Results tagged ‘ Florida ’

Coast to Coast: You Know You’re in Cape Canaveral When …

We were awakened at 7 AM this morning by one NASA T-38 jet after another roaring above the beach here in Cape Canaveral. No doubt a Shuttle crew announcing their arrival to the world. (They’re known as “blue suits” to those who work on the program.)

We went out scouting locations yesterday for Saturday morning’s launch of STS-127, scheduled for 7:17 AM EDT (4:17 AM PDT). I’m hoping to videotape the launch and post it online so you get a different flavor than the usual footage you see on TV.

As everyone warned us, it’s hot and humid here. When we don’t have thunderstorms in the afternoon, it’s pretty miserable as the storms burn off the humidity. But nothing’s in the forecast for a few days.

My computer and peripherals arrived yesterday on the moving van, so life is good again. We go house hunting tomorrow.

Oh, one last space geek note … We bought annual passes for the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) visitor complex. A one-day ticket is $38, the annual pass is $50. That’s a real deal, because you can hop the tour bus any time so when something special is happening like moving the Shuttle stack out to the pad on the crawler you can see it up close.

Coast to Coast: The Eagle Has Landed

We arrived in Cape Canaveral around 3 PM EDT on Wednesday June 3. We’ve been super busy settling into our oceanfront condo, so I haven’t had time to post until now.

Until we find a home, we’re renting a fully furnished 1,600 square foot fourth floor condo in a complex on the Atlantic Ocean. Sticker shock?! It’s $1,600 per month.

I walked out to the beach this morning and shot some photos, which you can see below.

We finally got high-speed Internet Thursday night. This morning we got our advanced cable TV package, specifically with MLB Extra Innings so I can watch the Angels. It’ll take a while, though, to get used to the time zone change. Home games will be on at 10 PM EDT so I’ll have to record the games and watch them the next morning.

The first game tonight was the Angels at Detroit. It’s the local telecast, so I get to watch my buddy Mario Impemba. Mario was the Angels’ radiocaster in the late 1990s through 2001, when he left to accept the TV job with his hometown Detroit Tigers. It’s pretty eerie watching Mario calling our game instead of the Angels broadcasters.

The weather here is as I hoped — predictably unpredictable.

It’s rained each day so far. Today we were at Merritt Square Mall leaving the movie theater when a low black menacing cloud starting moving toward us. The wind really picked up, and a few minutes later it was pouring. It was that way for nearly an hour.

But it made for a perfect evening. We went for a walk on the beach, up to the jetty where the cruise ships leave Port Canaveral for the open sea. North of that are the old launch pads used during the Mercury and Gemini era in the 1960s. And beyond that are the Shuttle launch pads.

A launch is scheduled for 7:13 AM EDT on June 13. I hope to videotape the launch and post it online.

Speaking of videos … A friend who works in the Astronaut Office at Kennedy Space Center e-mailed me two video clips.

You may recall that last week Atlantis landed at Edwards Air Force Base because of bad weather here at the Cape. When that happens, NASA flies the orbiter back to KSC on a 747. It’s quite a show, especially when they arrive in town.

The 747 flies up and down the coast and circles KSC so everyone can have a good look
. This video was shot by an employee in the parking lot of the Administration building. Click Here to watch.

Have you ever wondered what the view of a landing is like from inside the cockpit? This video is from a camera mounted in the orbiter as it lands. Click Here to watch.

Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required to watch the video clips.

For more on space events, I recommend the Flame Trench blog on the Florida Today web site.

Anyway, here are some photos from the first couple days.

The view from the condo balcony looking left (east) to the Atlantic Ocean.


Looking back at the condo from the beach. We’re in the building to the right, fourth floor, the open balcony facing towards the building on the left.


The view from the beach looking north towards the jetty. In the distance are the Delta unmanned rocket launch pads and the Cape Canaveral lighthouse. Notice the beach is fairly empty. Most of the tourist and college crowds go further south to Cocoa Beach. Here it’s mostly locals and retirees.


A flock of gulls take flight on the beach. In addition to the sea gulls, pelicans are very common. All other sorts of creatures are about; I saw a racoon this evening in the rocks by the jetty, and a couple of stray cats.


The Merritt Square Mall parking lot as a squall passed over the island.


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: El Paso to Kerrville

We’re deep in the heart of Texas.

Yesterday began at a motel in El Paso, a tortilla’s fling from the Mexican border. I’m usually pretty good at picking motels online, but this one was in a bad neighborhood. Oh well, even Ozzie Smith booted one once in a while.

The upside was a truly Mexican restaurant next door. For those raised on SoCal chains such as Chevy’s and El Torito, you have no idea what you’re missing.

