Results tagged ‘ History ’

The Riverside Angels

With a couple hours to kill before yesterday’s Rancho Cucamonga press conference, I went by my alma mater, the University of California Riverside, to look in the main library at old microfilms of the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

As you know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’ve spent much of the winter researching the history of the Angels minor leagues, the seminal 1961 season in particular. From an interview with Jack Hiatt, we learned that while the big leaguers trained in Palm Springs the minor leaguers were somewhere in Riverside.

The microfilms revealed a wealth of Angels history.

The Angels’ Triple-A affiliate was the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers of the American Association. They shared the affiliation with the Philadelphia Phillies. So technically, it was D-FW who was training in Riverside, not exactly the Angels’ minor league club, although many of the players came from Palm Springs.

Their base was historic Evans Athletic Park. One P-E article stated that manager Walker Cooper had played at Evans Park 24 years before (1937, if you do the math) when he played for the old PCL’s Sacramento Solons. Evans Park is next to Riverside Community Hospital, just southwest of downtown. In future years, it would be the home of the California League’s Riverside Red Wave from 1988 to 1990.  According to one article, "Jackie Robinson spent his summers in Riverside and practiced at Evans Park on Brockton Avenue."  Today it’s known as the Samuel C. Evans Sports Complex, and is operated by nearby Riverside Community College.

The team hotel was the historic Mission Inn. By 1961, the Mission Inn was long past its glory years, and 20 years later would be shuttered until a new buyer came along in the mid-1990s and restored it to a five-star hotel. (My wife and I spent our wedding night there in 2004.)

I found several articles with photos. The players wore Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers jerseys and caps. Mind you, affiliations back then were not like today. Many minor league teams could still sign their own players. I’m currently corresponding with Dave Baldwin, who pitched for D-FW in 1962 as a Phillies property. He said that some of the players didn’t belong to D-FW, and in fact they might not even have known which parent club did hold their rights.

The Rangers’ first game was on the road at night in Ontario against the Hawaii Islanders. The game was played at what is known today as Jay Littleton Ballpark, an historic facility in its own right. It’s been used in many movies, including A League of Their Own. The headline in the next day’s sports section: "Rangers Belt Islanders, 6-2."

The Angels sent over a "B" team (what would today be called a "split-squad") to play the Rangers on March 25 at Evans Park. The paper reported that 900 fans attended, buying tickets for $1 apiece. Page D-1 of The Press (if memory serves, The Press was the morning paper and The Enterprise was the evening paper) had a big photo of Angels shortstop Jim Fregosi sliding into home as Rangers catcher Jack Hiatt blocked the plate.

Needless to say, I’m going to try to get a copy of that one!

That’s about as far as I got before I had to leave for Rancho Cucamonga.

The articles reported that D-FW would play a 20-game spring schedule before heading for Texas to start the season. Among their games would be a couple contests in Indio against the PCL’s San Diego Padres, who were affiliated that year with the Chicago White Sox. I knew the Angels had played a couple games in Indio that spring, but not where.

Angels GM (and former farm director) Tony Reagins is from Indio.  I asked him if he had any idea where; he suggested a couple locations but didn’t really know. Well, one article said they played at "South Jackson Ball Field" in Indio. I asked Tony after yesterday’s press conference if he’d heard of it. He knew exactly where it was, but was surprised because the field is small today. I looked it up on Mapquest and the site is only a couple blocks south of the I-10, so when I drive out this spring to Tempe for minor league camp I’ll stop by and take a few photos.

The Angels, Padres, Islanders and Rangers weren’t the only Inland Empire inhabitants. The PCL Vancouver Mounties, a Milwaukee Braves affiliate, trained in San Bernardino at "Perris Hill Park." It’s better known today as historic Fiscalini Field, which among other teams was home to the California League’s San Bernardino Spirit from 1987 through 1992 — when they moved to Rancho Cucamonga and became the Quakes.

Bringing this article full circle …

Minor League Baseball Alumni Association

Surfing the Minor League Baseball web site, I came across a site for the Minor League Baseball Alumni Association. If you click on that link, you’ll know as much about them as I do.

If you’re a former minor league player, you can sign up for a $25 annual membership fee. If you’re a current player or have another connection to the game, e.g. a current or former coach, umpire, front office staff, etc. you can sign up for an affiliate membership which is $35 per year.

The Association was founded in 2001 and seems to have an historical bent. To quote from the brochure: "Preserve History. Celebrate the Game. Share the Dream."

