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Mota’s Magical Memories – Guest’s Corner

One of the best memories for me in the playoffs was having my dad in the booth as a fan, cheering the Angels on, and to see how happy he was for Mike Scioscia.

In Guest’s Corner; Angels, Fox West and MLB Network broadcasting guru, José Mota, provides insight into his career, talks former Angels Hall of Fame hopefuls and gives tips to UK baseball players.

After starting my broadcast career for Fox Sports in 1997, I was thrilled when the Angels gave me the opportunity to become a Major League broadcaster in 2002. Regardless of my strong ties to the Dodgers, for which I am totally thankful, my ultimate goal was to become a broadcaster for a franchise, bottom line. I actually got my first ever chance to broadcast for a big league team with the Dodgers, as I sat in to replace a great mentor, Hall of Famer, Jaime Jarrin, on Dodgers Spanish radio. Jaime and his beautiful family took a long-awaited vacation one season and he and the team called me in to work with his great partner back then, Pepe Yñiguez. But the Angels truly opened a door that I feel so blessed to have walked into, considering the many platforms I’ve been exposed to, and they’ve given me the opportunity to broadcast to the Latinos and to the English-speaking fans. I absolutely love the Angels fan base, as they have welcomed me into their homes now for 19 years. You rock!

My dad [baseball legend Manny Mota] has always been very proud of how good the Dodgers teams were that he was an integral part of, and very thankful for the opportunities to be part of World Series winners; he knew what it took to build and to prepare a champion. As for me… Talk about timing… I was fortunate and blessed enough to join the Angels in Spanish radio to enjoy the magical ride in 2002; what a season! Along with myself, also joining were Terry Smith and Rory Markas (RIP) as the new English-radio team. It was so wonderful to join Iván Lara, my new broadcast partner, such a great organization and a wonderful team. I felt right at home immediately after being hired by the Disney group, as I had been friends with Tim Mead (then the VP Communications, current president of the Baseball HOF) one of the best ambassadors this game has ever had, and a team that was managed by another old friend in Mike Scioscia. I met Mike when I was 15, when he played Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic for Licey. Along with him, many of the team’s coaches I had also met as a youngster. My father was very influential in me understanding the ups and downs of a long, winding MLB season, as as he always says “don’t get too high or don’t get too low” as you ride the wave. He saw the talent of that team and he was very optimistic that with Scioscia, Bill Stoneman as the GM, the coaches, and the hunger, that the team was going to be capable of doing great things… and he was right. One of the best memories for me in the playoffs was having my dad in the booth as a fan, cheering the Angels on, and to see how happy he was for Mike Scioscia.

Believe in the dream and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing what you love and believe in. There is no substitute for diligent work, for applying yourself, for having a drive to succeed, and for the discipline needed to get there.

Talking of great teams and players from the Angel’s past, it would mean the world and more for a country like Venezuela to see another great player represent them in Cooperstown. For the beautiful people from that beloved Latin corner, I will hold on to the hope that Bobby Abreu will get votes to escalate in the near future. In a fair world, there’s no doubt he’d be in the Hall of Fame. Bobby was a dynamic player, with multiple tools, which he knew how to utilize to make himself a force to help his team accomplish success on the field. Plus Bobby has always been a first-class citizen and truly deserves it! Similarly, Torii Hunter, a great friend, as is Bobby, the numbers, longevity, leadership are all there to make it to Cooperstown. The question becomes which players he comes closer to in terms of comparisons. I’d love to see them both get in, as they are outstanding fellas, humble, and giving. Both have helped me become a better broadcaster.

If I could give any advice to young UK baseball players, and players across the Commonwealth who represent the Great Britain team and their nations, is to believe in the dream and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing what you love and believe in. There is no substitute for diligent work, for applying yourself, for having a drive to succeed, and for the discipline needed to get there. Practice, practice, and practice more. Use tools like social media, the internet, YouTube, and specialized platforms that can teach you the game from the basic fundamentals. Watch the great players, watch the average players and know that there’s something to be learned from those that play or have played at the highest level. Be patient as your skills develop, and know that in baseball there’s a lot of failure, which will eventually serve the young player to build perseverance and to always find ways to improve. Think LIMITLESS. 

If you would like to take over Guest’s Corner, with a contribution for our UK readers and fan club members to enjoy, please get in touch.

What’s In A Name? The Curious History of Archaic British Baseball

As Britain prepared itself for the arrival of the Spalding funded 1889 Chicago White Stockings tour, bemused readers of the newspaper articles covering the efforts were quick to point out that baseball was not just British, but that we were rather good at it.

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes on the fascinating heritage of British baseball.

Sport in Great Britain has a curious habit of inventing rival codified rules and regulations that lead to the emergence of sports with distinctively different identities but a shared heritage, and baseball is one such example. Often cited as being American as apple pie, the actual earliest known mention and illustration of baseball were published in John Newbery’s A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, in 1744, and on the 31st of March 1755 William Bray, an English diarist, recorded that he had played “base ball” that day. Even the distinct American professional rules and leagues were largely influenced by a cricketing family from Sheffield, England, facts that A. G. Spalding largely ignored in his attempts to credit Abner Doubleday with the invention.

In May 2022, as part of our attempt to preserve domestic British baseball heritage, we added to our collection this 1897 cloth patch, that is a reminder of the golden era of British rules baseball. With roots in rounders, the game emerged in Wales and parts of North West England, particularly Merseyside, leading to the establishment of two rival national teams. The popularity of the game grew massively in these regions, in tandem with the rise of professionalism in American rules baseball in the United States. Professionalism in the United States was spearheaded by Englishman Harry Wright, who was central to the first professional ball club, the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the latter Boston Red Stockings, who he brought over to the United Kingdom as part of efforts to root the American rules on these shores, in 1874.

A Merseyside resident called for Stanford Perry, Secretary of the local Liverpool baseball clubs, to put together a team from local baseball and rounders clubs to challenge the Chicago White Stockings, when they arrived in Liverpool.

A member of Wright’s touring side was none other than A. G. Spalding, who was prominent amongst a number of figures who later were determined to establish professional baseball in Britain under the American rules. As Britain prepared itself for the arrival of the Spalding funded 1889 Chicago White Stockings tour, bemused readers of the newspaper articles covering the efforts were quick to point out that baseball was not just British, but that we were rather good at it. In a letter to the Liverpool Echo, published on the 1st of March 1889, a Merseyside resident called for Stanford Perry, Secretary of the local Liverpool baseball clubs, to put together a team from local baseball and rounders clubs to challenge the Chicago White Stockings, when they arrived in Liverpool. Indeed, the English Baseball Association archive (now inaccessible) once included correspondence and literature that suggested baseball playing dockworkers from Liverpool were the ones who originally exported the game to the United States.

