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An Angels team without September heartbreak

September 19, 2002

Many years ago, Noel Coward wrote a song that started: "Mad dogs

and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun... " If he were writing

today, he might want to add another group: the growing ranks of

addicts who have embraced the improbable run of the Anaheim Angels to

the top of the American League West.

Last Saturday, I joined them at Edison Field. At mid-day. In the

sun, to watch another come-from-behind victory over the Texas

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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

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