Results tagged ‘ History ’

When Two Rookies Got the Call


Left to right: Dan Ardell and Tom Satriano watch as Angels farm director Roland Hemond adds their names to the Angels’ roster in late 1961.

 

Dan Ardell, a USC alum signed in 1961 by the Angels, loaned me the above photo of him and Tom Satriano when they were called up at the end of that year. Roland Hemond, who was the farm and scouting director, is on the right.

Listen to a 2005 interview with Dan Ardell.

Listen to a 2007 interview with Roland Hemond.

Windows Media Player required to listen to the interviews.

Paul Mosley’s Memories


Paul Mosley with the Double-A El Paso Sun Kings in 1965 or 1966. Note the El Paso cap had a halo atop the crown as did the Angels’ cap of that era.

 

Paul Mosley was a pitcher in the Angels’ minor leagues from 1961 through 1966. He played at nearly every level in the system, starting with Class D Statesville in the Angels’ inaugural 1961 season. He passed through Quad Cities, San Jose, Tri-City, and El Paso, as well as attending the minor league spring training camps.

When my wife and I drove cross-country last May to move from California to Florida, Paul and his wife Betty Jo were gracious enough to let us stay overnight at their home near Houston. Paul loaned me the scrapbook he kept during his career; it’s helped to unearth much of the buried early history of the Angels’ minor leagues.

In 1963, minor league baseball restructured its classifications. Class B, Class C and Class D disappeared. The Angels had affiliates that year in Tri-City (Kennewick, Pasco and Richland in Washington state), San Jose and Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island, Illinois). All three were reclassified as Class A. Mosley’s career took him through Quad Cities in 1962, San Jose in 1963 and Tri-City in 1964, which tells us how the three were prioritized within the organization. Before 1963, Quad Cities was Class D, San Jose was Class C and Tri-City was Class B. So now it makes sense.


Paul Mosley (right) at San Jose in 1963. Manager Red Marion (center) took the Bees to the California League title in 1962, the first time any Angels team won a pennant.

 

Paul’s scrapbook also helped me figure out a lot about where minor league spring training was based. It’s commonly known that the parent club’s camp was in Palm Springs. That site, the former Palm Springs Polo Grounds, was too small to host 100+ minor leaguers, so the Angels had to find other sites for the future Angels.

It was still common in the early 1960s for Triple-A affiliates to hold their camps separate from their parent clubs. An affiliation was far looser than today’s meaning. Triple-A teams were free to sign, trade and release their own players. “Affiliation” simply meant they got some players from a major league operation, otherwise they were as independent as today’s indy leagues.

In 1961, the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate was the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers. I wrote in November 2008 about the Rangers’ camp in Riverside at Evans Park near what is today Riverside Community College. The Rangers had both Angels and Phillies players. In 1962, the Rangers held camp at Amerige Park in Fullerton. DFW had players from the Angels, Phillies, Twins and a few from other organizations.

The Angels expanded from two minor league teams in 1961 to five in 1962, so they needed more than Amerige Park. They established a second Triple-A affiliation with the Hawaii Islanders, who were in San Bernardino at Fiscalini Field. Everyone else went to La Palma Park in Anaheim. Click here to watch a video of the 1962 minor league camp at La Palma Park.

The Rangers dumped the Angels for the Twins in 1963, so they left California and held camp in Florida. The Islanders, now the only Angels’ Triple-A team, camped at Amerige for 1963 while again everyone else went to La Palma Park.

Mosley’s scrapbook picks up the story in 1964.

A poor condition pocket schedule for the 1964 Hawaii Islanders spring training schedule at South Jackson Park in Indio. The back shows games scheduled against the various Angels minor league squads as well as the parent club and local colleges.

 

The Islanders held their 1964 camp at South Jackson Park in Indio. The above pocket schedule was in Paul’s scrapbook. It was once glued to a page, but I found it torn and loose. The front shows where they played. The back shows a schedule that included the Angels’ other minor league affiliates, the parent club, and games against college teams from Cal Poly Pomona and USC.

I also found a photo of Paul in an Islanders uniform. He was posing with two others.

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Paul Mosley (left) with actor Henry Kulky and minor league infielder Charlie Strange.

