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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: May 2008

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May 27, 1908


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Above, time to start planning summer getaways to Tahoe ... At left, fruit peddler Leonardo Vett, accused, along with his wife, of stealing diamonds from local jewelry shops.

"Vett looks like a Jew but says he is an Italian," The Times says in one of those stunning details that fill early 20th century newspapers, adding: "His wife, a pretty little woman with soft, dark eyes and a wealth of dark hair, cannot speak a word of English."   

Also, Police Sgt. Sebastian (I wonder if this is future Police Chief Charles Sebastian) is blockading stores in Chinatown suspected of running opium dens on the side--at least to white customers. White men are willing to pay more for drugs than Chinese American customers and blocking the whites has forced several stores to close, The Times says.

What about Chinese American opium addicts? Apparently that's not considered a problem.

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Starring Wrigley Field



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May 27, 1958

By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

1958_0527_damn_page Even without a team, Wrigley Field was always ready for its closeup.

The ballpark had more than its share of film and TV credits during its years in Los Angeles, from the "The Pride of the Yankees" to "The Munsters."  Wrigley Field also was the location for the television show "Home Run Derby," where major league hitters competed for up to $2,000 an episode. Yes, it was a long time ago.

In 1958, Wrigley Field became a location for the musical "Damn Yankees."  The story focused on a longtime Washington Senators fan who gets his wish and is transformed into a slugger leading the hapless Senators past the hated Yankees. Of course, it's not that simple and there's dancing and singing.

Writing in The Times, Jeane Hoffman pokes some fun at the Dodgers while describing the action. Writes Hoffman: "There was the thought that the Dodgers, lounging in last place, might profitably emulate ... the dancing on toes, split leaps and graceful whirls. But then things are bad enough."

Hoffman mentions star Tab Hunter as the only "player" who looked at home on a baseball field. Also noticed was Bob Fosse, a 30-year-old dancer taking Casey Stengel's place as manager of the Yankees. Calls himself a choreographer, Hoffman writes.

You could say that. He eventually won eight Tony Awards for choreography, another for direction, and won an Academy Award as best director for "Cabaret".

As for the Senators and Yankees, the real variety returned to Wrigley Field in 1961 when the Angels played their first season in Los Angeles.

keith.thursby@latimes.com



Dodgers Dig In


May 27, 1958

By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

1958_0527_cover Walter O'Malley wanted it clearly understood he wasn't going anywhere.

"The players and our staff want to stay in Los Angeles. We like the location, the weather, the fans and the attendance records," O'Malley said during a news conference covered by The Times' Al Wolf. "We plan to be in Los Angeles permanently. I pledge myself to try to keep major league baseball here."

O'Malley was responding to statements by National League President Warren Giles, who apparently was concerned that Los Angeles voters might reject Prop. B in local elections June 3. The ballot measure was a vote on the contract already forged by the Dodgers and the city to build a baseball stadium in Chavez Ravine.

Giles said that if voters turned down Prop. B, thus turning down the contract and putting the new stadium in jeopardy, he would recommend finding another city for the Dodgers to call home. According to Wolf's story, it would take at least a 6-2 vote by National League owners to force the Dodgers to move.

It's hard to imagine why Giles made such a fuss. Forcing the Dodgers to move after barely a season in Los Angeles would call into question further attempts to expand or move west. And abandoning Los Angeles would leave the San Francisco Giants as the only West Coast team. That would make for some awkward road trips for teams traveling west.

Perhaps he was only trying to suggest baseball fans get out and vote. The Times' story noted that Giles sent O'Malley a telegram insisting that he only wanted to state the facts in the case.

O'Malley was asked about his plans if Prop. B was defeated.

"I have no plans for the simple reason that I can't conceive of the proposition losing," he said. "I am playing this thing right down to the wire without considering any possible alternatives."

keith.thursby@latimes.com

Memorial Day, 1882

 

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May 26, 1958


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Above and at left, authorities arrest five members of the July 26 Movement  in a plot to make arms for Fidel Castro's rebel army in Cuba. A machine shop set up in a garage at 3144 Oakwood Ave., Lynwood, was apparently using first-class equipment to turn out well-made arms.

Also: Gene Sherman writes about a horse-racing scam using postcards to solicit bets ... an analysis of violence during Vice President Nixon's tour of Venezuela ... And massing of the colors for Memorial Day at St. Paul's Cathedral. (Some of you may recall that in the 1950s, Memorial Day was celebrated May 30).

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Dreaming of Dodger Stadium


May 26, 1958

By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

1958_0526_dodgers The next time you go to Dodger Stadium, imagine arriving on express buses that stop right in front of the ballpark. When the game is over, the buses will be waiting to take you home. But don't forget to pick up your kids. The youngest will be in the nursery for preschoolers and the older ones will be playing in the 40-acre recreational area built adjacent to the ballpark.

