This film was not the only connection between Disney and the Angels. Two years after the film's release, the Walt Disney Corporation bought the Angels, and owned the team until 2003. In addition, Walt Disney was one of the Angels original board members.
The film's tagline, "Ya Gotta Believe" (also alluded to in the film), was coined by pitcher Tug McGraw. During the 1973 season, McGraw used the phrase to encourage his fellow New York Mets, who successfully turned around an underdog season to go to the World Series.
The movie centers around the California Angels in Anaheim, but was filmed at Oakland Coliseum, due to the fact that the NFL season was taking place, and the Los Angeles Rams were using the stadium in Anaheim. The Coliseum was not being used, as the Raiders had not yet returned to Oakland. The Rams would return to Los Angeles in 2016, twenty-two years after the film's release.
The character of Hank Murphy, the Angels' owner, is loosely based on owner, actor, and country music star Gene Autry, right down to the cowboy hat. Sadly, Gene Autry passed away October 1998. When the Anaheim Angels won the 2002 World Series, they dedicated their win to Autry.
Not only do Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Roger Bomman) and Brenda Fricker (Maggie Nelson) share the same birthday, Februray 17, but the actor and actress have played opposite Daniel Day-Lewis as a relative of his main character. Fricker played Day-Lewis' mother, Mrs. Brown, in My Left Foot (1989), and Gordon-Levitt played his son, Robert Lincoln, in Lincoln (2012). Day-Lewis won the Best Actor Oscar for both films, Fricker won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role for My Left Foot (1989), but Gordon-Levitt did not receive a nomination for his performance in Lincoln.
Kit "Hit or Die" Kesey is said to be the "League RBI Champion" when he comes up to bat against Mel Clark. In reality, Carney Lansford (a real fifteen season MLB Veteran, who played Kesey) never drove in more than eighty runs in any season, and averaged just seventy-six RBIs in a standard one hundred sixty-two game season. However, when the film was released, the season was cut short, due to a players' strike.
Although the White Sox are portrayed as the heavies of the film, their history has been almost as tormented as that of the Angels. At the time of its production and release, the White Sox hadn't won an AL Pennant since 1959 or a World Series since 1917. The team did appear in the ALCS in both 1983 and 1993. Eleven years after the film's release, the White Sox ended their droughts by winning both the AL Pennant and the World Series in 2005.
Jay O. Sanders (Ranch Wilder) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Roger Bomman) appeared in DC Comics movies. Sanders in Green Lantern (2011), and Gordon-Levitt in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Neal McDonough played Damien Darhk in the DC television shows Arrow (2012), and Legends of Tomorrow (2016), as well as playing Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan in Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013), and Agent Carter (2015).
At the time of its production and release, the Angels, who entered the American League in 1961 had never won an AL pennant or appeared in a World Series and were best known for their collapses in the ALCS. The Angels would lose their appearances in 1979, 1982 and 1986. Eight years after the film's release, the Angels won both the franchise's first AL Pennant and World Series championship in 2002.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The film ends with the Angels winning the American League Western Division Championship. In 1993, the year before the film was released, the Angels and White Sox were both in the AL Western Division. In order to win the Pennant (and thus play in the World Series) the Angels would have to beat the AL Eastern Division Champion, which the movie never shows. The following season, the White Sox moved into the new American League Central division as part of a realignment that saw the implementation of a Wild-Card team, which would have taken effect had the player's strike not occurred. The new playoff structure didn't take effect until 1995 as a result.
After the real-life Angels won the 2002 World Series, the city of Anaheim would not see another championship until the Anaheim Ducks, another team owned by Disney, won the Stanley Cup in 2007 (an Anaheim Mighty Ducks cap can be seen in one scene).