Most of my baseball followers don’t know that I lead a double life, also dabbling in Irvine politics … OC Weekly reporter Matt Coker asked to conduct a farewell interview prior to my departure for Florida. We cover Irvine politics but also Angels baseball. The link is:
I’ve signed up for Twitter. To follow my “tweets,” go to www.twitter.com/futureangels. Click Follow to receive my updates; if you don’t have a Twitter account, click on Join Today.
If you’re not familiar with Twitter, Click Here to read the Wikipedia entry. I’m not all that familiar with it myself, so if some of you can sign up it will help me to get the hang of it.
The idea is to use Twitter to send out messages when there’s news or other items of interest. When I’m at a minor league game, I’ll send tweets during the game to tell you what’s going on.
I’ll start the tweets on Monday from The Epicenter in Rancho Cucamonga. The Quakes players report that day. They’ll be posing for head shots and team photos, and will be available to the media. Later that night is a welcoming dinner with the host parents. So it will be a good opportunity to give you little behind-the-scenes snippets as events unfold.
Of course, the FutureAngels.com web site and the FutureAngels.com Blog will continue.
“Sugar” is the tale of a Dominican baseball player drafted into the American minor leagues. Promotional photo credit Sony Pictures Classics appearing on LATimes.com.
The Los Angeles Times today ran a review of Sugar, a movie about a Dominican minor league baseball player.
Watching the trailer on the movie’s web site, it looks to me like they hit on all the right cylinders. The impoverished conditions in the Dominicans. The minor league complex in Arizona with the English language classes. The culture clash playing in rural America.
Although the film has fictional major and minor league teams, and is rooted in a fictional Iowa town, many of the locations are easily recognizable. The stadium appears to be Quad Cities’ Modern Woodmen Park (known for most of its life as John O’Donnell Stadium). It looks like the Iowa team is wearing the old Swing of the Quad Cities jerseys, the team name before they switched back to River Bandits. (Quad Cities was a longtime Angels minor league affiliate.)
This is the second recently released independent film set in Iowa. 2007’s The Final Season was set in Norway, near Cedar Rapids. It was the true story of a local high school’s final baseball season. Parts of the movie were filmed in the Kernels’ Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Sugar will be hard to find, being an independent film. It’s here in Irvine at the Edwards University. I’ll try to see it this weekend and will post a follow-up once I have.
The next independent film on the baseball horizon is The Perfect Game, about the 1957 Monterrery, Mexico team that won the Little League World Series. The film was supposed to have been released in August 2008 by Lionsgate, but they dropped out of the project. One report says it will be released in Spring 2009.
Angel Macias, the key character in the movie, was later signed by the Angels and invited to their first spring training in 1961 as a 16-year old. When he reached 18, he played briefly in the Angels minor leagues and spent most of his career in the Mexican League.
But that’s another story … The book version is available in print.
UPDATE 7:30 PM PDT — I saw Sugar this afternoon. What a great little film. It’s dead-on perfect when it comes to depicting the typical life of a minor league Dominican player. It brought back a lot of memories.
For those of you in Cedar Rapids, much of the film takes place in Iowa, Quad Cities in particular. The home team is called the “Bridgetown Swing,” but you can see plenty of Davenport and Quad Cities signs in the background. They’re wearing the old Swing jerseys. Opposing teams wear jerseys from other Midwest League clubs — I saw Clinton, Burlington, Wisconsin and Great Lakes, but no Kernels. There’s about thirty seconds of film shot at Burlington over two scenes.
The third act is entirely unexpected. I won’t give it away, but this is not your typical sports film. At first I was disappointed by the ending, but then I realized it was entirely … Dominican.
Los Angeles Angel Steve Bilko in 1957, their last year before the Dodgers arrived from Brooklyn.
For those unfamiliar with the history of Los Angeles professional baseball before the Dodgers arrived, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Harvey has this article about the old L.A. Angels and Hollywood Stars.
Here’s an idea for Arte Moreno’s marketing people:
The Angels even had a greeter, the late columnist Matt Weinstock wrote:
“A jovial fellow in a baseball uniform rode a horse slowly through the downtown streets, Main, Spring, Broadway, waving at friends and occasionally blowing a bugle call by way of announcing the baseball game at 2 p.m.”
Sports Hollywood has this excellent article on the old L.A. Angels with plenty of photos.
The above photo is of Angels slugger Steve Bilko in 1957, the last year the Angels operated before the Dodgers arrived from Brooklyn. I’ve always got a kick out of the uniform, with the racing stripes around the shoulders. They remind me of Roller Derby uniforms.
