The Absurd History of “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”

The Angels want you to believe that they are a Los Angeles team. (via Nserrano, Nandaro & Michelle Jay)

Almost nobody noticed it, but a major league team changed its name prior to the 2016 season. Slipped into a team style sheet was a detail almost nobody noticed until this June:  The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim dropped the “of Anaheim” label and returned to the name “Los Angeles Angels” for the first time since the club moved away from Dodger Stadium in 1965.

This is, admittedly, a minor change, but the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” name has been a source of ridicule for fans across the country since the team adopted the moniker in 2005. The Angels are no more “Los Angeles” than Orange County or Disneyland. Angels Stadium is roughly 30 miles away from downtown Los Angeles and is at least a 45-minute drive away — and potentially significantly longer with that legendary Los Angeles traffic.

The Angels claiming Los Angeles is one of the more cynical marketing moves in American professional sports, but it’s understandable. Especially in a world where media markets determine so much of a franchise’s revenue, anything to claim more viewers — like the 17 million people in Los Angeles — goes. But in the history of the Angels name and the distinctions between Los Angeles and Anaheim is a fascinating story of the battles between sports franchises and the cities who host and help finance them.

The Angels began their major league life playing in Los Angeles proper. The name “Angels” was taken from the city’s former PCL club. The minor league version was an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and played at a stadium in Los Angeles also dubbed “Wrigley Field,” not to be confused with the friendly confines of Chicago’s north side. Then, for the next four years, the Angels shared Dodger Stadium with the city’s National League team.

In 1966, the Angels moved into Anaheim Stadium, a brand new field financed entirely by public funds. Anaheim Stadium, which would eventually be known as Edison International Field of Anaheim, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, or colloquially as The Big A, cost $24 million, or roughly $177 million in 2017 dollars. Upon the move, the Angels changed their name to the California Angels. In 1996, as part of a lease agreement that included the city of Anaheim pumping another $30 million into the stadium for renovations, the club changed its name to the Anaheim Angels.

At the time, the Angels were owned by The Walt Disney Company. To give the company some liberty in naming the team — as the company took with its other professional sports squad, the NHL’s Mighty Ducks of Anaheim — the lease did not demand that the team specifically be called the “Anaheim Angels,” but rather that “Anaheim” simply had to be contained within the team’s name.

The Walt Disney corporation, thankfully, decided against the “Mighty Angels of Anaheim,” keeping the team as the Anaheim Angels until selling the franchise to Arte Moreno in 2003. Moreno was welcomed as owner primarily due to his promise to keep the team in Anaheim, but his relationship with the city would soon go sour. Two years after buying the team, Moreno announced the club would be changing its name to the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,” part of a “marketing plan” designed to convinced advertisers and media companies that the millions of people in the Los Angeles metro area were part of the club’s reach. “We’re not saying we’re not happy in Anaheim,” Moreno told USA TODAY. “We’re just trying to include more of the metropolitan area.”

Moreno didn’t just change the name. He was gradually phasing out references to the city name on team apparel and other merchandise as well. City officials, understandably, felt like they had been bamboozled by Moreno. What did they pay for in the 1996 renovations if the city name was no longer going to be a part of the Angels identity? The team abided by the terms of the lease in only the most technical sense while otherwise downplaying its connection to Anaheim as hard as it could.

And so the city sued, claiming the inclusion of Los Angeles in the team’s name violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the contract it signed with the Disney corporation back in 1996. The lawsuit claimed that the name change resulted in the loss of $100 million worth of “impressions” for the city of Anaheim — even if they were still the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,” most referred to them simply as the Los Angeles Angels, and most merchandise and advertisements simply referred to them as the “Angels.”

The city also alleged it was losing tax revenue due to a loss of tourism without the publicity of the “Anaheim” name appearing in newspaper box scores and televised sports broadcasts. A study commissioned by the city put the value of these impressions at anywhere between 70 cents and $1.10 per 1,000 and found the city had lost some 28 billion impressions — or as much as $32 million in a single year.

