The Other Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field is a baseball landmark. It thrives in nostalgia, our baseball memories contributing to its increasingly rich history.

Not that Wrigley Field, “the ivy-covered burial ground” as described eloquently yet mournfully in Steve Goodman’s song A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request.  The other Wrigley Field. The one that used to be in Los Angeles with the boundaries of Avalon Boulevard, 41st Street, 42nd Place, and San Pedro Street.

Wrigley Field debuted in 1925 under the auspices of William Wrigley Jr., owner of the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels.

Wrigley Field’s signature architectural item was a tower. A plaque at the tower’s base read:

“THIS TOWER WAS ERECTED BY WM. WRIGLEY JR. IN HONOR OF THE BASEBALL PLAYERS WHO GAVE OR RISKED THEIR LIVES IN THE DEFENCE OF THEIR COUNTRY IN THE GREAT WORLD WAR. JAN. 15, 1926”

Because of its proximity to movie and television studios, producers used Wrigley Field for scenes requiring a baseball diamond. Wrigley Field’s Hollywood résumé includes:

  • Herman Munster trying out for Leo Durocher in the Herman the Rookie episode of The Munsters
  • Gary Cooper playing Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees
  • The Heavenly Choir Nine giving seraphic assistance to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Angels in the Outfield

Wrigley Field was also the location for Home Run Derby, a 1960 television show. Hosted by Mark Scott, Home Run Derby featured two sluggers playing nine “innings” with 3 outs per slugger.  Anything that wasn’t a home run was an out.

The sluggers were: Hank Aaron, Bob Allison, Ernie Banks, Ken Boyer, Bob Cerv, Rocky Colavito, Gil Hodges, Jackie Jensen, Al Kaline, Jim Lemon, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Willie Mays, Wally Post, Frank Robinson, Duke Snider, Dick Stuart, Gus Triandos.

Today, July 2nd, marks the anniversary of the last original broadcast of Home Run Derby. Ziv Television Programs syndicated Home Run Derby on television stations across the country.  The show did not run on a network.

Mark Scott died of a heart attack on July 13, 1960. Ziv did not replace him. But Home Run Derby endures in reruns, DVD, the All-Star Game Home Run Derby inspired by the original.

When Walter O’Malley moved the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles after the 1957 baseball season, Wrigley sold the Los Angeles Angels and Wrigley Field to him along with the rights to the Fort Worth Cats, a Dodgers’ minor league team. The price tag was $3 million. This deal gave O’Malley exclusive rights in the Los Angeles market, until the California Angels set up shop.

The Angels played at Wrigley Field for their inaugural season in 1961 and then moved to Dodger Stadium in 1962. The Angels shared Dodger Stadium with the Los Angeles Dodgers for four seasons, moving to their own ballpark, Angel Stadium in Anaheim, in 1966.

As the Angels christened their new home, Wrigley Field faced demolition in 1966.

Today, the Wrigley Field site is the location for Gilbert Lindsay Park and a Kedren Community Mental Health Center. Gilbert Lindsay Park has a baseball diamond for softball games and Little League baseball games.

The players are on the grounds of history.  Los Angeles history.  Baseball history.  Entertainment history.

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