The 1950s classic Home Run Derby is now available on DVD.
Home Run Derby is one of my cherished memories of childhood. I was too young to watch it in its initial airing, but was it repeated many times over the years.
The basic idea was to take two major league sluggers and pit them against each other in a home-run hitting contest. The winner got $2,000, the loser $1,000. This was back in the days when that meant a lot of money to a ballplayer, who usually spent winters moonlighting to make ends meet.
The series was filmed at Wrigley Field — not the Chicago version, but the Los Angeles version. The same Wrigley family that owned the Cubs also owned the Pacific Coast League L.A. Angels. They built a stadium called Wrigley Field in what is now south-central Los Angeles.
(And if you didn’t know, the Wrigleys at one time also owned Catalina Island. The Cubs used to travel west to hold their spring trainings on the island, which no doubt helped cut down on extracurricular activities.)
When the Dodgers came to town in 1958, the PCL Angels moved to Spokane, Washington. (The franchise today is the Las Vegas 51s, a Dodgers affiliate.) Wrigley Field sat empty except for Home Run Derby until 1961, when the American League awarded a franchise to Gene Autry in Los Angeles. The A.L. Angels played there for 1961, then moved to Dodger Stadium for 1962-1965. Wrigley Field was finally demolished in 1966.
**** Beverage, president of the Pacific Coast League Historical Society and their newsletter editor, wrote in this month’s edition that the three-disc set is available on Amazon.com. If you go to www.amazon.com and search Home Run Derby you’ll find the three volumes. Volumes 1 and 2 are $8, Volume 3 is $13. Not a bad deal.
So if you want to see the ancestral homeland of today’s Angels — when they really were in Los Angeles — treat yourself to at least one of these discs.
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