Tuesday, October 8, 2013

July 28- California Angels

Most of time when I go into writing these posts I never do it with the thought in the back of my head saying, “Boy, the fans are really going to hate me for this one” until today. No, it won’t be that bad, but I guess that all really depends on perspective really.

I bought this cap on a random afternoon in New York City at the Lids nearest Madison Square Garden as the other Cave Dwellers and I had some free time in between games at the MLB Fan Cave. I think it had been about two or three days since I had last bought a cap so I made sure to go to the one place where I saw a lot of Cooperstown Collection models as to appease my fix. I had spotted this California Angels cap during one of my previous visits and declined on buying it as I couldn’t recall if the Angels had worn this cap with the red bill. For some reason something seemed off about it so I figure I would wait until I did more research. Instead, I picked up the Tampa Bay Devil Rays cap. Boy, was that dumb of me. Anyway, when I finally was able to get back to computer at the Fan Cave I looked up the dates and photos to make sure it was all up to snuff. Sure enough, it wasn't. The halo on this cap is red, unlike real one which featured a silver halo. That small difference aside, I sucked it up and held onto it. As far as the real one is concerned

 the Angels wore it for all of their home games from 1993-1996 during their last four years of being known as the California Angels as the name was changed to the Anaheim Angels in 1997. So, when the time came to get back to the Lids to retrieve my prize I took the N train to Union Square, blasting Journey’s “Separate Ways” and fist-pumping the entire time. Apparently New Yorkers are not too savvy on this practice as I was getting bewildered looks from the other passengers. Their loss. When I got to street level I was “rewarded” with an off-Broadway production of “Man Yelling at Woman Trying to Collect Change with a Kid Under Her Arm.” The reviews were mixed as West Coast critics are not used to this sort of abuse. I guess that happens when you don’t fist-pump to Journey. The next two blocks consisted of at least three people trying to pawn their rap/hip-hop CDs off to me and some guy yelling about the end of the world while wearing a pair of old school roller skates. The only thing I kept thinking in my head was something that fellow Cave Dweller Shaun Kippins had said a few days prior when one of our late night drivers asked how his day was going. To really understand the context of this you need to go back to the Atlanta Braves post from a few days ago, more specifically about the “Mr. Belvedere” section. When Shaun was asked that question, without skipping a beat he replied, “F---in’ New York” and sat quietly in the corner of the backseat until we got home. This became the official response to anything we ever saw “out of the ordinary” which in turn was merely everyday life in New York City. So yah, nothing really interesting happened when I actually purchased the cap, but everything that went on around me was certainly a gas.

Moving on… Of all the things that piss me off the most about this cap is that it has become iconic with the God awful remake/revision of the 1951 classic Angels in the Outfield (1994). 

I know a lot of you have seen it; Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s dad is a deadbeat who will only claim him out of foster care if the Angels win the pennant. So, JGL prays, gets a little help from Christopher Lloyd and some actual angels and the Danny Glover-run bunch of misfits featuring Tony Danza as their ace start winning games and eventually win the pennant thanks in part arm-flapping. Awful. In fact, some other notable faces got their big breaks in this movie.

This was actually shot AFTER they slept with the director.

  Oscar winner.
What makes this even more infuriating is that almost the entire movie was filmed at Oakland Alameda County Coliseum before Mt. Davis was erected, thus blocking out the Oakland hills in the back ground. 

So in a sense, Angels in the Outfield has become a historical relic for Oakland Athletics fans who want to see how beautiful the Coliseum used to be, all while sitting through American League Western Division propaganda.

