Wrigley Field (Los Angeles)

From BR Bullpen

Home of the Los Angeles Angels, 1961

BUILT: 1925

CAPACITY: 22,000 (1925); 20,457 (1961)

FIRST GAME: April 27, 1961, vs. Minnesota Twins (Twins 4, Angels 2)

LAST GAME: October 1, 1961, vs. Cleveland Indians (Indians 8, Angels 5)

LARGEST CROWD: 19,930 - August 22, 1961, vs. New York Yankees


Ballpark History[edit]

When the Los Angeles Angels joined the American League in 1961, they took up temporary residence in Wrigley Field. Built in 1925 and originally owned by the Chicago Cubs, the park cost over one million dollars to build and was designed to be like Chicago's Cubs Park (which was renamed for owner William Wrigley Jr. the following year). When it opened, the ballpark was considered the equal of any major league facility.

Built of concrete and steel, L.A.'s Wrigley Field featured a roofed, double-decked grandstand with uncovered bleachers behind a nine foot high screen in right center. A 15 foot high concrete wall, which was covered with ivy over the years, ran from the leftfield foul pole to centerfield. The park's outfield fences were slightly angled toward the infield, producing very short power alley dimensions of 345 feet, only five feet deeper than the foul poles. A 12-story, 150-foot clock tower stood between first base and home plate above the grandstand and was dedicated to all baseball players who died in World War I. Named the Memorial Tower, it was a well-known local landmark and housed offices, including that of the president of the Pacific Coast League from 1936 to 1941.

In addition to the minor league Los Angeles Angels, who played here from 1925 to 1957, another Pacific Coast League team, the Hollywood Stars, called Wrigley Field home from 1926 to 1935 and again for the 1938 season. Lights were installed here in July 1931, and the bottom of a light tower was in play in left center. Due to its proximity to the Hollywood studios, Wrigley Field was used for several movies and television programs. Scenes from the films "Damn Yankees" and "It Happens Every Spring" were shot here, as well as episodes of television's "Home Run Derby" and "The Munsters" later on.

By the 1940s, the major leagues began looking west to Los Angeles, CA. In fact, the St. Louis Browns had tentatively planned to move to Wrigley Field for the 1942 season, until the attack of Pearl Harbor and the United States' entrance in World War II altered their plans. When the Brooklyn Dodgers decided to move west to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, Dodger owner Walter O'Malley purchased Wrigley Field. He originally considered building another deck and using the park as the club's new home, but instead opted to play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until a new stadium could be built. From 1958 to 1960 the Dodgers used Wrigley Field as office space, and for the 1961 season, leased the park to the expansion Los Angeles Angels of the American League. Attendance was rather low here for the Angels, never exceeding 20,000 fans for a game (the area around the park was run-down by then, and there was almost no parking available in the vicinity). During the course of the season, 248 home runs were hit here, a record for one park in a single year not to be broken until 271 were hit in the thin air of Coors Field in 1996. After their only season here, the Angels moved into new Chavez Ravine, again as tenants of the Dodgers.

After the Angels left, the city of Los Angeles swapped the land that would be used to build Dodger Stadium in return for Wrigley Field; it originally used it for various events such as a civil rights rally by Martin Luther King Jr. on May 26, 1963. It was later turned into a youth recreation area. The park was demolished in 1966 to make way for Gilbert Lindsay Park. Today the park includes a community mental health center, and a senior citizens center, but there is still a park and baseball field in use on the former site of Wrigley Field.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Chris Epting: Los Angeles's Historic Ballparks, Arcadia Publishing, Mount Pleasant, SC, 2010.
  • James Gordon: "Los Angeles' Wrigley Field: The Finest Edifice in the United States", in Jean Hastings Ardell and Andy McCue, ed.: Endless Seasons: Baseball in Southern California, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 41, 2011, pp. 109-112.