Rangers. I can personally verify that 40,000 Southern Californians
spent a Saturday afternoon in late summer in ideal beach weather
under a scorching sun to watch a baseball game for almost four hours.
Not only that, almost all of them stayed until the last out, thus
violating a cardinal rule of baseball watching in these parts where
leaving in the 7th inning has previously been de rigueur. Such is the
impact that this band of blue-collar Angels has had on its community.
I hesitated very long in writing this, fearful of putting a curse
on the Angels and then living in guilt for the rest of my life. But
as of today, I'm a believer. I saw them play three times last week --
often using players who spent a good portion of this season in the
minor leagues -- and come from behind each time to win.
I saw manager Mike Scioscia adhere with religious zeal to the
righty-lefty liturgy, often sitting players with much better numbers
in the process -- and getting away with it. Either he's very lucky or
a better manager than I am. Either way, I'm ready to say it. We're
going to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years.
I was there the last time. I was sitting 10 rows above third base
when Dave Henderson of the Boston Red Sox came to bat with the Angels
up by two runs and one out away from their first World Series. I can
still hear the crack of his bat as he propelled the ball over the
center field fence to tie the game.
The Angel dugout had been surrounded by Anaheim cops to turn away
the expected onrush of celebrants. The champagne was icing in the
Angels' locker room. The players were standing on the dugout steps
ready to storm onto the field to share this rare moment of joy. And
then that crack of Henderson's bat. And a funereal kind of silence
over the crowd.
Although Henderson's home run only tied the game, and the Angels
led the series by two games, we somehow sensed that a critical moment
had been reached, a moment that had to be captured and wasn't, and
now all was lost. And it was. The Angels blew this game in the 10th