Angels fans can go to bed tonight with a whole new attitude. The last time the sun set on the Angels team without a losing record was April 16, 1961. Winning the first game in franchise history in Baltimore, the Angels then headed to Boston where they lost to the Red Sox 3-0, on Saturday April 15th. My how times have changed, there were only 7,165 paid in attendance for the game at Fenway Park. The loss evened that Angels’ record at 1-1, and remained that way until Monday the 17th of April when the Sox again beat the Angels, this time 3-2 and dropped the Halos below the .500 mark for the first time. The losing streak would reach seven before the next win came at home against the Minnesota Twins.
The Angels inaugural campaign had to be considered a success, with 70 wins, they finished ahead of the other expansion team the Washington Senators and the established Kansas City A’s. But even with sporadic success over the years the team never was able to get back to the .500 mark until tonight when the win over the Toronto Blue Jays gave the Angels a combined regular season record of 4,272-4,272-3. Their post season record is upside down at 27 – 34 but October is beckoning and who knows what might happen.
Angels fans rejoice, a historic day for the Angels is coming sometime this week. There are folks who have been cheering for the Cherubs since their inception in 1961. Some but not a lot, have been “Angels” fans even before the major league team was imagined, the Angels name has been around in Los Angeles baseball circles for over 100 years. In fact Gene Autry had to pay Dodgers’ owner Walter O’Malley some $300,000 for the rights to the Angels name. That was just the beginning of the angst between the Angels and Dodgers.
Friday night Mike Trout hit his second walk-off homer to defeat Houston, then on Saturday the Angels came from behind and with the help of Albert Pujols 19th long ball of the season hung another loss on Huston. On Sunday the hit parade continued and the Angels won their fourth in a row and moved 15 games above 500 for the first time this season. The Toronto Blue Jays will provide the opposition for the next 3 games in Anaheim and the Angels will be trying to end another losing streak on Monday night. But if not tonight it should happen before the All Star break.
On April 11,1961 history was made for the Los Angeles Angels as they made their American League debut against the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Halos wasted little time as the littlest Angel of them all, Albie Pearson scored the first run in Angels’ history on a 2 run homer by Ted Kluszewski. That was the first of 3 runs in the inning, they added 4 more in the second and rode the right arm of Eli Grba who went the distance in a 7-2 Angles victory.
Well, in the over five decades since that game there have been many highs and lows for the Angels and their fans. At times the team seems to be cursed much like the Curse of the Bambino for the Red Sox or the Curse of the Billy Goat for the Cubs. Whether there are curses or just fun excuses for the failings of a beloved team, the Angels have their own to deal with. One curse hovering over the Angels involves the idea that Anaheim Stadium was built over ancient Native American burial grounds, which would help explain much of the agony experienced by the team over the years. That is an urban legend that hasn’t been proved or disproved. Another curse was the Curse of the Cowboy, the reasoning being that Angels’ owner, the Singing Cowboy Gene Autry, had used up all the luck one man could have in a lifetime and the gods were evening the score by dumping on his baseball team.
In 2002 the Angels finally broke through with their first World Series appearance and an all California match-up with the San Francisco Giants. Just when it looked like the fates would once again frown on Anaheim, the team of hard playing achievers and over-achievers rallied from certain defeat to capture their first and so far only World Championship. For some reason many get upset for even mentioning it, but for others, we won’t forget the anti-curse that came into play all season long, the “Rally Monkey”, and who among us can say for sure…
The late inning mascot made his debut late in the game against the self-same Giants on June 6, 2000. The Angels were trailing 3-0 before drawing even in the eighth only to see the Giants score to take the lead in the top of the ninth, but not to worry the Rally Monkey was in the house and started a fun tradition as Moe Vaughn singled in Darin Erstad with the winning run.
That brings us to the final curse that some fans, especially those such as myself who prefer the Anaheim Angels moniker, and that’s the Curse of the Name Change. After Arte Moreno bought the team from Disney he wanted to re-brand the team once again as the Los Angeles Angels. The City of Anaheim wasn’t pleased with the slight and contractually they had some leverage forcing the Arizona billboard king to turn the whole affair into an absurdity by settling on the name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, knowing full well that it would be shortened for the most part in the media by dropping the “of Anaheim” appendage. Until now that works as well as anything, because the Angels for all their winning ways in regular season play for the last decade under Moreno’s ownership, have been a post-season bust, either bowing out early or as in the past four seasons not advancing beyond the regular season at all.
That all seems about to change this season as after a rough start, the team has gotten hot and despite playing in the same division as the team with the best record in baseball, the Oakland A’s, the Halos look to end their streak of missing the playoffs and make a deep run in the post-season.
And for the long time Angel’s fans who have rooted and identified with their team since it’s inception, tonight could be the moment when the gods let up a little. With the help of Mike Trout, the kiddy corp and the veterans, the Angels are set to strike a claim to something they haven’t been able to for over 19,400 days. We will see if it happens tomorrow or later in the week but the day is coming when Angels fans and the team can say we are winners after all.
As we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July and look forward to the summer to come there are suggested books for us to put on our individual reading lists. There are suggestions for every type of reader, those who want to escape the worries of everyday life with some great fiction. Those who want to come to the end of the summer having learned something new. For students, getting a head start on next years classes by doing some reading in advance and get a head start on the fall semester. So many really good books you have to be selective but where to start.