I know a lot of players and front office staff come through this site, so feel free to Click Here and check it out for yourself. I’m going to sign up for an affiliate membership and see what I can do to help; if you’ve read this site, you know I’m doing a lot of research into the history of the Angels minor leagues, so this would seem to be a good cause to support.

The Database Begins

I’ve started a project that will take a while, but I’m inviting everyone to give it a look and share your thoughts.

The idea was spawned by Brandon Wood’s 2005 chase of the Angels’ single-season minor league home run record.  No one knew what was the record until I started researching around early July.  Going through a lot of books and media guides, it appeared that **** Simpson set the record with 42 for San Jose in 1962.  I forwarded the information to the Quakes and the Angels’ media relations; as Brandon neared the record, it began to appear in news stories.  Brandon broke the record on the last day of the season.

Since it was such a general pain in the butt to research, I began thinking about what other records were out there we don’t know about?  Dallas McPherson had chased the record in 2004, but no one knew or even thought about it; he hit 20 at Rancho and 20 at Arkansas for a total of 40.

So I’ve been collecting media guides and any other statistical source I can find with the goal of one day building a database that could be searched by visitors.

The project has begun.

Right now, I’m inputting batting stats from the early 1960s.  Those are rather fragmentary, because detailed stats weren’t published for the minors other than The Sporting News Baseball Guide, and even then those are less than complete.  But it’s enough to test the logic and presentation.

Click Here to go to the test page.

You can click on a column to sort it in ascending order, then click it again to sort in descending order.

Eventually, there will be a records page, you’ll be able to select one player for career minor league stats, and so on.  This is just a test to show people what’s possible.

There’s a link on the test page to post comments and suggestions.

By the way, I spoke with **** Simpson yesterday.  A sibling project is recording interviews with people who played in the Angels’ minor leagues, starting with the inaugural 1961 season.  I’ll record his interview soon, along with Bob Lucas, another 1961 minor leaguer.  You’ll find in the Audio Gallery interviews with Jack Hiatt, Paul Mosley, Dan Ardell and Roland Hemond, who was both the farm and scouting director that year.  Great stories that deserve to see the light of day.

Jack Hiatt: The Once and Future Angel

Jack Hiatt returned to the Angels organization in 1982 as the manager of their Double-A affiliate in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

In the last couple years, I’ve been working on a project to document the history of the Angels minor leagues, its origins in particular. I’ve interviewed Dan Ardell, a USC graduate who played briefly in the system before joining the Angels at the end of 1961; Paul Mosley, who played with the 1961 Angels’ Class D affiilate in Statesville, North Carolina; and Roland Hemond, the Angels’ first farm and scouting director.

Last night I interviewed Jack Hiatt, who just retired after 16 years as the San Francisco Giants’ Director of Player Development. Hiatt began his professional career at age 18 with the newly born Los Angeles Angels. He signed on March 4, 1961, just as the Angels’ first spring training began in Palm Springs.

Along with three other Southern Californians, Hiatt flew to Statesville to begin his career. As Paul Mosley and Roland Hemond told us, Statesville’s park was in a deplorable condition. It was one of four pro ball parks still with an all-dirt infield (like a softball diamond). And because it was in the Deep South, their teammate **** Simpson suffered from blatant discrimination.

Jack’s interview runs a bit over an hour, but it’s worth listening to every minute. Not only is it a recounting of the history of the Angels’ early years, but it’s also an insight into minor league baseball nearly a half-century ago. I learned a lot more about those years, including Jack’s description of his 1964 season in Triple-A when his manager was future Hall of Famer Bob Lemon, and his hitting coach was future Angels coach Jimmie Reese.

Click Here to listen to Jack’s interview. You need Windows Media Player to listen.

If you’re suffering from an overdose of Mitchell Report, this is the antidote.

During the interview, I refer to a web site with photos of Mackenzie Stadium, where Hiatt managed in 1982. Click Here to visit that web site.

We have generic plans to reunite these players sometime next year, but we’ll see.

Life Isn’t Fair – Ask Mike Colangelo

Michael Colangelo was injured in his major-league debut with the Angels on June 13, 1999 — and never played for the Angels again.

Michael Colangelo took the fast track to the big leagues.

He was a 21st round draft pick out of George Mason University when the Angels selected him in June 1997. There was no reason to think he’d ever see the majors, but a hot bat rocketed him through the system.

At the plate, Mike was the late 1990s version of Howie Kendrick — an unknown who simply hit for high average at every level.

