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'Discovering' Chavez Ravine

July 25, 2008 |  8:32 am

1958_0725_cobbBy Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

The Times published a tidbit about the Hollywood Stars and their owner, Bob Cobb, that made me go looking deeper for more details.

Jeane Hoffman reported that Cobb "discovered" Chavez Ravine as a potential home for a baseball team and in 1954 proposed building a stadium and leasing it back to the city for $1 a year. Hoffman said the plan didn't work because it was for minor league baseball and Cobb was just a little ahead of his time.

The Dodgers' plans to build a stadium were still on hold at this point in 1958 after a Superior Court judge ruled the contract between the team and the city was invalid. But what of Cobbs' idea?

I found a Times story from Dec. 17, 1954, in which Yankees manager Casey Stengel, longtime baseball owner Bill Veeck and Cobb talked to a City Council committee about bringing big league baseball to Los Angeles. According to Paul Zimmerman's story, the discussion focused on whether the city should expand Wrigley Field or build a ballpark in Chavez Ravine.

"No city in the United States can offer what Los Angeles does," Cobb said. "We need something new, something modern and a place to park 25,000 cars."

Cobb and his Hollywood Stars have long fascinated me. My mom grew up in Los Angeles and her family's baseball allegiances were split down the middle between fans of the Stars and the Angels. Photos of Gilmore Field made the experience look glamorous and any search of Pacific Coast League games can find tales of wild fights and long doubleheaders. And Cobb was no ordinary owner, with his connection to the Brown Derby--and what other baseball owner had a salad named after him?

After the Dodgers decided to move to Los Angeles--moving the minor league Stars and Angels out of the Southland--Cobb remained civic minded. In searching the website for any connections between the two owners, I stumbled on a 1957 Times story where Cobb came to O'Malley's defense.

"I'm shocked at the unbelievable position in which Walter O'Malley finds himself," Cobb told The Times' Hoffman. "We invited this man to Los Angeles. He didn't solicit us."

Hoffman said Cobb's plan for Chavez Ravine was ahead of his time. The 1957 story had another example. "But you can't stop progress," he said. "We're going to have not one but two major league clubs here within five years. Where? Well, this second club will settle in Orange County, probably Anaheim. That's where the Hollywood Stars were going if the majors hadn't come."

Too bad it didn't work out. I can seem them now--the Hollywood Stars of Anaheim. Wonder how much they'd charge for a Cobb salad?