“There’s a place, where I can go, when I feel low, when I feel blue… ” The Beatles
There was nothing particularly noteworthy or wondrous about the 200 block of north Angeleno Ave, nothing to distinguish it from any other residential street in any number of small towns across America. Angeleno was just another stretch of asphalt situated between Second and Third Street, in the small foothill community of Azusa California, nothing more, nothing less.
Like most neighborhood streets Angeleno was lined by average, single story, middle class American homes, inhabited by average, middle class American families. Angeleno produced no presidents, astronauts, writers, professional athletes, or TV personalities nor anyone of notoriety. Actually not many famous people had their beginnings in the Canyon City, only two come to mind, my uncle, major league pitcher Hank Aguirre who in a career that spanned 15 years, pitched for the Indians, Tigers, Dodgers and Cubs, and more recently motivational life coach Tony Robbins.
As a kid I remember hearing stories about my uncle Hank, the local boy who made good. My favorite was when he was in his rookie year with the Indians in 1956 and faced baseball legend Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox for the first time and struck him out! After the game he asked Williams to autograph the ball. A few weeks later he faced Williams again but this time Williams swung at the first pitch and put it out of the park. While circling the bases, Williams yelled out to my uncle,“Get that ball and I”ll sign it too!”
I only got to see him play once in 1968 when he was traded to the Dodgers. It was a great game. L.A. was holding on to a slim 3-2 lead against the Giants. With two out and two on in the seventh, he was brought in to relieve Don Sutton who was struggling badly. Hank managed to strike out Bobby Bonds and got them out of the inning. The Dodgers went on to win the game 4-2. Uncle Hank had a great year with L.A. allowing only 3 runs in 39-1/3 innings with an ERA of 0.69, but for reasons unknown, at least by me, he was released after only one season.
In those quiet moments when I think about Angeleno I’m transported back in time and my mind is filled with cherished memories like the one above. Angeleno has a way of doing that to me. It will forever remain one of the favorite places of my youth.
Why Angeleno Ave? I can’t give you a definitive answer as to why we enjoyed hanging out on Angeleno like we did, we just did. It was a wide street and very close to Memorial Park and the baseball fields. Besides, three of our school friends lived there. Jeff Smith and his cousins Pete Smith and Paul McCully all lived on the west side of the street within a few houses of one another. They were in my class at St. Frances of Rome from fifth through eighth grade. Funny, I had friends who lived on Orange Ave, San Gabriel Blvd and Nob Hill Drive to name a few, but their streets never had the charm or appeal of Angeleno, we never wanted to just ‘hang out” on those streets. It was always Angeleno. It was the cool place to be. “If you weren’t there, you weren’t anywhere.”
To be continued