Monday, May 18, 2009

May 18: Disney Plays Ball With Autry

On this day in 1995, Gene Autry's California Angels baseball team and Disney reached an agreement for Disney to acquire 25 percent interest in the team and assume the role of managing general partner.
Autry (best known as The Singing Cowboy on radio, movies & television) had been a minority owner back in the 1950s of a minor league team named Hollywood Stars. (Love of baseball was a lifelong affair for Autry.) When Major League Baseball announced in 1960 plans to add an expansion team in Los Angeles, Autry expressed an interest in acquiring the radio broadcast rights. (Autry had purchased his first of many radio stations back in 1948.) Baseball executives were so impressed by his approach and enthusiasm that Autry was persuaded to become the owner of the team - which he named the Los Angeles Angels. When the team moved to Anaheim in 1966 the name was changed to the California Angels.
In 1995 Autry sold a quarter share to the Walt Disney Company. (Walt and Gene Autry had crossed paths many times over the years & had become friends - they both had a vision of Southern California being an entertainment giant and Walt was even named to the Angels' Board of Directors in 1960.)
In 1996 Disney took control of the team and a year later the team was re-named the Anaheim Angels. Autry remained chairman (and also served as vice president of the American League) until his death in 1998. Although Disney did not technically acquire a controlling interest until after Autry's death - Disney did run the team and extensively renovate its stadium. For Disney, owning the club insured that the team stay in Anaheim and continue to lend the area major league status. This helped to in turn protect Disney's investments in the Might Ducks National Hockey League Franchise - as well as Disneyland.
The team did well - but unfortunately Disney lost money and decided to part with both of its sports teams. In 2003 Disney sold the Angels to Arturo Moreno and the club was once again re-named to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (although the team simply refers to itself as the Angels).

Click HERE for more May 18 Disney History.


Bruce said...

A great blog--good to see you back!

Tony said...

Thank you sir Bruce!