Arte Moreno realizes that Anaheim is not “in” Los Angeles County…

Youngsters on the site of Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field, the original home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 1961, prior to their move to Dodger Stadium in 1962.  The ballpark, located just east of the Harbor Freeway, was in the process of being demolished in the late 1960s, making way for the Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center.

The most intriguing wrinkle: The Angels’ attendance has crashed, even after Moreno shelled out $240 million to buy Albert Pujols.
The Angels sold 27,338 tickets to an April 16 game against Oakland. For the first time in 689 games — a streak extending to 2003 — the Angels sold fewer than 30,000 tickets.
They did it again on April 18, and a third time on April 19. The signing of Pujols triggered the sale of more than 5,000 season tickets, so the star first baseman might have been all that stood between the Angels and a crowd of 22,000.

Yup, a 7-14 start to a ballyhooed season will tend to do that to a team.  Not only has the owner of the team managed to get himself lost with respect to his inability to read a local map of Southern California, his ballclub, Dan Haren’s efforts yesterday notwithstanding, has also appeared lost over this first month of the season.  So, in what I would cynically describe as a way to get his team back on the front pages of the main local paper, Arte Moreno, the Angels’ geographically challenged owner, has finally realized that the team he owns *does not* play in the City of Los Angeles.

In this morning’s LA Times, Bill Shaikin shares how the Angels are in talks with AEG, the developers of Staples Center, LA Live, and the hoped-for Farmer’s Field for a possible NFL franchise.

The plan?  To maybe build a downtown baseball stadium for the Angels, next to AEG’s signature manufactured night life, and thus allow Arte Moreno to finally correct his geographic ignorance by dropping the “of Anaheim” from his team’s name, if it was, in fact, actually playing in the city for which it was named.

But right now, he’s currently starting to have trouble drawing fans to his park because of the team’s struggles early on.  Truthfully though, regardless of their level of success, is he honestly so full of hubris that he’d expect those same fans to follow him up the freeway to a new ballpark in downtown LA?

Is he really that clueless that he can’t understand that his fan base will not follow him north?

Attendance figures for the Angels when they actually called Los Angeles “home”:

  • 1961 – 603,510  (Wrigley Field)
  • 1962 -1,144,063 (move to Dodger Stadium, the team is in first place on the 4th of July and finishes with its only winning record in Los Angeles)
  • 1963 – 821,015
  • 1964 – 760,439
  • 1965 – 566,727
  • 1966 – 1,400,321 (move to Anaheim Stadium, where the team leads the American League in attendance, despite a 6th place finish…)

Anaheim Stadium, 1966

In the time the two teams “shared” downtown Los Angeles, the Dodgers were consistently drawing around 2.5 millions fans to Dodger Stadium each year after the team moved out of the LA Coliseum at the end of the 1961 season.

But while the 1.4 million fans that greeted the newly moved California Angels to Anaheim in 1966 seems markedly modest compared to the Dodgers’ numbers, they are on par with other American League teams for the duration of the time the Angel franchise has been in Anaheim Stadium.  For all of his faults as an owner, Gene Autry, the original owners of the Angels, had a sense to follow the path to a unique identity for his team.  As I’ve noted before, there’s a significant fan base in Orange County for baseball that doesn’t necessarily see it as necessary to follow Arte Moreno’s lead and travel to Los Angeles for baseball.

If Moreno takes his baseball team and leaves, he’ll be leaving behind his loyal fan base.   Is he that ignorant as to why the NBA’s Sacramento Kings are hoping to move to Anaheim (because the Clippers were blinded by AEG in accepting second fiddle status to the Lakers when Staples Center was built)?  Does he not see how the Ducks have gone out of their way to create hockey fans and market share in the same location he’s convinced himself–apparently–to abandon?  For all of his supposed genius at marketing, it’s a wonder that he’s convinced himself that abandoning Orange County is the right move for his team.

He needs a reality check.  It’s still early in the season, and there’s time for the Halos to rally their season and make up the ground they’ve skidded upon in the early going.  In the meantime, I think it would behoove Moreno to avoid alienating his team’s fans any more than their early season’s slump already has have.  But hey, at least he’s finally listening to his car’s GPS signal…

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