The 1993-1996 timeframe in Angel history (in real life) was an especially trying time.  For most of the 1990s, the Angels played sub-.500 baseball, due in no small part to the confusion which reigned at the top. Gene Autry, though holding a controlling interest in the Angels, was in control in name only due to poor health in his advanced years. Autry’s wife Jackie, 20 years his junior, at times seemed to be the decision-maker, and at other times The Walt Disney Company, then a minority owner, seemed to be in charge. On May 21, 1992, an Angels' team bus traveling from New York to Baltimore crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike. Twelve members of the team ensemble were injured, including manager Buck Rodgers, who was hospitalized and missed the next three months of the season. In 1993, the Angels had a new spring training camp in Tempe, Arizona after 31 previous seasons in Palm Springs Stadium in Palm Springs, an idea Autry developed from the days when he stayed in his desert resort home. The Angels hoped a new facility would rejuvenate and improve the roster in the long run. The 1993 and 1994 seasons proved to be worse for the Angels than the previous three, particularly since the 1994 season ended in a baseball player strike that kept Angel fans waiting even longer for the team's fate to change. In 1995, the Angels suffered the worst collapse in franchise history. In first place in the AL West by 11 games in August, the team again lost key personnel (particularly shortstop Gary DiSarcina) and went on an extended slide during the final stretch run. By season's end, they were in a first-place tie with the surging Seattle Mariners, prompting a one-game playoff for the division title. The Mariners, managed by Lou Piniella and led by pitching ace Randy Johnson, laid a 9–1 drubbing on the Angels in the playoff game, clinching the AL West championship and forcing the Angels and their fans to endure yet another season of heartbreak and bitter disappointment.

The heartbreak of the collapse became even worse for loyal LA-area sports fans as the Los Angeles Rams decided to vacate “The Big A” and head to greener pastures in St. Louis, Missouri of all places in 1995 where they would eventually regroup and restructure their team and go on to win Super Bowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans. But, it all gets crazier. Disney effectively took control of the Angels in 1996, when it was able to gain enough support on the board to hire Tony Tavares as team president. Gene Autry, however, remained as chairman until his death in 1998. In 1999, Tavares hired Bill Stoneman as team general manager, under whose watch the Angels eventually won their first World Series Championship. Although Disney did not technically acquire a controlling interest in the team until after Autry's death, for all practical purposes it ran the team (the Autry loyalists on the board acted as "silent partners") through its Anaheim Sports subsidiary, which also owned the NHL's Mighty Ducks of Anaheim at the time. Disney, of course, had been a catalyst for the development of and population growth in Orange County, having opened its Disneyland theme park in Anaheim in 1955. Autry had named Walt Disney himself to the Angels' board in 1960; Mr. Disney served on the board until his death in 1966, and had been one of the proponents of the team's move to Orange County in 1965-66. In 1997, negotiations between the Angels and the city of Anaheim for renovation of Anaheim Stadium ended with an agreement to rehabilitate and downsize the facility into a baseball-only stadium once more. One condition of the stadium agreement was that the Angels could sell naming rights to the renovated stadium, so long as the new name was one "containing Anaheim therein." Anaheim Stadium was almost immediately renamed Edison International Field of Anaheim, though it was almost always referred to as simply Edison Field. Sportscasters also referred to the stadium at the time as The Big Ed, with a few others continuing to use the Big A nickname and, at times, Anaheim Stadium. Another condition of the stadium renovation agreement was that the team name itself be one "containing Anaheim therein." The emerging Disney ownership was itself in the process of renovating and upgrading its aging Disneyland park. Disney hoped to market Anaheim as a "destination city", much the same way it had done with Orlando, Florida, where Walt Disney World was located. Accordingly, the team changed its name again, to the Anaheim Angels on November 19, 1996. Thus, the California Angels were no more.

While the Angels did go on to win the World Series in 2002, the business end of getting to that place is by far one of the dumbest trails to victory in Major League history, and really the heart and soul of what made the Angels so unique was butchered repackaged and fed to us in the campiest way possible, the Disney way. Think I’m crazy for thinking this, click this link and I guarantee that ALL Angels fans will agree with me just based on the first photo.

#31- If there was one player who I would say deserved a World Series ring the most out of anybody who ever suited up for the Angels, besides Autry, it would have to be the longest-tenured pitcher to ever play for the Angels and my personal favorite to suit up for them, Chuck Finley. 

And a little Jim Fregosi love

Finley’s time with the Angels began in 1985 when he was selected with the fourth overall pick in the MLB secondary draft. He would only spend that season in the minors before making his Major League debut on May 29, 1986 against the Detroit Tigers in a one inning relief appearance in which he got shelled. Finley’s role as a starter didn’t develop until 1988 when he was thrown into the lions den for 31 games, compiling a 9-15 record with a 4.17 ERA and 111 strikeouts. His numbers weren’t exactly top tier; however, they were respectable for it being his first full season as a starter.

