April 11th in baseball history: Angels don't play like it's their 1st dance

Wish You Were Here

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND | APRIL 11, 1961 - The Los Angeles Angels looked anything but like an expansion team in their first game on this date in 1961. Slugging first baseman Ted Kluszewski hit two home runs and Eli Grba threw a complete game as the Angels beat the Baltimore Orioles 7 to 2 in Baltimore.

It wasn't a fluke. The Angels were the most successful first year expansion team in baseball history. They won 70 games and did not come in last place -- no small task. In fact, the Angels not only finished ahead of the expansion Washington Senators (today's Texas Rangers), they finished ahead of the established Kansas City A's (today's Oakland A's). 

Remarkably, the Angels contended for the American League pennant in their second season - 1962. They were in first place on July 4th and finished in 3rd (this is before the American and National Leagues were divided into divisions), ten games behind the New York Yankees

The Angels played their home games that inaugural season at Los Angeles' Wrigley Field. Yes, P.K. Wrigley built a replica of the Chicago Cubs ballpark in Los Angeles years earlier for a minor league team. The Angels became a tenant of Dodger Stadium in 1962, which they referred to as Chavez Ravine. They built their own stadium in Anaheim in 1966 and became the California Angels

Answers to yesterday's stadiums question
1. Huntington Avenue Grounds (1901-1911) Boston Red Sox
2. West Side Park (1893-1915) Chicago Cubs
3. Jarry Park (1969-1976) Montreal Expos
4. Shibe Park (1909-1970) Philadelphia A's & Phillies
5. Forbes Field (1909-1970) Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Polo Grounds (1911-1964) New York Giants, Yankees, Mets
7. Griffith Stadium (1903-1960) Washington Senators

This baseball history story about the Los Angeles Angels is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.

April 10th in baseball history: Cardinals pressured by Women's Christian Temperance Union

This Bud's not for you

ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI | APRIL 10, 1953 - Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick was not amused that the St. Louis Cardinals wanted to name their ballpark after a beer. On this date in 1953 the Cardinals got the hint and backed off. The ballpark they bought from the St. Louis Browns the day before was not going to be called Budweiser Stadium. Instead it was called Busch Stadium.

The head of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, an anti-alcohol group, wasn't impressed by Anheuser-Busch's decision. "Busch" wasn't the name of a beer back in '53, but it was the name of the family that owned the brewery and the team. So, Temperance Union President Leigh Colvin said, "You could toss up the three B's. Call it Beer Park, Budweiser Park or Busch Park and they all mean the same thing."

The Cardinals' ballpark is still known as Busch Stadium, though it's on its third incarnation since 1953.

How about a little history quiz. Guess which teams played in these old stadiums?
1. Huntington Avenue Grounds
2. West Side Park
3. Jarry Park
4. Shibe Park
5. Forbes Field
6. Polo Grounds
7. Griffith Stadium

(Answers tomorrow)

Contributing source:
New York Times,
St. Louis, Missouri, April 11, 1953

This baseball history story about Busch Stadium is brought to you by TODAY in BASEBALL.

April 9th in baseball history: Bo Jackson's dramatic comeback

Bo Knew

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS | APRIL 9, 1993 Bo Jackson had a flair for the dramatic to the point of being unbelievable. On opening day in 1993, on his first swing, after recovering from a football injury many thought would end his sports playing days, he hit a home run. 

 Jackson was a two-sport star; a Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn, an all-pro running back for the Oakland Raiders, and a major league baseball all-star mostly for the Kansas City Royals.

On January 13, 1991 Jackson injured his hip playing in an NFL playoff game. It caused a deteriorating hip condition. The hip had to be replaced. His football career was over, but Jackson said he would return to major league baseball, a promise doctors thought was highly unlilkely. Bo knew.

His 1993 comeback became complete later that season when he hit another dramatic home to the clinch the Western Division. When first hit eyewitnesses thought the towering popup may be caught by the shortstop in short left, but it kept carrying. The left fielder would certainly catch it, if it ever came down. The ball hung in the air. Seattle left fielder Brian Turang seemed to wander along the left field wall for minutes, until the ball game down in the bleachers.

Contributing Sources:
September 27, 1993 box score/play-by-play
Bo Jackson Statistics
Bo Jackson-ESPN

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April 8th in baseball history: A new home run king is crowned

Happy Birthday, Sam.

Move over Babe 

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - Henry Aaron saves the best for the home town crowd. Four days after tying Babe Ruth's career home run record of 714 home runs on the road in Cincinnati, Hammerin Hank breaks the record before hysterical Atlanta Braves' fans at Fulton County Coliseum. He hits the 715th of his career off Los Angeles Dodger hurler Al Downing. Aaron would go on to hit 755 home runs before ending his career in 1976.

It's not every day the career home run record is broken. The last time it happened before 1974 was 1921 when Babe Ruth broke Roger Connor's record of 138 home runs. Connor had held it since 1895 when he broke Harry Stovey's record of 122. So, in the entire 20th Century, just three men held the record for most home runs in a career.

The record passed through several hands in the late 1800s. Here's a list of who and when home run records were broken, and total home runs the new record-holder finished that year with.

Year Player HRs
2007 Barry Bonds 762

1974 Henry Aaron 733
1921 Babe Ruth 162
1895 Roger Connor 124
1889 Harry Stovey 89
1887 Dan Brouthers 74
1885 Harry Stovey 50
1883 Charley Jones 33
1882 Jim O'Rourke 24
1881 Charley Jones 23
1879 Lip Pike 20

Lip Pike, Levi Meyerle and Fred Treacey set the first recorded career home run record with 4 in 1871.

The term "home run" was originally a descriptive one. In the early days of baseball, fences were generally farther out than they are today, so hitting a ball over the fence was rare. Inside-the-park home runs were more common because outfielders had more ground to cover. The batter had to literally run home before being tagged out to hit a "home run."

  • Henry Aaron ended his career back in the city where he made his major league debut. He played the 1975 and 1976 seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Contributing source:

Henry Aaron Statistics
MLB Home run leaders
Barry Bonds HR stats 

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April 7th in baseball history: Baseball in a football stadium

The screen monster  

la coliseumLOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA | APRIL 7, 1958 - Many football games have been played in stadiums built for baseball, but not too many baseball games have been played in stadiums built for football. What the Dodgers had to do to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to prepare for this day, April 7, 1958, is a big reason why.

Before the transplanted Brooklyn Dodgers could play the first official major league game west of St. Louis they had to erect a 42-foot screen in left field because the foul pole was only 201 feet away - about the distance normally seen in slow pitch softball. Straight away left was only about 250 feet. On the other hand, because the Coliseum is rectangular straight away right was 440 feet from home.

There was a distinct advantage playing in the mammoth coliseum however, it held a lot of people. Game 5 of the 1959 World Series between the Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox still holds the record for the biggest crowd to watch a major league baseball game - 92,706.

The Dodgers spent four seasons (1958-1961) in, at the time, the home of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams (today's St. Louis Rams) waiting for Dodger Stadium to be completed. As much as Dodger fans poured into the Coliseum they liked the new Dodger Stadium more when it opened in ‘62. A major league attendance record (at the time) was set with 2,755,184 fans.

The Coliseum revisited

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