Tale of the Ring

Raymond “Moe” Bauer and his son, Paul, were in Atlanta to see the Braves play the Montreal Expos, managed at the time by Gene Mauch. Moe called a batboy over to his seat near the dugout and handed him a ring. “Take this to Coach Mauch and ask him if he’ll see the person who owns this ring.”

Moments later Mauch looked up into the stands, quickly recognizing his former teammate, as skinny as ever. “Hey, Moe, come on down.”

When people asked Moe about the 1956 Los Angeles Angels, he showed them the championship ring given the players after capturing the Pacific Coast League title. “It’s not a World Series ring. But it’s a beautiful ring – the most beautiful minor league ring I’ve seen. There are only 25 or so of them around.”

Moe died in 2005. Paul now wears his father’s ring on his right hand. Bob Speake, the team’s left-fielder, wore his Angels championship ring every day until 2011 when Bruce, his oldest son, celebrated his 56th birthday. “This way I know the ring will stay in the family.”

Speake was wearing his ring in 2002 when he and centerfielder Gale Wade met pitcher Dave Hillman, a 21-game winner for the ’56 Angels, in Newland, North Carolina for a mini-reunion.  Wade lives nearby in Dysartsville, North Carolina, and Hillman in Kingsport, Tennessee. Bob and Dave immediately compared their rings, and, then, chided Wade for not wearing his. “I’ve got it in a safe deposit box,” Gale explained. “I’ll give it to my grandson.”

Dave Hillman wears his championship ring proudly.

Dave Hillman proudly wears his championship ring.

The oval-shaped gold ring features a baseball diamond over two crossed bats, topped by a crown with diamonds. Four small diamonds representing infield bases flank a big round diamond in the middle. The initials L.A. are on one side of the baseball diamond, and the numerals 56 on the other. At the bottom are the letters PCL.

Mauch was involved in the design of the ring just as he was in virtually every other aspect of the team. “Bob Scheffing was our manager but Mauch was the cat’s meow on the field,” said Eddie Haas, a starting outfielder until Wade joined the Angels a month into the season.  “He told everybody where to go, what to do.”

 

The Angels closed the 1956 season with a special day for their star, Steve Bilko.  That evening Angel president John Holland treated the players and their wives to a performance by Nat “King” Cole at the swank Coconut Grove in L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel.

For Speake, the gathering symbolized the esprit de corps from Holland at the top of the organization down through Scheffing and the players. “It was just like a big family.”

“You won’t find that happening very often,” said Gene Fodge, a pitcher who won 19 games. “It was a fine thing and that’s just what 1956 was all about.”

Cole, a big Angels fan, mingled with the players and, then, entertained them with a medley of hit songs, including Unforgettable:

Unforgettable, that’s what you are

Unforgettable through near and far… ©

The players soon scattered near and far but they had their rings to remind them of an unforgettable season.

UNFORGETTABLE

By Irving Gordon

©Copyright 1951 by Bourne Co.

Copyright Renewed

All Rights Reserved International Copyright Secured

ASCAP

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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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