by Paul R. Spitzzeri
A major league team since 1961, the Los Angeles Angels are, despite one of the largest payolls in the big leagues, sitting at about .500 as the All-Star break approaches and awaiting the return from injury of superstar center fielder Mike Trout.
The team’s minor league precursor, also the Los Angeles Angels, played in the Pacific Coast League from 1903 to 1957 and was purchased by chewing gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner William Wrigley, Jr. in 1921. Today’s “Games People Play” entry highlights a photograph of Angels pitcher Robert M. “Bob” Wallace, a regular member of the rotation for the 1923 season.
The photograph is date stamped 27 October 1923 and shows the tall, lanky Wallace at the end of his pitching movement with his torso turned toward the left, his right pitching hand extended across the left side of his body and his left hand behind him. The location is not known nor is the reason for the image.
Nor is there a lot of information about Wallace, other than he played for the Angels for two full seasons in 1922 and 1923 and small portions of the 1920 and 1924 campaigns. In that short stint in 1920, in which the Angels finished in third place in the league, he pitched nine innings in two games with one loss and no decision in his other outing.
After skipping the 1921 season, a first-place year for the team, Wallace became a starting pitcher the next season. He appeared in 39 games, logging 159 innings, and posted a 7-10 record with a 4.02 earned run average for a team that took third place in the PCL with a record of 111-88. Yes, that’s 199 games, which was how long the season was in those days.
Wallace’s showing was promising enough to give him an opportunity to return for the 1923 campaign, but he had a rougher year. Appearing in 46 contests and putting in 205 innings of work, Wallace had a record of 9-18 and his ERA jumped to 5.71. But, the pitcher’s waning fortunes matched that of the Angels as a whole.
In their first season under player-manager Marty Krug, who’d played two seasons in the big leagues (a brief 20 game campaign with the Boston Red Sox in 1912 and a full year mainly playing third base for the Chicago Cubs in 1922), the Halos had their first losing record in a decade, posting a 93-109 showing, which put them in sixth place.
For the 1924 season, Wallace returned to the Angels roster, even though the team underwent significant roster changes with a raft of new faces arriving for spring training at Long Beach (after several years at Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.) Wallace, however, only appeared in six games and logged just 15 innings with no decisions. Whether he was released or he retired is not known and he disappeared from the record and history books from there.
As for the Angels, they were a much-improved 107-92, good for a second place showing, and, under Krug (who managed the team for six-and-a-half seasons) went on to take the league crown two years later, the sixth of thirteen PCL crowns in team history.
When Wallace pitched for the Halos, they played their games at Washington Gardens, an old park at Washington Boulevard and Grand Avenue that began hosting baseball games just after the turn of the century. The Angels continued to play there while Wrigley planned a new park for a location in South Los Angeles and, in 1925, Wrigley Field opened. Notably, the Chicago Cubs park, built in 1914, was known as Weeghman Park for a team in a short-lived professional league, then Cubs Park for several years after Wrigley acquired the franchise, and finally was changed to Wrigley Field in 1927.
Concerning the Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, the Homestead has some great negatives of the park and ballgame action scenes, so look for some of those in future installments of “Games People Play.”