The Absurd History of “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”

The Angels want you to believe that they are a Los Angeles team. (via Nserrano, Nandaro & Michelle Jay)

Almost nobody noticed it, but a major league team changed its name prior to the 2016 season. Slipped into a team style sheet was a detail almost nobody noticed until this June:  The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim dropped the “of Anaheim” label and returned to the name “Los Angeles Angels” for the first time since the club moved away from Dodger Stadium in 1965.

This is, admittedly, a minor change, but the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” name has been a source of ridicule for fans across the country since the team adopted the moniker in 2005. The Angels are no more “Los Angeles” than Orange County or Disneyland. Angels Stadium is roughly 30 miles away from downtown Los Angeles and is at least a 45-minute drive away — and potentially significantly longer with that legendary Los Angeles traffic.

The Angels claiming Los Angeles is one of the more cynical marketing moves in American professional sports, but it’s understandable. Especially in a world where media markets determine so much of a franchise’s revenue, anything to claim more viewers — like the 17 million people in Los Angeles — goes. But in the history of the Angels name and the distinctions between Los Angeles and Anaheim is a fascinating story of the battles between sports franchises and the cities who host and help finance them.

The Angels began their major league life playing in Los Angeles proper. The name “Angels” was taken from the city’s former PCL club. The minor league version was an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and played at a stadium in Los Angeles also dubbed “Wrigley Field,” not to be confused with the friendly confines of Chicago’s north side. Then, for the next four years, the Angels shared Dodger Stadium with the city’s National League team.

In 1966, the Angels moved into Anaheim Stadium, a brand new field financed entirely by public funds. Anaheim Stadium, which would eventually be known as Edison International Field of Anaheim, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, or colloquially as The Big A, cost $24 million, or roughly $177 million in 2017 dollars. Upon the move, the Angels changed their name to the California Angels. In 1996, as part of a lease agreement that included the city of Anaheim pumping another $30 million into the stadium for renovations, the club changed its name to the Anaheim Angels.

At the time, the Angels were owned by The Walt Disney Company. To give the company some liberty in naming the team — as the company took with its other professional sports squad, the NHL’s Mighty Ducks of Anaheim — the lease did not demand that the team specifically be called the “Anaheim Angels,” but rather that “Anaheim” simply had to be contained within the team’s name.

The Walt Disney corporation, thankfully, decided against the “Mighty Angels of Anaheim,” keeping the team as the Anaheim Angels until selling the franchise to Arte Moreno in 2003. Moreno was welcomed as owner primarily due to his promise to keep the team in Anaheim, but his relationship with the city would soon go sour. Two years after buying the team, Moreno announced the club would be changing its name to the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,” part of a “marketing plan” designed to convinced advertisers and media companies that the millions of people in the Los Angeles metro area were part of the club’s reach. “We’re not saying we’re not happy in Anaheim,” Moreno told USA TODAY. “We’re just trying to include more of the metropolitan area.”

Moreno didn’t just change the name. He was gradually phasing out references to the city name on team apparel and other merchandise as well. City officials, understandably, felt like they had been bamboozled by Moreno. What did they pay for in the 1996 renovations if the city name was no longer going to be a part of the Angels identity? The team abided by the terms of the lease in only the most technical sense while otherwise downplaying its connection to Anaheim as hard as it could.

And so the city sued, claiming the inclusion of Los Angeles in the team’s name violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the contract it signed with the Disney corporation back in 1996. The lawsuit claimed that the name change resulted in the loss of $100 million worth of “impressions” for the city of Anaheim — even if they were still the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,” most referred to them simply as the Los Angeles Angels, and most merchandise and advertisements simply referred to them as the “Angels.”

The city also alleged it was losing tax revenue due to a loss of tourism without the publicity of the “Anaheim” name appearing in newspaper box scores and televised sports broadcasts. A study commissioned by the city put the value of these impressions at anywhere between 70 cents and $1.10 per 1,000 and found the city had lost some 28 billion impressions — or as much as $32 million in a single year.

Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle acknowledged that Anaheim and the rest of Orange County were much smaller in the 1960s, when the Angels arrived — “Truly suburb,” he acknowledeged. But, he added, “Today we’re not. Orange County is the fifth-largest county in the nation, with three million people. Many, if not most, residents see their identity as separate from Los Angeles.” USA Today quoted one fan, 74-year-old Frank Robinson, who called the name change “a slap in the face.” Another, 59-year-old computer programmer George Branch, said he found it “stupid and laughable. How can you call a team by two cities? It kinda throws it in the face of fans that have followed the Angels for decades.”

Unsurprisingly, the mayors of every city in Orange County filed a brief supporting Anaheim’s case. But also joining in support was the city of Los Angeles. Indeed, Los Angeles filed a resolution stating that it did not claim the Angels as its own. Rather, the city said it recognizes professional sports teams bearing name “Los Angeles” only if their home facilities are within the Los Angeles city limits, in a hilariously serious resolution titled the TRUTH IN SPORTS ADVERTISING ACT.

Andrew Guilford, the attorney appointed to represent the city of Anaheim in the case, asserted that both the city and Disney intended to craft the contract so that Anaheim would be the sole city in the team’s name. They argued that despite the clear language of the lease, a California law supported the club’s claim with its requirement of an “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing” in all contracts undertaken in the state. The city argued the “of Anaheim” name made a “mockery of Anaheim” and claimed that under the strictest interpretation, there would be nothing to stop Moreno from naming the club “The Angels Who Are Embarrassed to Be Associated With Anaheim” or “The Angels Formerly Known as the Team Identified With Anaheim.”

Guilford presented expert testimony that suggested that “custom and usage of Major League Baseball” prevents teams from using more than one city in their name. “There are some things that aren’t in the contracts that count very much,” Guilford argued. But despite the city’s best efforts, the court case failed, and not before the city dropped $3.5 million on legal costs.

How an Ace Performance Impacts Reliever Workloads
Bullpenning has its advantages, but it's great when an elite starter eats up a bunch of innings, too.

While I’m sure the original lease was not drawn up with something as cynical as the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” in mind, it’s equally clear to me that the name complies by the strict letter of the agreement.

Despite the costs, and despite the fact that fears about money lost from tourism and Angels charity work and community involvement turned out to be overblown, city officials claim they don’t regret the battle. The Angels, meanwhile, have been a stupendously profitable venture for Moreno, who has seen the club’s franchise value skyrocket from $184 million when he bought the team in 2003 to $1.75 billion today, per Forbes, in large part thanks to a $3 billion television deal signed with Fox Sports in 2011.

Although the change was noticed just this past month, it was officially enacted by the Angels in 2015 and approved by the Anaheim City Council a whopping four years ago. A 2012 study conducted by the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau found that the first thing people think of when they think of Anaheim is Disneyland, and second is the Angels. While current Mayor Tom Tait still argues the city misses opportunities when it is referred to as a suburb of Los Angeles, this battle is obviously not worth fighting any more. The fact that Moreno recently committed to keep the club in Anaheim through the end of the current lease in 2029 has certainly helped to soften the blow.

What can we learn from this whole situation, other than to be extremely careful when drawing up contracts? The city of Anaheim sunk vast sums of money in making the Anaheim Angels happen, dating all the way back to the 1960s. The city paid the entire cost of the stadium when it was built and for 25 percent of the renovations done 20 years ago. I think there is a reasonable expectation that the city would get something for its money. But Moreno’s response to the city’s request showed little but disdain for the city government that has put so much into Angels Stadium, the primary source of value for the franchise. “The city of Anaheim,” he told USA TODAY, “thinks they own a baseball team.” The nerve!

So, rest in peace “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,” the most absurd name we have ever agreed to call a major league  team. And welcome back to the name “Los Angeles Angels” for the first time since the Angels really were in Los Angeles 42 years ago.

