This beautiful pictorial map boosting tours of post-war Catalina Island highlights many of the bucolic charms of “the Isle with a smile,” but each spring, this baseball fan’s thoughts turn to a diamond carved into the arid soil of Avalon.
Spring training on Catalina was the idea of Chicago Cubs owner William J. Wrigley Jr., who felt the rugged terrain of the island would help condition the lads (which it did for the most part). The Cubs trained on Catalina from 1921 to 1941, taking a breather when the area was used as a military base and returning in 1946. The field, seen here just behind the few streets of the town, was not only called “Wrigley Field” but was of the exact same measurements as what was once called “Cubs Park” in Chicago (it was re-named Wrigley Field in 1926). Wrigley also built a “Wrigley Field” in Los Angeles for the Pacific Coast league Angels at 42nd and Avalon just a handful of years after the Catalina facility was completed in 1921.
William Wrigley Jr. was a benevolent owner, and under his stewardship the Cubs thrived. He promoted the idea of a socializing while training, and so the players enjoyed barbecues, fishing trips, dances at the Wrigley mansion and even mountain goat rodeos. In 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945 (the year of the “curse of the Billy Goat”) they won the NL pennant but failed to win the World Series.
The enthusiastic and generous William Jr. died in 1932 and the heirs never viewed the team with his devotion. By the time this map was created in 1948, the Cubbies were in the midst of a slide that would find them in the cellar of the National League, where they basically stayed until the mid-1960’s.
Like Jack Norworth and Albert VonTilzer who wrote Take Me Out To The Ballgame without ever seeing a ballgame, this map with the lovingly portrayed baseball diamond was done by a then-recent British immigrant and commercial artist “Wren” Lister, who most probably did not know a balk from a sticky-wicket.
Avalon Town: Santa Catalina Island, L.B.C. Company, James Wren Lister, 1948
Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason shares a map from the Central Library’s collection at CityThink each week.