When Major League Baseball awarded American League expansion teams to Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., the teams scrambled to put together an effective strategy for the expansion draft that would take place eight days later. Angels owner Gene Autry tabbed recently-fired Yankee skipper Casey Stengel as his first choice to guide the club.
Stengel turned down Autry’s offer but did lend insight into players he thought could help the club. When the draft took place the club heeded Stengel’s advice and selected Eli Grba with the initial pick in baseball’s first ever expansion draft. By doing so, Grba would go down as the Angel franchise’s first player.
In the collection is this letter from Yankees co-owner Dan Topping dated December 15, 1960. He thanks Grba for his time as a Yankee, informing him that he’s been selected first overall in the expansion draft by the Angels. Topping closes by wishing Grba the best of luck.
Topping headed the Yankees during one of the most successful runs in the history of professional sports. Under his guidance from 1945-1964 New York appeared in 15 World Series and came away as champion 10 times.
As for Grba, he went on to be the Angels Opening Day starter, throwing the first pitch in franchise history and gaining the team’s first ever Major League victory.