What’s in a name? The answer, for major league teams, should surprise absolutely nobody: cold hard cash.

References & Resources


Print This Post
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
KLBD
Guest
KLBD

What about the PCL league affiliate? What about the Angels being disband and disbursed across the PCL in 1956 so LA could make room for the Dodgers? What about Autry buying the “Angels” naming rights for upwards of $300,000? There is a lot more to there story that takes place before the Dodgers decided to up and move to LA. The LA Angels (and Hollywood Stars) were the teams people loved.

halo joe
Guest

Thank you someone who knows their history

Jimbo
Guest
Jimbo

…” expectation that the city would get something for its money” This statement implies that the name change seven years after the agreement has negated any value the city received for building and renovating the ballpark. I do not know what the city expected to get but it is hard to believe that the name change would have wiped it out. A fairer way to state it is maybe, “..expectation that the city would get *more* for its money.”

Kenneth Castillo
Guest
Kenneth Castillo

I have no problem with the Angels using Los Angeles. They do play in the L.A. metropolitan area. Going back to using California would have been a better option. Obsur is The two New Jersey NFL teams using the name New York when they play in a different state.

pudds
Guest
pudds

It’s certainly no worse than the “New York” Giants and “New York” Jets being residents of New Jersey.

Smh
Guest
Smh

No they don’t. Not even close. It’s the heart of Orange County. Not that close to Los Angeles county. You know nothing shut up.

Marc Schneider
Guest
Marc Schneider
I dont’ think what the Angels did was any more cynical than what lots of teams do in trying to claim an entire state; e.g, the New England Patriots. They used to be the Boston Patriots and I’m sure most fans attending the games are in the Boston area. The Miami Marlins used to be the Florida Marlins; I guess they changed to Miami after the city built their new stadium, but there was never any fan base outside of South Florida. I don’t really see the problem with the Angels trying to claim Los Angeles except for the fact… Read more »
Scott
Guest
Scott
The Patriots were founded as the Boston Patriots and changed their name when they left the city in 1970 – just like the Angels. I’m unaware of any discussion to change the name back. It’s also a lot different in the sense that Orange County has developed its own identity independent of Los Angeles’s. The biggest benefit from my perspective is the return of a great team name. Maybe they could have kept Anaheim and changed the nickname to something more associated with the city or county, say the Anaheim Traffic Jams (not that dissimilar from the Dodgers) or the… Read more »
nocaBall
Guest
nocaBall

How long before it is, “The Atlanta Braves of Marietta?”

Domenic Priore
Guest
Domenic Priore
There is a LOT wrong with your theory here. First and foremost, Orange County is, and always will be a part of the Greater Los Angeles area, people in other parts of the country do not make the distinctions that Orange County, or shall I say “Orange Curtain” residents began to make for their own horrible, commercial and often racist, white-flight reasons back in the ’70s. So let’s cut that part of the conversation right there. Second, The Pacific Coast League before 1958 was NOT A MINOR LEAUGE and in fact lobbied for Major League designation for about 20 years… Read more »
Daniel Perez
Guest
Daniel Perez

You had me at “Jack in the box uniform.”

Bring back the LA Angels look, complete with halo on the cap.

But seriously? Get us a 2nd baseman, left-fielder and stud starting pitcher already recovered from TJ surgery.

Richie
Guest
Richie

Umm, it’s not politically incorrect of me to merely thank Mr. Moore for the neat article, is it??

Domenic Priore
Guest
Domenic Priore
No, it would just be applauding something totally wrong. The real reason Gene Autry moved way the hell out to the middle of nowhere is because he didn’t want that Bo Belinsky/Dean Chance Yankee party lifestyle (see “Ball Four”) happening any more with his Angel players being so close to Hollywood… not because “Anaheim” deserved a major league city. I’d say Bo’s action in the Hyatt House (formerly Gene Autry’s Continental West Hotel, on Sunset Strip) with Ann Margret, Mamie Van Doren, Connie Stevens, Tina Louise and Playboy bunny Jo Collins makes Led Zeppelin’s “Hammer of the Gods” orgies in… Read more »
red floyd
Guest
red floyd

No, Gene moved the team because he was sick of being screwed over by Walter O’Malley. This is well documented.

