When the Los Angeles Angels Played Ball Inside an Amusement Park

Regional History

This post appears as part of the USC Libraries' Discover at a Distance initiative, which highlights ways the libraries support the USC community with resources for remote teaching and learning.

The crack of the bat. The roar of the crowd. The screams of men and women plunging down an 85-foot-tall water ride? For ten seasons in the early twentieth century, these were the sounds that serenaded the original Los Angeles Angels—the minor-league forebears to the major-league club from Anaheim—in Chutes Park. Built in 1900 along Washington Boulevard between Grand and Main, the Angels’ home field was part of a larger family entertainment center that included pony rides, a shooting gallery, and a bowling alley with four polished maple lanes. Immediately over the left-field wall, monkeys and bears, part of a small zoo, rattled their cages. The main attraction, a tower that launched flat-bottom boats down a 350-foot-long chute and into a lake below, loomed behind the right-field wall. 

Despite the distractions, the stadium itself was considered state of the art when it hosted its first Angels game on March 31, 1901. Modeled after St. Louis’s League Park, the wooden grandstands seated 1,100, with additional capacity in the bleachers. Athletes appreciated modern amenities like hot showers in the clubhouse, as well as a board fence that, for safety, shielded outfielders from its supporting stanchions. The Angels were then a new entrant in the California League (soon to expand itself into the Pacific Coast League), and a standing-room-only crowd of some five thousand turned out to see them host the Oakland Commuters. So many spectators packed Chutes Park for this inaugural contest, in fact, that the crowd swelled over the outfield foul lines. Thankfully, the game was a pitchers’ duel, and few balls left the infield—save a seventh-inning liner to center that scored Oakland second-baseman Abe Arellanes. It was the day’s only run, and Los Angeles lost its debut, 1-0. Afterward, free admission to the adjacent amusement zone helped dejected fans take their minds off the disappointing start.

For a few years, the Angels took pride in their ballfield at Chutes Park. The background distractions, however, soon proved to be the least of its problems. One drawback was a short right-field porch that invited cheap shots from leftie sluggers. The all-dirt playing surface was another. Without a grass diamond to slow them, grounders raced out of the infield, and spitballers found it impossible to work their magic with scuffed balls. More serious were the dust storms that blew across the dirt outfield. By the end of the decade, the Angels were ready for a new home. The amusements beyond the outfield walls, meanwhile, had shuttered. And so, during the 1910-11 offseason, the grandstand, only ten years old but now dismissed as “rickety,” was converted to lumber. A new grandstand rose nearby, its concrete foundations sunk into the old outfield. On March 2, 1911, the Angeles inaugurated their new home, Washington Park, with an exhibition against the Boston Red Sox. A Bermuda grass infield slowed the grounders. An Australian rye outfield kept the dust storms at bay. And perhaps most notably, a chute ride no longer towered over the right field wall. The screams of thrill seekers faded into baseball history.

Discover more, at a distance: