Baseball at Murrieta Hot Springs

Baseball at Murrieta Hot Springs

Baseball's spring training is underway, and in a few weeks, major league rosters will be set and minor league players assigned to teams around the country.

Here in Southwest County, the Lake Elsinore Storm, the Single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, will soon begin its 18th season at The Diamond.

But it was 100 years ago this month that minor league baseball first came to Southwest County when the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League held spring training at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort.

A photograph of the team taken March 17, 1911, was published in the recent "Images of America" book about Murrieta Hot Springs.

"Members of the Coast League baseball team ... trained at the springs in March 1911," reads the caption under the photo. "They endured an unseasonably rainy spring training with hot mineral and mud baths, alcohol rubs, and massages."

A Temecula newspaper that same month reported, "about two dozen members of the Angel City baseball club ... who have been spending a fortnight at the Murrieta Hot Springs, enjoyed a pedestrian excursion to our town on Monday and enjoyed the walk and the fine scenery."

The Angels were among the founding teams of the PCL in 1903. The league had six teams in 1911 ---- Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, and, for some reason, Vernon.

The Angels' roster of 41 men included 13 players who had played or would go on to play in the major leagues. None became what could be called a household name.

So who were some of these players who came to Murrieta to prepare for the 1911 season?

The Angels' player-manager was Frank "Cap" Dillon, who had played two seasons with the Detroit Tigers in the American League before joining the Los Angeles team.

In 1911, Dillon, then 37, played 172 games at first base and hit a respectable .253.

Tom Daily hit .302 for the Angels in 194 games that season. He played four seasons in the majors, including two with the New York Yankees, in 1914 and 1915.

The team's best pitcher was 18-year-old Lee Delhi, who must have had a fiery fastball because his nickname was "Flame."

Delhi posted a 27-23 record in 1911, along with a sparkling 2.54 earned run average.

The next year Delhi was called up to "the show," where he appeared in one game for the Chicago White Sox, pitching three innings and giving up seven hits and six runs.

The Angels' best hitter in 1911 was Heinie Heitmuller, who batted .343 in 78 games.

Heitmuller had hit for a .271 average in parts of two seasons for the Philadelphia Athletics before joining the Angels but never returned to the big leagues.

The mud baths, alcohol rubs, and massages at the Hot Springs didn't do much to help the Angels in 1911.

The club posted an 82-127 mark and finished last.