Exactly where in Anaheim is Los Angeles?
In a quest for dollars, and at the edge of geographic absurdity, the Anaheim Angels -- formerly known as the California Angels and Los Angeles Angels -- said Monday they would now call themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The move drew ridicule on national radio shows and scorn from the Dodgers, provoked outrage from Orange County fans opposed to the change and prompted a stern message from the city of Anaheim to Angel owner Arte Moreno: See you in court.
“I don’t believe there’s a compromise on the name,” Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle said. “They’re trying to have it both ways with the silly name they chose.”
Moreno originally proposed that his team be called the Los Angeles Angels, a name rejected by the city of Anaheim but one that team executives hope will be popularly adopted. He believes the “of Anaheim” suffix, also dismissed by the city, will satisfy the stadium lease.
City Manager Dave Morgan said the city would seek a temporary restraining order this week, which would block the name change pending a trial, and would then file a lawsuit charging the Angels with violating the lease.
The team is blanketing what it considers its territory -- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties -- with 480 billboards this week proclaiming “City of Angels,” a play on the nickname of Los Angeles.
The team also sent an e-mail to every other major league club on Monday, asking to be called “Los Angeles” instead of “Anaheim” and listed in abbreviations as “LA” or “LAA” instead of “ANA.”
The Dodgers, powerless under baseball rules to stop the change, issued a statement denouncing it without mentioning the Angels by name.
“Regardless of any attempt at a public relations or marketing spin, true Angelenos know there is only one baseball team in Los Angeles, and that is the Dodgers,” read the unattributed statement.
Angel President Dennis Kuhl said his team would sell itself as the Angels, identified by the current logo of a red A topped by a silver halo.
Kuhl said the Angels have no plans to move to Los Angeles, add “Los Angeles” to uniforms or slap an L.A. logo on the cap.
Commissioner Bud Selig was unavailable for comment Monday.
Two high-ranking baseball sources said Selig had approved the name change, which did not require a vote of other clubs because the team is not moving. If the Angels had wished to change their uniforms, color scheme or logo, they would have had to request approval last spring.
Moreno’s research indicates the name change would help convince national advertisers and broadcasters that the Angels appeal to an audience across Southern California -- and to pay more for reaching that potential audience of 16 million. Kuhl said the change is one small step in a multiyear marketing strategy designed to produce the revenue necessary to finance a star-studded contender every year.
“We’re not going to change our name today and expect people to drop money off at our door tomorrow,” he said.
Indeed, KCAL last month announced plans to drop the Angels after the 2005 season in favor of the Dodgers, despite similar television ratings for the two teams. Gene Autry, the Angels’ founding owner, also spurned the Anaheim name. In 1966, he moved the team from Los Angeles to Anaheim, but only after Long Beach officials told him a new stadium there would require him to call the team the Long Beach Angels. Autry’s widow, Jackie, endorsed Monday’s move, citing the concentration of local media in Los Angeles and criticizing fans opposed to the change.
“I think that’s small-minded if that’s the way they’re reacting,” she said. “Orange County is never going to be a major market as it exists today.”
In a Times story last month, Pringle said that Anaheim could appeal to the NFL as the home of a lone Southland team because his city “is certainly firmly in the center of the Los Angeles market.”
While Moreno would heartily second that sentiment, Pringle said his comment should not be taken out of the context of the NFL talks. The NFL can discuss a Los Angeles name for an Anaheim team if the league wishes, he said, but the Angels have contractually agreed to use an Anaheim name.
“The City Council negotiated and paid for a naming right,” Pringle said.
In a 1996 agreement with the Walt Disney Co., which then owned the team, the city paid $20 million toward stadium renovations, contingent upon the California Angels renaming themselves the Anaheim Angels. By including the “of Anaheim” suffix in the new name, Moreno -- and his lawyers -- believe the Angels have satisfied a stadium lease provision that requires the team name “include the name Anaheim therein.”
Said Morgan: “The language is vague, but ... when you look at what was intended by the parties, if the team is called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, are we getting what we bargained for? The answer is no.
“I’m pretty confident we’ll win. I look forward to it.”
Los Angeles City Council President Alex Padilla said the Angels had given up their legal rights to the Los Angeles name when they moved to Anaheim. Padilla said he would ask City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo to advise whether the council could take legal action on its own, or in conjunction with Anaheim.
The Dodgers also could file a legal brief in support of Anaheim. For now, a team source indicated Monday, the team plans to study the situation before deciding whether to join the case.
According to researchers at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, no major league team has ever included two cities in its name. And aside from the Angels, with their third name change in the same ballpark, no major league team has changed its geographic name without moving.
Pringle said the city is willing to offer the Angels options to enhance their revenue, but he said there would be no settlement without the restoration of the Anaheim Angels name. Councilman Richard Chavez scoffed at the idea that Moreno must change the name so he can afford to field a winner.
“We gave up an awful lot to the Angels so we can retain the name,” Chavez said. “The name means everything. If he buys an extraordinary group of people to play baseball, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily win a World Series next.”
Times staff writers Tim Brown, Mike DiGiovanna, Jessica Garrison and Dave McKibben contributed to this report.