These were a couple of features announced to the public by Joe E. Brown, a Hollywood personality who was chairman of the Taxpayers Committee for Yes on Baseball.

It's not uncommon for ballparks to have plans that don't make it into reality. But you have to appreciate the timing of making this early vision public with the June 3 election in Los Angeles looming. At stake, after all, was the construction of the Chavez Ravine stadium.

Brown said the instructions by Dodger owner Walter O'Malley to his architects were to "make this the baseball showplace of the world and preliminary plans indicate it will be just that."

He might as well have added, don't forget to vote.

keith.thursby@latimes.com

May 26. 1938


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Photograph by the Los Angeles Times

Harry Raymond testifies about his injuries from the bomb placed in his car, in a photo dated April 30, 1938.

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Police Capt. Earle Kynette insists that he is being framed as he argues with Deputy Dist. Atty. Eugene Williams over the transcript of an Oct. 3, 1937, conversation recorded by the LAPD between Clifford Clinton, Dave Hutton Jr. and Hutton's wife.

Clinton sounds like he's honest: "She has to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth..."

But the names he throws around must have scared City Hall: Joe Shaw and Guy McAfee.

Clinton says: "Joe Shaw is with the administration. Joe Shaw runs our city. Joe Shaw is the mayor's brother, you see, and is the mayor's secretary, who watches. Handles the mayor's--that particular stuff as he does the city government. It's one and the same thing. Most of these things that are--work right out of the mayor's office."

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May 26, 1908


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Above, J.S. Zerbe and his "Aeronef," Jan. 19, 1909.

May 26, 1908

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Yes, Professor Zerbe's "Aeronef" was a strange-looking contraption and I'm not sure he ever got it off the ground (he later experimented with a dirigible). But the Aero Club of California, begun a century ago, had better luck.

And by 1910...

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May 27, 1908

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The comics


May 25, 1958


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Wow! Some day in the future, students will have computers in the classroom! Notice that none of them are texting their pals or playing World of Warcraft!

May 25, 1938


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Photograph by Andrew H. Arnott / The Los Angeles Times

Attorney Joe Fainer, left, and police chemist Ray Pinker examine pieces of Harry Raymond's bombed-out car in a photo dated May 6, 1938.

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Police Capt. Earle Kynette testifies in the Harry Raymond bombing, saying that police chemist Ray Pinker didn't find detonator wire while searching Kynette's garage. It's ordinary bell wire, Kynette says.

Kynette also attempts to link Raymond to a series of notorious Los Angeles killings, including the deaths of Harry "Mile Away" Thomas and George "Les" Bruneman.

Also on the cover, Max Baer Jr. is recovering from pneumonia--in fact he will live to play Jethro Bodine in "The Beverly Hillbillies."

George Thompson of Beacon, N.Y., is given a six-month suspended sentence for spanking his daughter Loretta because she stayed out past midnight. Loretta is 34 years old.

And Republican Assemblyman William B. Hornblower of San Francsico is accused of accepting $2,500 ($35,748.84 USD 2007) to kill a bill that would have closed Monterey Bay to commercial fishing.

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May 25, 1908


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Above, The Times interviews Manitoba Police Chief E.J. Elliott, who is visiting from Canada to extradite a fraud suspect.

At left, a parishioner stabs a priest after Mass at a church in Salisbury, Mo. As he lay bleeding and expected to die, Father Joseph F. Lubeley expressed forgiveness for his attacker, Joseph Schuette. Lubeley recovered, The Times reported the next day. There is no further word on what became of Schuette, who was apparently angry with the priest over his intervention in an argument with another farmer.

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The Toronto Dodgers?

May 24, 1958

By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

1958_0524_sports A day after saying Los Angeles could lose the Dodgers if voters don't back a plan to build a stadium in Chavez Ravine, National League President Warren Giles turned politician. He played both sides of the fence.

Giles insisted to a Times reporter that he wasn't threatening Los Angeles or making an ultimatum when he suggested that a defeat of Prop. B in the June 3 election would mean National League owners would work to find the Dodgers a new city. Preferably one that wanted to build a new stadium.

"All I am doing is stating the facts," Giles told The Times' Frank Finch. "I am not presumptuous enough to indicate how the citizens of Los Angeles should vote."

Of course not.

In the same story, Giles said there would be no difficulty in finding a new city for the Dodgers to call home. He wouldn't get specific, but the story mentioned Minneapolis, Houston and Toronto as prospects.

Meanwhile, the issue seemed to bring out the best in two of Los Angeles' best quotes, Mayor Norris Poulson and City Councilman Patrick McGee.

"Los Angeles would be the laughingstock of the nation if we went back on our word," said Poulson. And in the other corner, here's McGee: "Giles' threat is an insult to the intelligence of the people of the city of Los Angeles."

keith.thursby@latimes.com

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