Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wrigley Field Correction

Oy! I was way off on the location of Wrigley Field in the previous post.

It was not at Wilshire and Western but at 42nd Place and Avalon.

The mistaken info came from a picture of the Wilshire and Western intersection in the old days, with an arrow indicating that Wrigley Field was just out of sight. Wrong.

Sports Hollywood devotes a big page to Wrigley, from its construction by the chewing-gum millionaire who modeled it after Chicago's Wrigley Field, its opening in 1925, and the teams that played there. Wrigley owned the Los Angeles Angels, the main tenant, but the Hollywood Stars also used the park--kind of like the Lakers and Clippers at Staples.

Sports Hollywood also features a list of the movies filmed there (like Pride of the Yankees and Damn Yankees), old pictures, and tons o' history about the Pacific League and the players--which, according to the site, included Chuck Connors and Tommy Lasorda. There are links to other Pacific League sites too.

The last pro baseball game was played at Wrigley in 1961, when the ballpark was home to a new, expansion league Angels team--the same Angels now in Anaheim.

Wrigley Field was torn down in the mid-1960s, and Gilbert Lindsay Park stands there now.

The Angels' promotional logo copy is from Wikipedia which insists I include their free-use guidelines.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lasorda Trivia

Tommy Lasorda authored a piece in today's Los Angeles Times, recounting his history with the Dodgers and his love for the game. It ran with a picture of the very young pitcher Lasorda in the 1954-55 season.

That got me thinking--when was the first time Lasorda played in Los Angeles?

It wasn't with the Dodgers.

Tommy Lasorda played in an exhibition game on Saturday, March 7, 1953 against the L.A. Angels at Wrigley Field. Lasorda was the rookie pitcher for the St. Louis Browns at the time. And in the second exhibition game on Sunday, the pitcher was Satchel Paige.

The Browns, back then, spent spring training in San Bernadino, playing at Perris Hill Ballpark. Wrigley Field at Wilshire and Western was L.A.'s stadium in the days before Dodger Stadium. This picture shows the park on July 22, 1930, when its first night baseball game was played. Found it online at the LA City Library. (Correction to Wrigley Field location HERE.)

Mr. L didn't mention that in his piece, recalling that he was drafted by the Dodgers in 1949, after a stint in the army, and was sent by them to Greenville, SC, then to the Montreal Royals, a Dodger affiliate.

Less that 2500 people watched the Browns get beaten, 6-5 that Saturday. Lasorda, "conditionally purchased from Montreal," took over for another rookie pitcher, Don Larsen, after five innings. It was probably not the debut Lasorda hoped for; he let 6 runs get by in the next two innings.

Live and learn. He got better--as he recalls in the Times article, he was playing for Brooklyn in 1954.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lautner Exhibit at Hammer

The Hammer Museum at Wilshire and Westwood showcases John Lautner's work through October 12, with photos, films, sketches and large models. After that, the exhibit--titled "Between Heaven and Earth: The Architecture of John Lautner"--will go on tour. Through October, though, Los Angeles visitors can enjoy what other cities won't see: weekend trips to Lautner homes in Los Angeles.

This picture and others are on the Hammer website. This is the Walstrom Residence in LA. (photo by Joshua White) Douglas Walstrom was an aerospace engineer working for NASA--I didn't know that! His wife, Octavia (also former NASA) still lives in the 1400 sq ft house, surrounded by nature in Beverly Glen.

The John Lautner Foundation Website maintains this list of projects that the man hisself oversaw.

I consider Lautner the father of Googie, but according to this article in the Los Angeles Times, he probably wouldn't appreciate that title. The Times is the source of the anecdote about the Walstrom home and has lots of biographical information on Lautner as well.

In an accompanying piece, the Times has designated the firm of Escher - GuneWardena as the heir of Lautner, and shows how they restored the Chemosphere House.

The museum is closed Monday, opens at 11 am all other days, but closes as early as 5 on Sunday.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tour Farmers Market

Melting Pot Tours offers "Food Tasting Walking Tours" of Farmers Market and Third Street, on Fridays and Saturdays. The tours begin and conclude at the Market. I went on one and gluttoned.

