For over a century, baseball fans from all over the world have heard of Wrigley Field. They are at once in awe of its friendly confines and historical mystique. But while they ponder the wonder of the aged ballpark, they often fail to realize that there have actually been two Wrigley Fields. One in Chicago and one in Los Angeles. In addition to hosting minor league teams for more than 30 years, Los Angeles' Wrigley Field also served as the sight for several movies such as Angels in the Outfield. This is its story.
William Wrigley Jr. needed a home for his Los Angeles Angels, a minor league affiliate of his other team, the Chicago Cubs. After purchasing the Angels in 1921, he sought for the city of Los Angeles to improve his team's home, Washington Park. So in the heart of the Great Depression of 1925, Wrigley purchased some land in South Los Angeles and built a ballpark much grander than any minor league team should expect. Dubbed the "Million Dollar Ballpark", it was built with Spanish-style architecture in mind and reminded some of the Cubs' home in the Windy City, then known as Cubs Park. With Cubs Park being renamed in 1926, the ballpark in Los Angeles became the very first edition of Wrigley Field.
From the very beginning, Wrigley Field had better amenities than Wrigley Field. They got lights in 1930 while Chicago had to wait an additional 58 years before they could host a night game. It also featured much more parking than Chicago's cluttered streets.
The Glory Years
The Angels became Wrigley Field's first tenants when the sparkling new ballpark opened in 1925 and the following year the PCL's Hollywood Starts joined the fraternity. To boost further promote the new venue, the Cubs played the Angels in an exhibition game in the Spring of 1926. The two PCL teams drew quite a crowd and by 1930 they combined to draw more than 850,000 fans, more than both major league teams in Saint Louis that year. By 1938, the Stars had moved into Gilmore Field, their new home. From then on, the Angels were Wrigley Field's sole tenants.
Wrigley Field still hosted events other than baseball. It hosted the NFL's first Pro Bowl in January of 1939 and served as a filming location for Angels in the Outfield in 1951. Additionally, the ballpark was featured in other films such as Babe Comes Home (1927), Meet John Doe (1940), The Pride of the Yankees (1942), Armored Car Robbery (1950) and Damn Yankees (1958). It even hosted boxing matches such as Joe Louis vs Jack Roper in 1939, Sugar Ray Robinson vs Carl Olson in 1956 and Floyd Patterson vs Roy Harris two years later.
In 1947, the ballpark bore witness to one of the great pennant races of the PCL. the battle between the Angels and Seals captivated the fans who flocked to the ballpark, totaling more than 620,000 for the season. More than 23,000 showed up for the one-game playoff between the two clubs with thousands more turned away at the gate. It was an incredible defensive struggle with neither team scoring deep into the game. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Clarence Maddern, an Angels outfielder, blasted the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence. With the pennant clinched, the crowd and the players took in the moment for all it was worth. From then on, Wrigley Field held a special place in the vast land of Los Angeles.
As the years passed, the Angels played a role in jumpstarting several legendary careers including Tommy Lasorda and Gene Mauch. In October of 1960, Major League Baseball expanded, adding another team in the City of Angels. Dubbed the Angels, the team was owned by a syndicate that was led by singer/ actor Gene Autry and Rose Bowl legend Bob Reynolds.
The Angels began to play on April 27 1961 in Wrigley Field. despite it drawing a crowd just south of 12,000, it was still treated as a big deal with Vice President Richard Nixon and famed baseball manager Casey Stengel in attendance among many other luminaries. With the cozy confines of Wrigley Feld becoming a bit too cozy for Major League players, the club moved to Dodger Stadium after just one season, patiently waiting for construction to finish on their own stadium.
With the Angels no longer residing there, Wrigley Field began to be seen as more of a burden than a blessing as the building began to deteriorate. Still, Wrigley Field could draw a crowd. It hosted a Martin Luther King Jr. rally in 1963 and several soccer matches through its later years. By January of 1969, demolition was underway, making room for the new Gilbert W. Lindsay Community Center.