In October 1889 the National League of Baseball of Great Britain met at the Criterion, London, to formally establish the new American rules baseball association. In June 1890 a constitution for a new professional league, under American rules, was drawn up at the first annual meeting of the National League of Baseball of Great Britain, held at the Queens Hotel, Birmingham. This American revolution in British baseball forced the archaic British rules playing English and Welsh teams to adopt their own distinct codified rules. In May 1892 the Gloucestershire Rounders Association (the National Rounders Association) changed its name to the English Baseball Association, though in June 1892 it was reported in the Liverpool Mercury that the clubs were curiously still playing the game of rounders, not baseball. The Welsh quickly followed suit, but for a number of years there were still some distinct differences between Welsh rules and English rules variations with British baseball itself.

By the 1920’s women’s leagues were established, as were women’s international teams and attendances for key international games peaked at between 10,000 and 16,000.

By 1908 the American form of baseball had failed to achieve the full professional aspirations of Spalding (and others such as Francis Ley) but the British rules game had blossomed in amateurism, and the first international fixture between England and Wales had taken place. By the 1920’s women’s leagues were established, as were women’s international teams and attendances for key international games peaked at between 10,000 and 16,000. This rapid growth of the game (and confusion over English and Welsh minor variations) brought the need for the formation of the International Baseball Board to oversee international fixtures and finally establish a British codified set of rules, in 1927. As British baseball of both codes reached its zenith sports stars from Rugby and football were found regularly playing the game, in an effort to keep fit, and famous stadia of the era from such sports hosted games.

The inter-war period saw a renewed attempt at popularisation of the American rules and professionalism in that code finally took hold, leading again to fears that the archaic British rules game would be lost. It was not uncommon for touring American teams to be challenged to play games made up of innings from both codes, during this time, though ironically as American and Canadian armed forces came to Britain for the Second World War the American rules domestic game in Britain fell into decline and the British rules game once again flourished, particularly in Wales. Sadly in 2015 England were forced to withdraw from the annual international games as the number of people playing British baseball could no longer sustain an international roster. In 2017 the Welsh league almost capitulated, but the Welsh Baseball Union has managed to preserve a domestic league and has been working hard to reintroduce the archaic game in Wales. The English Baseball Association survives, but with teams only in the Liverpool area. As our own love of Major League Baseball grows in the United Kingdom, and our own domestic game under those auspices is supported to bloom, it is essential we similarly find a way to preserve and fund the British code.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

A British Angel

“I honestly had no idea it was possible… I’m not really sure how [Great Britain] found out, but a coach contacted me in the middle of summer and asked if he could pass my information along to the Great Britain coach and asked if I was interested in playing, and I said, ‘Yeah, sure, that’d be awesome!”

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

Just one person (at the time of writing) holds the distinction of having represented the Angels in Major League Baseball, alongside representing the Great Britain national baseball team. Born in 1990, in Greenville, South Carolina, pitcher Michael Roth enjoyed a typical American upbringing, playing ball in both high school and college. Roth’s talent as a young player, however, led him to being a high school All American and winning two successive College World Series titles. In 2011 Michael was drafted by the Cleveland Indians but opted to stay in education and spent time in Europe, as part of his degree.

Like many other Americans Roth has family roots in Europe, Kettering in England to be exact, where his mother was born. Through this he holds dual citizenship and qualifies to represent both Great Britain and the United States, but until Team GB coaching staff made contact with him, Michael had no idea of his eligibility. “I honestly had no idea it was possible… I’m not really sure how [Great Britain] found out, but a coach contacted me in the middle of summer and asked if he could pass my information along to the Great Britain coach and asked if I was interested in playing, and I said, ‘Yeah, sure, that’d be awesome!”

“I think it deserves to be included as otherwise it is withholding a large group from participating and pulling on their national jerseys.”

On completion of his college career Roth was drafted by the Angels, in the 2012 draft, and was with their minor league affiliates, the Orem Owls, when the opportunity to pitch for Great Britain in the 2013 World Baseball Classic qualifiers opened up for him. Sadly for Britain they were unable to progress into the finals, and Michael was forced to concentrate on his MLB aspirations. It is important to point out that doomestic baseball in Great Britain lacks the funding and infrastructure that it deserves, having fallen from brief professional status in the 1890’s to amateur status, the Great Britain team did defeat the United States to win the 1938 Baseball World Cup, but the lack of funding today is a serious obstacle to international progression.

Following the Beijing Olympics, in 2008, baseball was shockingly removed from the Olympic programme, which for nations like Britain that allocated development funds to sports via Olympic status, and with London 2012 on the horizon, this was a huge blow. In 2013 Roth passionately called for the reinstating of baseball to the Olympics for Tokyo 2020, knowing the importance of that to British baseball hopes. He said; “I think it deserves to be included as otherwise it is withholding a large group from participating and pulling on their national jerseys.”

In April 2013 Michael made his MLB debut with the Angels, pitching two hitless innings versus the Houston Astros. Sadly for Roth his Major League career somewhat stalled, and he spent the next few years playing professional baseball on minor league contracts, for a number of MLB affiliates. In 2016 he made his final MLB appearance, for the Texas Rangers, and represented Great Britain again in their unsuccessful 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifying campaign.

In 2018 Roth announced his intention to step back from professional baseball, to concentrate on a new career in real estate. “I’ve never really liked the word retire” Roth said at the time, “Most people view retiring as not working and I will definitely be doing that! I view it more as a career change.” Michael pulled on the Great Britain jersey one final time in the 2019 European Baseball Championship finals, before bowing out of the sport. He reflected; “I’m just grateful that I had the opportunity to play at that level… Baseball provided me with a ton of opportunities. I got a chance to play overseas in Germany and in the Dominican Republic. I’ve traveled all over [the United States], I’m thankful for the time I got to play in those seven seasons.”

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Three Out of Four? Ain’t Bad!

“You don’t give rings to nine guys, you give rings to twenty-five guys.”

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

Born in New York, in 1968, Clay Bellinger boasts of three World Series wins, despite only playing for four years at the pinnacle of Major League Baseball. As an outfielder and infielder Bellinger was drafted by the San Francisco Giants, in the 1989 draft, where he spent a decade plying a trade in the minor leagues. In April 1999 Bellinger finally got a taste of the big time, with the New York Yankees, before going on to play just 183 games in Major League Baseball. Despite such a truncated career in the big leagues Clay won the World Series title in 1999 and 2000 with the Yankees, as a utility player that saw him appear in those few seasons in New York in almost every position except pitcher.

