Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10- Anaheim Angels



I realize a lot of people, especially Anaheim Angles fans aren’t particularly fond of this cap, but honestly, I kind of dig it. It was first introduced in 1997, the same time the California was dropped from the name and the Anaheim was added. For five grueling years they wore this cap under managers Terry Collins, Joe Maddon and Mike Scioscia just as he was starting out. It served as their game cap, unlike its counterpart with the light blue bill which I wrote about on April 8th. While the Angels themselves didn’t fair out too well under this cap, there is one moment that occurred while they were wearing this bad boy that I can’t shake for my mind.

As an Oakland Athletics fan it’s hard for me to tip my cap to an accomplishment by a rival player; however, there are just some moments that occur in sports that one needs to cast differences aside and realize that what they just witnessed is truly spectacular. Even more impressive is when someone I’ve had a history with and I agree upon the same thing. This story takes place on a random day in April while the other eight Cave Dwellers and I were watching “Top 50 Countdown- Greatest Defensive Plays” edition on MLB Network while we were sitting around waiting for our production assignments for the day in the MLB Fan Cave.

I’m having a little bit of difficulty remembering which day in particular it was, but I think it might have been on April 27th as we were waiting for Detroit Tigers players Collin Balester and Miguel Cabrera. The two were running just a little bit late and all eight of us had gotten there especially early for prep-work on the Miggy Poco sketch that we would be filming that day. With time to kill until they arrived we turned a few of the televisions on the Cave Monster on and tuned into MLB Network since all we were really allowed to watch was baseball no matter what hour of the day it was. Due to it being so early in the morning, 8:45 AM EST, there wasn’t anything live on air quite yet, so we were regaled with “Top-50 Countdown.” The funniest part of this moment is that St. Louis Cardinals fan Kyle Thompson, Atlanta Braves fan Ricky Mast, New York Yankees fan Eddie Mata and I really knew all of the plays that they were going to show. So of course, to make things interesting, we all started predicting the order of the Top-10 plays. The only problem with this is that this particular activity, much like the crew who assembled the stories and highlights, based everything around lore and personal opinion. There really isn’t an accurate way to rank any of these moments, especially when it comes to something like robbing a home run. At the end of the day, as long as the ball was caught, the job was done. I suppose a degree of difficulty could be added onto it, but a lot of that is arbitrary too because the ground covered by the defender is really based on how well they read the person at the plate and where they’re stuck when it comes to defensive positioning. Yes, I take a lot of these things into consideration when making important judgment calls.

By the time we started out little game the show had all ready cracked the Top-20. Not having any idea of what the previous 30 plays were made it a little more challenging. Eddie, being the homer that he is, of course said the Derek Jeter flip play was going to be number one. My response to that has simply giving Eddie the finger. I don’t really remember what Ricky said, but both Kyle and I ended up with the same answer. It was probably the only time he and I ever really agreed on anything.

This is another befuddling moment for me because I don’t remember exactly where the moment landed on the list. I’m pretty sure it was Top-five, possibly even at number 3, but to this day I still stick to my guns as it is not only the greatest play I have ever seen as it occurred, but quite possibly the best play in history. Once again, this is merely a matter of my opinion and should be taken as such. No sense in starting a Holy War over something so trivial.

6/10/97- One of the really cool things about living in Bakersfield, California during baseball season was that I got a seemingly endless fill of Major League Baseball games on TV even without the assistance of MLB.tv or MLB Network, both of which didn’t exist at the time. Now, the only drawback to this is that I was stuck watching Los Angeles Dodgers and Anaheim Angels games. Sadly I was too far away from the cusp of where we had a signal to the Bay Area sports stations so I could only watch Athletics games if they ever played on ESPN or against the Angels.

