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California is the second largest state in the United States of America covering 163,695 square miles and is the most populous state in the country being home to approximately 39,776,830 people. This large surface area and population allow for it to support several professional sports teams.
There are a total of 18 professional sports teams in the state of California making it an essential part of the history and the current landscape of professional sports in our country. Baseball made its way to the Golden State in 1958 when the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles from Brooklyn.
Of those 18 teams, there are five Major League Baseball teams in California. Those teams are the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland A’s, and the San Diego Padres.
Let’s take an in-depth look at each of these teams, their franchise’s history, and their recent success, or lack-there-of for some. Teams will be listed in order of their founding.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
- First Year in MLB: 1958, relocated from Brooklyn
- World Series Titles: 1955 (Brooklyn), 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988, 2020
- Franchise Highlights: Broke the MLB’s color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson, Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run while injured
- Notable Players: Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Jim Bunning, Orel Hershiser, Clayton Kershaw
- Notable Managers: Tommy Lasorda, Dave Roberts
- Current Stadium: Dodger Stadium (1962 – Present)
The Dodgers are arguably the team with the most storied history of the five California teams. They etched their place in baseball history in 1941 when Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson, the league’s first black player.
The franchise first blossomed as a National League team in Brooklyn after years of competing in the minor leagues. Before officially being nicknamed the Dodgers in 1933, the team played as the Superbas and the Robins.
The Dodgers dominated in the late 50s and early 60s winning three World Series championships.
In the 1980s, they won two championships that included one of the most memorable walk-off home runs ever when Kirk Gibson, battling injury, hit a pinch hit home run to clinch Game 1 of the World Series against Oakland.
Until their latest championship in 2020, the Dodgers were known as a successful franchise that struggled to win when it mattered in the postseason. They laid those doubts to rest last season and entered the 2021 season as the favorite to win it again.
Perhaps the most recognizable part of the Dodgers franchise is their clean and simple blue and white uniforms with some red mixed into it. They carried this look over from their Brooklyn days and have yet to change it.
2. San Francisco Giants
- First Year in MLB: 1958 relocated from New York
- World Series Titles: 1905 (New York), 1921 (New York), 1922 (New York), 1933 (New York), 1954 (New York), 2010, 2012, 2014
- Franchise Highlights: Barry Bonds’s record breaking 73 home run season, Willie Mays’s catch at the Polo Grounds
- Notable Players: Mel Ott, Christie Matthewson, Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Tim Lincecum
- Notable Managers: Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy
- Current Stadium: Oracle Park (2000 – Present)
In 1883, the franchise played their first game as the New York Gothams in the National League. Only two years later, they began to call themselves the Giants, and the rest is history.
In 1958, the New York Giants joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in a trek across the country to California. Since then, the team has resided in San Francisco.
The New York Giants were one of the most successful franchises in professional baseball winning five World Series titles. In 2010, thanks to a stout pitching staff, the Giants won their first title in California and went on to win two more in 2012 and 2014.
In recent years, the Giants have given the baseball world little to talk about in terms of team success. They do, however, currently own the best record in baseball at 54-32.
The Giants franchise is most known for its unique stadium features in both its home fields in New York and in San Francisco.
The Giants played at the Polo Grounds from 1890-1955. The field is known for its unique dimensions with the left and right field foul poles only standing 279 and 258 feet from home plate while the center field wall is located 483 feet from home plate.
This is why Willie Mays’s “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series will go down in history as one of the greatest catches of all-time.
The San Francisco Giants’ ballpark (currently named Oracle Park) is known for the part of the San Francisco Bay located just outside of the stadium in right field. It is known as McCovey Cove in honor of Willie McCovey who used to launch home runs into the Bay.
More recently, Barry Bonds made a living hitting homers into the Cove.
3. Los Angeles Angels
- First Year in MLB: 1961 expansion team
- World Series Titles: 2002
- Franchise Highlights: First and only World Series championship in 2002
- Notable Players: Nolan Ryan, Vladimir Guerrero Sr., Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani
- Notable Managers: Mike, Scioscia, Joe Maddon
- Current Stadium: Angel Stadium (1966 – Present)
In 1961, the Los Angeles Angels joined the party in California as an expansion team. While they currently own the same name as which they entered the league, the Angels have had several different names over the years.
