The Return of the Statesville Owls

The 1961 Statesville Owls were one of only two minor league affiliates the Angels had in their first season.


If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’ve written about my research into the early years of the Angels’ minor leagues, specifically the Statesville Owls. Statesville was a Class D team in the Western Carolina League. The team could sign and trade its own players, while receiving a handful of players from the Angels.

One project has been to organize a reunion. It’s been in the talking stages for a couple years, but as the adage goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself, which I did.

This week, in Tempe, the Statesville Owls reunite 48 years after their 1961 season ended.

Confirmed attendees are former major leaguers Jack Hiatt and Dick Simpson, along with Dave Best, George Bryson, Walter Darton, Alan Flitcraft and Bob Lucas. Ed Thomas and Jerry Fox, two independent players who still live in Statesville, will also attend. Also joining us will be Dan Ardell, signed in 1961 but sent to a Dodgers’ Class C team in Artesia, New Mexico. Dan played with most of them in 1962 at San Jose.

Roland Hemond, the Angels’ original farm and scouting director, is now an executive with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’ll be joining us too. He signed most of these guys.

The reunion dates are September 24-26. Some are driving, some are flying. Some will only join us for a day, others for more than one. The reunion dinner will be Friday night September 25 at a nearby hotel.

The morning of September 25, I’ll take them over to the Angels’ minor league complex at Tempe Diablo where the Angels are currently holding fall instructional league. No games are scheduled, just instruction and workouts, but I think that’s actually more interesting as they’ll get to see how teaching the game has evolved since they played. I’m sure there will be some interaction between the original Future Angels and today’s Future Angels.

I’m truly humbled that these players have bought into the idea of a reunion, some of them with only two weeks notice. Most of them left behind baseball long ago for other lives. It shows that the baseball flame still burns inside them, no matter how much they tried to extinguish it and move on to other lives.

In a few days, ten aged men in their late 60s will be twenty years old again. If you’re looking for the Fountain of Youth, look no further than the National Pastime.

I’ll be shooting photos and video, of course, along with whatever I can do at the instructs as time permits.

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