Baseball in EArly Los Angeles


I’ve been doing a little reaserch into what people did for fun in the Los Angeles area during the 1920s and ’30s. And it seems that Angelinos were wild about baseball! Who knew?

From the early 1900s through the 1930s, Los Angeles had as many as 5 baseball fields operating simultaneously. Most hosted multiple teams from “Negro league,” “Mexican league,” Japanese-American, and all-white organizations, including the then-Los Angeles Angels and the Hollywood Stars. Baseball was a hot ticket starting in the early 1910s, and famous National League teams, like the Boston Red Sox, visited town to play against their Pacific League associates, as did traveling teams from various other leagues. Some of the fields came and went—one even changed location twice when the Vernon Tigers moved from Vernon to Venice and back again. And I mean they actually moved the whole stadium—but there was always someone playing ball somewhere.

If you were a baseball fan in that period, you could watch a live game any day of the year, at a selection of venues now-vanished, including Los Angeles’s Wrigley Field (owned and built by the same chewing-gum magnate who owned the Chicago Cubs), Washington Field, and White Sox Ball Park in what is now South Central LA, which promoted Winter League play among non-white leagues, and offered games “Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays.”

Baseball was so popular that visiting dignitaries and Hollywood celebrities would join the crowd to watch a game, rubbing shoulders with ordinary joes and janes at any ball park in town.

 

Black and white arieal photo of Washington Park baseball field circa 1924
(1924)- Aerial view of Washington Park, home of the Los Angeles Angels until 1926, when the team moved to Wrigley Field. Hill Street is visible parallel to 1st base line while Washington Blvd. is to the right. From 1903 through 1957, the Los Angeles Angels were one of the mainstays of the Pacific Coast League, winning the PCL pennant 12 times. The Angels, along with the Portland Beavers, Oakland Oaks, Sacramento Solons, San Francisco Seals, and Seattle Indians were charter members of the Pacific Coast League which was founded in 1903. Photo and information linked from WaterandPower.org
Black and White photo of wooden facade of old baseball field, circa1939. Foreground is cluttred with people, cars and vendor carts. The wall behind them reads
(ca. 1939) – View showing customers and vendors outside the White Sox Baseball Park in South Los Angeles. Sign on the stadium says “Winter League grand opening Oct. 9th.1939. Home of the Colored Elite Giants, White Sox Park.” Italian American brothers, John and Joe Pirrone, used their earnings from their wholesale fruit business to purchase the land to build White Sox Park in 1924. Joe Pirrone organized the California Winter League to lure Negro League teams to southern California to play against local semi-pro teams and minor league teams, including Japanese American and Mexican American teams. During the 1920s African Americans were barred from playing in Pacific Coast League parks including Wrigley Field and Gilmore Field in Los Angeles. According to William McNeil, “The California Winter League was apparently intended as a showcase for Negro league baseball. White Sox Park, which was strategically located in the predominantly black sections of the city, hosted the majority of league games.” Some of these teams included the Kansas City Royals and Monarchs, Philadelphia Giants, Detroit Giants and Nashville Royal Giants. There were also all-black teams from the sandlots of Los Angeles, such as the Royal Giants, Colored Giants, Monarchs, Stars and many others. White Sox Park was also the home of Mexican American baseball teams. Mexican American baseball teams and leagues dotted the southern California landscape “working to play, playing to work.” El Paso Shoe Store from San Gabriel fielded one of the strongest teams called, “Los Zapateros,” that played a majority of its games in White Sox Park. Hollywood celebrities, city political figures and the Mexican Consul attended games at White Sox Park. Information and photo linked from WaterandPower.org

*Author’s note: I was interested to see that in the photo of White Sox Park, the men in the foreground are a mix of white and non-white, though I only see one hat that might have been sheltering a woman. For more interesting photos of Baseball in Early LA, click on the photos or the links provided under the photos to go to the Water And Power Associates Baseball History page.