The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Dodgers

Autry Gets Angels!

  Dec. 7, 1960, Angeles


Dec. 7, 1960: The Angels were official.

Gene Autry's team would play in Wrigley Field instead of the Coliseum or Rose Bowl, apparently seeing the old minor league ballpark as a better financial deal even though there was room for only about 21,500 fans.

The Times continued to report that the team was expected to open the season at home against the Yankees. They actually opened at Baltimore.

A minor member of the Angels' ownership group was an interesting element to the story given O'Malley's opposition to another team in L.A.  Kenyon Brown had owned KCOP Channel 13, which campaigned against the Dodgers' bid to build a stadium in Chavez Ravine.  He was listed as part of the ownership group.

"O'Malley has studiously avoided any mention of Brown in discussions with the press about the 'acceptability' "of owners Autry and Bob Reynolds, Frank Finch reported in The Times.

Brown owned several local radio stations, which Finch speculated would make a nice nucleus for an Angel network. Of course, Autry's radio and television stations would carry the Angel games.

--Keith Thursby

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Autry to Get L.A. Club, O’Malley Says

  Dec. 5, 1960, Angels  

Dec. 5, 1960: Gene Autry would be the owner of Los Angeles' new baseball team, according to none other than Walter O'Malley.

Frank Finch's story claimed that O'Malley's priority in the selection of an owner for the American League expansion team was the businessman's "caliber," whatever that means, and O'Malley noted he had good relations with Autry and his business partner Bob Reynolds when their station KMPC carried the Dodger games.

The Times' story said O'Malley left Autry's station because a sponsor wanted a change.

The story also included some interesting speculation. Former Yankees Manager Casey Stengel had been talked to about becoming the team's manager and there were plans for the Angels to open the season against the Yankees at the Coliseum. None of that worked out, however.

A story in The Times on Dec. 6 said the deal wasn't quite done, with the National League wanting to postpone American League expansion for a year to match the debut of National League teams in New York and Houston. According to Finch, O'Malley was "vigorously opposed" to another team playing in Los Angeles in 1961.

--Keith Thursby

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Dodgers’ Youth Movement

  Nov. 30, 1960, Dodgers  

Nov. 30, 1960: The Dodgers' youth movement rolled on.

"Our kids continue to improve and none of them has reached his peak," Manager Walt Alston told The Times' Frank Finch. "The Dodgers will be a team to be reckoned with for some time."

Highest on the list of future Dodgers were players who appeared in Los Angeles during the disappointing 1960 season—Frank Howard, Willie Davis and Tommy Davis.

Things had changed dramatically for the Dodgers since the move to Los Angeles before the 1958 season, when the team included many stars from its years in Brooklyn.

Consider the plight of Gil Hodges, an eight-time all star who was a fixture at first base. Discussing his catching situation Alston said he might keep only two catchers in 1961 "if Hodges is still around."

--Keith Thursby

A Season of Optimism for Dodgers, Angels

  Nov. 29, 1970, Reagan  

Nov. 29, 1970: State income from tax revenue is running lower than expected while state spending -- primarily for social welfare -- is running higher than earlier estimates.

  Nov. 29, 1970, Dodgers  

Nov. 29, 1970: The Dodgers and Angels were feeling optimistic but how hard is that in the middle of winter?

"We have a chance to win it all next year," said the Dodgers' Al Campanis.

The Angels had "the highest of hopes for 1971," Dick Walsh told The Times John Wiebusch.

Both teams had made big offseason acquisitions, the Dodgers getting Richie Allen and the Angels Tony Conigliaro.

The Dodgers were named in various reports about looking for more pitching, specifically Steve Carlton of the Cardinals, Ken Hotzman of the Cubs and former Dodger Ron Perranoski of the Twins.

Campanis said he would consider trading one of their "good young kids," who included shortstop Bobby Valentine, first baseman-outfielder Bill Buckner, third baseman-outfielder Steve Garvey and outfielder Tom Paciorek.

