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Wrigley Field in South LA? How Los Angeles Lost One of Its Finest Baseball Parks

In 1925, South LA was home to the very first Wrigley Stadium in the country. It was a steel-built, minor league baseball field that was once home to the Los Angeles Angels—before the team landed in the major league—and served as one of the largest outdoor event venues in the city at the time. But by 1969, just 45 years later, the park was demolished.

Today, on the corner of San Pedro and 42nd Place you’ll find an extraordinarily large lot of land in the Historic South Central neighborhood that holds the Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center, which is adjacent to the Kedren Health Center.

But in the first quarter of the 20th century, this entire lot held one of the finest baseball fields in the country named after William Wrigley Jr., the Chewing Gum Magnate who founded Wrigley gum. 

Out of the Park

In the early 1920s William Wrigley Jr. owned the Angels, which, again at the time, was a minor league baseball team in the Pacific Coast League. The Angels played at Washington Park, also known as Chutes Park, which was located on Hill and 8th streets. But that baseball field was limited by its small capacity, which, at most, could hold up to 8,000 people. 

Around 1924, Wrigley announced his plans to build a brand-new baseball stadium on 42nd Street and San Pedro that could seat up to 30,000 people. In anticipation of the 1925 Pacific Coast League season, Wrigley rushed the construction of the park

In the early 1900s, major league and minor league parks were built to different standards, typically a discrepancy between materials. This minor league park, however, was modeled after major league stadiums. Commentators praised Wrigley Field for its exquisite use of materials and minimalistic design. For example, the baseball field was lined with a brick wall, as opposed to the standard wooden fence. But one of the most notable design features was the full-steel construction, which included the grandstands, bleachers, and the 12-story office tower at the corner of the park. The final cost of this Spanish- Colonial inspired construction was in the ballpark of $1.3 million

Wrigley Field opened to the public on Tuesday, September 29, 1929, and opened with a double feature. In the first half, The Los Angeles Angels beat The San Francisco Seals 10-8. 

In the second half, a team of workers temporarily transformed the field into an open-air arena for a highly anticipated boxing match. On opening day, over 20,000 spectators showed up—which is about 2 and a half more people than Washington Park could hold. 

For over two decades, the park upheld its instant legacy of being one of the finest outdoor venues in Los Angeles, casually used f, exhibition games, college football matches, and open-air fights. One year later, In 1926, Wrigley named the famous Chicago stadium after himself, marking that the second Wrigley Field in the country.

The 9th Inning

Beauty doesn’t last forever. And for Wrigley Field, its decline started roughly 30 years after the park was built. By the early 1950s, major league baseball was on the incline, but Los Angeles, a growing city, didn’t have a major league team yet. 

On May 28, 1957, the National League voted to move the Brooklyn Dodgers, a major league baseball team, to Los Angeles. The owner of the Dodgers, Walter O’Malley, negotiated the move with the City of Los Angeles on the contingency that a new, major league stadium would be built.

During this time, Wrigley Jr.’s son, Philip K. Wrigley, who also owned the Chicago Cubs, was in complete control of the minor league Angels and its Wrigley FIeld. O’Malley acquired both The Angels franchise and Wrigley Field from Philip Wrigley during the Dodgers’ transition in 1957. Because it would take time for a new stadium to be built, O’Malley was forced to find a temporary home for the Dodgers as the city worked out a new contract for Los Angeles’ first major league baseball stadium

In September of 1957, the Dodgers and the City of LA ironed out itst agreement: The Dodgers would trade its newly acquired Wrigley Field, about 10 acres of land, for 300 acres of land in the Chavez Ravine to build Dodger Stadium

Yes, The Dodgers traded 10 acres of land for 300. This was the craziest land trade I ever read.  

After the contract was accepted, the Dodgers played at the Los Angeles Coliseum for four years until Dodger Stadium opened on April 10, 1962. Meanwhile the Los Angeles Angels continued to play at Wrigley Field, until O’Malley sold the Angels to Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy, who later rebranded The Angeles into a Major League team. 

In 1961, The Angels played at Wrigley Field, which was the park’s first major league game in its history. The following year, on April 10, 1962, The Dodger Stadium opened as the new home for both the Dodgers and The Angels—LA’s two major league baseball teams.

Now, Los Angeles is left with a minor league baseball park with no cash-drawing minor league teams. And by June of 1963, the LA City council said that it did not have the funds necessary to maintain the baseball field

I mean, shouldn’t someone have thought about that before trading 300 acres of land for 10 acres of land in Historic South Central? I mean, like, whatever, LA. 

While LA struggled to find ways to maintain the park, it did have a few glimmering moments. The most famous of which was it being the site of a Los Angeles Civil Rights Rally, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech to over 30,000 people, just months before March on Washington

Even with such a monumental event, the baseball park was demolished by the city in January of 1969. The city aptly planned two new developments in its place: a community recreation center and a community health clinic named after Martin Luther King Jr. These were both suggestions that likely followed the Watts Riots of 1965. 

And just like that, a 10-acre minor league baseball field was wiped from existence.

A Different Ball Game

Today on 42nd Street and San Pedro, you’ll find a quiet park with a little league baseball field that, in some ways, is reminiscent of the baseball energy that once graced South LA and its Historic South Central neighborhood. In consideration of this park’s glory, there’s a plaque near the corner of San Pedro and 42nd that recognizes this park’s amazing history. Beyond the park’s baseball field, you’ll find two wide stretching fields, a full play set, a skate park, and a basketball court. 

On the Avalon Side of the property, you’ll also find the Kedren Health Center, which gained popularity by giving our unused Covid-19 vaccines during the beginning of 2021.  

Though, it’s far too easy to pass this park, and to never know its history as one of the finest baseball fields in the country.

One Comment

  1. Matt Moschetti Matt Moschetti

    Love this beautifull ball park as a kid growing up during the 50`s. Watching Steve Bilko hit home runs over ivycovered walls. Was heart sick when the Dodgers decided to play at the Colisuum instead of Wrigley. Thanks to Gene Autry the major league Angeles were born in 1961 and i was able attend many that year. On a sad note i signed a pro baseball contract with California angels in 1968 and started my minor league career. In March of 1969 the day before I was to report to spring training in El Central ,cAL. I Visted Wrigley Field one last time as it was being torn down. Sad to say it brought a tear to my eyes. Still watch old home run derby tapes to keep those memories alive.thanks Matt Moschetti. California Angels miner league career 1968 to 1972.

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