In this edition in our series of articles focusing on the team rivalries in MLB, we’re looking at another cross-city rivalry; The Freeway Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels.
In this article, Dodgers fan and team contributor Freddie Law-Keen, along with Angels fan and team contributor Nick Wright, will break down what the rivalry means to them and their team, and how the rivalry has morphed since the Angels explicitly rebranded themselves as being from LA.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Growing up in North London within walking distance to both Highbury and the Emirates, I had no choice but to support Arsenal and to despise Tottenham Hotspur.
Many people have asked me “Why?” My response echoes George Mallory’s thoughts on climbing Everest; “Because they’re THERE!”
In Britain, we are brought up to understand that your sporting neighbour is the greatest enemy, and that local territory must be treasured and fought for. However, when you bring these thoughts to the City of Angels, you might get some different ideas brought back at you.
If you ask a LA sports fan “Who is your favourite team to beat?”, Lakers fans will echo “The Celtics!” in unison, while Dodgers fans will chorus “The Giants”. Meanwhile, you’d have to hunt for a long time to find someone who waits all year to play the Angels.
Looking at the current state of the rivalry known as the Freeway Series, the Dodgers have a .708 winning percentage over the Angels in the past five years. If the two teams over this period played a 162-game series, the Dodgers would end the season with 114 wins.
You could say that the Dodgers should win by that margin – they have the money, the history and the players, but that wouldn’t be a fair representation of just how much the Angels have underachieved in the past five to ten years.
They have given their fans the chance to watch arguably The Greatest Player of All Time play for them (Mike Trout), before a separate player (Shohei Ohtani) blew the ‘arguably’ out of the water and started dominating all arguments of who The Greatest Player of All Time is himself. Fielding a team that has both Trout and Ohtani playing at close to their peak abilities at the same time is a gift from the baseball gods, but giving them to the Angels must have meant that Loki was the god giving the gift.
The only major disagreement between fans of the two clubs came when the Angels started playing around with their name. During the 1962 season, the Los Angeles Angels played at Dodger Stadium, sharing the ground. It was temporary and, so, somewhat acceptable. When their base was ready in Anaheim, The California Angels, as they were known, then moved to Anaheim. They were allowed this state name because they were the only American League team from California and the first to be founded in the state, as the Dodgers and Giants had both relocated from New York [as documented in the Dodgers vs Giants MLB Rivalries article – ed.].
When the Athletics moved to Oakland and the Padres were formed, the disputes continued, with the Angels eventually settling on the most accurate moniker – the Anaheim Angels – adding locality to their Orange County home, a region that LA residents will make sure to tell you DOES NOT represent Los Angeles.
In 2005, the Angels then added ‘LA’ to their name, becoming the ludicrously named ‘The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’, before ‘Anaheim’ was formally dropped in 2016.
Dodger fans were upset – we rightfully were the team representing LA, we moved first and we were
the team who actually played in LA. The club listened to the fans, as they continued to reference the Angels as “ANA” on the American League scoreboard.
As the Angels are not a threat to the Dodgers and their National League West title, and the Freeway Series is well attended and fun for the city, I believe Dodgers fans would like to have seen some level of success greet the Angels, especially while they were blessed with the generational opportunity to field two of the top ten players of all time at the same time, but this was not to be. The better the opposition, the better the games, and the more interesting the competition and rivalry.
Until the Angels have some consistency in beating the Dodgers or become a more fearful force that regularly makes the postseason, Dodger fans won’t be particularly worried or preoccupied with the Angels – as long as they respect their place in Orange County, and don’t try to force the rivalry when the numbers and history would advise the Angels fans against antagonising Dodger fans, that is.
It’s worth reminding the Anaheim fans that all the Dodger faithful were in their corner during the 2002 World Series. When you’re against the Giants, the upstart Padres or those cheating Astros, we’ll join you in Anaheim and maybe even throw on something red.
Freddie Law-Keen is the LA Dodgers’ contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds, and can be found on Twitter @FLK_Sports.
Los Angeles Angels
I think MLB rivalries when viewed through the eyes of a UK fan have different connotations to those in the local area.
For example, the Dodgers fans I interact with in the UK are, by and large, great people. And yet, I have a real dislike for Dodgers fans, what they stand for and the constant hostility you see at Dodger Stadium.
I think there is very much a big brother/little brother narrative that they like to push. Despite all the Dodgers’ exorbitant spending though, it’s the Angels that were the last team from Southern California to win a real World Series, with the Dodgers failing to win a full season championship since the 1980’s [While the Dodgers did indeed win the World Series in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, this is an exceptional bit of shade from Nick, and so, I’m going to allow it – ed.]. Also, if you ask me who the one team I don’t want to win the World Series is every year, I’d say the Dodgers.
Of course, the Angels’ rivalry with the Dodgers is less about on-field rivalry, with whom they have a much bigger rivalry with the Giants, and more about proximity of location. The rivalry is aptly named The Freeway Series, due to the close but different locations, with Anaheim down the freeway in Orange County, despite the marketing move to change the name to Los Angeles. You will often find Dodgers fans at Angel Stadium too, which is irritating.
And yet how much of this dislike also stems from envy? They [the Dodgers] are everything the Angels cannot claim to be;
- They spend well on the major league team
- They put huge resources into scouting and development
- They are perennial contenders and are iconic largely for the right reasons
It’s tough sharing a market with a team like that. But, despite that, they lack the type of environment I cherish. It’s not the same family environment that the Halos give you. The Angels community will always rally around its own while Dodgers fans will fight amongst themselves.
Ultimately, seeing them constantly fall at the final hurdle never gets less satisfying.
Nick Wright is Bat Flips & Nerds’ Los Angeles Angels contributor, and can be found on Twitter @LAAngelsUK.
While Freddie makes a good point that proximity does seem to be more hard-wired into UK sports rivalries, this MLB Rivalries series has shown that proximity does also play its part in American sports rivalries – already, we’ve seen articles in this series about the rivalry between the Cubs and the Cardinals, the Giants and the A’s, and how the rivalry between the Dodgers and the Giants has its roots in both originally being based in New York. Future articles in this series will also focus on the two Chicago teams and the two New York teams.
Proximity does matter then, at least in baseball. And so, we see a rivalry between the Dodgers and the Angels.
Freddie’s argument, at least partly, seems to be that the Angels aren’t an LA team, and his point regarding the multiple name changes has merit. However, the flaw in his argument is that the Angels were based in Los Angeles at their formation in 1961. There is a distinction between Dodger Stadium being in Los Angeles County, while Anaheim is in neighbouring Orange County (or ‘The OC’, for fans of mid-noughties teen dramas), yes, but most people would consider Anaheim to be in the Greater Los Angeles area. For example, ask anyone not from the area where Disneyland is, and they’ll most likely say ‘Los Angeles’ rather than ‘Anaheim’.
And it is precisely on distinctions like this that entire rivalries can be formed.
Come back next week for the latest in the MLB Rivalries series!
Brett Walker is the Oakland Athletics contributor for Bat Flips & Nerds, and can be found on Twitter @BrettChatsSport.
Featured image – Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press