The “Big A”
I recently made a trip to Anaheim Stadium to catch the A’s play the Angels in a “must win” game for both teams; a place I hadn’t been to since I was a young boy living in Buena Park with my grandparents….a span of 20 plus years. My grandfather and I were A’s fans, yet we enjoyed quite a few games at the “Big A” in the days of Wally Joyner, Lance Parrish and Mark Langston. The old cowboy and Hollywood legend Gene Autry still owned the team, and 80 something year old Jimmie Reese, who was the conditioning coach, was still roaming the field. The old man was called up to the Yankees in 1930 and was Babe Ruth’s roommate on the road, or as Reese explained, “I roomed with the Babe’s suitcase.” Reese coached the ball- club for 22 years until he died in 1994.
Times had changed. All three of the old men in the paragraphs above were long dead, and I was back in the ol’ ballpark not ready to re-live memories, but to watch the Elephants kick some ass and take no prisoners. (there’s a playoff spot at stake for fuck’s sake) The stadium was vastly “improved” since I had been there; from the large idiotic Disney-esque rock formation in center field to the gigantic Jack in the Box sign beyond that. My girlfriend, (a Dodgers fan may I add) thought that the crass commercialism on the Jumbotron between innings was off-putting. “Even the hotdogs are better at Dodger Stadium,” she said. I agreed that this display of capitalism and homogenized commerce in the county known for its conservative Republican values was indeed off-putting. “Yes, but we hit more in this league,” I answered.
Yoenis Cespedes, the young Cuban who has one of the quickest bats I’ve ever seen hit a miraculous, long soaring jack to left center. The brilliance was confounded by super-rookie Mike Trout, and his attempt to rob him. Angels fans rose en masse, ready to see their new hero pull odd another amazing feat. He came up short. The wind went out of the stadium. The score was 1-0 and the desperation rose quickly. “How could a bunch of NOBODIES be doing this to us with our 126 million dollar payroll?” Angels fans seemed to be saying. By the time Brandon “The Boss” Moss hit a two run jack to left center in the 5th, we knew it was over. The fans were pleading for the man who had caught it to throw it back, but to no avail. Coco Crisp even added an inside the park job as creeky kneed, 35 year old, over- payed Torii Hunter couldn’t fish a ball out of the corner and it skipped passed him while Mr. Crisp jack-rabbited around the base paths to make it 6-2. Triple and E-9. Grant “The cardiac kid ” Balfour did his best to blow the game even yelling a few obscenities at the umpire on his way out with a 6-5 lead and a man on first and 3rd with no outs. I was yelling a few at Balfour myself and quickly felt vindicated as I had told a buddy of mine before the inning had started that Balfour was like a hooker at a truckstop… always getting rocked. The crowd stood the rest of the game as Jerry “Clutch” Blevins (as he will now be called) nailed down the game by striking out Kendrys Morales and getting Howie Kendrick to ground out 5-4-3 for the victory. There was no joy in Mudville that night….. nobodies indeed.