 

In the above photo, Paul is on the left, and minor league infielder Charlie Strange is on the right. The man in the middle is actor Henry Kulky, perhaps best known for a role on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Kulky brought the oversized props; no idea where he got them. The photo shows you what the Islanders’ uniforms looked like.

Most fans recall the Angels had a presence in Holtville for many years. That began in 1966, but before the complex was complete they spent an interim spring in 1965 split between El Centro and Brawley.

The Angels bought the Triple-A Seattle Rainiers franchise in the Pacific Coast League and renamed it the Seattle Angels. (Hawaii switched their affiliation to the Washington Senators.) This photo from the El Centro newspaper shows the Seattle team at Stark Field in El Centro sometime around early March 1965:


The 1965 Seattle Angels at El Centro’s Stark Field.

 

An article in the El Centro paper noted that Seattle manager Bob Lemon arrived late in El Centro, “upon his return from a 14-game tour of Mexico with half of the split Angel squad.” Yikes! That would never happen today.

The scrapbook also had a copy of a 1965 Angels minor league spring training program, a rather unique item:


Click on the image to view an Adobe Acrobat version of the program. Acrobat Reader required.

 

One side of this folded program is still glued to the scrapbook, so I couldn’t remove it, but I scanned the rest and used Adobe PhotoShop to reassemble it into a digital document. Click on the above image to download the file. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the document.

Games and workouts were split between Stark Field in El Centro and Lions Field in Brawley. At the bottom of the program’s front page it states in small print, “Other clubs will have extensive workouts daily, and games before or after various instructional drills. Fans are welcome.” The schedule shows that the parent club came down from Palm Springs to play the Triple-A Seattle squad in two games at Brawley and two games at El Centro.

Mosley spent his last two seasons with the Double-A El Paso Sun Kings in the Double-A Texas League. Many of his contemporaries went on to the big leagues. One was Clyde Wright. I found a clipping he saved of a report in the El Paso paper about Wright’s first major league win:

 

Other names you might recognize include Tom Burgmeier, Jay Johnstone, Winston Llenas, Rudy May, Marty Pattin, and Jim Spencer. Another was John Olerud, the father of the future Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners first baseman by the same name.

I also found this clip reporting on a 1965 game between the Sun Kings and the Tulsa Oilers:

 

It appears that the 1965 El Paso caps had an “EP” on them, but when I look at the team photos for 1965 and 1966 it’s just an “E” as in the photo of Paul at the top of this column. It’s neat, though, to see the halo on the crown of the cap. I wish the Angels would bring that back, even if just for an alternate jersey.

The El Paso manager was Chuck Tanner, who later went on to fame as the manager of the world champion 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. The Angels had some serious managing talent in the system. Triple-A manager Bob Lemon managed the New York Yankees to a World Series, and is now in the Hall of Fame. So is Joe Gordon, who was a minor league hitting instructor, manager and scout for the Angels in the 1960s.

Mosley was sold after the 1966 season to the Kansas City Athletics. He received this letter from the A’s assistant general manager:


Click on the image to view an Adober Acrobat version of the letter.

 

Paul told me that he decided to retire rather than move on to another organization.

In April 2007, a colleague of Paul’s found articles I’d written about the Statesville Owls and contacted me to let me know his buddy was one of the players. I recorded an interview with Paul; click here to listen to the interview. (Windows Media Player required.). He was the first Owls player I found. Since then, we’ve tracked down about ten more, and held a reunion last September. More reunions of the 1960s Angels minor leaguers are being planned.

Thanks to Paul, and his colleague, we found the first one. But he won’t be the last.

From L.A. to Statesville to Dallas-Ft. Worth

Steve Hill, the collector who sent along the photos of Statesville Stadium, e-mailed the below scan of a March 1961 letter sent by Angels farm director Roland Hemond.

 

George Trautman was the president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues from 1947 until his death in 1963.

The Angels had two minor league affiliates in 1961 — a Triple-A team in Dallas-Ft. Worth, and a Class D team in Statesville.

The letter indicates a $3,000 check was being sent to the NAPBL to cover $1,500 owed D-FW for their working agreement, and another $1,500 owed D-FW for spring training costs.

I can understand the spring training costs, because back then Dallas-Ft. Worth held its own independent spring training. Their 1961 spring training camp was in Riverside, as I documented in December 2008. Any Statesville players under contract probably went to Riverside before reporting to Statesville.