Here is a great suggestion from MentalFloss, “13 Essential Summer Reads“, from book critics in 1852! The books were recommended reading from the New York Times and they are all available now online. This is another list I couldn’t resist and have started reading through it.
Although the article in MentalFloss makes light of many of the books, I am enjoying them as they give a glimpse of real people and real observations of the time. We can snobbishly feel superior as the article’s author seems to enjoy, or try to place ourselves, relaxing on a front porch in 1852 and try to imagine what it would have been like living in the middle of the 1800’s. “My First Visit To Europe” by Andrew Dickenson gives an entertaining look at what Mr. Dickenson saw and experienced in his travels.
Another list comes from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, yes the legendary basketball player, gives his recommendations for adults who might find Young Adult books interesting. I think he is the former UCLA and LA Lakers star, his by-line in the OC Register has his name misspelled but that is a subject for another post. He points out that 55% of YA titles are bought by people over the age of 18. I am adding a couple of titles that sound promising to my list already. His preview of “Slave Day” and “Au Revoir , Crazy European Chick” have made both books part of my 2014 summer reading.
One thing we know going into the NCAA College Baseball World Series in Omaha starting today is that there will be a first time champion when the final out is made. Neither school has been to the finals before and it will be the first ever meetings between the two universities in baseball. And if Vanderbilt wins, it will be the first men’s national championship in over 120 years of competition. Both schools have had great years and deserve to continue playing this week and it is nice to see different schools in the Championship Round. Don’t get me wrong I would rather see my four-time champion Cal State Fullerton Titans advancing but that can’t happen all the time.
That is what my rant is about this time. Fans need to take a big spoon full of reality and get over the idea that if their team doesn’t win the title it has been a bad year. This is most prevalent in college football but it infects all aspects of college athletics. To get to the Championship Round, Vanderbilt had to go 10 innings to eliminate a college baseball power, Texas, on a two 0ut infield squibber and some at Texas aren’t sure that the coach should return next year. Are you kidding me? Let me put some Castor Oil in that spoon full of reality for you just to make it a little more unpleasant.
The University of Texas is a good example of what is wrong with college athletics, in my humble opinion. This past season head football coach Mack Brown was forced out of his job by the big money boosters who threatened to stop being so generous if changes weren’t made. And of course they were totally justified because, well because the Longhorns had a terrible season, 8 wins 5 loses. And in the last 3 seasons their overall record was 25-14. That just isn’t acceptable, now is it. Don’t get me wrong, I want to win as much as anyone and I want to win all the time. But get a grip, that isn’t a healthy attitude.
A record of 30-21 in the last four years must have seemed like a terrible dry spell because Coach Brown had set the bar so high in the previous 6 season with an overall record of 69-9. But fans can’t be happy with being on top just some of the time and when your coach has led you to such great heights has let you down by having 1, that is ONE losing season in 16 years on the job, well it is obvious he needs to go. The great fans of Texas of course had a Facebook page, Fire Mack Brown where all the knowledgeable fans could demand the dismissal of Brown because he obviously couldn’t return Texas to its rightful place at the top of college football.
Sure college football is big business and I can’t shed too many tears for Coach Brown, he will make more with a buy-out than most American’s will earn in 10 years of hard work. But you have to put that in the perspective of the sports world we live in, ESPN headlined it this way, “Mack Brown’s Buyout Only $2.75 million.” And while that is a paltry sum for many it goes to my point that things have gotten out of hand. Gregg Doyel, national columnist for CBS Sports has problems with the culture as well.
“See my point? My point is this: Texas football is out of control, an enormous dog being wagged by a tiny tail, a $100 million enterprise that funds an entire athletic department and created an entire television network and held hostage two or three BCS conferences in the past few years. Texas football is a monster, and monsters don’t move with precision. They stomp around in the forest, flattening trees until they emerge into the clearing and trip and fall and land right on top of someone’s house.”
Although a fairly enthusiastic sports fan, I no longer follow the way I once did so the headline left me with two questions, first who is Isaiah Austin and secondly what is Marfan Syndrome? The answer to the first gap in my knowledge of who’s who in sports, turns out to be that Isaiah Austin is a 20 year-old young man from Arlington Texas and standing 7′ 2″ tall was a standout basketball player at Baylor University with realistic hopes of a lucrative career in the NBA. Then I added a little medical knowledge by finding out that Marfan Syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue and approximately 1 in 5,000 people are born with it. There are many signs of the disease including being tall, having long arms, legs, and or fingers. It can also affect vision and Austin is also partially blind. One of the dangerous and potentially life threatening aspects of Marfan Syndrome is heart problems, especially related to the aorta. This is a reason his continued participation is a strenuous sport such as basketball is too dangerous.
Of course the good news is that because the NBA gives very thorough physical exams the condition was finally diagnosed and although a career ender might be a life saver. Baylor coach Scott Drew is hoping Austin will now return to Baylor, finish his degree and serve as a coach with the Bears program. It is also inspiring to see how Austin has reacted to his situation, Tweeting, “Words can’t explain how thankful I am for the time I had to play this wonderful sport. It changed my life forever. I would love to thank everyone who reached out to me. Toughest days of my life. But not the last! Life goes on. GOD IS STILL GREAT!”
We all react to events in our own way and I have great doubts I could have handled the situation with such grace as Austin. Hopefully his acceptance of the misfortunes of life and his ability see where he has had blessings and look to the future will serve to inspire others.