Her real name was Roberta King but she was best known as “Angel Annie.” She had a shouting voice described as “somewhere between a police siren and a dynamite explosion,” earning her the nicknames of “The Voice of Wrigley Field,” “The Human Siren” and “The Screech.”
Over a 35-year period Angel Annie attended approximately 5,000 games at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field and other Pacific Coast League ballparks in Hollywood, San Diego and Oakland. This prompted Los Angeles Angel president Don Stewart to remark at the end of the 1954 season: “When she fails to show up, we’ll know we’ve had it.”
Stewart and Angel Annie wouldn’t be around to find out as he had a fatal heart attack in September 1954, four months before the 87-year-old Angel Annie died of cancer the following January. “I’ve been hollarin’ since I was born and I won’t quit till I die,” she said.
One can only imagine Angel Annie whoopin’ and hollarin’ over the 202 home runs Steve Bilko and his “Bilko Athletic Club” teammates hit in 1956. An earplug has yet to be invented that could’ve protected fans from Angel Annie’s blood-curdling screams that she sometimes used away from the ballpark to stop traffic. “I just stand on the corner and let out one big yell as loud as I can. Everything stops. Then I can walk across the street easy.”
“She could really howl,” recalled Bobby Talbot, centerfielder for the Angels from 1951-53 and the beginning of the 1955 season.
“She was always out there rooting for her dear Angels,” said Bobby Usher, who played for L.A. from 1952-55. “She wore an Angel cap and the buttons of all the teams in the league and where she’d been for the playoffs – the whole bit. She was a very nice lady.”
Angel Annie spoke highly of Usher, too. “Bobby Usher is as good an outfielder as they will ever have,” she said in a Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram story published shortly before she died.
“She is almost a complete mystery, and the stories circulated about her are for the most part false,” the newspaper reported.
One of those stories attributed Angel Annie’s fanaticism to a crippled son who wanted to be a baseball player. Another said she never missed Angel games because of a pledge to a dying boy. “But the most common misbelief is that there is an alliance between Angel Annie and the Los Angeles Baseball Club front office.”
Angel Annie pooh-poohed this, claiming she paid for tickets like any other fan – $4,000 altogether, she estimated. “I’ve been watching baseball since I was a little gal of 15 back in Mississippi and I never saw a team I enjoyed watching as much as the Angels of the past few years.”
When fans found out Angel Annie didn’t have a lifetime pass to attend games free, they made up a chant that they shouted with Angel Annie-like intensity at the front gate as she prepared to enter the ballpark. “Get a pass for Angel Annie, or we’ll kick you in the pants,” they chanted. “Get a pass for Angel Annie, or we’ll kick you in the pants.”
The Bilko Athletic Club is a book published by Rowman & Littlefield about the 1956 Los Angeles Angels, a team of castoffs and kids built around a bulky, beer-loving basher of home runs named Steve Bilko. The book features a delightful foreword by John Schulian, former sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and Philadelphia Daily News and longtime contributor to Sports Illustrated and GQ.
The book can now be ordered by clicking on any of the website links below:
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