Why Statesville would owe D-FW $1,500 for a working agreement is beyond me. I’ve sent the document to Roland. Perhaps he can explain.

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.

Scraps from Statesville, Part 5

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

– Philosopher Yogi Berra

The Statesville Owls played their home opener on May 3, 1961, against the Lexington Indians. Statesville won handily, 11-6, but the game would turn out to be pivotal months later when post-season matchups were on the line.

Statesville Record & Landmark sportswriter Jerry Josey wrote about the incident in next day’s edition:

Well, another baseball season was opened here last night — amid more confusion and errors than anything else.

With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth frame, Lexington Manager Jack Hale charged plate umpire Jim Centineo on a called strike when Larry Hatchell swung — and missed — on a wide pitch by Gail Thomas. THe pitch hit Hatchell.

It was the first rhubarb here this season — and set the stage for a night of questions on playing tactics.

At the start of the Owls’ half of the fourth, Hale told Centineo he was playing the game under protest. Hale’s point was that any one of five Statesville players — and he named them as Frank Cofone, Gail Thomas, John Couch, George Wilson or Peter Curtis — was ineligible. Hale’s protest was lodged in connection with the WCL player rule for veterans.

The rule allows a club to have two veterans and two limited service, one veteran and three limited or four limited in the “four-player class rule.”

At the start of the fifth inning, Wilson countered with a protest that any one of seven Lexington players — he did not name them — was ineligible under the same rule.

At the start of the ninth, Wilson withdrew his first protest and lodged another — that Lexington’s third pitcher, Bill Barr, was not listed as a pitcher on the lineup cards exchanged in pre-game ceremonies. Wilson charged that anyone eligible to pitch had to be listed.

Wilson said, since the Owls had won the game, that he did not plan to file the written protest to the league office, accompanied by the $25 protest fee.

But Hale was firm in his stand and planned to get his off to League President John H. Moss today.

The Owls got off to a 9-0 start, and as the days passed the protest was quickly forgotten.

Until May 30.

Lexington was due in town to play a doubleheader against the Owls on May 31. The day before, Statesville owner Fleete McCurdy received a telegram from Western Carolina League president John Henry Moss informing him that Lexington’s protest had been upheld, slicing a game off the Owls’ first-place lead.

Sportswriter Jerry Josey, who was also the Owls’ official scorer, wrote about the telegram in his “From the Press Box” column. He quoted the documentation he filed with the Howe News Bureau, which was the official statistician for the league.

Josey wrote in his column:

Hale’s protest was that “any one of five” was ineligible. None of the five, at the present time, was ineligible. To me, it’s the same situation of quoting a wrong rule on a protest play and then having the protest thrown out because the rule was not applicable to the situation.

If the bylaws and constitution of the Western Carolina League, we do not have a copy but the club has one, are to be obeyed in strictness, we venture this question to President Moss:

Why did you not rule on this matter in accordance with the Western Carolina League bylaws and constitution?

In the bylaws, article five, section three and paragraph b are these words: “The President shall render a decision on all protests within five days after the game has been played upon which the protest is made.

That game was played on May 3rd.

The protest was allowed via telegram on May 30th!

There are, the elementary school students will easily know, many more than five days within that span!

The next day, on May 31, Statesville played their twinbill against Lexington. As I wrote on December 20, there was a massive brawl on the field during Game #1. During the brawl, Owls’ ace pitcher Walter Darton fell back on the mound and tore the ligaments in his pitching elbow, effectively ending his career. A drunken fan ran on the field during the melee and took a swing at one of the umpires.

Needless to say, Statesville and Lexington didn’t like each other much at this point.

Statesville won the first half of the split-season schedule. In the playoffs, they were assigned to play Lexington in a best-of-three series — and lost, 2-0.

If the Owls’ May 3 win hadn’t been forfeited, they would have finished the year with an overall record of 64-38, tying them with Salisbury for the overall best record. Statesville might have then played Shelby, which had a slightly worse record than Lexington, in the first round.

Jerry Josey wrote after the season:

Statesville could have lost more than a game on that mixup on eligibility. It occurred for five games, but only one protest was filed. It could have been worse than it was, but we’ll not argue about it.

