APBPA Banquet

The original Future Angels (left to right): Dan Ardell, Roland Hemond, and **** Simpson.

The Association of Professional Ball Players of America held its 83rd annual dinner last night in Long Beach.

You’ve probably never heard of the APBPA. It began in 1924, founded to provide financial assistance for players, coaches, umpires, scouts, clubbies and anyone else associated with professional baseball, major or minor leagues.

The Association has grown to 11,000 current members. Those on the Board of Directors are Sparky Anderson, Tony Gwynn, Orel Hershiser, Whitey Herzog, Tony LaRussa, Tommy Lasorda, Brooks Robinson, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scioscia, and Tom Seaver.

Roland Hemond is President. Best known as the former General Manager of the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles, Roland was also the Angels’ first farm and scouting director back in 1961. He’s been described as "the John Wooden of baseball." If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that Roland has been very helpful with my research into the origins of the Angels minor leagues. Click Here to listen to a 2007 FutureAngels.com interview with Roland Hemond.

I found out about APBPA through Dan Ardell, an original Future Angel signed by Hemond out of USC in the spring of 1961; after a brief stint on loan to the Artesia Dodgers, Ardell joined the Angels in September 1961. Click Here to listen to a 2005 FutureAngels.com interview with Dan Ardell.

Dan has also been very helpful with my research and invited me to join him, figuring it would be an opportunity to meet other players from those early days. One was Bob "Buck" Rodgers, the Angels’ catcher for most of the 1960s who was later an Angels manager in the 1990s. Buck played for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, the Dallas-Ft. Worth Rangers, in 1961, which I’ve been writing about this past week. We spoke briefly about my work and hopefully we’ll arrange an interview.

Dan also invited **** Simpson to the banquet. Signed by the Angels in March 1961 out of Venice High School, **** was one of the first four Angels players to report to Statesville, North Carolina to join the Class D Statesville Owls. (The other three were Jack Hiatt, Glade Cookus and George Conrad.) Simpson has been away from the game for many years, so this was a chance to reconnect not just with baseball but former teammate Dan Ardell and his boss Roland Hemond.

Angels GM Tony Reagins was joined at the dais by Roland Hemond and former Kansas City Royals manager Tony Muser.

APBPA Secretary-Treasurer **** Beverage was the emcee. Beverage has his own rich history. You may recall hearing him interviewed in the 1970s and 1980s on Angels radiocast pre-game shows. He’s an expert on the history of the old Pacific Coast League, having written a book on the history of the PCL Los Angeles Angels. He also runs the PCL Historical Society, which is where I met him years ago.

Angels general manager Tony Reagins, recently promoted from farm director, was one of the featured speakers. He was seated next to Roland, so I made sure to get a photo of the most recent Angels farm director with the man who started it all.

Former Angels and Dodgers outfielder Ken Landreaux spoke about the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton. Former Angels pitcher Dave Frost and Dodgers/Angels outfielder Tommy Davis also spoke about their involvement with the Academy.

Awards were given to Tampa Bay top prospect Evan Longoria, and Dodgers farmhand Andrew Lambo (ranked their #14 prospect by Baseball America).

Tommy Lasorda and Sparky Anderson were scheduled to attend but couldn’t make it. Sparky was sick with the flu. Tommy’s reason wasn’t clear, but it was pretty evident that exchanging barbs with Lasorda is an annual tradition for many. Several speakers told stories about Tommy, including his legendary reputation for wangling a free meal.

The APBPA banquet is open to anyone who wants to attend (the ticket was $60), and it’s a worthy cause. Even if you can’t attend, consider a donation. Their web site is www.apbpa.org.

UPDATE February 11, 1008The Morning Briefing in today’s Los Angeles Times details Saturday’s APBPA banquet, including an explanation for why Tommy Lasorda was a no-show. Apparently he went out with his family instead.

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