Having been released by the Yankees Bellinger instantly caught the attention of then Anaheim Angels General Manager Bill Stoneman, who was looking for a versatile player, who would happily fill in where needed with minimal fuss. Despite his limited appearances for the Yankees Clay was outspoken in his pride of being a World Series winner there, saying; “You don’t give rings to nine guys, you give rings to twenty-five guys.” Stoneman hoped that Bellinger’s experience would provide the players in the locker room with someone they could turn to both in emergencies and for sage advice. Despite only appearing in two games Bellinger went on to secure his third ring, as the Angels secured the 2002 World Series. The Angels then sent Bellinger down to the minors, before he was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles, but remained in the minor leagues.

”That’s the coolest thing, to see your son’s big-league debut. And it came against the Giants, the team I was drafted by and spent six or seven years in the minors with. That moment was probably the most fulfilling.”

Bellinger used his exile from MLB to appear in the 2004 Olympics, in Greece, in an attempt to earn recognition and promotion back to the big leagues (Orioles owner, Peter Angelos was instrumental in the Greek recruitment of North American players). Despite the United States of America failing to qualify, in controversial fashion, for the summer games, a number of North Americans were given the opportunity to take part when they were sought out by hosts, Greece. Hailing from Greek ancestry Bellinger held the unique position of being the only player at the games to have won the World Series. Despite packing their roster with Americans (and just one Greek born player) the Greeks performed miserably, and Clay’s mission to regain his MLB status failed to materialise.

Following retirement from professional baseball Bellinger became a firefighter with the Gilbert fire department, in Arizona, and coached Little League. In his capacity as a parent and Little League coach Clay was instrumental in the rise of two sons, Cody and Cole, to being drafted into MLB. Bellinger took particular satisfaction from attending Cody’s MLB debut, with the Los Angeles Dogders, he said; “That’s the coolest thing, to see your son’s big-league debut. And it came against the Giants, the team I was drafted by and spent six or seven years in the minors with. That moment was probably the most fulfilling.” With true irony Clay was given the duty of pitching to his son, Cody, in the 2017 MLB Home Run Derby, at Marlins Park, finally taking up pitching duties in MLB (of sorts).

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Sal Fasano, The Man Who Refused to Walk Away

“It’s hard for me to justify what those guys did when I’ve had to work twice as hard as they did just to get a job.”

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

Sal Fasano, born in 1971 in Chicago, Illinois was aged nine when he begged his still fresh off the boat Italian immigrant parents to sign him up for Little League baseball. Over the next two decades he carved out a reputation as a good catcher and was picked up by the Kansas City Royals, in the 37th round of the 1993 June amateur draft. It took until 1996 for the Royals to call Fasano up to make his big league debut, and at times he reflected that he felt disappointed at being overlooked, passed over. For the next few seasons he found his playing time limited, sharing starting duties with regular starter Mike Macfarlane and a rising prospect Mike Sweeney. In March 2000 the Oakland Athletics purchased Fasano’s contract, but yet again he found himself as backup.

It was during his time with the Athletics that Sal realised that people around him were using steroids to bulk up and enhance their careers. In a 2009 Reader’s Digest article Fasano reflected on a conversation he had with his brother, Mike, who had informed Sal that he could obtain an undetectable steroid. Mike told him; “Sal, I think you really should consider taking stuff. Look around you. I know a lot of guys are doing it, it’s obvious. Why not make yourself better? You can be either a mediocre player or a great player. You can make either $200,000 a year or $10 million a year.” Fasano declined the offer, choosing to rely on his God given talent.

In his short stint in Oakland Fasano played his part in helping them win the American League West division title and made his only post season appearance, as a defensive replacement. In May 2001 the Kansas City Royals purchased Fasano back from the Athletics, but he appeared in only 3 games for them, before being traded to the Colorado Rockies, in June, where he played in 25 games. From here Fasano entered a merry go round of sorts. On December 21st 2001 he was granted free agency by the Rockies and on January 11th 2002 he was signed as a free agent by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who then released him on June 1st, 2002. On June 6th 2002 he was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers then on July 31st 2002 he was traded away to the Anaheim Angels, for Jorge Fabregas.

”My career has been a really big disappointment.”

Angels fans need no reminder that the 2002 season was a hugely successful campaign, with the Halos securing the World Series in memorable fashion, but despite technically being a World Series champion, Fasano played only managed to play two games for the Angels, going 0 for 1 at the plate with a strikeout. On November 5th he was released by the Angels, after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, an injury that led to him missing all of 2003. Fasano went on to bounce around the majors and minors until finally retiring, in 2009, stating; ”My career has been a really big disappointment.” Despite this, many greats of Major League Baseball remained great admirers of Fasano as a colleague and as a man.

The publication of the Mitchell Report really helped Fasano put his journeyman career into some focus, but did little to ease the anger at how he felt he had been the victim of performance enhancing drugs, identifying a number of catchers who were found guilty of being steroid users who were picked ahead of him. He reflected; “It’s hard for me to justify what those guys did when I’ve had to work twice as hard as they did just to get a job.” With his playing career behind him Fasano has forged a career in baseball coaching and management, first in the minors and, since 2017, in the majors as the catching instructor for the Atlanta Braves, with whom he won his second World Series, in 2021. Hopefully Fasano can now reflect on that achievement, and his long career in baseball so far, with a renewed sense of pride.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

The Forgotten Age of Northern English Professional Baseball

The small trophy in our possession clearly hints at a past glory, a time of professionalism for our sport that has long since passed and the likes we are almost certain to never see again on these shores.

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes on the fascinating heritage of British baseball.

Left to right: Bellafoire, Coward, Howard and Ritchie

In June 2021 we happened to stumble across a small, quite damaged little trophy engraved “N of E Baseball League – 1937- runners up” for sale, and in desperate need of rescue. In June 1935 the North of England Baseball League was already established and making headway with it’s then semi-professional arrangement. The Merseyside region had taken advantage of it’s heritage locally of the Welsh and English version of baseball to forge ahead with introducing the ‘American code’ of the game in recent years, and the North of England Baseball League had been the logical next step. The standout team of the 1935 season were the champions Oldham Greyhounds, though another team with big ambitions were the amateur Rochdale Greys, who uniquely had a roster made up entirely of Mormon missionaries from Utah, and whose players refused to accept payment for their talent.

The North of England Baseball League was primarily made up of clubs based in what is now Greater Manchester, many who held links to professional football (Association Football or soccer) clubs in the region. This new league was at times met with some disdain from residents of the Liverpool area, who held the opinion that they had spent years popularising the ‘American code’ whilst Manchester did not and yet their clubs were being overlooked. The driving force behind the rise of ‘American code’ baseball in Lancashire as a whole had long been Littlewoods Pools owner, John Moores, who had financially invested heavily into his dream of professionalism in northern England. Legend has it that Moores’ obsession stemmed from a chance meeting with John Heydler, the President of the National League, whilst in the United States. It was said that Moores made Heydler a one dollar bet that one day professionalism would exist in England and that England would defeat the United States (more on this later). From this his National Baseball Association in England was born.