We said then and we’ll repeat that stand that the protest, as lodged, didn’t have a leg to stand on. But the ineligibility question of the other games did have, and it now appears that Statesville may have escaped rather lightly on the infraction of the WCL’s bylaws and constitution concerning the veteran player limit.

Yet another example of the chaos that typified that first year of Angels minor league baseball.

Odd Man Out

Matt McCarthy
Matt McCarthy pitched with the Provo Angels in 2002. His book “Odd Man Out” will be released by Penguin Group on February 19.

 

I came across a listing on the Barnes & Noble web site that former Provo Angels pitcher Matt McCarthy has a book coming out on February 19 titled Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit.

According to the summary, the book will reveal “inside-the-locker-room tales of teammates who would go on to stardom, including Bobby Jenks, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana.” It promises to expose “dirty truths of the minors: the Americans and Dominicans don’t speak to each other, the allure of steroids is ever present, and everyone puts his own stats ahead of the team’s success.”

I’ll withhold judgment until I read the book, but the claims that “Americans and Dominicans don’t speak to each other” and “everyone puts his own stats ahead of the team’s success” simply aren’t true, from my eleven years of observation.

Glade Cookus Passes Away

Glade Cookus
Original future Angel Glade Cookus passed away on December 15 in Visalia.

 

Jack Hiatt just called to inform me that original future Angel Glade Cookus passed away in Visalia on December 15. Cookus was 66.

Glade was one of the “first four” Angels prospects sent to Statesville in April 1961. The other three were Hiatt, Dick Simpson and George Conrad. All were signed out of the Los Angeles area.

Cookus was in the lineup for the Owls’ first game of the 1961 season, playing shortstop. He hit only .264 that year and left baseball the next spring.

I spoke with Glade last April about our project to reunite the surviving Statesville Owls. He said he was too ill but did ask that I put him in touch with Jack Hiatt. Jack called him and spent about 90 minutes with him. Jack then called me and said that Glade had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. It didn’t look good, but we were able to fulfill Glade’s one humble wish.

Of the “first four,” we believe that only Jack and Dick Simpson survive.  George Conrad appears to have passed away in Washington state about ten years ago.

Glade’s passing reminds us of the urgency to find his teammates while there’s still time to reunite. I found Walter Darton last week, and last night found Alan Flitcraft in Arizona. More on Alan later. But the news about Glade saddens the joy in finding two more of the original future Angels.

Scraps from Statesville, Part 4

Photo of Jerry Fox
Jerry Fox was an outfielder with the Statesville Owls in 1961. His scrapbook has been a valuable resource for researching the team’s history. (Photo source: Statesville Record & Landmark)

 

I’ve been slowly scanning every page of Jerry Fox’s scrapbook. This is truly a window into the past — not just the Angels’ past, but the state of the minors in the early 1960s.

I’ve found two more people from that year. Vito Porta was the third baseman for Statesville in 1961. He wasn’t an Angels property; he had played in the Tigers’ and Phillies’ systems, and would go on to sign with the Mets for 1962. Vito was from Detroit; he currently lives in Florida.

I also located Alex Zouncourides, who was the umpire attacked by a fan during the brawl on May 31, 1961. His recollection was that the fan just took a swing at him but never connected.

Alex had some different perspectives, being an umpire and not a player. He said brawls were very common, and the league was badly run. I just came across an article in Jerry’s scrapbook which said the umpires (Alex and his partner Harry Reeder) had not been advised a doubleheader was scheduled for that day, so the players themselves had to umpire Game #1 until Alex and Harry arrived.

Alex also told me this was the second incarnation of the Western Carolina League, and that Branch Rickey himself had been involved in its resurrection. Searching Google, I found out that the original Western Carolina League ran from 1948-1952. Rickey and others were involved in trying to create a third major league, called the Continental League. The league was formally announced in July 1959, and hoped to begin play in 1961. This proposal forced Major League Baseball to expand for the first time, adding the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators in 1961, and the New York Mets and Houston Colt 45s in 1962.

The Western Carolina League was resurrected for the 1960 season in the hope of creating a minor league system for the Continental League. But MLB somehow blocked the agreement. I also found an article which said that the independent players in the WCL would be owned by the league, not the individual teams, which would allow the league to sell those players to major league clubs.