Not covered in Harvey’s article is what happened to the PCL Angels once the Dodgers arrived. The Angels franchise was owned by Philip K. Wrigley, who also owned the Chicago Cubs. To move to L.A., Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley had to acquire the territorial rights. As part of the deal, the Dodgers acquired the PCL Angels franchise, while the Cubs got the Dodgers’ affiliation with the Ft. Worth Cats in the Texas League.
When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, the PCL franchise moved to Spokane, Washington as the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. The franchise is now the Las Vegas 51s, which just ended a long affiliation with the Dodgers.
We’re quite happy with our Salt Lake affiliation, but if that ever changes I’d like to see the Angels affiliate with Las Vegas, just to bring the whole “L.A. Angels” connection full-circle.
FAMU baseball coach Bob Lucas and high school teammate Jim Jackson
I’m in Florida for a few days looking at properties. Regular readers of this blog know that my wife and I are planning a move to the Space Coast area of Florida, which includes Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island and other nearby towns.
No, I’m not going to any spring training games, although the Washington Nationals are 20 miles down the road in Viera. But we did drive up to Daytona Beach today for a college game.
I’ve been writing here for a couple years now about the Statesville Owls, one of two Angels minor league teams in their inaugural 1961 season. Bobby Lucas, an infielder on that team, is now the head coach for Florida A&M University (FAMU) baseball.
The above photo is of Coach Lucas with Jim Jackson, a high school teammate. Jim never got a chance to play pro ball, probably because of his size. He drove up from Cape Canaveral with his wife to see Bob and the FAMU Rattlers.
Bethune-Cookman University was the opponent and the home team. Both institutions were originally all-black universities but have now integrated.
The game was played at historic Jackie Robinson Ballpark. The first baseball field on the site was built in 1914 and known as Daytona City Island Ballpark. It was renamed after Jackie Robinson in 1989 to note its place in professional baseball as hosting the first racially integrated game, as this was the first park in Florida where Robinson was allowed to play with the Dodgers in his first spring training.
FAMU plays Bethune-Cookman University today at Jackie Robinson Ballpark.
I’ll be back in California late Tuesday.
Tom Kotchman leads the Angels organization in career minor league winning percentage and games managed.
I just finished inputting the data, so I can begin running queries. Eventually you’ll be able to do this yourself, but I wanted to give you a couple of fun numbers.
Here’s the first query … Who were the most successful Angels minor league managers?
The specific query was, give me the career win-loss percentages for all minor league managers who managed at least 500 games in our system.
Here are the Top 10, with career win-loss and winning percentage:
- Tom Kotchman 1,340-1,010 (.570)
- Del Rice 306-252 (.548)
- Jimy Williams 371-316 (.540)
- Harry Dunlop 282-243 (.537)
- Rocky Bridges 295-266 (.526)
- Moose Stubing 723-662 (.522)
- Garry Templeton 294-272 (.519)
- Max Oliveras 500-467 (.517)
- Chuck Tanner 561-537 (.511)
- Don Long 698-697 (.500)
Some of you may recall that Tom Kotchman notched his 1,500th career win in 2008. He managed in the Tigers and Red Sox systems before joining the Angels in 1984.
Here are the Top 10 in total games managed:
- Tom Kotchman 2,350
- Don Long 1,395
- Moose Stubing 1,385
- Mitch Seoane 1,381*
- Mario Mendoza 1,241
- Bill Lachemann 1,134
- Chuck Tanner 1,098
- Max Oliveras 967
- Ty Boykin 944*
- Bobby Magallanes 698
* The career totals for Mitch Seoane and Ty Boykin are overstated. Seoane was fired on May 5, 2000 as manager of the Cedar Rapids Kernels and replaced by Boykin, who was the hitting coach. I don’t have the season split (yet) for each, so all I was able to do was credit both with the Kernels’ 2000 win-loss record. This problem occurred with a few other season records; my source is the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball by Baseball America, which for each team simply shows their win-loss record for a year along with all its managers for that season. I’ve already been told these listings may be inaccurate, so I have more research to do. But it’s a start.
These lists really show just how incredible a career Tom Kotchman has had, leading the organization in both total games managed and winning percentage.
Also of note are all the people who went on to big-league managing careers. Chuck Tanner is probably best known for his run with the Pittsburgh Pirates; his major-league career win-loss record is 1,352-1,381 (.495). Jimy Williams managed three clubs, and has a career record of 910-790 (.535). Del Rice was an original Angel in 1961, and managed the team in 1972.
