Wrigley Field was a ballpark in Los Angeles, California which served as host to minor league baseball teams in the region for over 30 years, and was the home park for the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League as well as a current major league team, the later Los Angeles Angels, in their inaugural season, 1961. The ballpark was also used as the backdrop for several Hollywood films about baseball, as well as TV series such as Home Run Derby.
Wrigley Field was built in South Los Angeles in 1925 and was named after William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum magnate who owned the first tenants, the original Los Angeles Angels Pacific Coast League team. In 1925, the Angels moved from their former home at Washington Park (Los Angeles), which was also known as Chutes Park. Wrigley also owned the Chicago Cubs, whose home (Wrigley Field) is also named after him.
The Los Angeles Wrigley Field was built to resemble Spanish-style architecture and a somewhat scaled-down version of the Chicago ballpark (known then as Cubs Park) as it looked at the time. It was also the first of the two ballparks to bear Wrigley’s name, as the Chicago Park was named for Wrigley over a year after the L.A. Park’s opening. At the time, he owned Santa Catalina Island, and the Cubs were holding their spring training in that island’s city of Avalon (whose ball field was located on Avalon Canyon Road and also informally known as “Wrigley Field”).
Coincidentally, one of Wrigley Field’s boundary streets was Avalon Boulevard (east, behind right field and a small parking lot). The other boundaries of the block were 41st Street (north, behind left field), 42nd Place (south, behind first base), and San Pedro Street (west, behind third base and a larger parking lot). Not only did L.A. Wrigley get its name first, it had more on-site parking than the Chicago version did (or does now).
For 33 seasons, 1925 to 1957, the park was home to the Angels, and for 11 of those seasons, 1926 through 1935 and 1938, it had a second home team in the rival Hollywood Stars. The Stars eventually moved to their own new ballpark, Gilmore Field, just west of the Pan Pacific Auditorium.
With its location near Hollywood, Wrigley Field was a popular place to film baseball movies. The first film known to have used Wrigley as a shooting location was 1927’s Babe Comes Home, a silent film starring Babe Ruth. Some well known movies filmed there were The Pride of the Yankees and the movie version of the stage play Damn Yankees. The film noir classic Armored Car Robbery had its title heist set at Wrigley. It later found its way into television, serving as the backdrop for the Home Run Derby series in 1960, a popular show that featured one-on-one contests between baseball’s top home run hitters, which had a brief revival in the 1990s when it aired on ESPN Classic. Episodes of shows as diverse as The Twilight Zone (“The Mighty Casey,” 1960), Mannix (“To Catch a Rabbit,” 1969) and The Munsters were also filmed there. Some closeups were filmed there for insertion into the 1951 film Angels in the Outfield, a film otherwise set at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.
Wrigley was used for other sports as well. Six world title boxing bouts were held there, including the 1939 Joe Louis-Jack Roper fight. On May 28, 1959, the park hosted the USA-England soccer friendly where England won 8-1 in front of 13,000.
L.A. Wrigley’s minor league baseball days ended when the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League transferred to Los Angeles in 1958. The use of Wrigley was studied by the Dodgers, but they opted for seating capacity over suitability as a baseball field, and instead set up shop in the 93,000 seat Los Angeles Coliseum (which had a 251-foot foul line in left field) while awaiting construction of the baseball-only Dodger Stadium, which has a set capacity of 56,000.
In 1961, a new L.A. Angels club, named after the minor league team Los Angeles Angels (PCL), joined the American League as an expansion team, and took residence at Wrigley for just the one season. The team set a still-standing first-season expansion-team record with 71 wins. Thanks to its cozy power alleys, the park became the setting for a real-life version of Home Run Derby, setting another record by yielding 248 home runs. That 248 mark would stand for over 30 years. After the 1961 season, the team moved to Dodger Stadium (or Chavez Ravine, as it was known for Angels games), which was the Angels’ temporary home while Angel Stadium was being built. The new Dodger Stadium also “took over” for Wrigley Field, as the site of choice for Hollywood filming that required a ballpark setting.
There were no more regular tenants after 1961. By then the park was owned by the city, and various events were staged. On May 26, 1963, a large crowd attended a civil rights rally featuring Martin Luther King, Jr. By 1966 the park was being used for soccer matches and the like. Demolition began in March 1969, to make way for a new recreation facility called Gilbert Lindsay Park. The park has a ball field in the northwest corner of the property, which was once a parking area. The diamond is locally known as “Wrigley Field,” and is the home of Wrigley Little League baseball and softball. The original site of the Wrigley diamond and grandstand is occupied by the Kedren Community Mental Health Center and another parking lot.
The ballpark’s dimensions were cozy but symmetrical, giving a nearly equal chance to right and left-handed batters in the Home Run Derby series. The only difference was that the left field wall was 14.5 feet (4.4 m) high, whereas the right field fence was only 9 feet (2.7 m) high.