In addition to the Angels in Statesville, Lexington affiliated with the Mets, Houston with Salisbury, and Shelby with Pittsburgh. This affected the league’s draft out of a “baseball school” held in March. Affiliated teams needed fewer players, so they passed on their opportunity to select players out of the school. WCL President John Henry Moss railed that the teams were passing up some talented young players who’d travelled from all over the nation to Statesville to try out for a baseball job.

It wasn’t even clear how many teams would be in the league. They had six franchises for sure, and hoped to have eight, but were never able to find a solid eighth team to go with a reasonably certain seventh entry. The schedule wasn’t even final until late April, a few days before the season opener on May 1.

Angels players started arriving in Statesville by mid-April; an April 18 article in the Statesville Record & Landmark reports that Angels in camp included pitchers George Conrad, Joe DaCruz, and Jeff King; catcher Jack Hiatt; infielder Glade Cookus; and outfielders Gaetan Boudreau and Dick Simpson.

Boudreau was from Montreal and spoke French. The article notes that “Boudreau had trouble getting fixed up with sleeping quarters.”

[Manager George] Wilson related the incident. Boudreau arrived in town. He speaks only limited English, but is fluent in French. He attempted to make reservations but couldn’t get his predicament across. So he had to call the scout who signed him, telling him he was here. The scout, in Montreal, then called Wilson in Shelby. George called to Statesville to make the arrangements.

It’s a time-honored tradition in the minor leagues to teach foreign ballplayers their first words in English — which are invariably profane. Interviewing his surviving teammates, several of them have informed me that tradition was honored in Statesville back in 1961.

The April 29 paper published a photo of the pitching staff selected out of spring training:

 

Photo of Statesville's Opening Day pitching staff
The Opening Day pitchers for the Statesville Owls. Left to right: Pete Curtis, Jeff King, Joe DaCruz, Roy Wagner, Gail Thomas, John Couch, Walter Darton, Glen Opfer, George Conrad and Dana Worster. King, DaCruz, Darton and Conrad were Angels properties; Thomas was signed by the Angels after the season. Click on the image to view it at full size. (Photo source: Statesville Record & Landmark)

 

Walter Darton quickly evolved into the ace of the staff. I’ll have more on him in a future entry. I may have located him; I dropped a letter in the mail to him this morning. He was well on his way to a big league career when he was injured during the May 31 brawl.

Scraps from Statesville, Part 3

“Where else can you see three good fights and a ball game for 75 cents?” — Statesville Owls fan Herb Lovette.

Interviewing the alumni of the 1961 Statesville Owls, invariably they tell me about two incidents. One was soaking the all-dirt infield with gasoline before the All-Star Game to dry it out after a rainstorm. (It didn’t work.) The other was a brawl against their rivals, the Lexington Indians.

Thanks to the scrapbook sent me by Owls outfielder Jerry Fox, we can now bring back to life that incident.

His scrapbook had two articles both written by Jerry Josey of the Statesville Record & Landmark. One was a report of the game, the other his column called “From the Press Box.”

Click Here to read the article about the doubleheader.

Click Here to read Josey’s column.

You need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the articles.

It was May 31, 1961. Statesville was the class of the league, with the best winning percentage in the first half. Lexington was below .500, although by the end of August the Indians would qualify for the playoffs and eliminate the Owls.

League rules allowed only 18 players on the roster, so with a twinbill on the schedule manager George Wilson had to be judicious in the use of this roster. Just as now, minor league doubleheader games were seven innings each, not nine, although they went into extra innings in case of a tie.

In Game #1, Walter Darton was the starting pitcher. Darton was one of the Angels players on the roster. In that era, Statesville could also sign its own players.

The score was tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 7th. Owls outfielder Carl Mutert was called out on strikes by home plate umpire Harry Reeder to send the game into extra innings. Mutert threw his bat in protest and was ejected. Manager George Wilson rushed in from the third base box to argue and was tossed too. Local veteran player Gail Thomas took over as manager, and sent Dana Worster to right field to replace Mutert.

Josey wrote that “Statesville partisans were up in arms.”

In the top of the 8th, Lexington infielder Bill Barr was ruled safe at first on a close play by infield umpire Alex Zouncourides. The fans were so irate, Zouncourides called time and instructed police officers to order the fans in the first base bleachers to sit down.