By November of 1935 the defeated North of England Baseball League Cup finalists, Bradford Northern (the baseball arm of the illustrious Bradford Northern rugby league football club), made the logical move from the North of England Baseball League to the new fully professional Yorkshire league, joining other rugby league heavyweights such as Hull Kingston Rovers, Wakefield Trinity and Castleford who also had baseball arms of their clubs in that league. Northern’s place in the North of England Baseball League was taken up by the newly formed Liverpool Giants Baseball Club. The logic behind the new Yorkshire league was that the north would have two separate professional leagues, with the North of England Baseball League (now becoming fully professional) and the new Yorkshire league covering the north of England, with London to have the third professional league.

The driving force behind the rise of ‘American code’ baseball in Lancashire as a whole had long been Littlewoods Pools owner, John Moores, who had financially invested heavily into his dream of professionalism in northern England.

In December the new Liverpool Giants Baseball Club announced that they had signed their first players, James Cawley, a pitcher who had been plying his trade on the amateur circuit in the Merseyside area, with the Albion Baseball Club. Cawley was reputedly the bearer of one of the hottest fastballs in England. The club also acquired catcher Alf Coward, Sam Casey for left field and rather interestingly signed a local boxer, Ken Robinson, as first baseman. The secretary of the club was elected, Mr T Wilson, with his headquarters being at 51 Alverstone Road. The new club hired Jim Kelly to play short stop and coach.

By March 1936 the National Baseball Association had restructured it’s association entirely, with their headquarters moving to London. Notably representatives of both Liverpool and Everton football clubs were elected to leading roles, and John Moores acting as President:

G R Holmes (Liverpool Football Club) – Chairman
Ernest Green (Everton Football Club Director/Chairman) – Vice Chairman
John Charles Rouse (Liverpool Football Club Director) – Treasurer
G F Gledhill – Secretary
Theo Kelly (Everton Football Club Manager) – Executive
J F Langford (Liverpool County Football Association) – Executive
S B Bryan – Executive
P O’Grady – Executive

Also in March it was confirmed that the Giants would represent the city in the now professional North of England Baseball League, with the Giants to be based at Stanley Greyhound Stadium (Stanley Track). Stanley Track was located on Prescott Road in the City, and offered decent facilities, with standard admission being 6d (six pence) and admission to the stands being 1s (one shilling). In an effort to recruit families the admission for women was half price and for children just 2d. It is interesting to note that for the 1936 season, across the three professional leagues in Britain, there was an agreed salary cap of £2 10s per game for baseball players, with the average player starting three games per week.

It was confirmed that the Giants would represent the city [of Liverpool] in the now professional North of England Baseball League, with the Giants to be based at Stanley Greyhound Stadium…

In the 1936 season the Giants believed that they had enough strength in depth to have a second team in the Division Two of the North of England Baseball League, the Liverpool Royals, whilst maintaining the Giants as genuine title contenders. Amongst the 1936 roster the Giants had a number of professional football players such as; Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper Alec Scott, and Port Vale full-back Harry Griffiths. A number of North Americans such as Edinburgh University player Ben Geringer (a native of West Virginia), Edward (Eddie) O’Melia (of Kansas City), Allan Forrest (of Scarsdale) and Canadian Bob Schofield were also on their books.

As early as May the local Liverpool press were bemoaning the fact that the new North of England Baseball League’s professional status had drained the local region of it’s best talent, including Littlewoods Baseball Club, the ‘works club’ of National Baseball Association President John Moores. The level of development in ‘the American code’ was so high in the Liverpool area that the new Yorkshire league was also tapping up their umpires. Towards the end of May 1936 an arrangement between the North of England Baseball League and London Major League that placed limits of transfers and fees was abandoned, with the northern clubs unhappy that this would result in a drain of the best professional talent to the London clubs.

In June Liverpool Giants signed a new catcher to their roster, D Wagner of the Oregon State League, in doing so releasing P Murray who joined former Liverpool area umpire William Cleasby, now coaching Bradford City Sox. Wagner faced serious competition for the catcher’s spot, with former Edinbrough University baseball player W Bellafoire, likely another American, becoming the latest star for the Giants. In July 1936, with the professional North of England Baseball League well under way, the amateur Liverpool Caledonians decided to take their star man, Everton and England footballer Dixie Dean, to challenge London side Harringay to a battle. Despite Dixie playing well the Liverpool amateurs were taught a harsh lesson by the Londoners.

Bootle Baseball Club welcomed Japanese baseball team Toyooka Maru to Merseyside. The fully amateur Bootle easily defeated the Japanese touring side 20 to 4 and it was noted that baseball in the area was now of such a high standard that these touring international teams would no longer have the upper hand when they came to England.

Around this time in 1936 the National Baseball Association turned their attention to grass roots baseball again in Merseyside and arranged baseball coaching and classes for a number of local schools. Over recent years Moores’ money had also extended to inviting international teams to challenge Lancashire baseball sides in England and July Bootle Baseball Club welcomed Japanese baseball team Toyooka Maru to Merseyside. The fully amateur Bootle easily defeated the Japanese touring side 20 to 4 and it was noted that baseball in the area was now of such a high standard that these touring international teams would no longer have the upper hand when they came to England.

By late July it was becoming obvious that the Manchester region had stolen a march on Liverpool, and that the formation of Liverpool Giants had been a season too late, as most of the local baseball talent had already been taken by the Manchester clubs for the previous season. This left the Giants with the task of finding and training up potential new professional players mid-season, and locals were unhappy that professional players born and bred in their region were leading men for rival Manchester clubs. The Liverpool Echo also encouraged locals to attend Giants games, as attendances were below the 10,000 expectation. They reported that the player’s jerseys were clearly numbered and play by play announcements were a feature over the stadium loudspeaker, and the informative club programmes enabled new spectators to easily follow play.

In August the Giants, despite a spirited first season in the North of England Baseball League, saw the championship go to the Rochdale Greys and they were forced to settle for an acceptable third place. The nearing end of the season saw the Giants turn their attention to recruiting North American talent, with Canadian second baseman Jack Ritchie signed to the roster alongside star pitcher Jack Lands, arriving from the Montreal Intermediate Baseball League. Lands apparently was an ice hockey goaltender, as it was reported on his acquisition that he had previously won the Dave Kerr Trophy twice in Montreal. Lands arrived in Liverpool with his new bride, having married three months prior, and used his move to Britain as a honeymoon! Both players also agreed to combine their duties with the Giants with coaching clubs in the amateur leagues.

The Giants made the decision to move from Stanley Track to their own privately owned, purpose built baseball stadium on Church Road, in Wavertree. The new ‘Giants Baseball Stadium’ had a capacity of 12,000 and comfortably allowed all spectators to see the diamond from all areas.

