Cupla Last Notes on the World Series: Indulge me one last time, and then I'll move on.
Mostly, I'm just real happy, happier than I remember being in a long time, as goofy as that sounds. Cubs and Red Sox fans? You're in for a treat, when your day comes. We had the added bonus of not really expecting to win the Series, having never been there before, a point made well by the L.A. Times' Joe Mathews, an actual Angel fan who they let write a smart column throughout the seven games (though not in the Sports section).
Shall I get the L.A. Times bashing out of the way here? Bill Plaschke, the paper's featured sports columnist, is just execrable. His concept of an ideal column is a series of one-sentence, 13-word paragraphs, preferably beginning with the same clunky word or phrase, like "It became official." He's the guy who celebrated the Angels winning their first playoff series by inventing a non-existent species of Anaheim fans who wear "Armanis" and "Guccis." Around this same time he reported on an equally non-existent "study" that "showed that [Barry] Bonds reached base 1.1 times per plate appearance" (a mathematical impossibility, to put it gently). Anyways, Plaschke used his prominent real estate this morning to explain yet again why Southern California belongs to the Dodgers, and to get basic facts wrong. Here's a typical section:
These are, in a sense, the new Dodgers. These are the sort of players this town fell in love with many years ago, the kind many thought they would never see again.Note that the actual name of first baseman Scott Spiezio's trash-rock combo is simply "Sandfrog," not "The Sandfrogs," an elusive fact hiding on the band's website and on various fan-signs in the ballpark, and then repeated several dozen times by the annoying Fox broadcasters. Note, too, that Tim Salmon's nickname is "The Kingfish," and not "a Fish," that the term "iron horse" actually connotes locomotive-style qualities, a.k.a. brute speed and strength ... or just about the opposite of how catcher Bengie Molina runs, which is more reminiscent of an iron turtle. Nitpicking? You betcha! Let's move on!
They are baseball's best team. Yet, on the roster of the midseason game featuring the best players, they had only one.
They don't have Babe Ruth, they have a shortstop who is the approximate size of a Baby Ruth candy bar.
They don't have Lou Gehrig, they have a catcher who runs like an iron horse.
No Splendid Splinter, but they do have a first baseman who plays in a band called the Sandfrogs.
No Hammerin' Hank, but a Fish.
I just got off the phone with Tim Blair, who was calling from Flagstaff, Arizona, where he's about 90% done with delivery of a Chevrolet that contains a bumper sticker bragging that "My child is a vegan honors student!" (He is chain-smoking, and wearing a Dale Earnhardt cap, to compensate.) Anyways, Tim is from Australia, which means he doesn't understand any sport not played with "wickets" on a "pitch," but nevertheless he greatly enjoyed watching the last two games of the Series, rooting hard for the Angels all the way, and living vicariously through us Angel fans (as partial compensation for some tragedy involving "Collingwood" or something equivalent back in Pirate-stan). I've heard variations on this theme from scores of people, and it pleases me to no end -- they've adopted our team, even if they hadn't watched baseball in 10 years, and instinctively rooted for the hustling beard-boys over that awesome, self-absorbed supplement-gobbler for the Giants. My extended family -- grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, screaming eight-year-olds -- all live in Oregon and Washington, and root for the Mariners if anyone, but they were all completely behind the boys in red. We were at my granddad's wake, which was an informal, upbeat event, but nevertheless it didn't seem like the right place to impose Game Six of the World Series ... until I heard the shrieking of about a dozen females, all pointing at the set and yelling taunts at Barry Bonds. I strolled over to see the commotion, just in time to watch Bonds round the bases to make the score 4-0. Over the next hour, things would get so advanced that my own allegedly sports-ignoring mother was positioning my eldest brother and I into the proper "sports fan" position, while my niece made sure I stood up in the same spot I was when Spiezio hit his three-run home run....
It was a real treat to watch it all, including Game 7, with family, who have all been suffering the Affliction even longer than I have. Aside from my grown brother -- aged 39, mind you -- not being able to bear staying in the room while the Giants were hitting, for voodoo reasons, everyone behaved well, and we were able to share a very nice moment together. Down south, my Dad & other brother & other grandmother were whooping it up. My sister's husband even managed to get tickets to the game itself. The Welches were represented.
