1961 Los Angeles Angels season

1961 Los Angeles Angels
Major League affiliations
Other information
Owner(s) Gene Autry
General manager(s) Fred Haney
Manager(s) Bill Rigney
Local television KHJ
Local radio KMPC
(Bob Kelley, Don Wells, Steve Bailey)
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The 1961 Los Angeles Angels season ended with the Angels finishing 8th in the American League with a record of 70–91, 38½ games behind the World Champion New York Yankees. It was the Angels' first season in franchise history, and their only season at Wrigley Field. Gene Autry owned the franchise, which was created as a rival to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who played that year at the Coliseum before moving to nearby Dodger Stadium in 1962.


The Angels, along with the new Washington Senators, were the first ever American League expansion teams. Both teams participated in Major League Baseball's first ever expansion draft. The Angels had the first pick in the 1960 Major League Baseball expansion draft, which they used to select Eli Grba from the New York Yankees. Grba wound up playing two-plus seasons for Los Angeles before returning to the minor leagues.

Notable transactions

Regular season

As an expansion team, the Angels were not expected to do well. However, they not only finished ahead of the Senators, but also the Kansas City A's, who tied the Senators for last place, nine games behind Los Angeles.

Season standings

American League W L Pct. GB
New York Yankees10953.673--
Detroit Tigers10161.6238
Baltimore Orioles9567.58614
Chicago White Sox8676.53123
Cleveland Indians7883.48430.5
Boston Red Sox7686.46933
Minnesota Twins7090.43838
Los Angeles Angels7091.43538.5
Kansas City Athletics61100.37947.5
Washington Senators61100.37947.5

Opening Day starting lineup

The first game in franchise history took place at Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, on Tuesday, April 11, 1961. Powered by Ted Kluszewski's first- and second-inning home runs, which accounted for five runs, and Grba's complete game six-hitter, the Angels defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 7–2.[7] They would then lose eight games in a row, including their home opener April 27 against the Minnesota Twins at Wrigley Field, Los Angeles.

10Eddie Yost3B
11Ken Aspromonte   2B
28Albie PearsonRF
15Ted Kluszewski1B
30Bob CervLF
26Ken HuntCF
16Fritz BrickellSS
  9Del RiceC
33Eli GrbaP

Record vs. opponents

1961 American League Records

Baltimore 11–711–79–99–913–58–1011–79–9–114–4
Boston 7–119–95–138–1010–811–7–111–75–1310–8
Chicago 7–119–912–66–1214–410–89–9–16–1213–5
Cleveland 9–913–56–126–128–910–810–84–1412–6
Detroit 9–910–812–612–612–6–114–411–78–1013–5
Kansas City 5–138–104–149–86–12–19–97–114–149–9
Los Angeles 10–87–11–18–108–104–149–98–96–1210–8
Minnesota 7–117–119–9–18–107–1111–79–84–148–9
New York 9–9–113–512–614–410–814–412–614–411–7
Washington 4–148–105–136–125–139–98–109–87–11


The Angels were no stranger to offense in their first season, with five players hitting 20 or more home runs, a mark which at the time was considered a remarkable feat. Leon Wagner, who led the team with 28 home runs, was one of the team's best offensive threats, also leading the team by slugging .517. The other players who hit 20 home runs were Ken Hunt (25), Lee Thomas (24), Earl Averill, Jr. (21), and Steve Bilko (20). Albie Pearson, who led the team in batting average, had an on-base percentage of .420, also a mark that was considered more valuable than the current game. Pearson led the team in several other offensive categories, leading the team in stolen bases (11), runs (92), and walks (96). Lee Thomas, who ended the season second on the team in batting at .284, led the team in hits, with 128, edging out Wagner by 1 hit.


Ken McBride, who led the team with 12 wins, also led the team with 15 losses. Eli Grba had an 11–13 record, good enough for second in both wins and losses amongst the team's pitchers. Ted Bowsfield was the Angels' only starter with a winning record, going 11–8. McBride had 180 strikeouts, 75 more than Grba, who was second on the team with 105. As a team, the Angels led the American League, throwing more strikeouts than any of the other 9 teams.[8] Art Fowler and Tom Morgan were the Angels' top two in saves, with 11 and 10, respectively, leading the team to finish second in the American League in that category.

Notable transactions


1961 Los Angeles Angels
Pitchers Catchers



Other batters



Player stats


Starters by position

Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Pos Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
CEarl Averill11532386.2662159
1BSteve Bilko11429482.2792059
LFLeon Wagner133453127.2802879
CFKen Hunt149479122.2552584
RFAlbie Pearson144427123.288741

Other batters

Note: G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
Lee Thomas130450128.2842470
Bob Cerv18579.15826
Jim Fregosi11276.22203
Lou Johnson100----00


Starting pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Ken McBride38241.212153.65180
Eli Grba40211.211134.25105
Dean Chance518.1026.8711

Other pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Ted Bowsfield411571183.7388
Ryne Duren40996125.18108
Jerry Casale1342.2156.5435

Relief pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; SV = Saves; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G W L SV ERA SO
Tom Morgan5982102.3639
Art Fowler5358113.6478
Jim Donohue384654.3179
Johnny James360205.3041
Ned Garver120305.599
Tex Clevenger122111.6911
Russ Heman60001.802

Farm system

Level Team League Manager
AAA Dallas-Fort Worth Rangers American Association Walker Cooper
D Statesville Owls Western Carolinas League George Wilson



Further reading

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