What’s in a Name? Plenty, to Moreno


Arte Moreno invaded Los Angeles last winter, selling the Angels as “L.A.’s Team” on television commercials and as “The A Team” on billboards and buses along Wilshire Boulevard and Ventura Boulevard. The Dodgers offered no resistance, all but paralyzed by a protracted ownership transition.

Now, as Frank McCourt and his new Dodger management team prepare for their first winter marketing campaign, the Angel owner might fire another shot at the Dodgers. After stripping “Anaheim” from the team’s uniforms, schedules, tickets and website last fall, Moreno might try to reclaim the original franchise name and call his team the Los Angeles Angels.

Moreno has discussed the possible change with Commissioner Bud Selig, according to a high-ranking baseball official. Moreno declined to comment, as did Selig. If Moreno decided to proceed, McCourt would be powerless to stop him. The city of Anaheim, however, might not be.


It’s all about marketing, but Moreno can wrap this sales pitch in history. The Dodgers, pioneers in baseball’s westward movement, struck gold upon landing in Los Angeles in 1958. American League executives, scrambling for their share of Southern California’s riches, awarded an expansion franchise to Gene Autry in 1960.

Autry called his team the Los Angeles Angels, a nod to the ancestral Pacific Coast League team of the same name. He carried their games on his Los Angeles radio station -- at 710 AM, the same frequency that airs Angel games today. Autry promoted the Angels then as Moreno promotes the Angels now -- the American League representative in the Los Angeles market.

After the Angels spent their inaugural season in the old PCL ballpark and the next four uncomfortably sharing Dodger Stadium, Autry wanted a stadium of his own. Long Beach offered him one, under the condition that he called the team the Long Beach Angels. Autry said no and moved the team to Anaheim, in 1966, as the California Angels.

In 1980, the Rams abandoned the Los Angeles Coliseum to join the Angels in Anaheim. They remained the Los Angeles Rams, from the day they arrived in Orange County to the day they fled for St. Louis in 1994.

For Moreno, this isn’t about moving the Angels to Los Angeles. It isn’t about changing the logo, or the cap, or the colors. It’s about selling Vladimir Guerrero T-shirts to kids from Santa Clarita to San Clemente, selling tickets to their parents, juicing television ratings and persuading potential sponsors they can reach everyone in the second-largest media market in the country by advertising with the Angels.

The Angels pushed hard last winter to secure a sponsorship deal with the Los Angeles Times, one that included an enormous newspaper sign above the right-field scoreboard.

Team executives smile each time that sign appears on television, beaming the words “Los Angeles” to every audience watching the Angels.

The smiles are not as wide at City Hall in Anaheim. In the spring, after watching the word “Anaheim” virtually disappear at Angel Stadium, the city sent a letter to Moreno, reminding him that the stadium lease requires the team to be called the Anaheim Angels. The city attached that stipulation to its $30-million contribution toward the 1997 stadium renovation.

Greg Smith, who oversees the stadium for the city, said the Angels have not approached city officials about a possible name change.

“We think Arte’s doing a really good job,” Smith said. “He has every right in the world to market the team however he wants. But the team’s name is the Anaheim Angels.”

McCourt would offer a hearty second to that. He speaks generously of the Angels at first, noting there are more than enough people in Southern California for two teams to flourish. The Dodgers sold 3 million tickets last season, and so did the Angels, an unprecedented feat in baseball’s two-team markets.

“New York has never done that,” McCourt said. “And we’ll do it again this year.”

Dig a little deeper, though, and you get the sense McCourt has heard just about enough from The A Team.

“The Dodgers have tradition. The Dodgers have history. You can’t just duplicate that,” he said. “There have been decades of memories, great players and great moments. There’s a long story here. There’s a winning legacy.

“Marketing campaigns don’t change the loyalty of fans. Los Angeles has a team. Anaheim has a team. This is Los Angeles’ team.

“Everybody in Los Angeles knows that.”

Winning shapes the loyalty of a new generation of fans, the kids who wouldn’t know Kirk Gibson from Bob Gibson. The Dodgers won the last of their six World Series championships in 1988. The Angels won their first in 2002. If they win one or two more soon, Los Angeles might even throw them a parade on Figueroa Street.