Monday, April 8, 2013

April 8- Anaheim Angels

By no means am I a Los Angeles Angels/Anaheim Angels/California Angels/Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fan; however, there have been a few moments in time when I can honestly say that I have a lot of respect for their team, players and fans. 2002 is not one of those years, but that’s the Oakland Athletics fan inside of me talking.

Unlike their Southern California counterpart the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Angels have had a lot of weird years and certainly made their fair share of bad deals in order to entice talent to make the pilgrimage out to the West Coast in order to buy a World Series title. Unlike the New York Yankees and Dodgers, the Angels have also made a lot of interesting attempts to usher in the new era of their recently acquired superstars with a changing of their logo and colors. In fact, of all the teams who have been around since the early 1960s, the Angels have been one of the more notorious teams to not follow my unwritten rules of how to be successful when making such drastic changes to the uniform. Those rules would be:

1. Don’t do it unless you have a more than capable general manager.

2. Don’t do it unless you have a competent designer and marketing staff.

3. Don’t do it unless your intention was to make the fans cower under their throw blanket door prize with a brown paper sack in which to barf in because the amount of activity on the uniform has made them nauseous.

With that, I give you the 1997-2001 Anaheim Angels.

During this five-year span the Angels introduced three caps. One of them featured the “A” logo with angel wings like in the picture above, but with navy blue panels and a navy blue bill and the other was exactly like the one above but was made of mesh with a red bill and served as the team’s batting practice cap. Both of those hats will be talked about at length in later posts. This hat served as the team’s alternate hat from 1999-2000, and to be honest, it’s actually a pretty sweet cap. My biggest issue with this era lies more heavily on the pinstriped jerseys with navy blue sleeves. The really sad part in all of this is that I actually own one of those jerseys. This one to be exact…

Oh the humanity!!! It’s one thing to class up a jersey with pinstripes, but it’s another thing to make the sleeves a different solid color and adding patches to them.

1999 was an interesting year for the Angels. The team finished the season in fourth place in the American League West division with a record of 70-92, and with a changing of the guard at the end of August. Former manager and current New York Mets manager Terry Collins had managed the team since the start of the 1997 and produced back-to-back second place finishes within the division, both of which were winning records. After taking the team to 51-82 the Angels brass had enough and replaced Collins with former bench coach and current Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. Maddon finished the season going 19-10, yet for some reason was demoted back to bench coach in 2000 to make way for current manager Mike Scioscia. Even though Scioscia and company won the World Series in 2002, the team has yet to taste similar success after Maddon and one of Scioscia’s other coaches, Bud Black, took managerial jobs with other teams. The best way to look at this is how former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Holmgren had a so-so career after assistant coaches Andy Reid, Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden all took head coaching jobs elsewhere after winning the Super Bowl in 1996. But I’m getting way too ahead of myself.

Very few people could see it, but 1999 was the key turning around point for all of the Angels’ misfortune even as peculiar as my rationale may be. Mo Vaughn had just been signed to a hefty long-term deal after the 1998 season and had modest success in the two full seasons he played with the team; however, it wasn’t until they traded him to the Mets for Kevin Appier that the team became well-rounded on both sides of the ball. From 1999-2000 the Angels lineup had become more offensive heavy and they overlooks rebuilding their pitching staff; kind of funny how in 2013 the same things appears to be happening. Solid draft picks and a keen attention to their farm system helped, but the most critical thing to change prior to the 1999 season was the passing of owner Gene Autry on October 2, 1998.

With that, my marks for this cap…

#25- One of the best moves the Angels ever made in the history of their franchise came in 1997 when they drafted a power-hitting third baseman out of UCLA with the third overall pick in that year’s amateur draft. On July 31, 1998 he made his debut wearing #12 and had a modest impact in the team batting .218 with one home run and 23 RBI in 48 games. Despite those numbers, Terry Collins named Troy Glaus as his starting third baseman at the start of the 1999 season.

It’s kind of shame that Glaus played in so many games in ’98 because his .240 average with 29 home runs and 79 RBI probably would have made him a legitimate contender for the AL Rookie of the Year award which went to Carlos Beltran of the Kansas City Royals. In 2000, under this hat, Glaus awkwardly and quietly had the best season of his career. He hit career highs in batting average (.284), stolen bases (14), walks (112), hits (160), OPS (1.008) and home runs (47), which was also the highest amount in the League that season. Glaus also had 102 RBI, which is the third best for his career and 37 doubles, which is the second best for his career. Despite all of those numbers, Glaus didn’t even crack the Top-30 for MVP votes that season. Instead all he was given was a Silver Slugger award and a trip to the All-Star Game. Based on the numbers of the other parties involved, Glaus should have finished at least in the Top-15 for the award. This is one of the few times I will admit that the Angels got hosed.

Glaus’s career with the Angels ended in 2004 after he suffered a shoulder injury that the Angels felt would be an issue for the rest of his career. When his contract expired at the end of the season the Arizona Diamondbacks signed him to a four-year $45 million deal while the Angels opted to make Dallas McPherson their new third baseman with the hopes that he’s be just as productive as Glaus. Ha! Glaus finished his career with the Angels with a .253 average, 182 home runs, 515 RBI, three trips to the All-Star Game, two Silver Slugger awards, a World Series ring and a World Series MVP award after going .385/3/8 in the series.

#26- Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy, was born on September 29, 1907 and was a singer and actor on radio, television and film. He was active in front of the microphone/camera from 1931-1964 and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Oddly enough, the three songs that brought him the most success for his career, besides “Back in the Saddle Again,” are “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Autry served as a pilot of a C-47 Skytrain for the US Army Air Corps during World War II, flying dangerous missions over the Himalayas between Burma and China.

At the tail end of his showbiz career Autry bought numerous radio stations including KSFO in San Francisco, a handful of TV stations and had been in over 100 films and recorded over 600 albums; however, like most people of the era, Autry was a huge baseball fan. As a teenager Autry had turned down the opportunity to play professionally and did the next best thing in 1950s; he bought a team.

In the 1950s Autry had been a minority owner of the minor-league Hollywood Stars. In 1960, when Major League Baseball announced plans to add an expansion team in Los Angeles, Autry expressed an interest in acquiring the radio broadcast rights to the team's games. Baseball executives were so impressed by his approach that he was persuaded to become the owner of the franchise rather than simply its broadcast partner. The team, initially called the Los Angeles Angels (which came from the Pacific Coast League team which played from 1903-1957) upon its 1961 debut, moved to suburban Anaheim in 1966, and was renamed the California Angels, then the Anaheim Angels from 1997 until 2005, when it became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Autry served as vice president of the American League from 1983-1998. In 1995 he sold a quarter share of the team to The Walt Disney Company and a controlling interest the following year, with the remaining share to be transferred after his death. Earlier, in 1982, he sold Los Angeles television station KTLA for $245 million. He also sold several radio stations he owned, including KSFO, KMPC in Los Angeles, KOGO in San Diego, and other stations in the Golden West radio network.

Autry passed away at the age of 91 in 1998 and this patch was worn by the players throughout the 1999 season.

The #26 was actually retired in 1992 as the Angels and the Anaheim community had called Autry the 26th member of the team. Even though he wasn’t alive during the World Series run of 2002, the media expressed great accolades toward Autry for his work with the team, with MLB and most important the community he had fell in love with who fell in love with him so many decades ago.

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