From 1989-1999 Finley dominated, with the exception of the 1992 season when he went 7-12, but still maintained a 3.96 ERA. Every other year, double-digits in wins and only one other losing season (besides 1992) in 1996 where he went 15-16 with a 4.16 ERA. Finley made four All-Star appearances during his time in California/Anaheim (1989, 1990, 1995 and 1996) and an additional one during his first year with the Cleveland Indians in 2000. Finely only registered for the AL Cy Young one year when he finished in seventh place with an 18-9 record, a 2.40 ERA and 177 strikeouts, which was way too low in comparison to the other names ahead of him on the list and their stats.

Of all the things that Finely is most known for (on the field), his deadly split-finger is one that tops the list, mostly because of the one stat that he holds that no other pitcher necessarily wants to break. Finely holds the record for most four-strikeout innings in Major League history with A.J. Burnett right on his heels. The split-finger is such a wild pitch to catch and it becomes even more erratic if it hits the ground before landing in the catcher’s glove. But, even with that, Finley still holds the majority of Angel pitching records. He is the Angels all-time career leader in wins (165), innings pitched (2,675), games started (379) and is second in strikeouts (2,151) behind some one trick pony named Nolan Ryan.

#44- If there was one moment that served as a broken record in the MLB Fan Cave out of Ricardo Marquez’s mouth, it would have to be his love of Chili Davis. Not only that, the one thing that he would always talk about, which ended up being a trivia question at the 2013 Fan Cave Top-30 trivia competition is his ERA: 0.00. Yes, Davis threw two innings of shutout baseball and even hit a dude in the process. All of this information I knew about before he brought it up, but I was also aware of the fact that Davis could hit the ball incredibly well, something that Ricardo seemed to forget at times. But, in keeping with his favorite story I humored him in asking if he knew who his only hit by pitch was against, thinking he might actually know it. He didn’t. This always bothered me about Ricardo way more than it should, but I think mostly because he held on to one stat about a guy and didn’t know much else about him despite saying that his is his favorite player. Stranger shit has happened, I guess. And the answer of who Davis plunked, your favorite and mine, Jose Canseco. But, where Ricardo stops, I take over.

One thing I will give credit for is that he does know that Davis is one of four guys to be born in Jamaica to play at the Major League level. In fact, he was the first. Drafted in the 11th round of the 1977 draft by the San Francisco Giants, Davis made his MLB debut on April 10, 1981 and only played in eight games. In his first full season he hit .261 with 19 home runs and 76 RBI which was only good enough for a fourth place finish for Rookie of the Year. Yah, that talent pool was that good. Davis would go on to make two All-Star Game appearances with the Giants in 1984 and 1986 before he became a free agent at the end of the 1987 season. Without hesitation, the Angels picked him up and signed him to a deal.

From 1988-1990 Davis hit .268 with 55 home runs and 241 RBI, he would end up finishing 25th for the AL MVP in 1989, but was granted free agency following the 1990 season where he was signed by the Minnesota Twins for the 1991 campaign which got him his first and only World Series ring as a player. He hit two home runs in that series against the Atlanta Braves. He also finished in 14th place for the AL MVP that season with a .277 average, 29 dingers and 93 RBI. When Davis was once again given free agency at the end of the 1992 season the Angels swooped in again. 

Davis’ second run with the Angels ran the entire duration of this cap, 1993-1996. Even though the Angels were not exactly a success story, Davis made the most of his time in Anaheim. His best season came during the strike-shortened 1994 season in which he hit .311 with 26 home runs and 84 RBI despite only playing in 108 games. Davis made his only All-Star Game appearance with the Angels that year and finished 22nd for the AL MVP. Davis hit .279, 156 homers and knocked in 618 runs in his career with the Angels and has been serving as the batting coach for the Athletics since 2012. Davis’ results as a coach have been swift and strong. The Athletics as a team have improved their batting average, going from .244 in 2011 to .238 in 2012 up to .254 in 2013. As for their home run production, 114 in 2011 to 195 in 2012 and 186 in 2013. Suffice to say, the man can teach hitting.

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