The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The most confusing and contradictory name in professional sports has been dead for six years now.
Before the 2005 season, the Anaheim Angels changed their name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with the “of Anaheim” suffix shoehorned in to appease a 1996 agreement between the Walt Disney Co., which then owned the team, and the city of Anaheim, which paid $20 million toward stadium renovations, contingent upon the Angels including Anaheim in their team name.
The “of Anaheim” portion of the name was dropped in 2013 when the Anaheim City Council entered into a new lease agreement with the team to play at Angel Stadium. The Angels’ stadium lease expires after next season.
While the laughable suffix is gone, the punchline remains: Many Dodgers fans wore “Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles” shirts during this week’s Freeway Series in Anaheim.
The motivation behind the name change was and is understandable from a financial perspective. Los Angeles is the second-biggest media market in the country; Anaheim sits behind Bakersfield as the 10th-largest city in California. It’s not a suburb of L.A., but that’s certainly the perception from tourists who best know Anaheim as the home of Disneyland.
A few years after the name change, the Angels signed a 20-year, $3-billion television deal with Fox Sports and beefed up their advertising in Los Angeles. Billboards of the team are still prominent at L.A. Live.
None of that changes the fact that the team is still in Anaheim. They are in Orange County, not Los Angeles County. That’s why this week’s games between the Dodgers and Angels is not referred to as a crosstown rivalry or an intercity rivalry. It’s simply called the Freeway Series.
It’s an appropriate name considering anyone who lives in Los Angeles spent nearly two hours on the freeway to go to the games in Anaheim on Monday or Tuesday.
The worst part about the team’s name — outside of its complete disregard for geographic accuracy — is that it remains the most disingenuous name in sports. The Angels want nothing to do with Los Angeles outside of enjoying the economic benefits of being associated with the city. Walk around Angel Stadium and peruse the team store and you’ll be hard-pressed to find “L.A.” or “Los Angeles” anywhere. Not on a sign, poster, hat, shirt, jersey. Nothing.
The truth is, the Angels are a team without a city. They spurned Anaheim by dropping the city’s name and claimed Los Angeles in name only. No team in sports history has claimed a city and done less to connect with that city.
Say what you will about the Chargers, who have been in L.A. for less than three years, but it’s not hard to find Chargers gear with “L.A.” or “Los Angeles” on it. And the team routinely holds local events, from the draft party at the Santa Monica Pier to taking their rookies on a tour of Hollywood as soon as they get to town. The next time the Angels do something significant in the city they claim it will be the first time.
There’s nothing worse than being inauthentic and doing something halfway, and the Angels claiming Los Angeles represents both. They took on the name of a city where they don’t play and, worse yet, did so without displaying the city’s name in their stadium, on their uniform or merchandise. It’s almost as if they don't want to upset their fans in Anaheim, who want nothing to do with L.A. and would never wear anything with Los Angeles on it.
With the team’s lease at Angel Stadium expiring after next season, the Angels have to decide where they’re going play their home games in the future. Will they get a renovated stadium in Anaheim, their home since 1966? Will they look to build a new stadium in Long Beach, which was in the running to be the home of the Angels back in the 1960s? Or will they actually build a stadium in Los Angeles, where they played their first four seasons?
No matter where they plant their long-term roots, the Angels need to be proud of their home and embrace the name of the city where they play their home games. If that’s in Anaheim, they should go back to being the Anaheim Angels, the team’s name when they won their only World Series. If they move to Long Beach, become the Long Beach Angels. Or, if they want to keep the Los Angeles name bad enough, build a stadium in the city and actually become a crosstown rival of the Dodgers.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim might no longer be the team’s official name, but the name they have now, considering where they play their home games, is as laughable as ever.