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle acknowledged that Anaheim and the rest of Orange County were much smaller in the 1960s, when the Angels arrived — “Truly suburb,” he acknowledeged. But, he added, “Today we’re not. Orange County is the fifth-largest county in the nation, with three million people. Many, if not most, residents see their identity as separate from Los Angeles.” USA Today quoted one fan, 74-year-old Frank Robinson, who called the name change “a slap in the face.” Another, 59-year-old computer programmer George Branch, said he found it “stupid and laughable. How can you call a team by two cities? It kinda throws it in the face of fans that have followed the Angels for decades.”

Unsurprisingly, the mayors of every city in Orange County filed a brief supporting Anaheim’s case. But also joining in support was the city of Los Angeles. Indeed, Los Angeles filed a resolution stating that it did not claim the Angels as its own. Rather, the city said it recognizes professional sports teams bearing name “Los Angeles” only if their home facilities are within the Los Angeles city limits, in a hilariously serious resolution titled the TRUTH IN SPORTS ADVERTISING ACT.

Andrew Guilford, the attorney appointed to represent the city of Anaheim in the case, asserted that both the city and Disney intended to craft the contract so that Anaheim would be the sole city in the team’s name. They argued that despite the clear language of the lease, a California law supported the club’s claim with its requirement of an “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing” in all contracts undertaken in the state. The city argued the “of Anaheim” name made a “mockery of Anaheim” and claimed that under the strictest interpretation, there would be nothing to stop Moreno from naming the club “The Angels Who Are Embarrassed to Be Associated With Anaheim” or “The Angels Formerly Known as the Team Identified With Anaheim.”

Guilford presented expert testimony that suggested that “custom and usage of Major League Baseball” prevents teams from using more than one city in their name. “There are some things that aren’t in the contracts that count very much,” Guilford argued. But despite the city’s best efforts, the court case failed, and not before the city dropped $3.5 million on legal costs.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

While I’m sure the original lease was not drawn up with something as cynical as the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” in mind, it’s equally clear to me that the name complies by the strict letter of the agreement.

Despite the costs, and despite the fact that fears about money lost from tourism and Angels charity work and community involvement turned out to be overblown, city officials claim they don’t regret the battle. The Angels, meanwhile, have been a stupendously profitable venture for Moreno, who has seen the club’s franchise value skyrocket from $184 million when he bought the team in 2003 to $1.75 billion today, per Forbes, in large part thanks to a $3 billion television deal signed with Fox Sports in 2011.

Although the change was noticed just this past month, it was officially enacted by the Angels in 2015 and approved by the Anaheim City Council a whopping four years ago. A 2012 study conducted by the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau found that the first thing people think of when they think of Anaheim is Disneyland, and second is the Angels. While current Mayor Tom Tait still argues the city misses opportunities when it is referred to as a suburb of Los Angeles, this battle is obviously not worth fighting any more. The fact that Moreno recently committed to keep the club in Anaheim through the end of the current lease in 2029 has certainly helped to soften the blow.

What can we learn from this whole situation, other than to be extremely careful when drawing up contracts? The city of Anaheim sunk vast sums of money in making the Anaheim Angels happen, dating all the way back to the 1960s. The city paid the entire cost of the stadium when it was built and for 25 percent of the renovations done 20 years ago. I think there is a reasonable expectation that the city would get something for its money. But Moreno’s response to the city’s request showed little but disdain for the city government that has put so much into Angels Stadium, the primary source of value for the franchise. “The city of Anaheim,” he told USA TODAY, “thinks they own a baseball team.” The nerve!

So, rest in peace “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,” the most absurd name we have ever agreed to call a major league  team. And welcome back to the name “Los Angeles Angels” for the first time since the Angels really were in Los Angeles 42 years ago.

What’s in a name? The answer, for major league teams, should surprise absolutely nobody: cold hard cash.