Trying to eat light and healthy is truly a battle on the road. We’re skipping breakfasts, and I’m trying to order as many salads as I can, but trying to average 400 miles a day leaves little time for running or any other kind of exercise.

There is a whole lot of nothin’ in west Texas. Now I can understand why the Arkansas Travelers loathed those long bus trips to El Paso when the Diablos were still in the Texas League. It took two days to cross the state.

We stopped for lunch in a small town called Van Horn. It reminded me of the town in the Pixar movie Cars — one main road and a few shops, at least those that haven’t burned down. (I’m not joking; the local automotive museum burned down recently.) My wife wanted to mail a letter; I guaranteed her we’d find a post office on the main drag in a small town because there would be nowhere else for it. And sure enough, there it was.

We had lunch at a restaurant called Chuy’s, which has been around since 1959. It’s main claim to fame is that football coach/analyst/game promoter John Madden stops here on his cross-country RV journeys.

Right now we’re in Kerrville, Texas, about 90 miles from San Antonio. It turns out the Travs are in San Antonio for a series, but our schedule doesn’t permit a game. We’re having lunch today with a friend of my wife’s, then we’re spending the night at the home of Paul Mosley, one of the original “future Angels” who played for the Statesville Owls in 1961. Click Here to listen to an April 2007 interview with Paul Mosley. Windows Media Player required.

Tomorrow it’s on to New Orleans. We’ll be staying in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb where my mother has relatives. We’re still on schedule to reach Cape Canaveral by Wednesday afternoon.

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.

Coast to Coast: Return to Holtville

We left Irvine this morning for the drive to Florida. We made it to the Imperial Valley at lunch time, then headed over to the Pioneers Park Museum in Imperial near Holtville.

After spending their early years scrambling for a proper minor league complex, the Angels moved into a four-field cloverleaf complex in Holtville. The Angels used it as a training facility for the major leaguers; when they reported to Palm Springs to play their exhibition games, the minor leaguers would move in. The Angels were in Holtville from 1966 through 1981, moving to Casa Grande, Arizona in 1982.

The goal of this visit was to see what they have in their archives and to establish a working relationship. We were given a tour of the museum by Ed Rodriguez, a lifelong Imperial Valley resident with his own amazing life story to tell.

Ed worked for Bob Andrews of Sam Andrews’ Sons, one of the major growers in the Valley. Bob was one of three brothers. He was a pitcher in the Milwaukee Braves’ system in the 1950s. When his father died, he returned to Imperial to take over the family business with his brothers.

Although I’ve yet to talk to Mr. Andrews, I suspect his Angels connection was Roland Hemond, who was their first farm and scouting director. Fred Haney, the Angels’ first general manager, brought Roland with him from the Milwaukee front office.

Ed told me that it was Mr. Andrews who influenced the Angels to come to Holtville. It didn’t cost the Angels a penny, according to Ed. Local farmers donated the land and built the facility, all to lure a major league baseball presence to their town.

Ed told me that he worked for Mr. Andrews’ farming business. He helped move turf from the local golf course to one of the four practice fields, which was used for games. The other three fields were grass grown from seed. Ed said the turf was planted about a week before the games began, so the players slipped a lot on the grass.

Some of you may be aware that the Angels recently signed veteran reliever Rudy Seanez as a free agent. Rudy, it turns out, is from El Centro and owns a local Cold Stone Creamery. The sports gallery in the museum has photos and clippings about Rudy.

I was looking, of course, for any memorabilia from that era. The sports gallery had a few items, including two photos I’ve never seen before of Nolan Ryan. They were photos staged on the Holtville field. I’m told that the former owner of the local paper donated his entire photo archive to the museum; it’s not catalogued, so I’ll have to come back sometime to dig through it on my own.

Lynn Housouer, the Director of Operations and Archivist, produced a box with programs from the local Carrot Carnival held in Holtville each February. (Holtville is the self-proclaimed “Carrot Capital of the World.”) We found several from the 1960s and 1970s that referred to the Angels. The 1967 issue in particular had a lengthy article and photos. Here’s an excerpt.

The “city boy” stood on the outskirts of Holtville looking at fields of cotton and alfalfa.

He wasn’t impressed, he admits today.

“My imagination just failed to draw pictures of four baseball diamonds, central tower, clubhouse, sprinkler system, batting cages, and all that would comprise, twleve months hence, the finest baseball camp I know,” said the city boy, Roland Hemond, this month.

Hemond is director of farm team training for the California Angels, and the man in that organization who has most to do with the training program of California Angels farm teams at the Holtville complex.

