The pressure was on in Anaheim to win now.
The Angels were no longer a hopeful expansion team--that would be their opposition Opening Night in Orange County, the Seattle Pilots. Instead, they were a struggling franchise that had yet to find its fan base. Here's how The Times' Ross Newhan advanced the new season: "Incentive belongs to the California Angels. The word is survival."
Not only had the Angels struggled on the field with 95 losses in 1968, few people were showing up. "Season sales have dipped 1,500 from the 5,500 of last year. Attendance has fallen 300,000 from the first year in Anaheim," Newhan reported. And forget about selling out the opener--only 15,000 people were expected.
A few days later, columnist John Hall put it bluntly: "The honeymoon is not only long over, but it appears the entire marriage between Anaheim and the Angels is on the rocks. Even more distressing than the slim 11,930 crowd for the season opener were the Friday and Saturday night counts of 9,174 and 10,609 for the prime time first weekend against Minnesota, always one of the best road draws in the American League."
Orange County's population growth was still a few seasons away as was any tradition of winning in Anaheim. Both helped cure the Angels' attendance woes.
The pitcher's mound is lowered 5 inches and now looks like a "pancake on a griddle."