Darton’s first pitch to the next batter, Bob Gaiser, was up and in. Gaiser charged the mound with his bat and both benches emptied. “Several solid punches were thrown in the melee before umpires and police officers succeeded in separating the combatants,” Josey wrote.

Just as order was restored, “a fan from the third base bleacher section moved onto the field and cut loose a right at Zouncourides,” Josey wrote. “Officers quickly took Harwell in tow and warded off further incident.” The umpires later went to police headquarters and signed a complaint, leading to assault charges against Harwell.

In the pileup, Darton somehow fell back on the mound and jammed his elbow. He couldn’t continue, so Thomas brought in Worster from right field to pitch. But given the small Statesville roster, Darton couldn’t leave the game, and went to right field.

Statesville went on to score in the bottom of the 8th to win Game #1, 4-3.

Lexington won Game #2, 8-4.

Owls’ manager Wilson, a North Carolinian, apparently felt it necessary to apologize to the fans for his language after the ejection. (Somehow I can’t imagine Billy Martin or Earl Weaver doing that …) Josey wrote:

Wilson, after the game, asked that an apology by relayed to “the fans for the language I used there at the bench” when he was tossed from the game in the opener. “I’m sorry and I just lost my head,” the Owls’ skipper said.

Then Wilson had his say on umpiring. “The umpires in this league are ridiculous. (Game #2 starter George) Conrad threw one boy six strikes and he walked him. (Catcher Bill) Maupin said he would swear that the balls were within six inches all the time. If something isn’t done about the umpiring in this league, it’s going to fold.”.

The players I’ve interviewed have told me that Darton’s career ended after the injury, although I’ve found one box score where he pitched (poorly) in relief. At the time, Darton was 5-1 with a 2.12 ERA. In 51 innings, he had 62 strikeouts and only 19 walks, having given up just 35 hits. They’ve all said Darton was a very talented pitcher.

I may have located Darton. I sent him a letter in the mail a couple days ago. If I hear from him, I’ll let you know.

Scraps from Statesville, Part 2

1961 Statesville Owls
Angels farm and scouting director Roland Hemond watches the 1961 Statesville Owls practice just before Opening Day. Photo courtesy Statesville Record & Landmark.

 

As previously mentioned, I received in the mail last week a scrap book kept in 1961 by Jerry Fox, an outfielder for the Statesville Owls. Statesville was the Angels’ Class D affiliate in the Western Carolina League, one of only two minor league teams the Angels had their first year.

Roland Hemond, now an executive with the Arizona Diamondbacks, was hired in January 1961 as the Angels’ first farm and scouting director. He had three months to put together both a minor league system and a scouting department.

The Angels wound up in Statesville, North Carolina. The ballpark, Senior High Stadium (it was located at the high school), was primitive by today’s standards. The infield was all dirt, and the stands were built of wood.

I’ve located many of the surviving 1961 Owls, and have leads on a couple more.

Anyway, I’m going to digitize as much as I can of Jerry’s scrap book, and will try to put the best stuff online for you to read.

Click Here to read an April 21 article in the Statesville Record & Landmark about Roland’s visit to Statesville just before the season began. The photo at the top of this column is taken from the article.

To reassemble the article, I scanned its pieces from the scrap book, brought them into Photoshop, then converted them to an Acrobat .PDF file. Seems to have worked out well enough.

You’ll need the free Acrobat Reader to look at these .PDF files. You probably have it installed on your computer already, but if you don’t Click Here to download Acrobat Reader for free.

The next article I’m going to reassemble is about a major brawl that occurred late in the season during a doubleheader against rival Lexington.

The Orem Owlz, the Angels’ affiliate today in the Rookie-A Pioneer League, unofficially “adopted” the Statesville Owls as their ancestor. They sell Statesville Owls merchandise in the stadium gift shop and online at www.oremowlz.com.

It occurred to me that yet another aspect both teams share is that both their managers were also Angels scouts.

Most of you know that Orem manager Tom Kotchman scouts in Florida when not managing during the summer. The Statesville newspaper articles not that Owls manager George Wilson, a local recommended by owner Fleete McCurdy, was also paid by the Angels to scout the league. At season’s end, the Angels signed about six players out of the league, although none of them made it to the majors. (Ed Thomas made it to Triple-A.)

More to come. Enjoy.

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