The complex was built in 1965-66 from those very cotton and alfalfa fields that left Hemond initially unimpressed.

But he wasn’t unimpressed long. The first season saw many promising young players develop, due to playing conditions, climate and the instructional program conducted at Holtville.

“I feel strongly that Seattle would not have started the season so well, nor continued its consistently good brand of ball and gone on to win the western division pennant, and finally emerge as champions of the Pacific Coast League had it not been for our Holtville training,” Hemond says.

The program also has a photo of the crowd at an Angels-Cubs exhibition game with an estimated attendance of 4,000. And there’s a photo of Gene Autry riding a horse in the 1966 Carrot Carnival parade.

There’s much more to the museum than just baseball. I learned a lot about the history of the Imperial Valley, a history that most of us raised in Southern California don’t know. It’s well worth your time if you’re down that way, and costs only $4.00 per person.

It was also a personal reminiscence for me. I was born in Brawley, raised my first year in El Centro, and then my family relocated to the Pomona Valley. I remember nothing of El Centro, of course, but my father was born here in 1933 and lived here until he graduated high school in 1951 and joined the Air Force.

Ed led us into a room where the museum displayed poster-size reprints from the yearbooks of local high schools, showing the graduating classes. I found the Central Union High School Class of 1951 and, sure enough, there was my father staring back at me.

I hope to return this winter to spend a week going through the newspaper and photo archives, to see what gems we can uncover.

Right now, we’re in the Francisco Grande Hotel & Golf Resort in Casa Grande, Arizona. When the Angels left Holtville, they came to this complex for the 1982-1984 seasons. Originally built by and for the San Francisco Giants, the Angels moved in when the Giants left for Scottsdale. The practice fields were literally just outside the hotel’s windows; looking out the balcony, I can see where the fields were. The observation tower is all that remains.

But that story is for tomorrow. And then a long drive to El Paso, Texas, another former Angels farm town.

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.

Coast to Coast

If you’ve been following this blog over the years, you know that my wife Carol and I have plans to move to Florida.

We’re down to the end days. The movers arrive on May 26, and we’re going to drive cross-country to Cape Canaveral starting on May 28.

Many friends and family have asked us to keep everyone apprised of events, so I thought this blog might be a good way to do it.

Along the way, I’ll shoot photos and maybe film a little video. The game plan is to average about 400 miles a day, which should put us in Cape Canaveral around June 3 or 4. The idea is to post the photos and video online each night in the motel, although I suspect we’ll tire out pretty fast after a few days on the road.

We’ll try to have some baseball serendipity along the way.

Those of you who know your Angels history will recall that they had a minor league complex in Holtville in the 1960s. Holtville, in the Imperial Valley, is the self-proclaimed Carrot Capital of the World. The Angels’ spring training facility in Palm Springs was too small to accommodate a growing organization. As I’ve previously written about, in 1961 the Angels’ Triple-A team was at Riverside, and in 1962-64 they had a minor league camp at La Palma Park in Anaheim. According to the Angels Media Guide, there was a camp in El Centro in 1965, then they moved into the Holtville complex in 1966.

The Holtville cloverleaf is long gone, replaced by a housing tract. I’ve made a couple calls to the local paper looking for who might have archives. I have one lead, which I hope to check out on our drive east.

So we’ll start out by passing through the Imperial Valley, ending up somewhere around Tucson by the end of Day 1.

The Interstate 10 goes all the way from Santa Monica to Florida, so we’ll pick up the I-10 in Tucson and head east. We’ll stop in El Paso, another longtime Angels minor league affiliate.

When we reach Houston, I hope to see Paul Mosley, an original Angels minor leaguer from 1961. Mosley grew up in the San Fernando Valley. He was signed in the spring of 1961 and sent to Statesville, North Carolina, where the Angels had a Class D team. Mosley went on to San Jose in 1962, along with Statesville teammates Jack Hiatt and Dick Simpson, both of whom went on to the majors.

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

We’ll pass through New Orleans, my mother’s home town, then keep heading east until we arrive in the Space Coast.

We’ve rented a condo in Cape Canaveral on the ocean for a month or two until we buy a house. We’re dabbling with the possibility of buying a condo, but that will really compromise our lifestyle.

The next Shuttle launch STS-127 is scheduled for Saturday June 13 at 7:19 AM EDT. The condo is about ten miles down the coast line from the launch pad, but we have “connections” and might get closer. I’ll try to get video of the launch; what you see on TV doesn’t do a launch justice. You really need to see it in person.

The next few days are going to be very hectic, so online time will be minimal at best. I will try to update each morning before we hit the road again, but please be patient if updates are sporadic.