplayers. That was why they started a separate camp in Holtville in 1966; the major leaguers reported there in late February, then when they moved to Palm Springs in early March for exhibition games the minor leaguers would move in.

Just why they left Holtville, I’ve yet to discover, but I’ll be researching more in coming days. In any case, they moved on to Casa Grande, which was just as isolated as Holtville but had a hotel on the grounds called Francisco Grande.

Click Here to visit the hotel’s web site. There’s a nice 3½ minute video on the home page that reviews its history and shows how it looks today.

When we leave for Florida on Thursday, we’re going to stop in Holtville at lunch to tour the museum and determine what’s available in their archives. Then it’s on to Casa Grande, another 200 miles down the road on the I-8, to spend the night at the Francisco Grande hotel. I’ll try to shoot photos and/or video at both.

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