Eventually, they would all become ex-Dodgers.

--Keith Thursby

Gene Autry a Contender in American League Expansion Team

  Nov. 19, 1960, Sports  

Nov. 19, 1960: Hank Greenberg, former baseball star who was part owner of the Chicago White Sox, was out as the potential bidder for the American League baseball team hoping to start play in Los Angeles in 1961. So who was in?

The Times reported that several people were talking about taking over, including Gene Autry, the former cowboy star described by the paper as a "television tycoon."

Autry got into the ownership sweepstakes only after talking to Greenberg about carrying the new baseball team's games on Autry's radio station, KMPC. Dodger owner Walter O'Malley had moved his team's games from KMPC to KFI. Now Autry was in the mix as a potential owner.

Also mentioned by The Times: Keynon Brown, former Detroit Tigers owner who was called a principal stockholder and executive at Los Angeles television station KCOP; Charles O. Finley, a Chicago insurance broker who would become the flamboyant owner of the Kansas City/Oakland A's; and the National Theaters and Television Inc., which operated 275 theaters on the West Coast and use them as ticket agencies.

Why did Greenberg, whose ownership group reportedly would have included longtime baseball owner Bill Veeck, back out of the L.A. plan?

According to retired Times baseball writer Ross Newhan, whose book "The Anaheim Angels: A Complete History" that documented the start of the franchise, "The obstacle was O'Malley, who argued that existing rules did not permit the American League to move into his territory and he was supported by Commissioner Ford Frick." But there was more.

"The problem really seemed to be one of personality and money," Newhan wrote. "Greenberg and Veeck were not interested in meeting O'Malley's demand for $450,000 … and O'Malley, not anxious to share his chunk of the Gold Coast with anyone, was particularly not anxious to do it with a magnetic showman such as Veeck."

--Keith Thursby

On Line 1: Dodger Players

  Nov. 10, 1960, Drysdale  


Nov. 10, 1960: Hello, this is Don Drysdale calling about Dodger tickets. Really.

The Dodgers announced that Drysdale and three other players would call fans seeking ticket buyers for their new ballpark coming in Chavez Ravine. What a simple, and smart, idea. And it's so hard to imagine anything close to that happening today.

-- Keith Thursby

Dodgers Have a New Prospect, but Where to Put Him?

Sept. 6, 1960, Dodgers

Sept. 6, 1960, Dodgers

Sept. 6, 1960: With the Dodgers out of the pennant race, team officials wondered what to do with one of their top prospects.

Willie Davis, the MVP of the Pacific Coast League, was heading to Los Angeles. It was just a matter of time. But team officials seemed divided about how quickly to elevate Davis, who would become one of the Dodgers' first stars during their Los Angeles years.

"Sure I'd like to have Willie but where am I going to play him?" Manager Walt Alston asked The Times' Frank Finch. "I'd have to bench Wally Moon, Frank Howard or Tommy Davis to get him in there."

General Manager Buzzie Bavasi told Finch on Sept. 2 to expect some new faces and "one of them could be Davis."

--Keith Thursby

The Dodgers’ Crystal Ball

Sept. 6, 1960, Predictions
Hey, Keith, look: Vin “Vince” Scully! ... Mayor Poulson? I'm afraid not.

Sept. 6, 1960: The Times' Al Wolf tried to predict the future and write about the opener of the Dodgers' new park in 1962. The headline "Chavez Ravine—Year 1962" might be the first reference to the eventual name of the ballpark.

How was Wolf at predictions?

He had the Dodgers playing the Houston Hurricanes, who in 1962 reality were the Colt 45s. Think I like Hurricanes better.

He also guessed at the 1962 starting lineup, placing such prospects as Tommy Davis at third, Charlie Smith at second and Willie Davis and Earl Robinson in the outfield. Phil Ortega was pitching. He might not have placed every spot correctly but he did realize the Dodgers were completing their transition from the stars of Brooklyn to the young prospects who would be the foundation of some great teams during the 1960s.