References & Resources


Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.
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KLBD
5 years ago

What about the PCL league affiliate? What about the Angels being disband and disbursed across the PCL in 1956 so LA could make room for the Dodgers? What about Autry buying the “Angels” naming rights for upwards of $300,000? There is a lot more to there story that takes place before the Dodgers decided to up and move to LA. The LA Angels (and Hollywood Stars) were the teams people loved.

halo joe
5 years ago
Reply to  KLBD

Thank you someone who knows their history

Jimbo
5 years ago

…” expectation that the city would get something for its money” This statement implies that the name change seven years after the agreement has negated any value the city received for building and renovating the ballpark. I do not know what the city expected to get but it is hard to believe that the name change would have wiped it out. A fairer way to state it is maybe, “..expectation that the city would get *more* for its money.”

Kenneth Castillo
5 years ago

I have no problem with the Angels using Los Angeles. They do play in the L.A. metropolitan area. Going back to using California would have been a better option. Obsur is The two New Jersey NFL teams using the name New York when they play in a different state.

pudds
5 years ago

It’s certainly no worse than the “New York” Giants and “New York” Jets being residents of New Jersey.

Marc Schneider
5 years ago

I dont’ think what the Angels did was any more cynical than what lots of teams do in trying to claim an entire state; e.g, the New England Patriots. They used to be the Boston Patriots and I’m sure most fans attending the games are in the Boston area. The Miami Marlins used to be the Florida Marlins; I guess they changed to Miami after the city built their new stadium, but there was never any fan base outside of South Florida. I don’t really see the problem with the Angels trying to claim Los Angeles except for the fact that people living in Orange County hate being associated with that hotbed of liberalism. And complaining that a team is trying to make money is a pretty odd criticism in a capitalist society.

Personally, I think Los Angeles Angels sounds a hell of a lot better than California Angels (did people in Northern California, with two teams of their own, care about the Angels) or Anaheim Angels. If nothing else, it invokes the early 1960s, which I think is a lot better period in our history.

Scott
5 years ago
Reply to  Marc Schneider

The Patriots were founded as the Boston Patriots and changed their name when they left the city in 1970 – just like the Angels. I’m unaware of any discussion to change the name back. It’s also a lot different in the sense that Orange County has developed its own identity independent of Los Angeles’s.

The biggest benefit from my perspective is the return of a great team name. Maybe they could have kept Anaheim and changed the nickname to something more associated with the city or county, say the Anaheim Traffic Jams (not that dissimilar from the Dodgers) or the Orange County Culture Warriors.

nocaBall
5 years ago

How long before it is, “The Atlanta Braves of Marietta?”

Domenic Priore
5 years ago

There is a LOT wrong with your theory here. First and foremost, Orange County is, and always will be a part of the Greater Los Angeles area, people in other parts of the country do not make the distinctions that Orange County, or shall I say “Orange Curtain” residents began to make for their own horrible, commercial and often racist, white-flight reasons back in the ’70s. So let’s cut that part of the conversation right there. Second, The Pacific Coast League before 1958 was NOT A MINOR LEAUGE and in fact lobbied for Major League designation for about 20 years if not more, but you know how awful Major League owners were back in those pre-Jackie Robinson days. The Pacific Coast League dynasty in fact was THE LOS ANGELES ANGELS, who in fact played in the very first Wrigley Field… and when the American League created a Los Angeles Angels to replace the old PCL team that was purchased by the Dodgers and moved to Spokane (the Dodgers lifting the PCL Angels logo for their cap), Gene Autry did EVERYTHING HE COULD to make the connection to the old PCL team clear. Autry obtained Steve Bilko, the PCL Los Angeles Angels biggest star during the 1950s and the man who inspired the name of the old Phil Silvers “Bilko” TV series. On opening day… at the old L.A. Wrigley Field… Autry also trotted out Ye Olde L.A. Angels Truck Hannah and Jigger Statz to do a pre-game exhibition of pitching and batting. Then he hired Jimmie Reese, another old L.A. Angel, as a coach, where hit fungos until he was, what, in his ’90s, it seemed? Most importantly, when I watched the local news… in a market that is the LOS ANGELES TELEVISION AND RADIO MARKET (Orange County or Anaheim DOES NOT HAVE ITS OWN), on the night the Angels won the World Series, the camera cut to an interview with a Mexican-American guy who was shouting “THIS IS A GREAT MOMENT FOR LOS ANGELES, AND THE LOS ANGELES ANGELS”… even though they had some other lame moniker at the time. That says a ton. Sorry; I worked for the Angels for three years, and what I don’t encourage is the atmosphere of “White Flight” that the whole ridiculous “Anaheim” era of the Angels represents… besides, Portland, New Orleans, Montreal and BROOKLYN deserve franchises ahead of ANAHEIM. The City of Anaheim is way, way WAY down the list of cities that should be awarded a major league franchise. The county “border” is just that, and philosophically speaking, uh, don’t build a WALL here. And you don’t even have to drive to Angel Stadium… the Metrolink train serves Angel Stadium from Union Station in downtown L.A. much better than it does near-by Dodger Stadium, leaving you right behind centerfield…. and if you think 40 minutes is a long time, try taking the New York subway from Riverdale to JFK airport some time. Here’s to Leon Wagner, Jim Fregosi, Dean Chance and most of all, those great, early Los Angeles Angels uniforms that are a million times better than that Jack-In-The-Box uniform the team wears now.