From 1965-1997, they were known as the California Angels. In 1998, they became the Anaheim Angels and carried that name until 2004. For ten seasons from 2005-2015, they were known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. As of the last six seasons, they have reverted back to their roots as the Los Angeles Angels.
2002 was the franchise’s first and only championship led by Troy Glaus and Garrett Anderson. The team does have a total of nine American League West Division championships in its history.
The Angels have become relevant again thanks to two stars: Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
Trout is considered by many to be the best player in baseball. Despite several injury-ridden seasons, Trout already has 310 career home runs in 11 seasons. He has won three MVP awards and has been selected as an All-Star in every season except for 2011, his rookie year, and 2020, a season where there was no All-Star game.
Ohtani is doing things on the baseball field that haven’t been done since Babe Ruth. He is both a pitcher who currently holds a 3.49 ERA in 13 games started and has hit 31 home runs at the plate. He is the first player in modern history to be selected as an All-Star as a pitcher and hitter.
4. Oakland Athletics
- First Year in MLB: 1968 relocated from Kansas City
- World Series Titles: 1910 (Philadelphia), 1911 (Philadelphia), 1913 (Philadelphia), 1929 (Philadelphia), 1930 (Philadelphia), 1972, 1973, 1974, 1989
- Franchise Highlights: Three consecutive World Series titles 1972-74, Longest regular season win streak in 2002 (20 games)
- Notable Players: Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson,
- Notable Managers: Connie Mack, Tony La Russa
- Current Stadium: Oakland Coliseum (1968 – Present)
After a long, winning history in Philadelphia, and a longer but less successful stint in Kansas City, the Athletics (often shortened to the A’s) came over to California in 1968.
Sporting their iconic green and yellow uniforms, the A’s dominated in the early 70s winning three consecutive World Series titles in 1972, 1973, and 1974. Since then, they have rarely had losing seasons, but have never been able to win the big game.
Perhaps their most successful season in recent history was their 2002 season in which they won 102 games, claimed a division title, and set the Major League Baseball record with a 20 game winning streak. They lost in the ALCS that year.
The A’s are most recently famous for being one of the first teams to fully adopt Bill James’s SABRmetrics philosophy. Their 2002 season was the inspiration for Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball that was later turned into a movie starring Brad Pitt as General Manager Billy Beane.
5. San Diego Padres
- First Year in MLB: 1969 expansion team
- World Series Titles: None
- Franchise Highlights: Five National League West titles
- Notable Players: Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman,
- Notable Managers: Bruce Bochy
- Current Stadium: Petco Park (2004 – Present)
The last team to join California was the San Diego Padres in 1969 when the MLB expanded. The city was chosen for its warm year-round climate.
As far as winning championships, the franchise has seen little success over the years. The team has never had a 100 win season but has experienced five 100 loss seasons in its tenure. They have only reached the postseason six times with 2020 being the most recent.
The franchise is best known for its most storied player, Tony Gwynn. Gwynn is known as one of the greatest contact hitters of all-time winning eight batting titles in his tenure with the team. In 1994, Gwynn hit a ridiculous .394 before the MLB went on strike.
Despite its rather unsuccessful history, there is a lot to like about the current team’s chances of competing for a 2021 World Series title. The Padres added notable free agent signings this offseason in pitchers Yu Darvish and Blake Snell to go with their current stable of young offensive talent led by Fernando Tatis Jr.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does California have so many baseball teams?
As the state with the highest population in the United States, it only makes sense that California is home to the most Major League teams. It is one of the few states that has the population to support that many teams.
Will California add a sixth team in the future?
There have been talks of the MLB expanding in the near future, but California has not been in the talks to add one of those expansion teams. In fact, the Oakland A’s have been rumored to be planning a move out of the state to Las Vegas in the near future.
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