In January 1937 the Giants were rocked by the tragic news that W Thomas, of the club’s Management Committee, had passed away. Club Manager, W F Steel, and Secretary, L Wilson, both lamented the loss of such a knowledgeable baseball man and it was noted that the loss of Thomas’ newspaper coverage of baseball nationally (using the moniker ‘Chiming Bells’) would damage the growth of the sport. In March the Giants made the decision to move from Stanley Track to their own privately owned, purpose built baseball stadium on Church Road, in Wavertree. The new ‘Giants Baseball Stadium’ had a capacity of 12,000 and comfortably allowed all spectators to see the diamond from all areas.

In April it was announced that Liverpool football club winger Alf Hanson had signed for the Giants for the 1937 North of England Baseball League season, with Hanson reportedly then being one of the finest batters in the Merseyside area. The 1937 season began with the Giants retaining locally developed youth such as John Howard and Colin Grove, alongside established players such as catcher Eddie O’Melia, first baseman Bob Schofield and William (Billy) Brown. Canadian Albert (Al) Haley, a pitcher, was acquired by the Giants from Manchester Blue Sox, with John Howard, Jack Lands and Al Haley expected to be the three leading Giants starting pitchers in their rotation. Leading Merseyside amateurs, Liverpool Caledonians, were admitted to the league with Everton football great Dixie Dean combining professionalism in both sports. It was decided that clubs would no longer run reserve teams across the professional leagues.

In early May 1937 Liverpool football club threw a spanner in the works for the Giants, by declaring that Alf Hanson was barred from continuing in professional baseball, following the lead of Manchester City in banning dual sporting players due to the risk of injury. Everton though were to allow superstar Dixie Dean to continue to play for the Caledonians. In response the Giants signed former Liverpool player Lance Carr, a Blackpool Seagulls short stop who was then playing football for Newport County. The new Giants baseball stadium on Church Road was proving to be quite the draw, and it was announced that the Littlewoods works team would also use the new facility as their home ground, with Giants’ Jack Ritchie to act as their Coach, alongside former Liverpool footballer Cyrill Gilhespy.

Leading Merseyside amateurs, Liverpool Caledonians, were admitted to the [North of England] league with Everton football great Dixie Dean combining professionalism in both sports.

On the opening day of the 1937 season the Giants defeated Blackpool Seagulls easily, with new star pitcher Al Haley making light work of the Seagulls batters to the delight of the crowd at the new baseball ground in Wavertree. Towards the end of June the Giants were comfortably top of the North of England Baseball League but by mid-July their grip on the title had loosened significantly. Jack Lands, by now a relief pitcher, was traded to Blackpool Seagulls and the Giants acquired first baseman L Godin from Wakefield Cubs, of the Yorkshire league. In the season’s title run in the Giants ironically placed their hopes of overhauling leaders Oldham Greyhounds in the hands of their Merseyside rivals, the Liverpool Caledonians, who took on the Greyhounds in their final match of the season. Sadly for the Giants the Greyhounds proved their bogey side, in both league and cup competitions, and they had to settle for the North of England Baseball League runners-up spot.

In February 1938 it was announced that the North of England League and the Yorkshire league were making plans to amalgamate both professional competitions into one, with limits on professionalism. The thinking was that this would encourage greater attendances and interest from locals, though it must have been some disappointment to the Giants, who had seen their attendances improve since their move to their new stadium in Wavertree. Indeed the prophecy of Moores’ came true in 1938, when 10,000 excited fans packed into the new stadium to see the Giants’ own Jack Ritchie feature for England, against the USA touring side, which had arrived in Britain in preparation for the 1940 Olympics. In defeating the US team over the test the English became the first Baseball World Champions and Moores won his bet.

This new Yorkshire-Lancashire league came to fruition, with the Giants as members, but the interruption of World War Two destroyed baseball in England and the Liverpool Giants as a professional baseball club died with it. The USA team selected for the Olympics and defeated by England in the Baseball World Cup also saw their Olympic dream vanish. In fact it took the USA until 1974 to win their one and only amateur Baseball World Cup title. In July 1941 former North of England Baseball League players arranged to put a number of the league’s stars to work in an exhibition game, to assist the War Relief Fund, in Birmingham. In January 1950 representatives of clubs from Hull, Halifax, Liverpool, Oldham, Rochdale and Swinton met in Manchester and decided to revive a new North of England Baseball League but to no avail.

The small trophy in our possession clearly hints at a past glory, a time of professionalism for our sport that has long since passed and the likes we are almost certain to never see again on these shores. The trophy with base stands at a diminutive 15cm high (the trophy itself actually is slightly less than 11cm and clearly has been crushed at some point) and has been (badly) polished to within an inch of it’s life in the past. It’s importance would be unseen by the majority of the English population, who hold no interest in our game of baseball or it’s heritage. The Electro Plated Nickel Silver trophy was in quite a state when we acquired it, the black wooden base appears to be a later marriage and after us lightly cleaning and trying to preserve the trophy it became evident that at some time, after-the-fact, someone had crudely scratched the name ‘W E Pearce’ under the engraving. At the time of writing there is no evident player of this name for the Giants in the 1937 North of England Baseball League.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Fritz Brickell, the Little Rabbit

“Brickell bounds around like a little rabbit, grabbing everything in sight and getting the ball away with amazing speed.”

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

At just 5ft 5in or thereabouts, Fritz Brickell was a player who was short in height, played short stop, was only in the Major Leagues for a short time and sadly lived a short life. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Brickell was the son of former Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder ‘Fred’ Brickell. The pair became the first father and son combination to be elected to the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1976. Brickell was picked up by the New York Yankees in 1953, spending eight years navigating the Yankees farm system, earning praise from Frank Haraway, who wrote; “Brickell bounds around like a little rabbit, grabbing everything in sight and getting the ball away with amazing speed.”

During those minor league years Brickell was proven to be a capable young player but doubts were evident over the amount of errors he made in the field, Brickell himself openly discussed that he had a tendency to rush his throws, but his skill in making double plays was noted as being of merit, despite his erratic throwing. On April the 30th 1958 Brickell finally made his big league debut for the Yankees as a defensive replacement, but his time in the spotlight was fleeting and he was sent back down to the minors. His progress was interrupted further when he suffered a broken ankle, in July, but the determined shortstop travelled to play in the Dominican league over winter to recuperate.

“I never really felt I had a chance to play in the big leagues… I only played a few innings, then back to the minors I went… You can’t do anything if you don’t get a chance to play.”