Daniel Perez
5 years ago
Reply to  Domenic Priore

You had me at “Jack in the box uniform.”

Bring back the LA Angels look, complete with halo on the cap.

But seriously? Get us a 2nd baseman, left-fielder and stud starting pitcher already recovered from TJ surgery.

Richie
5 years ago

Umm, it’s not politically incorrect of me to merely thank Mr. Moore for the neat article, is it??

Domenic Priore
5 years ago
Reply to  Richie

No, it would just be applauding something totally wrong. The real reason Gene Autry moved way the hell out to the middle of nowhere is because he didn’t want that Bo Belinsky/Dean Chance Yankee party lifestyle (see “Ball Four”) happening any more with his Angel players being so close to Hollywood… not because “Anaheim” deserved a major league city. I’d say Bo’s action in the Hyatt House (formerly Gene Autry’s Continental West Hotel, on Sunset Strip) with Ann Margret, Mamie Van Doren, Connie Stevens, Tina Louise and Playboy bunny Jo Collins makes Led Zeppelin’s “Hammer of the Gods” orgies in that building look like a Catholic School dance. Hence, squaresville Anaheim, near Mickey Mouse, for the Angels.

red floyd
5 years ago
Reply to  Domenic Priore

No, Gene moved the team because he was sick of being screwed over by Walter O’Malley. This is well documented.

As I recall, the Dodgers billed the Angels for *EVERY* square of toilet paper used in Chavez Ravine during Angels games.

J
5 years ago

The Angels are at least closer to Los Angeles than the “San Francisco” 49ers are to San Francisco; Levi’s Stadium is about 45 miles away in Santa Clara (a suburb of San Jose), more than an hour in traffic. These names just don’t mean much anymore.

Joe Pareto
5 years ago

So by dropping Anaheim from the name, aren’t they violating the lease now?

Philip
5 years ago

In his dissenting opinion in the Court of Appeals decision that allowed the Angels to formally their name from “Anaheim Angels” Justice P.J. Sills wrote:

“The Angels have played in a stadium built at public expense since 1966. However, at the beginning of the 2007 season, they changed their name to the Los Angeles Angels. That is their effective name, not what is in the fine print. They had a great 2007 season, but lost three straight in the first round of the playoffs — significantly, to Boston.

This year they had the best record in baseball, but lost three of four in the final round of the playoffs. Again, to Boston.

It as if the Curse of the Bambino had been taken from Boston and hung on the Angels.

But curses can be lifted. Previous rumors of a curse circulated when the team was the California Angels. It was only as The Anaheim Angels that the team, in 2002, won the World Series.”

Sorry, Judge.

The real reason the “Anaheim Angels” won the World Series in 2002 wasn’t because of their team name.

It was because that year they didn’t play Boston in the playoffs.

Dave
5 years ago
Reply to  Philip

The “Anaheim” Angels have a World Series Title because the owners let baseball people build the team. Arte Moreno has destroyed everything about the Anaheim Angels Program since his purchase. Apparently he has zero concept for the value of pitching. Moreno deserves the yearly subpar performance of his team. For as long as Arte owns the team the Los Angels Angels of Arte Moreno will justifiably be Of no significance.

