Remembrances of Springs Past – Spring Training in Palm Springs

Spring... - Christian Petersen

On this site I’m most associated with living within ten miles of Tempe Diablo and being one of the first to annually post photos of the early days of Spring Training. While the Angels moved to Tempe in 1993, I moved here in 1995. Though I’ve mentioned it in the past, I also was fortuitously raised in Palm Springs and have many memories of when the Angels were based there during springs there and I’ve finally decided to document what I remember for the HH community (and more importantly before I forget.

My family moved to Palm Springs in 1971 so most of my memories are exclusively from the early 1970’s, while I was in Jr. High and would ride my bike down to the complex. My first memory though s when we were living in Glendora and my dad took me out there for a game. What I remember about that is seeing Willie Mays. That is about it – "just" seeing Willie and sadly he’s only one of two visiting players in my entire list I have a remembrance of. The only other distinct memory I have of a visiting player is when I was living there and it was Willie McCovey, though as a Padre. What I remember about seeing him was an at bat when he hit the longest HR I can recall in Palm Springs, a rocket shot straight down the first base line. Talk about a blast! - thanks Stretch for that memory. Now onto to the Angel memories, in no particular order.

Bill Rigney – My memory here is the faux pas of asking him for an autograph in the dugout during a game – he rightly told me the line heard a million times every spring before and since "After the game, son". Obviously this was a time frame before we moved to Palm Springs.

Clyde Wright – I have two memories of him. Once, walking onto the field, I shouted out at him asking for an autograph and pleaded with him (the truth) – "C’mon, Clyde, you’re my favorite Angel!" He said more or less, "I said that to all the players". I really hadn’t and I didn’t get my autograph that day, but I did get something more – a nice one-liner. My other memory of Clyde Wright was one of baseball history’s infamous experiments, dreamed up by Charles O ‘Finley himself – fluorescent orange baseballs. They were briefly used on spring a try-out. Well, Clyde pitched with them one day and couldn’t get his curve working during his short stint. He was so frustrated after he was pulled, he went down to the bullpen along the first base line and got a regulation baseball to see if he could throw his curve with that. If I recall correctly, he did as I guess one of the issues with the orange baseballs was they were two slick. They were a prized and unique souvenir that spring, and I remember coming home with a few.

Dick Enberg – I remember him doing his pre-game taping along the first baseline on day for KTLA.

Joe Torre – The other announcer I remember seeing was Joe Torre leaving the Press Box. He was dressed pretty slick and I think after his brief stint as an Angel announcer, I hear he went on to some even better things and greater fame.

Mickey Rivers – What I recall about him was asking him for asking an autograph after he dressed and was leaving the sight in street clothes. "Asking" him is putting in mildly – I myself remember being quite obnoxious in asking and my dad remarked shortly afterward, that if he were Mickey, he would have hit me in the mouth.

Chili Davis and Devon White – One instance I remember was peering down over the top row down below and behind the first base clubhouse, and in a quiet isolated spot, the veteran Chili appeared to be giving young Devon some advice. One other memory of Chili – some old man was griping to me he didn’t like him as a player. I didn’t say much, Chili was a good Angel and OK with me.

Ken Berry – before we had Gary Pettis, Devon White, Peter Bourjos, Mike Trout, etc., we had another fine defensive center fielder, a former White Sox CF. Why I remember him, I can’t recollect but I do.

Richie Scheinblum – another obscure blast from the past, an ex-Royal who had had at least good BA year with them. I expected him to have a stellar career with the Angels, but he never amounted to much in Anaheim.

Frank Tanana - this is one of the coolest things to have happened to me. My family had a house on the 18th fairway of a now-defunct mediocre country club (we weren’t "rich") and one year the Angels had a charity golf tournament there. We had a nice 24’x24’ basketball court in the back yard and of course I spent the day watching the players drive by in their carts. Well, when Tanana drove by, he actually stopped at my court and asked for the ball to take a shot at my hoop. He was a star at the time, not a minor leaguer and you can imagine my thrill! I don’t remember if he made it, but you might recall he was quite a good high school basketball player.

Nolan Ryan – oh yeah! I remember his first few years there, basically a kid! I remember seeing him on the field with his wife, and his kids who were toddlers at the time, and just being in awe of him.

Jimmie Reese – Jimmie practically goes along with Nolan Ryan. Best known for being Babe Ruth’s roommate, or as he put it, he roomed with Babe Ruth’s suit case. The master of the fungo bat, I mostly remember him hitting fungos over and over, especially to Nolan Ryan. One day, he hit one a little too high and it got over the fence and I got it! He needed though and he asked for it back, saying he’d give it back to me when they were through. I obliged and he kept his end of the bargain. Despite his absence from HH’s Top 100 Angels of all-time, I’d put him in the Top 25.

Bobby Valentine – one of my favorite Angels of all-time (sorry haters) and that was before he gave me a broken bat and two baseballs one day outside the batting cage on the 3rd base sign! That’ll win a friend for life!

Alex Johnson and Bruce Bochte – actually this is more a memory of the 1B batting cage. Back then it was readily accessible to fans, they could walk right up and there wasn’t any blacking out. My memories of these two were in that cage. The "game" for the kids was to sneak a ball lying close to the netting underneath it, and into ones pocket. I remember being successful and also being barked out by a coach or player to stop it – both on multiple occasions, and Alex Johnson was one of those who caught me. Bochte had a nice line-drive swing.

Other Misdeeds – while I’m confessing, I have other memories in the same category – successfully hopping the fence to get into games and sneaking into the premium seats with a just a grandstand ticket.

Sandy Alomar – another "good day" – after one game Sandy handed me not one, but TWO baseballs! Sears had a slogan at the time, "You get more from a Kenmore", and I remember riding my bike home that day singing "You get more from an Alomar".

Bruce Heinbechner – one of the lesser known tragedies of the Angels, he played several seasons in the minors and might have started the 1974 season with the Angels, but died in a two-car accident near Palm Springs, California. According to the account in the Sporting News, he crossed the center line and collided with a postal vehicle, seriously injuring the driver.

Frank Robinson – he came to my Little League practice one day. He had a blonde bomb shell with him. Speaking of my youth baseball, I played Senior League and we used the Spring Training main field. I wasn’t very good due to degradation of my eye sight (I needed glasses and didn’t know it yet), but I do remember catching the last out in LF of a no-hitter there.

Holtville – though I never saw a game there, I did live in Imperial Valley for a spell and drove by once by the field where the Angels started each spring before coming up to Palm Springs. This is the first place the Angels ever took a field. A pitiful field in a pitiful valley, but geez, it should be on the National Register of Historical Places, dontcha ya think?

That’s it sadly – all I can remember – no pictures, plenty of long-ago-lost autographed balls. My biggest regret is I don't remember more visiting players (Ernie Banks or Ron Santo??) I hope you enjoy – I’m just glad I finally got this all down on paper before I forget! I'd love to hear your PS memories - they might jog my memory of a few others.

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