Sunday, April 11, 2010

1961 Class D Statesville Owls

When Roland Hemond was tasked with setting up the minor league system for the newly created Los Angeles Angels, he came up with the AAA Dallas-Fort Worth Rangers and the Class D Statesville NC Owls. To spare myself a lot of typing, I'll refer you to Stephen C. Smiths blog on the Angels minor leagues, and particulary his excellent research on the Statesville Owls.

Stephen held a reunion of that 1961 Statesville team and was generous enough to send me the signed team photo above. His documentation was instrumental in leading me to some of the players for autographs and correspondence noted below. Read more about the reunion here:

Three of those original Owls made it to the Major League Angels: Jack Hiatt, Dick Simpson, and Dick Wantz. I'll cover those three more when we reach their turn, In Order.

Ed Thomas was a pitcher for Statesville and went 12-5 with a 3.29 ERA for them in 1961. Ed made the jump to AAA in 1962 and stayed there until he left baseball in 1964. His response was to the Angels knocking on the door to the postseason in 2009.

Vito Porta was a third baseman/outfielder and as he noted was second in the league in RBI. He also hit .289 in 103 games in 1961. He only played one more year of D ball before leaving baseball. Vito remembered his first hit,
"Playing in Johnson City, TENN - Appalachian League, 1959. I believe it was a 3-base hit to right."

Alan Flitcraft pitched for three seasons in the Angels minor league system. I'm always moved when a former ballplayer thanks ME for remembering him. I asked Alan how he occupies his time now,
"I'm a retired college professor and former baseball coach. I work part-time, work out daily, golf, tennis, bike, and travel with my wife of 47 years."

Jerry Fox roamed the outfield for the Owls for two seasons, 1960 and 1961. Jerry wrote that in his "First year in pro ball, hit home run in bottom of 10th inning for a walk off win." I asked him what kind of glove he used and how he broke it in "Wilson A2000 - used saddle soap, tied 2 baseballs into the shape I wanted." Anyone tell me what saddle soap is?

No comments:

Post a Comment