As I recall, the Dodgers billed the Angels for *EVERY* square of toilet paper used in Chavez Ravine during Angels games.

J
Guest
J

The Angels are at least closer to Los Angeles than the “San Francisco” 49ers are to San Francisco; Levi’s Stadium is about 45 miles away in Santa Clara (a suburb of San Jose), more than an hour in traffic. These names just don’t mean much anymore.

Joe Pareto
Guest
Joe Pareto

So by dropping Anaheim from the name, aren’t they violating the lease now?

Philip
Guest
Philip
In his dissenting opinion in the Court of Appeals decision that allowed the Angels to formally their name from “Anaheim Angels” Justice P.J. Sills wrote: “The Angels have played in a stadium built at public expense since 1966. However, at the beginning of the 2007 season, they changed their name to the Los Angeles Angels. That is their effective name, not what is in the fine print. They had a great 2007 season, but lost three straight in the first round of the playoffs — significantly, to Boston. This year they had the best record in baseball, but lost three… Read more »
Dave
Guest
Dave
The “Anaheim” Angels have a World Series Title because the owners let baseball people build the team. Arte Moreno has destroyed everything about the Anaheim Angels Program since his purchase. Apparently he has zero concept for the value of pitching. Moreno deserves the yearly subpar performance of his team. For as long as Arte owns the team the Los Angels Angels of Arte Moreno will justifiably be Of no significance. It just so happens that the only year the Angels have ever won a World Series is the year they displayed “Anaheim” on their away uniform. That alone is a… Read more »
Jason Conwell
Guest
Jason Conwell

The Los Angeles Rams played in the same exact stadium for something like 15 years (1980ish-1994ish) without any kind of the same grief.

The 49ers don’t seem to get the same grief, nor do the Jets or Giants. I never hear complaints that is should be the St. Petersburg Rays or any number of other gripes. This is an old tired complaint that seems to on,y apply to the Angels.

Ein Bier
Guest
Ein Bier

As a kid in the south bay (LA) beach communities people definitely stopped following the Rams referring to them as the “Anaheim Rams” or “Disneyland Rams “. It was all Raiders after they showed up. My brothers and I were Rams fans but a very very small minority.

Philip
Guest
Philip
Don’t forget that Gene Autry and the California Angels paid an indemnity to the Los Angeles Dodgers of over $300,000 as part of the agreement that allowed them into baseball as an American League expansion team in 1961. When the club moved down the Golden State Freeway and out of Dodger Stadium after playing there four years as tenant at the insistence of Walter O’Malley, I don’t recall the Angels receiving any refund. According to Bill Veeck, the Dodgers also blocked the Angels from playing in the Coliseum in 1961. They instead had to play their home games in their… Read more »
Tim Cooper
Guest
Tim Cooper

If they’re still The The Angels Angels I don’t think dropping the Anaheim really makes them less ridiculous.

Dave Thomas
Guest
Dave Thomas

Slow day at the Hardball Times.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
The irony in this article is it fails to mention the full history and account of the absurd name and of the Angels franchise–including, as others have mentioned, the Dodgers’ and O’Malley’s suppression of the franchise, which was wholly allowed by MLB in order for the Dodgers to move out west. Angels is English for Los Angeles. The PCL Angels logo was the intersecting L and A. The Dodgers are no doubt “the” LA team. As a young(er) Angels fan when the name change occurred, I was totally against it. Looking at it now, and commuting the vast distance between… Read more »
Mike.S
Guest
Mike.S

Maybe the Angels can buy the naming rights to LA Dodgers field. Los Angeles Angels field at Dodger stadium.