Wolf did nail one element, predicting the opening day fans wouldn't make it out of the ballpark before July 4.

--Keith Thursby

Cards Beat Dodgers on 9th-Inning Home Run by Joe Torre

Aug. 29, 1970, Dodgers

Aug. 29, 1970: Joe Torre made the difference in the Dodgers' 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

This wasn't the case of a managerial goof. This was Torre the Cardinals' power-hitting third baseman, whose ninth-inning home run against Don Sutton provided the game's only run. The winning pitcher was Cardinal rookie and future Dodger Jerry Reuss.

"It has been five seasons since I hit a home run here," Torre told The Times' John Wiebusch, "and the only two I got here were hit off Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax in games we lost."

The home runs were hit for the Braves, the team Torre started with in 1960. He came to the Cardinals in 1969 in a trade for Orlando Cepeda.

Wiebusch noted that Torre had lost 20 pounds and was mostly playing third and only occasionally catching.

"The weight-loss thing was mostly inspired by the fact that this is my 30th year," Torre said. "I do not want to be known as a fat man."

-- Keith Thursby

The Bull Pen

Aug. 27, 1960, Dodgers

Aug. 27, 1960: The Dodgers' apparent refusal to sell their future made for an interesting if confusing story.

The team apparently turned down $1.8 million for Frank Howard, Willie Davis, Ron Fairly and three other players. "They are not for sale," Walter O'Malley told The Times' Frank Finch.

So what team had that much money to pay for prospects?

Well, there wasn't one. Turns out nine teams made offers for the six players and the $1.8 million represented the "six best offers," Finch said. Oh.

One team offered $400,000 for Howard, the mammoth young outfielder with the impressive power. He already led the Dodgers in home runs, but he also was striking out at a record pace with 86 strikeouts in 83 games.

The Dodgers traded Howard in 1964 to the Washington Senators in a package that brought pitcher Claude Osteen to Los Angeles. One of the Dodgers included in the deal was pitcher Pete Richert. One of the 1960 minor league Dodgers listed in Finch's story was pitcher Pete Reichert — I'm guessing he meant Richert.

-- Keith Thursby

The Dodgers’ Super Cool Pitcher

Aug. 19, 1970, Sports

Aug. 19, 1970: The Dodgers were saved by a pitcher described as "23, right-handed and super cool."

Sandy Vance pitched a five-hitter to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-2. The Times' John Wiebusch, who gave Vance the "super cool"  label, said Vance wasn't Manager Walt Alston's first or even second choice to fill in as a starter. But Alston was impressed.

"He's going to be a good one," Alston said. "He has remarkable concentration and he's a much improved pitcher."

Injuries shortened Vance's career to parts of two seasons with the Dodgers.

Speaking of Alston, longtime baseball official Frank Lane predicted his eventual successor with the Dodgers' would be minor league manager Tom Lasorda.

"I don't think there's any question that when Walt Alston decides he wants to stay in Ohio that Lasorda will be the man to replace him. That is unless some other club hasn't snapped him up first."

-- Keith Thursby

Drysdale Hit by Line Drive

Aug. 18, 1960, Sports

Aug. 18, 1960: You don't very often see the phrase "nearly maimed" in headlines for baseball stories.

Don Drysdale escaped serious injury when he was struck by a line drive, then he lost the game on the next pitch when Chicago's Ernie Banks homered to beat the Dodgers, 1-0.

And how tough was Drysdale?

"If Don was shaken up, he didn't show it," wrote The Times' Frank Finch. "When Manager Walt Alston asked him if he was hurt, Drysdale said, 'Gimme the ball and let me pitch.' "

Great quote but some dubious journalism. Just where was Finch when he heard Drysdale say that?

-- Keith Thursby


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