A recent trip to California included a visit to the “Big A”—Anaheim Stadium—to take in an Angels/ Yankees game.
Anaheim Stadium is the second oldest venue in the American League, behind Fenway Park—although the Boston edifice remains over a half-century senior to the Big A.
In contrast to Fenway, it was “easy in/easy out” in terms of driving to the park, which I did with a long-time Angels fan. The Big A featured fireworks, waterworks, and Mexican food—none of which one would find on Yawkey Way. But every city has its own sports culture. I acknowledged that it was an ordeal to get to Fenway, but that it was worth it, given Boston’s rich baseball legacy.
While Orange County lacks Boston’s tradition, Anaheim does have some history. When the Angels beat the Tigers there on the last day of the ’67 season, it gave Boston an Impossible Dream pennant. Nolan Ryan certainly had some special moments at the Big A, and in 1984 I attended an NFL playoff game there, where the football Giants beat the Rams. And I was there in 1985 when Eddie Murray hit three homers for the Orioles—just missing out on a fourth.
But it was the next year that the Big A hosted a now legendary Red Sox game—my favorite BoSox game of all time.
California led Boston three games to one in the American League Championship Series, and had a 5-2 ninth inning advantage in Game 5. On the verge of their first World Series ever, the Angels were stymied by home runs by Don Baylor and Dave Henderson. The Red Sox prevailed to return the series to Boston, where the Angels were swamped in Games 6 and 7. Boston went on to the World Series against the Mets, the memory of which sadly overshadows its 1986 California miracle.
To some readers that’s ancient history—1967 and 1986, etc. So fast forward to 2015 and the Yankee game at the Big A, where I cheered on the Angels. (The enemy of my enemy is my friend!) Naturally, there was Yankee blue everywhere, and the New York fans (typically) were much louder than the laid-back Californians.
It occurred to me that while the Yankees and the Red Sox typically draw around 3 million fans annually to their respective home parks, they must also account for at least another million each in road attendance. Let’s be honest. Ex–patriate Yankee and Red Sox fans help keep the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays in business. So the BoSox and Yanks make many millions of dollars for every other team in the league. (Did you hear all the cheering for the Red Sox in Anaheim last weekend?)
Anyway, a Garrett Jones homer helped the Bronx Bombers to a 3-0 eighth inning lead, bringing us to the true highlight of the game, which may not have been captured by ESPN, which televised the game nationally.
The Angels Strike Force took to the field, a collection of beautiful California maidens armed with cannons, which launch tightly-wrapped Mike Trout #27 jerseys to eager fans in the stands. Our seats were in the second deck, down the right field line, just in front of the press box, but one of the maidens got her azimuth and elevation just right and launched a package in our direction. My finely-honed athletic instincts took over and I stood and prepared to catch the incoming projectile. I had it all the way, but just as I caught it, a female Yankee fan lunged over me from behind and tried to wrestle the prize from my grasp.
Obviously, she had NO idea who she was dealing with. Her razor sharp finger nails did cut my hands, but once I realized I was in a tussle my Marine Corps training took over. The Trout projectile remained in my possession and I immediately presented it to Beth. The obnoxious Yankee fan returned to her seat. I noticed that she wore a #13 (Alex Rodriquez) jersey. Of course.
Naturally, Trout came up in the bottom of the eighth and hit a home run. The Angels got some other runners on, but the Yankee relievers stymied the rally and New York won 3-1.
We were on the freeway in short order afterwards—something that would never happen in Boston. Inevitably we compared the Big A experience to the Fenway experience. I opined that Anaheim could keep the waterworks, fireworks, and Yankee fans, but that Fenway should adopt an enhanced version of the Angels Strike Force and add more Mexican food options. Fenway Franks are no longer an adequate ball yard staple. I’m sure that Señor Ted Williams—who was half Mexican—would agree. More tortillas and tamales! And cheaper cerveza! Sí, podemos hacer eso!
Alert reader Brad Wolff (Tufts University, Class of 1972) recently took issue with an earlier column which proclaimed the “Flaming Smelts” as the top collegiate sports nickname. Wolff advocated for the Tufts Jumbos, named for an historic elephant.
“Jumbo has been ranked among the most singular mascots in college athletics by both the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated magazines,” wrote Wolff. “I believe he is the only college mascot who can be found in Webster’s dictionary.”
OK, Brad. Honorable mention for the Jumbos!
What other expansion team also joined the American League in 1961, in addition to the L.A. Angels? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on July 23 include All-Star L.A. Dodger pitcher and 1962 Cy Young Award winner Don Drysdale (1936) and former Red Sox shortstop and batting champ Nomar Garciaparra (1973).
Sportsquote “There have been only two authentic geniuses in the world, Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare.” — actress Tallulah Bankhead.
The Washington Senators joined the A.L. in 1961, replacing the old Washington Senators—who moved to Minnesota to become the Twins. National League expansion occurred the next year when the N.Y. Metropolitans and the Houston Colt 45s commenced play. The eight-team National League played a 154 game schedule in 1961, while the-ten team American League played a 162 game schedule—hence the asterisk to Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs.
Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management at Plymouth State University and at NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is email@example.com.