Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25- California Angels

I realize tonight that I’m stepping over into the Dark Side with my hat of choice, but I think it’s fair to say that you should all expect to see it happen quite a few more times throughout the year. What can I say? I have a lot of Angels hats. It’s not my fault. Take it up with the organization for changing things so often.

Back in July of 2011 I picked this guy up off of one of my favorite hat Web sites If you haven’t been, give it a look. It’s by far the premier place to pick up old school hats made to the exact specifications of when they were originally made. Since I was picking up at least one of every team I had my sights set on this particular California Angels hat for well over a decade. The Angels wore it from 1972-1992 (1990-1992 featured a wider version of the logo) and it is still hands down my favorite hat they ever wore. There’s something about the simplicity of the straight-barred “A” with the little halo about that makes it incredibly alluring. To be honest, I think a lot of it also has to do with the nostalgia that comes with those particular uniforms being worn in the “Naked Gun” as well.

Despite my obvious ties to the Oakland Athletics, I always had a soft spot for our division rivals. I blame a little bit of it on RBI Baseball on the old school Nintendo, but most of it has to do with two particular guys who are still, in my opinion, faces of the franchise; but I’ll get to that in a minute. The order I had placed with Mickey’s Place for this hat was the first one I had done. Unlike Lids, I couldn’t just walk back into the store and swap it for something else or return it. Mickey’s Place is a shop based out of Cooperstown, New York and sits about two blocks away from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. If the hat didn’t fit, I was pretty much screwed. On July 24th it arrived, along with a Chicago White Sox and a Houston Colt .45s hat, both of which I’ll be writing about in the future. I took the box into the bathroom and tried all of my acquisitions on. Thankfully they fit perfectly. Without much question I took them back in to my room, grabbed a silver Sharpie marker and tagged it immediately with two of my childhood heroes.

#21- If you recall my post from Salt Lake City Bees post on January 28, you’d know that I was raised in a Mormon household. My faith has always been prevalent in my life, but I don’t speak about it often unless Mormons somehow come up in a conversation. Throughout my life I was always teased about it. Even now I always seem to find myself around people who like to bash or poke fun at Mo-Mos. I will admit that what Trey Parker and Matt Stone have done in regard to the Mormons is quite hilarious, but I’ve never understood why people would hate on a group of people that love their God, love their family and love to share their faith. I’m not one to press my views or my faith on others, even though I feel like I’m doing that a little bit now, but I do like to openly discuss it with anyone who has any allusions about say: the planet thing, the magic underwear thing, the temple thing, etc. Anyway, there weren’t exactly a lot of people within the church to look up to as a kid, but there was one particular dude who made me proud to be Mormon, Wally Joyner. Wally really didn’t look like much of a baseball player when I go back and look at his photos and baseball cards, but man could that cat play ball.

He was drafted in the third round out of BYU in the 1983 amateur draft and made his Major League debut in 1986. That year he finished in second place in the Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .290/22/100, and getting edged by 12 points by some no-namer who goes by Jose Canseco. He finished eighth in the MVP vote and made his only All-Star game appearance of his career that season. He played a total of seven years with the Angels, the first six coming from 1986-1991 and the last in his final year in 2001. Throughout his Angels career he went .286/117/532, while his only trip to the World Series came with the 1998 San Diego Padres. He always looked like he could be Matthew Broderick’s brother, especially after the first time I saw “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” What’s even funnier about that is that he actually did have a few roles in some Latter-Day Saint produced movies called “The Singles Ward,” “The RM,” “The Home Teachers” and “The Singles 2nd Ward.” In both “Singles Ward” films he played Brother Angel, and coincidentally my uncles were in the first three films I listed. Wally Joyner, a great ball player and a heck of a Mormon.

#25- From 1989-1999 there was no one in Major League Baseball that I idolized or was inspired by more than Jim Abbott.

I feel bad for any young baseball fan who never had an opportunity to see him pitch for the mere sake that every time he stepped on the mound he defied the odds. For those who don’t know, Abbott was born without his right hand. Yah! But to put things into a better perspective of how talented he was throughout his career, he was the eighth overall pick in the 1988 amateur draft out of the University of Michigan. The dude is a legend right off the bat. Abbott played for the Angels from 1989-1992 and then again from 1995-1996. He played above average in his first two seasons, but his third season was clearly his best. In 1991 Abbott went 18-11 with a 2.89 ERA and 158 strikeouts. Need I remind you, dude pal only had one hand. He finished third in the Cy Young award voting, losing to Roger Clemens who had borderline equal numbers (18-10 and 2.62 ERA) with the exception of 241 strikeouts. But it was with the New York Yankees that Abbott will mostly be remembered. On September 13, 1993 Abbott tossed a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. As a 10-year-old I recall watching the game from start to finish, applauding in my living room after the final out was made.It's still one of the few games that I will go back and watch over-and-over on You Tube.

Only one time in my life was I ever lucky enough to see him pitch in person, which came in 1990 when my dad and stepmom scored a suite through their work (PG&E). Despite being seven-years-old with a wide assortment of food all around me, I made sure to stay focused every time it was the Angels' turn to play defense. Throughout my Little League days my friends and I would try to mimic Abbott’s glove transfer when we threw. To us, it was mind-boggling to watch him throw, put his glove on and snag the occasional ball shooting right back at him.

I know I have a bit of a “against the grain” attitude about a lot of things in my life, but I can’t help but be a big softy when I reflect back on Wally and Abbott. They were both upstanding human beings within the community, and both played the game a high level of grace. Kudos to you gentleman.

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