When the Los Angeles Angels Flew to Anaheim | KCET
When the Los Angeles Angels Flew to Anaheim
How could the Angels call any place but Los Angeles their home? After all, the club's name directly referred to the city, and there had been a team named the Los Angeles Angels since the first decade of the 20th Century, when the minor-league Los Angeles Looloos wisely opted for a more dignified nickname. So it's easy to understand why, when the Angels began to voice their displeasure over their second-class citizenship at Dodger Stadium, L.A.'s political leadership scrambled to keep the team within the city limits. A city council member proposed a new stadium at the site of Pacoima's Hansen Dam. Mayor Sam Yorty offered up the empty bowl of the damaged Baldwin Hills Reservoir. But some forty miles to the south in rapidly suburbanizing Orange County, the city of Anaheim and its mayor, Rex Coons, lured the team with an offer too sweet to refuse: a publicly financed ballpark, a 35-year lease, and the chance to build a new fan base among Orange County's growing population.
No one would have described the site of the Angels' new stadium as heavenly on Aug. 30, 1964, when team owner Gene Autry and other dignitaries thrust their golden shovels into the ground and turned the tired soil of a bulldozed cornfield. A row of eucalyptus trees – the remnants of a windbreak – towered above the three wooden stakes marking the future location of home plate. Tumbleweeds rolled nearby, while in the distance, beyond parallel rows of alfalfa and an orange grove, State College Boulevard hummed with traffic. Still, the mood was festive. A couple of Anaheim's most distinguished citizens – Goofy and Mickey Mouse – were on hand to participate, as were a Marine Corps band and several Hollywood stars. Even Mayor Yorty of Los Angeles dropped in to wish the team well.
Work began almost as soon as the groundbreaking ceremony adjourned. Contractor Del E. Webb, who happened to own part of the New York Yankees, had little time to spare: he had pledged to complete the $15.8 million stadium by the opening day of the 1966 season. Over the next 20 months, Webb's construction workers poured 42,000 cubic yards of concrete, laid 7 million pounds of reinforcing steel and 8 million pounds of structure steel, and installed 1,900 light bulbs. City leaders, meanwhile, announced that the park would bear the city's name, since they had agreed to let the ballclub rebrand itself generically as the California Angels. (Also considered: "Southern California Angels" and "Orange County Angels.")
When Anaheim Stadium opened on April 19, 1966 (Chicago White Sox 3, California Angels 1), it was a monument to its time. Designed by Noble W. Herzberg, the stadium – since renamed Edison International Field and then Angel Stadium of Anaheim – looked almost futuristic from the expansive parking lot, like a massive, squat spaceship on its launch pad. Four sets of cantilevered ramps protruded from the hull, and a sleek command center (or office pavilion) stood behind home plate. Instead of paint, a material containing quartz crystals coated the exterior walls, which made the concrete glisten under the night lights. Inside, a symmetrical, three-tiered grandstand afforded close views of the field from its 43,204 plastic seats, while the open outfield allowed glimpses of the Chino Hills and the San Gabriel Mountains. But nothing caught the eye as much as the Big A: a 230-foot-tall A-shaped scoreboard that stood just behind the outfield fence. Naturally, a halo topped the structure, which helped the Angels feel a little more at home despite the long freeway drive that now separated them from their eponymous city.
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