The Angels Inaugural Game
The setting was Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. The combatants, the newly formed Los Angeles Angels and the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles. The date was April 11, 1961, and the game was the first ever for Gene Autry's collection of untried rookies and major league castoffs.
Angels Manager Bill Rigney, former skipper of the San Francisco Giants, fielded the following lineup: Ted Kluszewski at first, Ken Aspromonte at second, Fritz Brickell at short and Eddie Yost at third. The outfield consisted of Albie Pearson in right, Ken Hunt in center and Bob Cerv in left. Eli Grba, a six-game winner with the New York Yankees in 1960 and the Angels' No. 1 selection in the first-ever expansion draft, was on the mound. His battery mate was veteran Del Rice.
On paper, the game appeared a mismatch. Milt Pappas was awarded opening day honors for the Birds. Considered the ace of the staff, Pappas won 15 games a year earlier for the second-place Orioles.
In the first inning, the powerful, 6-2, 240-pound Kluszewski homered to right following a walk to his diminutive roommate, the 5-5, 140-pound Pearson. Cerv scored a run with a base hit and Big Klu followed with his second home run. Grba, staked to a 7-0 lead, took charge. The eventual outcome was 7-2 and the Angels had their first victory.
The team, which called historic Wrigley Field home that first season, went on to record 70 wins -- more than any expansion team in history. But that was only the beginning. The next year, the Angels would literally shock the baseball world by challenging the powerhouse New York Yankees for the American League pennant.