Where the Future Began, Part 5

Los Angeles Angels minor leaguers with the 1961 Statesville Owls, left to right. Top row: Dick Wantz, Jack Hiatt, Dick Simpson, Manager George Wilson. Bottom row: George Conrad, Glade Cookus, Paul Mosley, George Bryson. Photo courtesy Steve Hill.


Statesville baseball historian Steve Hill had in his collection the above photo of 1961 Statesville Owls, which I’d never seen before. The only common theme we could deduce was that each of the seven players was under contract to the Angels. Manager George Wilson was hired independently by the Owls.

Of those shown in the photo, four are still with us — Jack Hiatt, Dick Simpson, Paul Mosley and George Bryson. I’ve asked them if they recall when and why this group photo was taken.

From past research, we have some clues as to when it was shot.

Hiatt, Simpson, Conrad and Cookus were the first four Angels properties assigned to Statesville, arriving in mid-April. But Mosley and Bryson didn’t arrive until near the end of June.

Missing from the photo are three Florida players signed in mid-June — infielders Dave Best and Bobby Lucas, and pitcher Alan Flitcraft. Also missing is Walt Darton, the ace pitcher from L.A. whose career was ended by an elbow injury suffered during a brawl with Lexington on May 31. All three were with the team through the end of the season.

So we know it was taken no earlier than late June, but if it’s supposed to be only Angels players then why were the three Florida players excluded?

One explanation might be that all seven are from California — which could imply that a Florida-only photo might be around somewhere.

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