Tim Cooper
Guest
Tim Cooper

This is like when the Twins’ stadium was briefly named for the mall which had replaced their previous stadium.

mando3b
Guest
mando3b

One of the best things to come out of all this horse hockey was the old Brooklyn fan who declared that his favorite team should now be called “The Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles”.

Bob Bellamy
Guest
Bob Bellamy

How about the Brooklyn Dodgers of Los Angeles ? The Dodgers is not even a name that reflects any association to Los Angeles, The Trolly Dodgers , What a joke

Yehoshua Friedman
Guest
Yehoshua Friedman

How about the LA Freeway Dodgers? The NBA’s Lakers, formerly of Minneapolis, have the same problem. The only answer to these abominations is Green Bay Packers style community ownership.

Marc Schneider
Guest
Marc Schneider

No, it’s not the only answer. The teams could simply change their nicknames, as the St. Louis Browns Washington Senators, Montreal Expos, Seattle Pilots, etc. did.

Marc Schneider
Guest
Marc Schneider

You could say the same thing about the Los Angeles, nee, Minneapolis Lakers, the Utah (New Orleans) Jazz. The Jazz is worse; conceivably, LA once had trolleys but we know Utah never had jazz.

AnnieEm
Guest
AnnieEm

What a nicely researched and well-written article. Very interesting. Good job, Jack!

Troutmaggedon
Guest
Troutmaggedon
I’m 34 and grew up in OC as a life long Angels fan. When they announced the name change I thought it was stupid but it was understandable as a marketing angle at the time. The Angels had just won the World Series and had just signed Vlad and Colon. They were loaded with one of the best farm systems in the game (although many of the highly touted prospects didn’t pan out – Kotchman, McPherson, Mathis, Wood, etc.) Meanwhile the Dodgers stunk and hadn’t won a playoff game in almost 20 years. Arte, who made his money in billboard… Read more »
scott
Guest
scott

Nice article. My first impression was, big deal, they are part of Los Angeles, why not use the name of the major city? As is obvious, I know nothing about the LA region and was surprised that the people of Anaheim see themselves as separate from LA. Thanks for an informative article.

Harry Shearer
Guest

Re: the Los Angeles policy of only recognizing teams as LA if their “home facilities are within city limits”, that would come as hilarious news to the Los Angeles Lakers, who won their first, second, third and fourth championships competing in the City of Inglewood, at Jack Kent Cook’e “fabulous” Forum.

James
Guest
James

Bull. Everything between San Clemente and Thousand Oaks is Los Angeles. What’s deceiving is when people try to convince you that Orange County isn’t part of LA.

Marc Schneider
Guest
Marc Schneider

Apparently, Orange County wishes it wasn’t.

Patrick Kennedy
Guest
Patrick Kennedy

FIFTY-TWO years ago.
I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.

Frank Jackson
Guest
Frank Jackson

Why not just call them the SoCal Angels? Then anyone objecting to the name could refer to the team as the so-called SoCal Angels.

Jmac
Guest
Jmac

I really don’t care what the call themselves as long as it is preceded by World Chsmpion.

Jay A Kimbrough,
Guest
Jay A Kimbrough,
Bottom line is most people in Orange County who go to Angel games. Are lovers of baseball and their team and will not stop going to the games just because Art decided to call them the LA Angels. But if you asked each and every fan who walked through the gates what they thought about the name 90% will tell you they are not thrilled about the name but just blame Art. Most used to say well if it brings us better players because there is more money to spend I can live with it. But over all free agency… Read more »
halo joe
Guest

Aren’res look it up how many teams do not play in their namesake cities this is a ridiculous complaint people here do not really care if they’re LA California or Anaheim and everyone outside of this area aren’t even aware of the difference. it wasn’t a problem with the LA Rams it shouldn’t be a problem here. LA Angels are their proper name. Go LA!

halo joe
Guest

It’s all about championships with the people of this city if the Angels did not win in 2002 Anaheim wouldn’t have cared if they change their name or not and if the Angels win the World Series in the next upcoming years La will embrace them with open arms.

wpDiscuz