Albie Pearson, A Little Angel

“Dear Mr. Haney,” the letter read, “I know you’re forming a new ball club and I can be had for peanuts…

Angels Over the Pond founder, Editor and features writer, Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

At just 5ft5” or thereabouts, the diminutive native of Alhambra, California, was often reported to be the shortest professional player in the big leagues, during his era in the game. A left handed centre fielder, Pearson initially joined the Boston Red Sox organisation, where he spent a number of years in the minors and was eventually traded to the Washington Senators, before he ever made a major league appearance. Making the breakthrough to the big time with the Senators, in 1958, Pearson excelled as a rookie and went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year award and hit .275 for the season.

In 1959 Pearson suffered with a lack of consistency, both through a hernia and chronic illness that resulted in his already small frame dropping to just 126lbs (9 stones) and he found himself being traded away to the Baltimore Orioles. The 1960 season saw Pearson again struggling to recover his form and he spent more time being sent back and forth to the minor leagues, until fate intervened and he discovered that the Los Angeles Angels had been granted an expansion slot. Pearson identified an opportunity to return to his homeland of California and, having always been forward in his letter writing (he previously successfully requested Senator’s President, Cal Griffith, allow him to attend early camp) he dug out his pen and paper to scribe a note to Angel’s General Manager Fred Haney.

He was, for a while, the darling of the Angels fans. His former teammate Bo Belinsky put it best when he said, “A lot of guys look up to the little man.”

“Dear Mr. Haney,” the letter read, “I know you’re forming a new ball club and I can be had for peanuts. I still can play and I feel I can help you at the gate because I was born in California and I got a lot of relatives. Please consider me.” Pearson was granted his wish, though just barely, when the Halos used their 30th and final pick of the draft to select him. With the Angels Pearson found form again in spring training and earned an opening day starting spot, versus his former employers, the Orioles. In fact, he was the only original Angel to start all three of their opening games of that inaugural 1961 season.

In these very first Angels games Pearson secured his place in Halos history, earning the organisation’s first walk and first single (he also went on to get the Angel’s first bunt single versus his other former club, the Red Sox, too) and he went on to hit .288 in the 1961 season. In the 1962 season Pearson hit .261 and he led the American League with 115 runs scored, then in 1963 he beat the legendary Mickey Mantle to the All-Star game. From being seen by many as something of a curiosity Pearson’s determination had earned him the respect of his peers and he was, for a while, the darling of the Angels fans. His former teammate Bo Belinsky put it best when he said, “A lot of guys look up to the little man.”

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

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