On one particular summer day on June 10, 1997 I found myself especially bored out of my mind I was watching the Angels on the road against the Kansas City Royals. Just to let you know how bad things were back in those days, Angels’ skipper Terry Collins had the team sitting is second place in the American League West with a 32-28 record while Bob Boone was on the verge of getting canned as the manager of the Royals as they were in third place in the AL Central at 28-31. The Angels struck first in the top of the second inning with a 1-0 lead after Tim Salmon crossed the plate from second thanks to a Garrett Anderson single. The Royals would make a charge in the bottom of the fifth inning, tying the game a one apiece after a Jeff King double followed up by an RBI single by Chili Davis. Johnny Damon then followed that up with a single while the next two batters, Mike MacFarlane and Scott Cooper lined out to Anderson in left field. With two outs, a runner on first in the bottom of the fifth inning, Royals’ right fielder David Howard came to the plate.

The look of a true baller.

Howard had broken into the Major Leagues in 1991 and was 59 games into his final season with the Royals at the time when he stepped into the batters box. The best season he had ever put together was in 1996, the only season in which he played in over 94 games (143). In ’96 he hit .219 with four home runs and 48 RBI. He got cot caught stealing more often than he was successful, which goes to show that he wasn’t that quick for as fit as he was. His four home runs in ’96, 11 for his career show that he didn’t have a lot of power. And despite how mediocre his career may have been, stats wise, he will always be remembered for this at-bat.
 The eyes say, "I'm stone cold," but the sideburns say, "I came to party."

 Jason Dickson was pitching for the Angels that day. Dickson had been called up the previous season, 1996, and made seven starts for the Angels, going 1-4 with a 4.57 ERA. 1997 was proving to be a much better year for the 24-year-old right-hander who would go on to make his one and only All-Star Game appearance that year and finish in third place for the AL Rookie of the Year award with a 13-9 record, a 4.29 ERA and 115 strikeouts. Unfortunately for Dickson, some “flash in the pan” (sarcasm) named Nomar Garciaparra made short work of every rookie in the league.

Dickson threw a hanging curveball to Howard which he immediately turned on. For a guy hitting in the nine-hole it’s not exactly expected the he’d make contact, but for the lack of power he usually put behind the ball, Howard sent this was screaming to centerfield. Angles centerfielder Jim Edmonds then had to get on his horsey and haul ass to even come close to making a play. Wait… did I say Jim Edmonds? Did I say come close to making a play?
"Thanks for the stupid jersey Disney."

Edmonds made his MLB debut on September 9, 1993 as a late-season call up for the 40-man expansion roster. In 1994 he played in 94 games (94 in ’94, funny) and hit .273 with five home runs and 37 RBI which was good enough for an eighth place finish for AL Rookie of the Year. In 1995 he made his first of only four All-Star Game appearances as well as a 14th place finish for AL MVP after going .290/33/107. It was a really stupid year for on the voter’s behalf. Edmonds produced another solid year in 1996, but it would be on this day in 1997 that Edmonds became a household name.

As the ball sailed into centerfield Edmonds could tell that he was playing way too shallow to make a play. However, while most people would make the play off the wall after realizing they’re doomed, Jim “F---ing” Edmonds will do everything in his power to make that out. Rather than me blab about it anymore, take a look at the play here.

Now, there are plays that a truly worth of note, and then there are some like this that are beyond words like “boner-inducing,” as I would use. “The Catch,” as it’s known throughout the baseball community, pretty much cemented the first of eight Gold Glove awards that Edmonds would win throughout his career. Now, I realize that there are some purists out there who still hold Willie Mays’s over the shoulder basket catch during Game one of the 1954 World Series as the greatest play of all-time; however, all I can really say to those people is, “Shut your mouth. Shut it.” While the importance of Mays’s catch is what makes his so amazing, the pure athleticism and sacrifice of the body is why I hold what Edmonds accomplished in such high regards, even if it is an early June game against a team that hadn’t been to the playoffs since they won the World Series in 1985. It’s a level of play that very few will ever display in their careers, and Edmonds did it on a regular basis.

The Angels, energized by what they had witnessed, went on a scoring tear and beat the Royals by the final score of 6-2. But even with the win all anyone wanted to talk about that night on ESPN’s Sportscenter was that amazing play which we still talk about to this day.

Like I said, “boner-inducing.”


2 comments:

  1. Yet another great blog...and another bad ass hat!!

    ReplyDelete