It just so happens that the only year the Angels have ever won a World Series is the year they displayed “Anaheim” on their away uniform. That alone is a subtle way to smack Arte in his face everyday and for me to continue my support for the players on the Angels roster!!!

Jason Conwell
5 years ago

The Los Angeles Rams played in the same exact stadium for something like 15 years (1980ish-1994ish) without any kind of the same grief.

The 49ers don’t seem to get the same grief, nor do the Jets or Giants. I never hear complaints that is should be the St. Petersburg Rays or any number of other gripes. This is an old tired complaint that seems to on,y apply to the Angels.

Ein Bier
5 years ago
Reply to  Jason Conwell

As a kid in the south bay (LA) beach communities people definitely stopped following the Rams referring to them as the “Anaheim Rams” or “Disneyland Rams “. It was all Raiders after they showed up. My brothers and I were Rams fans but a very very small minority.

Philip
5 years ago

Don’t forget that Gene Autry and the California Angels paid an indemnity to the Los Angeles Dodgers of over $300,000 as part of the agreement that allowed them into baseball as an American League expansion team in 1961.

When the club moved down the Golden State Freeway and out of Dodger Stadium after playing there four years as tenant at the insistence of Walter O’Malley, I don’t recall the Angels receiving any refund.

According to Bill Veeck, the Dodgers also blocked the Angels from playing in the Coliseum in 1961. They instead had to play their home games in their inaugural season in tiny Wrigley Field. And the Angels were limited to televising only eleven games.

Veeck wrote in 1962:

“Before he would grant permission for an American League team to come into the Open City of Los Angeles, O’Malley insisted on naming who the owners would be, where they would play and how much television they could use. Oh yes, he wanted indemnities to the amount of $350,000.”

Yet the Mets didn’t receive this treatment from the Yankees. Los Angeles should have treated as an “open city” for purposes of both leagues expanding.

Instead, a Yankee-Dodger alliance hamstrung the Angels from the start.

Tim Cooper
5 years ago

If they’re still The The Angels Angels I don’t think dropping the Anaheim really makes them less ridiculous.

Dave Thomas
5 years ago

Slow day at the Hardball Times.

Andrew
5 years ago

The irony in this article is it fails to mention the full history and account of the absurd name and of the Angels franchise–including, as others have mentioned, the Dodgers’ and O’Malley’s suppression of the franchise, which was wholly allowed by MLB in order for the Dodgers to move out west. Angels is English for Los Angeles. The PCL Angels logo was the intersecting L and A.

The Dodgers are no doubt “the” LA team. As a young(er) Angels fan when the name change occurred, I was totally against it. Looking at it now, and commuting the vast distance between LA and OC on a regular basis, I find the hysteria over this laughable. One thing for sure, it’s been great for the Angels-Dodgers rivalry.

Mike.S
5 years ago

Maybe the Angels can buy the naming rights to LA Dodgers field. Los Angeles Angels field at Dodger stadium.

Tim Cooper
5 years ago
Reply to  Mike.S

This is like when the Twins’ stadium was briefly named for the mall which had replaced their previous stadium.

mando3b
5 years ago

One of the best things to come out of all this horse hockey was the old Brooklyn fan who declared that his favorite team should now be called “The Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles”.

Bob Bellamy
5 years ago

How about the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles ? The Dodgers is not even a name that reflects any association to Los Angeles, The Trolly Dodgers , What a joke

Yehoshua Friedman
5 years ago
Reply to  Bob Bellamy

How about the LA Freeway Dodgers? The NBA’s Lakers, formerly of Minneapolis, have the same problem. The only answer to these abominations is Green Bay Packers style community ownership.

Marc Schneider
5 years ago

No, it’s not the only answer. The teams could simply change their nicknames, as the St. Louis Browns Washington Senators, Montreal Expos, Seattle Pilots, etc. did.

