Monday, April 27, 2009

West coast baseball

One could assume that California is all about celebrity restaurants, surgically-enhanced beauties, and luxury automobiles. At least that's been primarily the California that I've seen each morning, as I've traveled from Brentwood to Beverly Hills, ferrying my son to work, in my rental car. Saturday, at UCLA, in Westwood, the beautiful people were no longer in the forefront of the crowd at the LA Times Festival of Books. On Sunday, all it took was a 50 minute drive to Anaheim to dispel any myth that California is only about the rich and the famous, trim bodies, and manufactured beauty.

If you follow baseball with any seriousness, you've no doubt heard the stories about laid back Dodgers' fans, arriving late for games, and leaving in the 7th inning, to beat the LA traffic, even if the ball game is a barn-burner.

Given that I'm in California, and since my son and I share so many great memories connected to baseball, since the Angels were playing at home, and the 12:35 pm start fit our schedule for the day, we decided to drive out to Anaheim, and see the Halos play Seattle, at the Big A.

Our early morning drive to Orange County was mostly open freeway, and the drive from Brentwood was no problem whatsoever.

Driving in on Gene Autry Way made me consider that the long-suffering cowboy never got to reap the rewards for bringing the Angels to Anaheim in 1966. (he purchased the club in 1960, and they played in Los Angeles, as the Los Angeles Angels, the name for which Autry had to pay Walter O'Malley, of the Dodgers, $300,000 for the rights to use)

Autry's long tenure as owner was one characterized by mediocrity and stunning disappointment. Towards the end of his reign as owner, the Angels' front office often unloaded young and talented players for overpriced veterans in an attempt to finally win one for the aging “cowboy.” He would never got to see his dream of a World Series Championship.

[Fans lined up outside Angels Stadium, or whatever it's now called, waiting for the gates to open]

It's hard to appreciate so many of the newer ball parks, when your first experiences with major league baseball in person are colored by Fenway Park, as a youngster, and later, having the privilege of being in the Chicago area and going to see the Cubs play at Wrigley.

Granted, I also made many a trip to Montreal to see the Expos play at one of the ugliest stadiums ever foisted on baseball, the Stade Olympic, or for you Anglos, Olympic Stadium. The "Big A," the name I choose to use, as the ball park has never been able to settle on one moniker for the site, much like the club that plays there. Are they the Los Angeles Angels, or the California Angels. No, they are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It's hard for a New Englander like me, to find a local equivalent of that convoluted naming of the club. Maybe the Providence Red Sox, of Boston, if the club was moved out of Boston.

Mark and I arrived early enough to catch BP, or so we thought. Unfortunately, it was some kind of promotion day, where all the Little Leaguers from the region (some 8,000 of them), were lined up by team near the right field corner, and paraded around the outskirts of the field, exiting in the lef field corner. For 90 minutes, that's all you saw, with the announcer making the same announcement for the groups not to "stop on the field for photos," so that the game might begin on time.

With no BP, or infield practice, all we had to do was tool around the stadium. Since I'm not a fan of stuffing my face at ball games (a nod to a hot dog, and a bag of peanuts is as far as I'll go), and I refuse to drink watered-down, overpriced beer when I go to a game, there really wasn't much to do. We snapped some perfunctory photos to capture our visit, but mostly, we sat in the center field stands to soak up the sun. Our $28 game tickets were along the right field line, under the roof, which deprived us of that opportunity later (although I still ended up with a sunburn).

Angels fans are idiots. Apparently, no one sits in the right seat. Once the national anthem was played, we made our way to our assigned seats, only to find someone was sitting in them. We plunked down on the other end of our aisle, hoping we wouldn't have to move. Actually, my goal was to move closer to the field, since there are no ushers stationed to prevent the proverbial musical chairs that California baseball, at least Angels baseball is all about.

Not only are these very normal, overweight, and certainly not surgically-enhanced fans incapable of reading their ticket stubs to make sure they put their fat asses in the right seats, my assumption that my own oversized ass was safe where it was by the start of the 3rd inning was a fallacy. You see, Angels fans aren't there to watch baseball, apparently. No, they are there to eat, buy souvenirs, and boo their own players (like starting first basemen, Robb Quinlan ). Of course, just as I had settled in to the game, along came the rightful owners of our seats, so we had to shuffle around to the other side, and bounce people out of our purchased seats. Meanwhile, this was going on all around us.

The game was a yawner, to boot. Since I could care less that about either team--I hate the Angels, and it's hard for me, as a Sox fan, to muster any passion for the visiting Seattle Mariners, the only hope I had was that former Angel, Jarrod Washburn, a former D3 player from Wisconsin , might represent for Wisconsin like his fellow cheesehead, Jordan Zimmermann), who won his 2nd big league start and now owns half of his team's victories in the early going.

No luck there, as the Angels jumped out early and Jared Weaver was making Swiss cheese of the makeshift Seattle lineup, which featured 41-year-old Ken Griffey as its cleanup hitter, someone obviously on the backside of an illustrious career.

Thoroughly bored by the sixth, we made our way up to the right field, rooftop patio to get a view, and take in the atmosphere. Talk about morons. No one had a clue up here that a game was going on. Here was a group of people, at least the men (if you could label them that), who were obviously graduates from special ed programs in school (if they graduated). And the dumpy looking women, trying to appear something they weren't, with their oversized sunglasses, and bling, hung on every slurred syllable of their inane banter.

Boston fans, for all their imperfections, know baseball. They can be stupid, and moronic, like any sports fan, but they also issue forth some witty and sometimes piss your pants funny lines, especially when drunk. This wasn't happening at the Big A, as witty repartee was nowhere to be found in Anaheim.

So like Dodger fan, in Los Angeles, we were tooling out of the parking lot, and headed for the traffic of LA, by the bottom of the 7th.

[Pregame picture taking; notice the Sox hap perched on my head. I was East Coast representing my team, in hostile territory.]


Listmaker said...

i couldn't agree more.

Joe said...

Anaheim is fairly benign territory for Sox fans, I think. Lots of New England ex-pats out there.

Jim said...

The ex-pat thing is so true. There's a place near where I'm staying, Sonny McLean's Irish Pub that caters to Boston sports fans.

Watched the Celts there last night, with Mark. Place was going nuts at the end.