I love the Angels. I chose them as my team when I was six years old, living in a duplex in Beverly Hills (lest ye judge, be ye aware that I lived in 90212) during the awesome apex of American clothing fashion: 1976. Somewhere in my subconscious, I’m sure I rejected the Dodgers (the only normal choice for anyone living in Los Angeles County) on account of my Yankee dad’s virulent Dodger-hatred, which I still carry faint strains of. You’d think that would leave me with the California Angels by default, but what I remember is him giving me a pack of baseball cards, and me stopping on Andy Hassler. Who, you ask? Doesn’t matter. I liked the team name, I liked their uniforms, I liked that they were from California, and above all I liked the logo. It had a halo. (I can’t remember if I actually liked *him*, as I can’t remember anything about him, and have only the foggiest of memories about the photo itself. But I remembered his name.)
Prior to 2002, the Angels were always one of baseball’s most profoundly insignificant and ignored teams, despite a handful of name brand players. They made it to the playoffs three times and self-destructed in each, famously so in 1986. (They also sabotaged a sure playoff spot in 1995.) In short, they were losers of no import, and only followed by Orange Countyites. And me.
However, even I had given up on them — in my mind, it was an absolute given that they would never see the World Series. You Yankees fans take for granted what it is to have a team that has proven they can win. Even you Red Sox fans pre-2004 know that at some point in the team’s history, they won. And at least they’d been to the World Series a few times since. You can’t imagine what it is like to be a fan of an ignored team that has never proven they can win, not even their league. That’s why I am amused by the criticism that the current Angels’ throngs who are #2 in ballpark attendance this year are bandwagon-jumpers: of course they are. Us old-schoolers needed the Angels to prove they could do it. It was too numbing and unjustified to get excited about them. And casual fans in Los Angeles certainly had no reason to see what was happening in Anaheim.
But now they do. Everything has changed. The fans pack the park every game (even to the end of their flaccid 2003 season), and I think may actually win their bid to be a team for Angelenos of equivelent stature to the Dodgers. Make fun of the name all you want (the team themselves simply goes by “The Angels,” as I do), but there’s no reason why Arte Moreno shouldn’t be expanding the reach and appeal of a winning team beyond the provincial borders of Orange County.
To be continued (perhaps).