He began the 1998 season at Low-A Cedar Rapids, posting an AVG/OBP/SLG of .277/.378/.518 in 22 games. That got him a promotion to High-A Lake Elsinore, where in 36 games he hit .379/.448/.600.

And Mike wasn’t so unknown any more.

He suffered a hand injury at Lake Elsinore, which cost him most of the year, but in 1999 he started the season with a promotion to Double-A Erie, and kept on hitting. In 28 games, his line was .339/.433/.514. So the Angels moved him up to Triple-A Edmonton — and he hit .362/.442/.448.

The parent club, meanwhile, suffered injuries to many of their outfielders, and so it was that on June 13, 1999, Mike was called up to Anaheim to start in left field against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’d played a total of 112 minor league games, less than one full season.

Mike had three plate appearances that day. He reached base twice, with a single and walk. He also threw out Arizona baserunner Andy Fox, who tagged up on the rookie outfielder and tried to advance from first to second on a routine fly ball. Mike nailed him.

No good deed goes unpunished, though, and in the top of the 7th Fate intervened.

A line drive was hit up the alley in left-center field. Colangelo raced to his left. Center fielder Reggie Williams raced to his right.

Each heard the other call for the ball, hesitated, then realized the other had slowed so they both accelerated.

It was a head-on collision.

Mike lay face-down in the outfield for ten minutes. He was unconscious for a while.

He was placed on a backboard, lifted onto a cart, and taken off the field through the bullpen gate to an ambulance that raced him to the hospital.

Initially he was diagnosed with the concussion and a torn thumb, which sidelined him for the rest of 1999.

In the spring of 2000, Mike’s non-throwing shoulder was bothering him. The doctors finally decided he’d suffered a torn labrum in the collision that had somehow gone undetected. So Mike underwent surgery again, and missed all of 2000.

At the end of the year, disabled lists are deactivated, so clubs have to either protect a player on the 40-man roster so move him through waivers to a minor league roster. The Angels tried to sneak Mike through waivers, but he was claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They had ten days to put him on their 40-man roster, but they didn’t, and he was claimed by the San Diego Padres.

And so began an odyssey that took Mike from team to team, hoping to recapture what had once been.

2001 was with the Padres. 2002 was with the A’s. 2003 was with the Blue Jays. 2004 and 2005 were with the Marlins.

He had brief opportunities here and there to return to the majors — 50 games in 2001 with the Padres as a reserve, 20 games with the A’s in 2002 mostly as a pinch-hitter or late-inning specialist. In 71 games overall in his major league career, he had 116 at-bats, posting a line of .233/.305/.371.

In 2006, Mike returned to the Marlins and was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque. He suffered yet another injury, and since then has undergone multiple surgeries.

I heard from Mike in e-mail the other day. He said he runs a baseball school at home in Northern Virginia called Fundamentals of the Game. It averages about 875 students a year and is reportedly the largest operation in Virginia.

This is the time of year when minor league free agents are about to hit the market, and organizations start looking to hire coaches and roving instructors. I’d love to see Mike come home to the Angels, either as an outfielder at Salt Lake, or maybe as a minor league hitting coach. Mike has unfinished business with Fate and the Angels, and maybe the karmic scales would be balanced if he had one more chance to wear the halo.

Roland Hemond Interview

Roland Hemond (right) presents Mike Scioscia’s Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame award in October 2003.

Roland Hemond is one of the most respected and distinguished executives in the history of professional baseball. Perhaps best-known as the long-time general manager of the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles, Hemond has his own niche in Angels lore as their original farm and scouting director in the inaugural 1961 season.

I recorded an interview last night with Mr. Hemond. Click here to listen. You need Windows Media Player to listen.

I’d been told that, although he’s now in his 80s, Mr. Hemond’s memory is still razor sharp. In our conversation both on the record and off, it was clear he still had vivid memories of details from that first season.

As my research continues into the early history of the Angels minor leagues, Mr. Hemond said he’d be willing to do more interviews.

UPDATE June 5, 2007 7:00 AM PDT — Jack Hiatt called yesterday. Currently the farm director for the San Francisco Giants, he began his career with the Angels in 1961. He was sent to Statesville by Roland Hemond. Among his teammates was Paul Mosley, interviewed by a few weeks ago. We agreed to record an interview when our schedules permit; Jack will be representing the Giants Thursday in the amateur draft, which will be televised on ESPN2.