Bill Rigney, who led the Angels from their inception in 1961, was fired today as manager and replaced by coach Lefty Phillips. Rigney was not present at the press conference. General Manager Dick Walsh and Owner Gene Autry obviously were distressed at announcing the popular Rigney’s departure. However, the club sits dead last in the cellar of the American League West, a division containing both expansion clubs. Walsh said he did not feel the 13-26 Angels were a sixth-place club and thought a new hand at the helm might snap the Angels out of their skid.
Rigney, shown above on the far right with President Eisenhower who passed away this March, was popular in Southern California due to the team’s early successes. The announcement came as a surprise, but it was no surprise that Philips was named successor. Phillips guided the club last week while Rigney was out with a stomach ailment in New York. Phillips was hired for the remainder of the 1969 season so will have little leeway in his attempt to reverse the current losing pattern. If the Angels do not produce for him, he could face the same fate as Rigney. Phillips, a long-time Dodger scout and coach, joined the Angels staff this year. He told the press conference that he intended to make wiser use of the hit-and-run and bunt, since the Angels only have one power hitter, Rick Reichardt.
Reichardt was involved in the first lineup switch Phillips made after taking over. The new manager sent Reichardt, an outfielder throughout all his career, to first base. The Angels lost Phillips’ debut as Cleveland’s Sam McDowell threw a one-hitter in a 3-0 Tribe win.