First time I ever heard my Dad cuss (I mean, really cuss)? It was the first Angels playoff game in Anaheim -- 1979, against the Baltimore Orioles. Or I should say, it was before the game, just off the off-ramp somewhere in Garden Grove, with steam billowing out from the engine of our green 1964 Chevy pick-up. First home playoff game in Angel history, and the ancient truck finally broke down. We were stranded, and my father was introducing me to the versatility of the word "fuck." My two brothers, shocked and possibly liberated, joined in the fuckeries. I was speechless, and 11. Somehow, one of Dad's friends rolled up in a gold 280z, stuffed the four of us inside, and delivered us to home plate just as the National Anthem was being sung. The Angels scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth that game, to win 4-3. It was probably the best baseball game I've ever seen, though this year's 2-1 game against Minnesota was a real beaut. Baltimore won the next game, and went to the World Series.
Next Angel playoff appearance was 1982, against the Milwaukee Brewers. We started lining up for World Series tickets in the Big A parking lot as soon as the team went up 2-0 (it was best of five those days). My Pony League coach had just let me "borrow" some revelatory new book called The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1982, and I spent the evening squinting under the yellow street lamps at all this strange and wonderful new analysis, smart-ass writing, and stats & formulas out the wazoo. A few weeks later, in my "Career Guidance" class, I would deliver a presentation on how I wanted to become a "Sabermetrician," since it combined the three things I loved and/or did well: Baseball, writing, and math (later that year I would win the Junior High Math Bowl for the Long Beach Unified School District ... which turned out to be the high-water mark of my budding engineering career). After watching the Angels lose Game Three on other people's portable television sets, we "slept" in my then-stepmom's blue pinto, and if you've seen my father, you'll know just how brutal that "night of the stick-shift" actually was....
The next day was about 104 degrees, with the hot Santa Ana winds blowing in. A brush fire ripped through the nearest hills, sending black ash right on top of us. There were more than 10,000 people there, and the lines for the outhouse were cruel. I finally got to the promised land, only to discover a cone-shaped mound of the foulest materiel stacked more than a foot above the hole ... I stumbled blindly out of the door, vomiting onto the asphalt, hot ash blowing down my throat, no water in sight. The rest of the day was a delirium of wristband-swapping, ticket-scalping, imagining a nice private bathroom, and watching the Angels lose Game Four on the leetle TVs. We ended up with something like eight WS tickets for each game, then went home and watched them blow a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning of Game Five, when Gene Mauch refused to bring in a lefty to face the lefthanded-hitting Cecil Cooper with the game on the line.
The other playoff year, 1986, you may have heard about. I'll only add that it was also my first, rather tumultuous, quarter of college, and that (naturally) we had gobs of tickets to a World Series that proved one strike too elusive. I have blocked most of the details out.
Other fans had to suffer through multiple indignities during the 1990s, but I was limited to a few games on the odd years that I'd visit home. The real awful memory around these parts is 1995, when we blew something like an 11-game lead in five or six weeks, but I was too busy with stuff in Hungary to even feel it.
But those crazy 67-year-old ladies with the red shirts and the jury-rigged halos and the rally monkeys velcroed around their necks? They could tell you about every collapse, in agonizing detail, but they can also tell you a thing or two about watching a young Mickey Rivers lurch and sprint around the basepaths, or a sexy Disco Danny Ford bouncing doubles off the right-centerfield wall. When Troy Percival gets all weepy talking about the fans, or when Tim Salmon does his little victory lap around the warning track, this is what they're talking about. It sounds crazy and counter-intuitive, but this runt of an organization actually has tradition and nostalgia, and people who've been coming to games for four decades.
Still, these are usually a polite folk. Yet this year we had the craziest fans in the post-season. What happened? Rex Hudler, the former player (on that 1995 team) and homer color commentator on the local teevee broadcasts, hit the nail right on the head yesterday, in this T.J. Simers column in the L.A. Times:
You know when all this started? The night before the strike when the fans here threw the baseballs back onto the field, that changed everything. They got into it. That didn't happen in any other stadium that night, and those pictures went back to the player reps in New York and there was no strike.I was there the night in question (and wrote about it here), and I couldn't agree more. The Orange County kids found their voice, and since then it's been six weeks of catharsis.
Then it really took off, the fans knowing the Angels really had a chance to play it out all the way, and they haven't stopped screaming since.
Right, this is far too long and boring, and you non-sports fans have suffered long enough. I had intended to even write some jarringly unkind things about Barry Bonds -- a player I never disliked until this series -- but my heart's not in the project. You choose your home team, or it is chosen for you, and you make it the vehicle for your love of a sport, as well as a great place to bro out with yer pa, and you come to expect disappointment and indifference, even though you're still, at heart, watching this beautiful game of baseball being played by the best players in the world. And then suddenly your team makes the playoffs, plays inspired ball, wins thousands of new fans, and then takes the World Series in dramatic fashion. I know it must sound utterly daft to those who don't follow sports, but I can't remember the last time I had such a big goofy grin on my face.Posted by at October 29, 2002 01:47 AM