Friday, June 24, 2011
Angels Moment No. 9: Opening Anaheim Stadium
By Mark Saxon
Before the Angels opened the doors at Anaheim Stadium with an exhibition game against the San Francisco Giants on April 9, 1966, they were in the uncomfortable position of paying rent to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After playing their first season at quaint, but fading Wrigley Field, the Angels played at Dodger Stadium for the next four seasons, 1962 through 1965. It wasn’t a particularly friendly landlord-tenant relationship, according to reports.
Ross Newhan, who covered the Angels for decades for the Los Angeles Times, wrote that they “had to pay for every roll of toilet paper, every darkened light bulb and all the landscaping that had to be maintained whether the Dodgers were in or out of town.”
He quotes Peter O’Malley saying, “There was friction having two teams in the same stadium.”
The Dodgers were never particularly keen on an American League team moving into their Southern California domain, but things got easier for both teams when owner Gene Autry elected to follow his friend, Walt Disney, and build the team’s new home in Anaheim.
It was a fairly risky proposition, but proved to be a smart move on many levels, particularly demographic. The I-5 had been completed just 12 years before the Angels’ move and the population of Orange County, once a sprawling array of fruit orchards, was in the process of exploding. By the 1980s, it topped 2 million, making Orange County the second most populous county in California.
The stadium went through a lot of changes, adding additional seats to accommodate the Rams in the late 1970s, then reverting to baseball only with $100 million renovation in 1996. It was called Anaheim Stadium, Edison Field and, now, Angel Stadium. It originally held 43,204 fans, then 65,158 and, now, about 45,000 for regular season games.
Before the 2004 season, new owner Arte Moreno – who had made his fortune in the billboard business – installed lots of new scoreboard displays and signage. The place seems to change every generation or so, but it’s still a place the Angels can rightfully call home, something they didn’t have in their early, vagrant years.
This story is part of an occasional series of Angels Moments which, when it's complete, will -- we hope -- add up to 50. The Angels are celebrating their 50th anniversary this season. These are not intended to be an exhaustive list, but simply an assembly of scenes and anecdotes that are part of the team's colorful past.