Marc Schneider
5 years ago
Reply to  Bob Bellamy

You could say the same thing about the Los Angeles, nee, Minneapolis Lakers, the Utah (New Orleans) Jazz. The Jazz is worse; conceivably, LA once had trolleys but we know Utah never had jazz.

AnnieEm
5 years ago

What a nicely researched and well-written article. Very interesting. Good job, Jack!

Troutmaggedon
5 years ago

I’m 34 and grew up in OC as a life long Angels fan. When they announced the name change I thought it was stupid but it was understandable as a marketing angle at the time. The Angels had just won the World Series and had just signed Vlad and Colon. They were loaded with one of the best farm systems in the game (although many of the highly touted prospects didn’t pan out – Kotchman, McPherson, Mathis, Wood, etc.)

Meanwhile the Dodgers stunk and hadn’t won a playoff game in almost 20 years. Arte, who made his money in billboard advertising, thought he could steal fans from the Dodgers. It was a good move given the general disposition of most SoCal fans. And while it probably didn’t take any long term fans from LA in the long run it probably helped bring in lots of fans from La/OC commuter areas like in the Inland Empire, i.e The I.E, The 909, the Sand People.

In the end it was probably a marketing success given the monster TV deal with Fox. Prior to 2002 the Angels were a joke. Their payroll that year was roughly $60 million if I remember correctly and they were an after thought even in Orange County. By the time of the name change they were a “big market club” and their success was overshadowing the Dodgers to some extent. Meanwhile, Arte’s sitting on almost $1.5 billion in equity.

So as dumb as the name change was then and is still looked upon, as a business move it was brilliant.

scott
5 years ago

Nice article. My first impression was, big deal, they are part of Los Angeles, why not use the name of the major city? As is obvious, I know nothing about the LA region and was surprised that the people of Anaheim see themselves as separate from LA. Thanks for an informative article.

Harry Shearer
5 years ago

Re: the Los Angeles policy of only recognizing teams as LA if their “home facilities are within city limits”, that would come as hilarious news to the Los Angeles Lakers, who won their first, second, third and fourth championships competing in the City of Inglewood, at Jack Kent Cook’e “fabulous” Forum.

James
5 years ago

Bull. Everything between San Clemente and Thousand Oaks is Los Angeles. What’s deceiving is when people try to convince you that Orange County isn’t part of LA.

Marc Schneider
5 years ago
Reply to  James

Apparently, Orange County wishes it wasn’t.

Patrick Kennedy
5 years ago

FIFTY-TWO years ago.
I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

Frank Jackson
5 years ago

Why not just call them the SoCal Angels? Then anyone objecting to the name could refer to the team as the so-called SoCal Angels.

Jmac
5 years ago

I really don’t care what the call themselves as long as it is preceded by World Chsmpion.

Jay A Kimbrough,
5 years ago

Bottom line is most people in Orange County who go to Angel games. Are lovers of baseball and their team and will not stop going to the games just because Art decided to call them the LA Angels. But if you asked each and every fan who walked through the gates what they thought about the name 90% will tell you they are not thrilled about the name but just blame Art. Most used to say well if it brings us better players because there is more money to spend I can live with it. But over all free agency has not been kind to the Angels. So much for that. Go to a Ducks game across the street vs the Kings, and you will hear a loud chant “Beat LA!” Because we are not LA and we are proud to be from Orange County. The reason the Angels are worth what they are is not because of the name LA is in front of the Angles it is not becuse of our farm club. Its because the Angles won a World Series. And three guys, our coach, Mike S, Mike T, and Albert P. And were in California.
Next to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, thenext worse name for the team is Los Angeles Angels

halo joe
5 years ago

Aren’res look it up how many teams do not play in their namesake cities this is a ridiculous complaint people here do not really care if they’re LA California or Anaheim and everyone outside of this area aren’t even aware of the difference. it wasn’t a problem with the LA Rams it shouldn’t be a problem here. LA Angels are their proper name. Go LA!

halo joe
5 years ago

It’s all about championships with the people of this city if the Angels did not win in 2002 Anaheim wouldn’t have cared if they change their name or not and if the Angels win the World Series in the next upcoming years La will embrace them with open arms.