In June 1959 the Yankees chose to recall their diminutive player, and on the 25th of July Brickell hit his only Major League home run, but again he was returned to the minors by the Yankees shortly after. Interestingly the Baseball Digest reported that it was “questionable whether he could handle major league pitching”. Brickell obviously disagreed, he failed to report on his return to the minors and was fined for his behaviour. Brickell said; “I never really felt I had a chance to play in the big leagues… I only played a few innings, then back to the minors I went… You can’t do anything if you don’t get a chance to play.” On the 4th of April 1961, a week prior to Opening Day, Brickell was traded to the Angels for their inaugural season. Sadly just days later, on April the 8th Brickell’s father died unexpectedly.

On April the 11th Brickell started as shortstop with the Angels, becoming their first ever starting shortstop, versus the Baltimore Orioles. Despite an unexpected win for the team his personal performance was less than perfect. In the second inning Brickell’s two errors led to the Orioles putting down the first ever run against the expansion team, in the process Brickell became the first ever Angels player to record an error. The local press were scathing in their reporting of Brickell’s error strewn run of games with the Halos, and it was no shock when he was told his future lay elsewhere in May. After a short time in the majors in the proceeding months Brickell retired from the game and tragically passed away in October 1965 from cancer, at just thirty years of age.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Twice an Angel, ‘Stout’ Steve Bilko

Bobby Grich recalled his days as a young fan of the Pacific Coast League Angels and said that Bilko “was our Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams all rolled into one.”

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

A native of Nanticoke, Pennsylvania ‘Stout’ Steve Bilko was a hard drinking, big hitting first baseman who carved out notoriety for his home run hitting, during his time in the Pacific Coast League. At the tender age of just 16 the ‘big boned’ Bilko escaped his job in Pennsylvania’s coal mines, to sign for the St. Louis Cardinals, eventually making his Major League debut in September 1949. By spring training of 1950 Bilko was topping a burly 260 pounds but despite his obvious power at bat it took until 1953 for a then 25 year old Bilko to finally cement a full season in the big leagues, finishing with 21 home runs and 84 runs batted in, but a tendency to strike out that was somewhat embarrassing.

At this point Bilko could have been forgiven for believing he had locked down his place amongst the Cards roster but fate intervened, when brewing magnate Gussie Busch bought the Cardinals from their disgraced owner, Fred Saigh. Bilko was subsequently sold to the Chicago Cubs, who sent him down to their Los Angeles based Pacific Coast League farm team, at the original Wrigley Field. The compact ball park was almost custom made for Bilko’s range and his home runs became a thing of local legend, with his local star status elevated further when local Los Angeles televising broadcasting beamed his exploits to families across the region, so much so that in 1955 his name was adopted by Phil Silvers for his Sgt. Bilko character.

The compact ball park was almost custom made for Bilko’s range and his home runs became a thing of local legend…

The Angels ball club steadily built a team with immense talent around their star man, known as the Babe Ruth of the Palm Tree Division. The Bilko Athletic Club, as they became lovingly known, were notorious for their hitting, with Bilko hitting a heroic 148 home runs in just three years, and being most valuable player in three consecutive seasons. Then in 1957 the Cubs sold the Angels franchise and Wrigley field to the Brooklyn Dodgers, with Bilko eventually being sold to the Cincinnati Reds. The stay in Cincinnati was short lived and he was traded to the Dodgers, by now settled in their new home of Los Angeles, and Bilko was given the reception of a returning hero by the Los Angeles locals. Sadly the move appeared, in hindsight, to be little more than a public relations stunt by the Dodgers, to ingratiate themselves with the locals.

By the time that the expansion draft occurred for the 1961 season Bilko had been demoted back to the minors by the Dodgers and had a brief but unsuccessful Major League return with the Detroit Tigers. At 32 years of age the Angels of the American League gave Bilko one last shot at the majors and a dream return home to his beloved Wrigley Field. When named in the opening day line up Bilko became the first player to play for both Angels teams. In the inaugural 1961 season Bilko appeared in 114 games and hit 20 home runs, 11 of them at Wrigley Field, including a homer that cleared the left field wall on the very last game played at the stadium. Perhaps most fittingly of all Bobby Grich recalled his days as a young fan of the Pacific Coast League Angels and said that Bilko “was our Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams all rolled into one.” Bilko passed away in March 1978 at just 49.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Ken Hunt – Strongest Arm in the Majors?

Left unprotected by the Yankees Hunt found himself available for the expansion draft and, whilst working for a Minnesota radio station as a newsreader, he read that he had been selected by the Angels for the 1961 season.

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

Cited by writer Jeff Mays as a possible contender for being the first victim of the ‘Angels curse’ due to a career cut short well before his prime, Ken Hunt’s name belongs in the record books of Halos history as the first Angels player to hit a double, versus Boston Red Sox, in the 1961 inaugural season. A tall, powerful right handed batter and outfielder, the native of Grand Forks, North Dakota Hunt began his baseball career with the New York Yankees, where he roomed with his childhood friend, Roger Maris, in 1960. Hunt, like Maris, was an accomplished all round athlete and he signed for the the Yankees, in 1952. He performed well in their farm system until 1955, when army service somewhat interrupted his excellent progress.

Never one to miss out on his sporting opportunities Hunt remained active in baseball during his army service, and was recognised for his talent when named as one of the Fifth Army All Star team. Rejoining the Yankees, Hunt was called up to spring training in 1957 and again in 1959 but was unable to break though to the seniors, who bristled with immense talent such as Mickey Mantle. During this period Hunt also spent time playing winter baseball overseas, in Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Colombia. On September the 10th 1959 he finally made his big league debut for the Yankees, and in 1960 spring training he earned his spot on the Yankees Major League roster, but again found himself surplus by May. In September he was again called up by the Yankees, ending the season hitting .273 from 25 games.

Never one to miss out on his sporting opportunities Hunt remained active in baseball during his army service, and was recognised for his talent when named as one of the Fifth Army All Star team.

Left unprotected by the Yankees Hunt found himself available for the expansion draft and, whilst working for a Minnesota radio station as a newsreader, he read that he had been selected by the Angels for the 1961 season. Tommy Lasorda, employed at the time as a scout with the Los Angeles Dodgers said the Angels would “be surprised at his power once he really gets going.” Indeed Halos General manager, Fred Haney, was delighted with his new man, he said; “He can do everything. He’s fast, covers a lot of ground in center field, has a good arm, and hits with power” and it was reported by some that Hunt had the strongest throwing arm of all outfielders in the majors, at that time. Selected for the roster for the Angel’s first ever Major League game, versus the Baltimore Orioles, Hunt finally found himself as a regular starter and in 149 games that season he hit .255, smashing 25 home runs and had 84 runs batted in.