(If words like disrespect and agent can be made into verbs, why not glutton? Take the tour, you'll understand.)

Tour guides Diane and Lisa work with the merchants at Farmers Market and along Third Street to combine food tastings with tales of history and intrigue. Frankly, put a plate of savory meats from Pampas or macaroni'n'cheese from Joan's on Third in front of me and I'll listen to anything you want to say--but the stories are truly interesting and lots of fun.

The Farmers Market/Third Street tours are limited to 12 persons each, so reserve early. And get up early; they start at 9:30 am.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Feo Pio

A Virginia neurologist thinks that Pio Pico--the last Mexican governor of California, whose Pico House Hotel still stands near Olvera Street--suffered from acromegaly, complicated by a benign tumor of the pituitary gland. That made cartilage and soft tissue in his face grow large and disproportionate.

In this picture of viejo Pico from an online 1967 San Diego Historical Society Journal, a snowy beard obscures a lot.

The Los Angeles Times headline reads: What made Pio Pico so feo? It's a bit harsh, but yeah. He's no Antonio Banderas. And he don't look a bit like his brother Andres, below.

Dr. Ivan S. Login (the neurologist) says "When you see one person who's got that [acromegaly], you recognize it forever." Well, yes, and I'm sure the doctor knows his stuff. But it's also true that if you're holding a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

The report will be in a journal called Pituitary. Definitely a niche publication. The picture of Andres, btw, is online courtesy of the San Fernando Valley Historical Association.

Andres and Pio once owned a large part of the land that became the San Fernando Valley, and a graduate student wrote a whole book about Andres' fight to retain it. The book is called Forster Vs. Pico: The Struggle for the Rancho Santa Margarita, by John Kielbasa. Good luck trying to find a copy.

Unless the doctor has dna or exhumed the body, I'm leery of a diagnosis based on a few daguerreotypes and an oil painting. Remember a few years ago when news outlets were reporting that Abraham Lincoln suffered from Marfan's Syndrome? Unlikely, the experts now admit.

OK, ready for a picture of Pio in all his youthful feo-city? This copy came from Picasa. I've seen it many times--but no idea where the original is kept. It's of Pio with his wife and nieces. Since the Times printed a cut-up copy with no attribution, I assume it's public domain.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From Playland to Beverly Center

In 1946, Dave Bradley opened Beverly Park and Playland at Beverly and LaCienega. It had a Tilt-a-Whirl, bumper cars, a roller coaster, merry-go-round, pony rides, blue hippo, you name it. And gourmet food, according to their ads.

Bradley earned a degree in Economics, which was not much use during the Depression. He worked in odd jobs all over Los Angeles--as a stringer for the Hollywood Reporter, a manager of several big swing bands, and (during WWII) a machinist with Lockheed Aircraft. Then he opened Playland--or Kiddieland, depending on who's telling the story.

One of his visitors at Playland was Walt Disney, and Bradley became an advisor to Disney on many of the rides at Disneyland. He was one of the geniuses who decided that everything on Main Street would be built to 7/8 scale, so people would feel tall and not so overwhelmed as they walked around.

Playland closed 28 years later in 1974, because oil drilling at the site was increasing. Bradley moved his business to Long Beach and continued to make amusement park rides for international customers, as well as places like Knotts Berry Farm, Opryland, the Six Flags parks, and even the Pike. This picture of the Timberline Twister at Knotts is from the Coaster Gallery website, and it's a Dave Bradley design.

In 1978, a $50 million project to plop an 8-story mall on "one of the few remaining quaint sites in urban Los Angeles" was announced. And so we have the Beverly Center, which, given what we do there, could still be called Playland.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Viewing This Side of Paradise

At the Huntington. For information and links to the Huntington, see my earlier blog post on the "This Side of Paradise" photography exhibition. The photo's are in the Boone Gallery till September 15.

