Ross Newhan returns to pen an interesting piece today for the L.A. TIMES on the lengths former Dodger Owner Walter O’Malley went to prevent the Angels from ever existing.
(This close from never knowing the wonderment of Rex the Wonder Dog)
According to newspaper and book accounts supported by personal recollections and interviews, the late Walter O’Malley, who moved his storied team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958, never wanted an American League team in what he regarded as his new, private and lucrative territory or believed the AL had legal rights to it.
Son Peter O’Malley denies his dad’s sentiment, but based on the facts of how SoCal’s AL franchise came to exist, there’s no doubt O’Malley did all he could to block off L.A. and Orange Counties from baseball entrepreneurs.
O’Malley, according to multiple accounts and interviews from sources not authorized to speak on the subject, had battled internally to keep it from going to a partnership of Hank Greenberg and Bill Veeck, the eccentric showman who represented a risk to the Dodgers’ popularity.
The breakthrough came when Gene Autry pitched O’Malley on bringing Dodger broadcasts to Autry-owned KMPC. That partnership evolved into Autry petitioning O’Malley and MLB for an American League franchise, which he received after forking over a mere $350K to the Dodger Owner.
After an initial seaon in L.A.’s minor league Wrigley Field, the Angels shared Dodger Stadium for four years as distinctly second-class citizens. During that period, the star-studded Dodgers drew as many as 3M fans, while the Angels managed in the 500,000 range.
Eventually Walt Disney prevailed upon Autry to move his team to Anaheim - and the rest is history.
Some of you may think that in 2009, the Angels have made significant inroads into the Los Angeles market. I live here and can confirm they absolutely haven’t. All you have to know is the complete lack of coverage of the Angels by L.A.-based television stations. The big four stations here don’t staff the games, except for extraordinary circumstances like opening day and the playoffs.
Despite a Dodger franchise that for 20 years had completely lost its identity in the local community until Manny Ramirez arrived last season, the Angels haven’t come close to developing a noticeable following here. And even if the Angels go on a World Series-winning rampage, the team will never be mainstream popular here. Hell, the Dodgers barely register a blip as it is.
It’s a lifestyle-driven cultural thing. L.A. is L.A. and will never except Orange County culture - likewise The Valley. (Which is technically L.A. County but not L.A. city proper.)
I’d give anything to have Arte Moreno as Dodger Owner, but no matter what Moreno tries to do publicity wise for his franchise-of-choice, he’ll never breakthrough here.
So he can stop now.