Tiger fans know the problems that can be caused when the owner of your favorite team tears down the stadium where they have played baseball since the 19th century in favor of a brand new ball park named after a big bank. But imagine they wanted to change the actual name of your team, move it around the area, and then change it back again!
On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council is expected to vote on a bill that would authorize the City to enter into negotiations on a deal to keep the Angels in Anaheim for another fifty years. This is the same City Council that voted to sue the Angels when owner Arte Moreno changed the name of the team from "The Anaheim Angels" to it’s current form "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim."
The City lost that law suit, then appealed and lost the appeal, costing tax payers millions of dollars in legal fees, and making City politicians look pretty silly.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the team would pay for about $200 million in stadium renovations, and would have the right to call the team whatever they like under the terms being negotiated. They would no doubt then call the team the Los Angeles Angels. Moreno would also have development rights for the land surrounding the stadium, which would be leased from the City for $1.
The Angels have an opt out clause in their current lease after the 2016 season. The City Council vote would extend that through the 2019 season to give the City and the Angels time to negotiate a grand bargain which would extend the lease through 2057. The two sides have reportedly agreed on the major elements of the deal.
The Angels franchise was founded in 1961 as the Los Angeles Angels, when they played in Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. They moved to Anaheim in 1965 and became the California Angels for the next 30 years, starting in 1966. When Disney bought the team in 1996, they negotiated the current lease with the City of Anaheim which called for the City to renovate the stadium and required that the name "Anaheim" remain in the name. So they became the Anaheim Angels.
When Arte Moreno purchased the team in 2003, he wanted to rebrand the team with the name of Los Angeles, the second largest city and second largest media market in America. The Angels agreed to keep the word "Anaheim" in it’s name, so the team was called it’s current name, "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim".
From my perspective, living here in Orange County, Angel fans don’t much care whether the team is called California, or Anaheim, or Los Angeles, or Los Angeles of Anaheim, so long as they win baseball games. Oh sure, they have their preferences, but the name isn't a game changer. I've referred to them as the "Lost Angels", in affectionate reference to their wandering ways, and they don't seem to mind that, either.
The first baseball game that I ever attended was the California Angels against the Tigers at Tiger Stadium in 1968. I was there when Nolan Ryan pitched a no-hitter in 1973 as well. I've been to at least one game each time that the Tigers have played a series in Anaheim since I moved here in 1984. To me, they're the California Angels, and I haven't much cared for any other name, but then it's not my team.
I didn't care for the tearing down of Tiger Stadium, either, or naming their new park after a bank. But at least they're still the Detroit Tigers, one of only two franchises that has played in the same city under the same team name since the league was founded in 1901.
Just about everyone, but especially Angel fans, thinks that the name "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" is pretty silly, and the law suit filed by the City of Anaheim was even sillier. Imagine, for example, having a local team called the Detroit Pistons of Pontiac, or the Pontiac Pistons, and then the City of Pontiac sues to keep Pontiac in the name.
The truth is that most Angel fans don't have any loyalty for either Los Angeles or Anaheim. Orange County has a population of over three million. Anaheim is home to about 11% of that population, meaning that fans living in the other 89% of Orange County, not to mention Riverside County or those in Los Angeles, merely drive to Anaheim because that's where the stadium happens to be located.
These are sports fans who are very supportive of their local teams, but especially the Angels. The team has drawn over three million fans in each of the past ten seasons. Not even the Dodgers have done that. But if you ask Angel fans, the vast majority would tell you that they’d prefer the team be called the California Angels. Most folks in Orange County would rather distance themselves from Los Angeles, in particular.
But those are not the fans that Arte Moreno is concerned about. He could call his team the Spiders from Mars and he’d still draw three million fans as long as they put a competitive team on the field. Moreno is concerned about the brand, and about generating revenue from folks that have never been to the stadium in Anaheim.
In a world where everything is up for sale, baseball is one of the institutions where we look for some consistency. Baseball fans don’t particularly like wall to wall advertising around the field, but we live with it. We don’t necessarily like our stadiums being called Edison Field, or Comerica Park, or
Enron Minute Maid Park. We’d prefer traditional names like Tiger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Dodger Stadium. But we understand that baseball is a business, and we live with it.
What’s in a name, anyway?
The Los Angeles Dodgers came from Brooklyn, New York. The name Dodgers is a reference to the trolley dodgers in Brooklyn. There haven’t been any trolley cars around Los Angeles since General Motors bought up the trolley system and shut it down in the 1940's, long before the Dodgers arrived.
The Los Angeles Lakers came from Minneapolis, named after the
1,000 10,000 lakes in Minnesota. Where are the lakes in L.A.? The Pacific Ocean?
The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were named after a cheesy Disney film. Now, they're no longer owned by Disney, and no longer called "Mighty". Their arena was called the Arrowhead Pond (get it, Ducks on the pond?), but that was changed to the Honda Center when the Japanese auto maker came along with more money. General Motors wouldn’t like that! I just call it the Ponda Center, to honor the tradition.
The Raiders perhaps had the most appropriate name, since Los Angeles raided Oakland to steal the team, before Oakland raided them back!
The Los Angeles Rams retained their name when they moved from the Coliseum in Los Angeles to the newer stadium in Anaheim, where they played for 15 years, and people didn't seem to have a problem with it.
The main problem with the Rams was that the stadium didn't have enough luxury boxes, which bring large corporate dollars, and Orange County tax payers weren't about to pay for a major renovation. That's why the team left for St. Louis, and that’s the main reason why Arte Moreno will renovate the stadium again. Who knows, maybe Arte can convince the NFL to put a team in his newly leased parking lot? (Saints and Angels go together anyway).
Maybe it’s not the worst thing, calling the team the Los Angeles Angels. The name respects the team’s tradition, and everything about the name "Angels" screams Los Angeles- "City of Angels". Better than being given some Mickey Mouse name.