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Long Beach, Angels History Runs Deep

With last week’s news that Long Beach could be the site of a new Angel Stadium, it’s worth remembering that there’s a long history between the city and the team.

Long Beach Angels?

Since the Angels were founded in 1961, there’s been a unique history between the franchise and the city of Long Beach. In fact, after two years playing at Wrigley Field and Chavez Ravine, the team was considering Long Beach as its new home in 1963. The city’s reaction to the news then was much the same as it was after the news broke last week.

Legendary Press-Telegram sports editor Hank Hollingworth broke the story, then wrote a few days later on Nov. 21, 1963: “Initially, the local citizenry expressed a combination of 1; enthusiasm and support and 2; doubt.”

The arguments Hollingworth laid out are similar to the arguments working in Long Beach’s favor.

“Why not in Long Beach? We boast the second-largest city in the nation’s largest county and, additionally, can add the entire booming harbor area and sprawling Orange County territory to our drawing card.”

A source with the Angels in ‘63 told Hollingworth, “Long Beach still is an untapped resource that could go overboard if it had its own major league affiliation.”

Famously, the deal went south after city manager John Mansell demanded the team change their name to the Long Beach Angels, a demand refused by Angels owner Gene Autry. Long Beach built El Dorado Park on the site instead, and Autry built Angel Stadium in Anaheim, then changed his team’s name to the California Angels.

It’s worth noting that Autry, at the time, denied he was using Long Beach to get a better deal out of Anaheim, which ultimately history proved is exactly what he was doing.

“We are not using one city’s bid as a wedge against another’s,” Autry told the P-T’s Ross Newhan in 1964. “We are carefully studying each offer.”

Newhan would later report that Anaheim mayor Rex Coons’ 135-acre offer to the Angels was spurred on by a “handsome bid” from Long Beach.

Angels Stars From Long Beach

While the team didn’t relocate to the city, the city has relocated plenty of talent to the team.

Most notably, two of the Angels’ biggest stars are Long Beach products: Bobby Grich and Jered Weaver.

Grich played his high school ball at Wilson, and was drafted by the Orioles out of high school. After seven seasons with the Orioles, Grich became a free agent and chose to come home to Southern California, signing with the Angels in 1977, then spending a decade with the team as its star second baseman. Grich was a six-time All-Star, a four-time Golden Glove winner, and the Silver Slugger winner in 1981. He’s one of 13 players in the team’s Hall of Fame, where he’ll be joined soon by Weaver.

A teammate of Grich’s was Daye Frost, a two-sport star at Millikan where he led the Rams to a CIF basketball title. He would star in basketball and baseball at LBCC and Stanford before making it to the Angels in the mid-70s.

Weaver isn’t from Long Beach, having grown up in Simi Valley. But he’s a Dirtbag for life, having starred at Blair Field for Long Beach State in the early 2000s, winning the Golden Spikes Award in 2004 as the top amateur player in the country. Weaver was drafted 12th overall by the Angels and had an exemplary career in Anaheim, as a three-time All-Star with a 150-98 record over his 11 year tenure with the team.

Gridiron History

The Angels logo floats in the background of many Long Beach football fans’ fondest memories. That’s because Angels Stadium has played host to some of the biggest games in city history.

The stadium has been the site of dozens of CIF Southern Section championship football games over the years. Long Beach Poly’s championship wins in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2008, and 2012 took place there, with more than 10,000 Poly fans in green and gold packing the lower stands.

Poly’s 2012 championship win over Mater Dei was the last football title won by a Moore League team, and featured current NFL stars JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jayon Brown.

Ask any diehard Long Beach State football fan about the greatest game in school history, and you’ll probably get a consensus that the 1970 conference championship win over San Diego State at Angels Stadium was as good as it got. There were 39,000 fans on hand to watch Long Beach break SDSU and Don Coryell’s 32-game win streak, 27-11. That was a record home crowd by more than 20,000.

The team’s fans flooded the field after the upset win, and 49ers safety Jeff Severson recalled watching a group of fans mob star running back Leon Burns as he ripped his jersey open, revealing a Superman shirt underneath.
“It was mayhem on that field,” said Severson.

The team played plenty of other games on the field, and it served as their home field for a number of years until they permanently relocated to Veterans Memorial Stadium in 1983.

 

Mike Guardabascio
Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.
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