Autry Testifies He Didn't Learn About Stadium Parking-Lot Complex Until '83

Times Staff Writer

California Angels owner Gene Autry knew little about the day-to-day operations of his baseball team at a time when major development was being planned for the ballpark's parking lot, lawyers on both sides of an Anaheim case agreed Friday.

The picture of an absentee owner emerged during Autry's third day of testimony in Superior Court in Santa Ana, where the Angels are waging a legal battle to prevent the multimillion-dollar office development from being built.

With his wife dying and Autry suffering various health problems then, the one-time "singing cowboy" testified that he spent much of his time between 1978 and 1980 in Palm Springs, leaving the operation of his ball club to Angels officials Arthur E. (Red) Patterson and Buzzie Bavasi.

Part of Rams Deal

Autry said he did not remember learning until 1983 of the city's plan to build in the parking lot--part of the deal that persuaded the Los Angeles Rams to play football in Anaheim. He said he did not remember discussions before 1983 with Patterson or Bavasi about the city's agreement with Anaheim Stadium Associates (a joint venture of a development firm--Cabot, Cabot & Forbes--and Ramco, parent company of the Los Angeles Rams.)

Asked if he requested Patterson and Bavasi to keep him informed of issues regarding the Rams' move to Anaheim, Autry answered no.

Golden West Baseball Co. filed its $100-million lawsuit against Anaheim in 1983 to halt development of the stadium parking lot. Angels administrators contend that their 1964 lease with the city guarantees that any development of the lot must be approved by them first.

Autry reiterated several times Friday that neither the city nor the Rams owner, the late Carroll Rosenbloom, ever discussed with him the development, which the Angels said will take away parking spaces and prove an inconvenience to Angels fans.

"Mr. Rosenbloom, all he had to do was pick up the phone and say, 'Mr. Autry, I'd like to have a conference with you and tell you what we're doing,' " Autry told Judge Frank Domenichini.

Alfred E. Augustini, an attorney for Anaheim Stadium Associates, said Patterson and Bavasi have already testified, either in court or through depositions, about their knowledge of the development.

When Autry once again said the city had tried to keep the development agreement a secret and did not call to tell him about it, Augustini replied: "Maybe because they assumed . . . that your people would tell you about it."

After the morning hearing, Augustini said: "We think Autry was just out of it. He knew. But he either didn't care (at the time) or wasn't paying attention."

William B. Campbell, an attorney for the Angels, said out of court that Autry was never under obligation to contact the city or the Rams and ask them what they were planning.

No Written Consent

And Anaheim officials never received written consent from Autry, Campbell said, pointing to a section of the Angels' 1964 lease with the city that stated that no reductions or diminutions in any of the facilities, equipment or improvements furnished by Anaheim "shall be made during the continuance of this lease agreement without the advance written consent" of the Angels.

Autry's testimony Friday, Campbell said, "establishes what we've been saying all along: neither the city nor ASA bothered to give Mr. Autry the courtesy to let him know what they were doing."

Augustini said Autry should have known about the plans through his employees. But because he was ill, as was his wife (who died in 1980), Autry "clearly let Red and Buzzie run the club."

The trial is scheduled to continue Monday morning.

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