The Other Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field in Chicago celebrates its 100th anniversary this year to great fanfare while the site of the original Wrigley Field in Los Angeles goes unnoticed by the people using the senior citizens center and recreational area that took its place after the storied ballpark was demolished in 1969.

The exterior of Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field in 1961.  (Courtesy USC Digital Library: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15799coll44/id/47209/rec/6)

The exterior of Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field in 1961. (Courtesy USC Digital Library)See Below*

The L.A. Wrigley was called the “finest baseball park in the universe” when it was opened in 1925 by William K. Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate and owner of both the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Angels of the old Pacific Coast League (PCL).

The same architect who created Cubs Park and the White Sox’ Comiskey Park in Chicago designed Wrigley Field in L.A. On instructions from Wrigley, Zachary Taylor Davis made the L.A. park like the one in Chicago both as it existed in 1925 and how Wrigley wanted it to be. Cubs Park was renamed Wrigley Field the next year and eventually expanded to its current seating capacity of 41,159. Lights were added in L.A. in 1930 and night baseball was played there 58 years before Chicago’s Wrigley.

Florence Chadwick, the first woman to swim 23 miles across the English Channel in both directions, waves to Wrigley Field crowd in this 1952 photo. (Courtesy USC Digital Library:  http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15799coll44/id/76969/show/76968/rec/9 )

Florence Chadwick, the first woman to swim 23 miles across the English Channel in both directions, waves to Wrigley Field crowd in this 1952 photo. (Courtesy USC Digital Library) See Below**

“It was not his desire, however, to make it a better plant than the one the Cubs, his other club, use in Chicago but that has been done. Cub park is an excellent one, but the Angels have a better one,” the Sporting News observed.

The lavish praise didn’t last as Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field wound up being put down and passed over more times than any minor leaguer that played there.  If ballparks could talk, its last words in 1969 would’ve been Rodney Dangerfield’s catchphrase:  “I don’t get no respect.”

The centennial of Chicago’s Wrigley Field is being celebrated by five new books, including George Will’s A Nice Little Place on the North Side.  The story of the “other Wrigley Field” is the subject of a chapter, Little Wrigley, in the book, The Bilko Athletic Club. The chapter begins with this ode to the forgotten ballpark, its most popular fan (Angel Annie) and slugger (Steve Bilko):

Warren Giles, president of the National League, toured L.A.’s Wrigley Field in January 1958 but the Dodgers snubbed the ballpark for the mammoth Los Angeles Coliseum. (Courtesy USC Digital Library: http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15799coll44/id/42942/rec/59 )

Warren Giles, president of the National League, toured L.A.’s Wrigley Field in January 1958 but the Dodgers snubbed the ballpark for the mammoth Los Angeles Coliseum. (Courtesy USC Digital Library) See Below***

Where have you gone, Steve Bilko?

Wrigley Field turns its lonely eyes to you

What’s that you say, Angel Annie?

Wrigley Field has left and gone away.

 

To learn more about Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, click on the following link to a 2009 story by Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News:

http://www.insidesocal.com/tomhoffarth/2009/03/20/wrigley-field-l/#comment-1

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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:

For Baseball Fans Down Under:

For Fans in the UK:

For Fans in Taiwan:

 

* http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15799coll44/id/47209/rec/6

** http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15799coll44/id/76969/show/76968/rec/9

*** http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15799coll44/id/42942/rec/59