It was great, and an excellent balance between the historical and artistic pictures. The souvenir book costs $75., but it's big so if you were going to spend that much on a book, this is the kind of book you'd spend that much on.

Photography of photography is not allowed. Since the Boone Gallery is right next to the new Chinese Garden, I indulged myself.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Old Bones in Malibu

An Indian burial ground was discovered by vacationers at the Malibu Ranch in 1908, according to the July 9th edition of the Los Angeles Times. The site on the Rindge property was near another cache of bones found a year earlier by railroad workers.

The upper half of a human skeleton was discovered by a 14-year-old Bruce Parsons in August 1922, while the Malibu Road was under construction (the Times speculated that bulldozers swept away the bottom half of the skeleton). The remains were carted off to Exposition Park and the museum.

USC maintains an archive of a dig uncovering more skeletons in 1956. This time, a bulldozer preparing ground for a real estate project uncovered the bones. That's where the above picture is from.

As recently as October 2007, a skull was discovered in Paradise Cove. Those remains, according to this article, were turned over to the Chumash tribe.

The rest ended up in museum storage for decades, until NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) came along.

A published notice of repatriation in accordance with NAGPRA rules was published in the Federal Register of Feb. 25, 2007, listing bodies found on the Malibu Ranch in 1915, by the Malibu Road in 1921, and several others that were found on unknown dates. Included are remains of four people found in Paradise Cove on an unknown date--as well as bodies found in Point Dume, Solstice Canyon, etc, and in Ventura and Santa Barbara County. 122 people in all, presumably now at rest.

I have always wondered--as particular as modern archaeologists are about details and paperwork--why is it taking so long to repatriate remains kept in storage? NAGPRA became law in 1990. That's 18 years already.

Malibu and points north were once dotted with Chumash villages. A map on page 1 of this 1996 report about skeletons excavated in the 1960s and 1970s shows dozens of identified villages.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Latest on the LAX Theme Building

In August, a 12-month project to re-stucco the Theme Building commences. Also planned: "improve seismic resistance" to the core tower, basement, and first floor, and reconstruction of the parapet walls.

That means that with a lotta luck, it may be done by fall 2009.

Here are revious posts on the construction progress and Part 1 and Part 2 of the Theme Building's history.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mount Wilson History

Although the author has changed, Sunday's Los Angeles Times includes "L.A. Then and Now," which is always worth reading. Today the topic was Mount Wilson Observatory, from its founding in 1904 by George Ellery Hale (who first observed Earth's magnetic fields while working at Mount Wilson) to present work on helioseismology (sunquakes. Duh.)

In between, of course, were discoveries by Edwin Hubble, Albert Michelson, and others.

The print version of the Times ran a wonderful picture of Albert Einstein visiting the facility in 1931, which unfortunately is not shown with the online article. This photo of the 1904 groundbreaking, with Hale, is from the Mount Wilson Website.

  • Mount Wilson's official, more detailed history is here. You can link to articles about the founding of the place, the 100-inch telescope (which came in 1917), and visitor hours/info

  • The Mount Wilson Observatory Association has nice color pictures and information about tours

  • The US Naval Academy biography of Albert Michelson (who figured out the speed of light at Mount Wilson) includes this incredible signed picture taken at the Observatory library in 1931. Left to right, the posers are M.L. Humason, Edwin Hubble, C.E. St. John, Albert Einstein, W.W. Campbell, and W.S. Adams. Umm, someone on the left is missing but that's all the photo caption says.

  • UCLA maintains a site on the Solar Tower, with information about the research going on there, sunspot activity, etc.

  • Towercam! Picture refreshes every two minutes. This shot is from Sept. 24, 2002

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Helicopter on Freeway

Here's something you just don't expect to see on the 5, entering Los Angeles County from the north on the last Sunday in June:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Historically bad drivers

This is a stretch, but a video from Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Dan Neil (of the Los Angeles Times) demonstrates that distracted driving is, as it has been for the last century, a time-honored tradition in Southern California. See it at

Of course, taking pictures while driving is legal. As long as you don't use your cell phone.