That 1961 season saw Hunt hit 29 doubles and he scored 70 runs, and his 25 home runs by a rookie was an Angels record for decades, until it was broken by Tim Salmon in 1993. Hunt also hit the Halos first ever triple, versus his old employers the Yankees, in that 1961 season. Overall, despite being prone to too many errors in the outfield, Hunt’s rookie Angels season was a huge success. In a spring exhibition game in preparation for the 1962 season disaster struck for Hunt when he tore muscles in his right shoulder and developed an aneurysm in his shoulder that required surgery. Despite attempts at a comeback with the Angels and later with the Washington Senators, his career seemed over before it’s peak, when he admitted defeat and decided to spend the 1965 season away from baseball.

Upon returning to Los Angeles to live, Hunt signed up to the Screen Actor’s Guild and appeared in an episode of The Munsters alongside his stepson, Butch Patrick, who played the Eddie Munster in the family favourite television show. Despite last appearing for the Senators in the Major League way back in October of 1964, he was then traded to the Chicago Cubs for the 1966 season, but ultimately never played for the Cubs, before retiring from baseball for good that season. In June 1997 Hunt settled down to watch the Angels on television, with a particular interest in checking on the progress of fellow North Dakotan outfielder, Darin Erstad. In the comfort of his home, watching his Angels play ball Hunt sadly passed away from heart failure, aged just 62 years old.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

A Family Tradition – Guest’s Corner

The big tradition for Seniors was to go to Myrtle Beach with your friends, after graduating, for a week. My Dad came home one night and asked if I would be willing to forgo that trip with my friends, if he could take me to Anaheim to watch an Angels game instead.

In Guest’s Corner; long time Angels fan Steve Crute gives an American perspective on being a Halos addict and his efforts to continue a special family tradition.

I grew up in a small town on the Virginia-North Carolina border, so it seemed a little strange that my favourite baseball team was the California Angels instead of the usual Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, or even the dreaded New York Yankees, that everyone else in town supported. How did I get to be an Angels fan? Well, game six of the 1977 World Series is the first game that I remember watching and Reggie Jackson hit those 3 mammoth home runs for those Yankees to beat the evil Los Angeles Dodgers. I became hooked on the sport that night and Reggie became my favourite player. When he signed with the Halos, I became an Angels fan. This meant looking at box scores that were two days old quite often just to see how they did. We didn’t have cable so unless they played on the game of the week or Monday Night Baseball, I was out of luck. I will never forget being in the mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania and my Mom spotted a glorious Angels satin jacket and immediately bought it. I wore it and later a newer one all through High School. I still have both jackets and no, they don’t fit anymore. In the spring of 1988, I was finishing up my Senior Year in High School and looking forward to going off to college in the fall. The Angels had broken my heart in 1982, came up short in 1985, and then crushed my spirit again in 1986, but now they had Wally Joyner so my sports fanhood was going to be okay. The big tradition for Seniors was to go to Myrtle Beach with your friends, after graduating, for a week. My Dad came home one night and asked if I would be willing to forgo that trip with my friends, if he could take me to Anaheim to watch an Angels game instead. I loved my friends (and I still do), but there was never a doubt that I would pass up the beach with them to go see my Angels play. It was rare to see them play on TV so a chance to see them play in Anaheim was just too good to pass up. It also meant flying on an airplane for the first time which would become a “rule” for me when I children of my own. It was just a matter of picking the dates of the trip.

We settled for a week in mid-July around the All Star break. My Dad knew we were going to fly into LAX so he figured we would rent a car there and drive down to Anaheim. As luck would have it, the Los Angeles Dodgers had a home game on that Sunday, before the All Star break. My Dad got two tickets to watch Orel Hershiser facing the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was picture day, so we got to walk on the field at Dodger Stadium and being a good sport, I even wore a Dodgers hat. This was the summer when Hershiser would set the scoreless innings streak, but on that day, the Pirates pummelled the Dodgers by a score of 7 to 2 as Bob Walk outduelled Orel Hershiser. We stayed in Los Angeles overnight and my Dad got his first big surprise of the trip the next morning. He couldn’t rent a car because he didn’t have a credit card. That’s right, he paid cash for the trip. This also explained why it was only the two of us on the trip. It amazed me then as an 18 year old and amazes me more even today. It turned out to be a blessing as we rode in a van or something that shuttled between Los Angeles and Anaheim, and the traffic was awful! While in the area we made sure to take in the sites. We went on a tour of Universal Studios and ventured to Disneyland, but the lines were too long so we ended up leaving after a couple of hours. My Dad took a trip to Tijuana the next day and I walked to the Big A to take a tour. I ended up being the only one, so the tour was probably a lot more detailed and took longer than with a group. I remember getting to see the Los Angeles Rams locker-room (the NFL team that played their games at the stadium still at the time), seeing the doors of the Angels locker-room (not open during homestands), and getting to walk on the dirt areas of the field. The guide let me know that only players were allowed on the grass and I respectfully stayed a few feet away. The highlight was getting to see the heavy punching bag that was hanging in the hallway from the dugout, that the manager had put up. He got tired of the guys beating the walls with their bats. To be fair, their best hits that year were probably on those walls.

The highlight was getting to see the heavy punching bag that was hanging in the hallway from the dugout, that the manager had put up. He got tired of the guys beating the walls with their bats. To be fair, their best hits that year were probably on those walls.

The night of the game came (July 14, 1988) and the Detroit Tigers were in town. They had future Hall of Famer Jack Morris pitching while our Halos sent out Kirk McCaskill to the bump. Our line-up featured greats such as Devon White, Johnny Ray, Wally Joyner, Chili Davis, Brian Downing, Bob Boone, and Dick Schofield. It also featured Jack Howell and Thad Bosley (yeah, not sure who he is either). We took our seats in Row T between home plate and the Angels dugout. I wanted to get a picture of Wally but was too cool to even think about moving closer to get a better picture. Dad informed me that he hadn’t brought me 2000 miles to get a blurry photo from 200 feet away, so I walked to the front row when Wally was on deck and got a good picture. It was an outstanding game that saw Devon White drive in both runs of the game for our Halos as they won 2-0, and both pitchers went the full distance. It only took two hours, but it felt like twenty minutes. Wally Joyner got two hits, so I was thrilled with the experience. The next day we flew out of Orange County and headed home to our little town in Virginia. I was as thrilled with the experience but had zero idea that it was just the start of a family tradition. I’ve often thought of that trip and how much my Dad had to do to plan it, pay for it, and then getting to spend time with him for those few days. He knew it meant a lot to me and still does, and the day when my oldest son, Jacob, was born I mentioned to Pop that I would have to keep that tradition going in a few years. My Mom later told me that hearing that from me meant the world to him. Remember how a random game brought Reggie Jackson to be my favourite player?

