SI Vault
 
Of stars and Angels
John Schulian
June 21, 1993
Once upon a time, Tinseltown was a heavenly place to watch minor league baseball
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 21, 1993

Of Stars And Angels

Once upon a time, Tinseltown was a heavenly place to watch minor league baseball

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

When home plate umpire Cece Carlucci hustled to retrieve the ball, Kelleher charged the mound and threw a haymaker. "I thought it was Marciano," Carlucci says. "He hit Hatten in the chest. Must of knocked him 15 feet." The punch was a call to arms for a ruckus that lasted 10 minutes. When it was over Carlucci gave Kelleher the thumb—"I don't think he'd ever been kicked out of a game before," the old ump says—and let Hatten remain because, what the hell, where's it written that a man can't pitch tight?

The Stars replied by sending little Ted Beard in to run for Kelleher. On the first pitch, Beard—who said hello on the first day of spring training, goodbye at the end of the season and made the biggest noise of his career when he hit four home runs in a game in San Diego—stole second. On the next pitch, he lit out for third, where the Angels had stationed Murray Franklin, who had been a hero in Hollywood after his home run clinched the 1949 pennant. But Beard apparently wasn't the sentimental type. He went into Franklin with his spikes "belly-button high," as the Stars' Stevens puts it. What followed was the mother of all free-for-alls.

Franklin and Beard proceeded to pound knobs on each other. Their teammates stormed out of the dugouts to do the same, almost gleefully. Kelleher and Malone, who were in the Hollywood clubhouse getting their wounds from the first fight patched up, raced back to join the action. Carlucci remembers the Stars' Handley and the Angels' Gene Baker looking "like a couple boxers going at each other." Not that Carlucci could admire them for long. "I was down three times," he says. And his fellow umpire Joe Iacovetti had to duck a roundhouse thrown by Angel catcher Al Evans. "We couldn't stop it," Carlucci says, and it was only a matter of time, he feared, before the fans would come piling in.

William Parker, L.A.'s chief of police, must have feared the same thing as he watched on TV because he wound up calling for every available unit in the area to get to Gilmore. "I seen 'em coming from leftfield, rightfield, everywhere—55 police officers," Carlucci says. "They got law and order for me." But not before a good half hour of war had been waged and photographers had the pictures that would fill three pages of LIFE magazine. And the second game of the doubleheader still had to be played.

They got it in with cops lining the dugouts and only nine players allowed out of each clubhouse at a time. Then Malone dragged his weary bones home and discovered that his kids had watched the whole thing on television. "They weren't sure what they'd seen because our TV was only about three inches big," Malone says, "so my daughter Gail, she asked me if I was in the fight, and I told her, 'Oh, no, honey, I wouldn't do that.' "

The next morning Malone was sleeping in when he felt a tiny hand shake him. It was Gail, and she was holding a newspaper that had a picture of him throwing his Sunday punch.

"Daddy." she said accusingly, "you always told us to tell the truth."

The Stars did their damnedest to give Gilmore Field a Hollywood farewell, on Sept. 5, 1957. They trotted out righthander Hugh Pepper, and for 8⅔ innings he held San Francisco hitless. Then the Seals' Ed Sadowski lined a clean single to remind everyone that happy endings are for the movies and bittersweet goodbyes are for real life.

Even though the Dodgers would come to Los Angeles in '58 and anoint it big time forever, something was being lost. The Stars and the Angels were leaving, and they were all I knew of baseball. Before the first wrecker's ball hit Gilmore, I could already feel the emptiness. I was not alone.

"For four or five years after the Dodgers came, I had this dream that there was still a PCL team at Gilmore," says Allan Malamud, a neighborhood kid who grew up to be an L.A. Times sports columnist. "Every time I woke up, it killed me to find out I couldn't go to a game there."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7