I’m hoping to give you the ability to generate lists showing things like winning percentage by city, by level, stuff like that.
Meanwhile, back in the world beyond Odd Man Out …
My wife and I are headed to Florida next week to look at properties. Regular readers know we have plans to move to what’s called the Space Coast — Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island and other nearby towns.
Yes, the real estate market sucks like the sphincter of a black hole, but it’s also an opportunity to buy if you have the cash. For those of you who live in Southern California, Florida property prices are roughly one-third of what they are here.
If you’re interested, Click Here to search a Space Coast realtor’s web site. In the MLS Number field, enter these numbers separated by a comma, then click the Search button:
526176, 470878, 510668, 519450, 518200
The condos are in Cape Canaveral across the street from the Disney and Carnival Cruise lines based in Port Canaveral. The houses are on north Merritt Island, a couple miles south of the Kennedy Space Center south gate.
Merritt Island is also home to the largest wildlife refuge in the continental U.S.
There’s baseball in the area. The Washington Nationals have their spring training in Melbourne, about 20 miles southwest of Cape Canaveral. I doubt I’ll have the time to get down there — when you’ve seen one spring training, you’ve seen them all — but I am planning to drive up to Daytona Beach to watch a college game.
If you’re a regular reader, you know I’ve been researching the Statesville Owls, one of two Angels minor league teams in their inaugural 1961 season. Bobby Lucas, an infielder for Statesville that year, is now the head coach at Florida A & M University. They’ll be in Daytona playing Bethune-Cookman University. So I hope to see Bobby and get some photos of him for his former teammates.
I also hope to stop by the old Cocoa Stadium in the City of Cocoa. (Cocoa and Cocoa Beach are two different towns.) Now known as the Cocoa Expo Sports Center, it’s used largely for amateur events. Cocoa Stadium was the spring training home for the Houston Astros from 1963 through 1984. Jack Hiatt, another Statesville alumnus, played there late in his career and has tales about the players jogging in uniform around the city streets. Cocoa Stadium was revived for pro ball in the spring of 1993, when the Florida Marlins used it as their spring training home their first year before moving into Space Coast Stadium (where the Nationals are now).
I’ve been asked by several people what happens to FutureAngels.com when I move. I intend to keep it going. I’ll be closer to Cedar Rapids and Arkansas, and Delta flies non-stop from Orlando to Salt Lake City so I can still visit Orem without much effort. As with everything, it will depend on finances. I’m sure I’ll be helping out the Brevard County Manatees (Brewers affiliate) with photography, and the Daytona Cubs are 75 miles to the north. So I won’t be at Rancho much, nor will I be going to the minor league complex in Tempe more than once a year, but otherwise it should be status quo.
Meanwhile, I’m resuming a project that’s been on hiatus for about a year. I started building the FutureAngels.com Database, which when finished will be the ultimate resource for statistical data on the history of the Angels minor leagues. Priorities elsewhere have kept me from working on it, but looking at my web site’s stats I know it’s always among the top pages receiving hits from visitors.
I’m working on collating the win-loss records for every Angels minor league team since inception in 1961. When it’s done, you’ll be able to see results from every year — how many minor league teams the Angels had, where they were located, what were their win-loss records, who were the managers, etc. Eventually there will be search features you can use to ask questions such as, “What is the all-time Cedar Rapids win-loss record while an Angels affiliate?”
I’d hoped to have managers’ career win-loss records, but the problem for now is that in some years the resource I’m using — the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball by Baseball America — lists multiple managers for a team. I’ve spoken with Roland Hemond, who was the farm director back in the 1960s, and he says some of these listings may be inaccurate. I should be able to produce career win-loss records for managers like Tom Kotchman, where there are no multiple managers listed for a team, but I’ll have to dig further on the rest.
The FutureAngels.com Database is also intended to polish my programming skills, specifically how ASP.NET interacts with SQL Server. If that sounds like Klingon to you, well, don’t worry about it. But my morning assignment is to explore the wonders of two-way databinding. Which does sound very Klingon.
Oh, I noticed that the Angels are on TV today against the Chicago Cubs at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa at 1 PM PDT. The Angels’ business people still can’t their act together to televise games, so for now we have to rely on WGN, the superstation out of Chicago. Check your cable listings.
And if you’re looking for a condo in Irvine, I have a quite nice place with plenty of upgrades near a top-notch school for $575,000 … Cash me out and I’m on a one-way trip to Florida.