Well, it happened to Jacob in a similar manner. By the time he got into baseball, I had the MLB package to watch the Halos play. We were flipping through the options and came across a Arizona Diamondbacks game. The first thing he saw was the swimming pool behind the fence, then the cool logo, and then this crazy haired blonde that played with a reckless abandon became his favourite player. That player is Eric Byrnes, and he was fun to watch, and they do have cool logos so it was easy to root for them. This was a few years after they had won the World Series, so he didn’t even jump on the bandwagon. Little did I know that his choice would lead to such a treasured memory for this old man. I started talking to Jacob about his trip when he was in High School. He seemed way less interested in it than I was, but that was fine. Our tradition was going to happen. He graduated in early summer 2018 and we had set up a plan to go out which would allow us to take in two Diamondbacks games. It would be Jacob’s first time on an airplane. Told you it became a rule! The first game was against the Pittsburgh Pirates (we had watched this match up in PNC Park, a must visit for anyone interested) a few years earlier and then the New York Mets the night before we flew home. We were hoping to watch Zack Greinke pitch, but he was on the Wednesday start and we had already planned to go tour the Phoenix area. This was the only hiccup on the trip for us. We flew into Phoenix, rented a car (yes, I have a credit card), and then headed to the hotel. Immediate reaction was “It is SOOOO HOT here”. We later drove to the game, enjoyed a nice pregame dinner at a sports bar nearby, and headed over to Chase Field. It is a fantastic stadium. We did our usual sightseeing around the park, took a picture above the pool, and found our seats way up high. It wasn’t much of a game as Diamondbacks won 13-8 and to be honest we were tired from flying out earlier that morning. The highlight was seeing Jacob’s picture on the digital board the first time when I tweeted him standing next to their famous red seat. By the 6th inning, we joked that no one else had sent in pictures as he was displayed each inning.

I’ve often thought of that trip and how much my Dad had to do to plan it, pay for it, and then getting to spend time with him for those few days. He knew it meant a lot to me and still does, and the day when my oldest son, Jacob, was born I mentioned to Pop that I would have to keep that tradition going in a few years.

The next day we went sightseeing which included touring the stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play American football. Jacob was particularly excited when the guide at the Cardinals Stadium informed us, we were in the same locker-room as the New York Giants (Jacob’s favourite team) when they defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. We enjoyed lunch at Whataburger and then drove to Tempe Diablo Stadium (Angels spring training site) to look inside. A nice worker saw us and opened the gate so we could walk around the park. I joked that if we had balls and a bat, we could probably have taken BP. We took a day trip to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on Thursday. Pictures do not do this place justice. It is amazing and our guide, Smokey, was nice enough to take a picture of us looking out towards the Canyon. This is a favourite of mine. Jacob’s favourite is the one where he pretended to be hanging on the side of the edge and sending that picture to his Mom back home. She didn’t like it as much as he did though. The drive back to Phoenix was peaceful as we were the only ones on the bus and the driver was nice enough to stop at an In-n-Out burger place after we mentioned we had never eaten at one. It was everything we had heard it would be and made a great day even better.

We spent most of our last day resting as we were exhausted. That night we went to the game versus the Mets. When we walked up to the ticket booth I asked where he wanted to sit, he threw out the normal “cheap seats”, but he got a big grin when I asked if it would be better to sit closer to the field. We sat down field level along the leftfield side and enjoyed a good game as his Diamondbacks would win 7- 3. His new favourite on the team, Goldschmidt, blasted a long home run in the first inning. We spent the part of the game walking around the concourse taking pictures with the oversized Diamondbacks legends as well as visiting all the areas we missed the first game. My favourite part of the game was visiting their Hall of Fame or display room and getting Jacob’s picture while he mimicked the look on Byrnes’ face in the picture beside him. There was nothing about either trip that I would change, the trip to Anaheim as a wide eyed 18 year old that grew to appreciate it more as the years went by, or as the much older Dad that had to make his son walk near the field to get a better picture before the game. I will admit that the most fun I had was when Jacob and I got to tell Dad all about our trip. They started talking the two different trips and laughing about dumb things I did on each. We lost Dad a few months later but I got to talk with him several times in his last days and I made sure to thank him again for starting our tradition. He wanted to know where my youngest son would want to go as they shared a love of the Atlanta Braves. Dad agreed it should be somewhere out west, but that it would be okay if the Braves were the opponent. I am looking forward to continuing the tradition in 2023 when Jackson chooses his stadium to visit. It doesn’t matter where just as long as I’m along for the trip.

If you would like to take over Guest’s Corner, with a contribution for our UK readers and fan club members to enjoy, please get in touch.

Albie Pearson, A Little Angel

“Dear Mr. Haney,” the letter read, “I know you’re forming a new ball club and I can be had for peanuts…

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

At just 5ft5” or thereabouts, the diminutive native of Alhambra, California, was often reported to be the shortest professional player in the big leagues, during his era in the game. A left handed centre fielder, Pearson initially joined the Boston Red Sox organisation, where he spent a number of years in the minors and was eventually traded to the Washington Senators, before he ever made a major league appearance. Making the breakthrough to the big time with the Senators, in 1958, Pearson excelled as a rookie and went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year award and hit .275 for the season.

In 1959 Pearson suffered with a lack of consistency, both through a hernia and chronic illness that resulted in his already small frame dropping to just 126lbs (9 stones) and he found himself being traded away to the Baltimore Orioles. The 1960 season saw Pearson again struggling to recover his form and he spent more time being sent back and forth to the minor leagues, until fate intervened and he discovered that the Los Angeles Angels had been granted an expansion slot. Pearson identified an opportunity to return to his homeland of California and, having always been forward in his letter writing (he previously successfully requested Senator’s President, Cal Griffith, allow him to attend early camp) he dug out his pen and paper to scribe a note to Angel’s General Manager Fred Haney.

He was, for a while, the darling of the Angels fans. His former teammate Bo Belinsky put it best when he said, “A lot of guys look up to the little man.”

“Dear Mr. Haney,” the letter read, “I know you’re forming a new ball club and I can be had for peanuts. I still can play and I feel I can help you at the gate because I was born in California and I got a lot of relatives. Please consider me.” Pearson was granted his wish, though just barely, when the Halos used their 30th and final pick of the draft to select him. With the Angels Pearson found form again in spring training and earned an opening day starting spot, versus his former employers, the Orioles. In fact, he was the only original Angel to start all three of their opening games of that inaugural 1961 season.

In these very first Angels games Pearson secured his place in Halos history, earning the organisation’s first walk and first single (he also went on to get the Angel’s first bunt single versus his other former club, the Red Sox, too) and he went on to hit .288 in the 1961 season. In the 1962 season Pearson hit .261 and he led the American League with 115 runs scored, then in 1963 he beat the legendary Mickey Mantle to the All-Star game. From being seen by many as something of a curiosity Pearson’s determination had earned him the respect of his peers and he was, for a while, the darling of the Angels fans. His former teammate Bo Belinsky put it best when he said, “A lot of guys look up to the little man.”

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.