Another trip to Orange County…Oakland A’s vs. The Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles by way of Fullerton and Santa Monica
Long time readers of this blog know that my girlfriend and I make the hellish, bumper to bumper trip down the I-5 to Anaheim once or twice a year when the Athletics come to town. Since I live in Los Angeles, it’s difficult for me to make it to the Coliseum; and the “Big A” or whatever the hell they call it these days is my only opportunity of the year to see the “good guys” up close and personal. A’s fans in past years seemingly turn out en masse, and this game was proven to be no different. The day started out on a high note as I met 3 time world series winner John “Blue Moon” Odom in the parking lot. He and his wife were charming and cordial. He got a kick out of it when I told him that announcers Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse always show him in the crowd and give him a little air time whenever the A’s play the Angels on television. (He lives in Southern California, so like me he only gets to see the A’s when they come to town twice a season.) I got an autograph and a photo, and after thanking him and shaking his hand, I noticed he was wearing a World Series ring. There is no doubt in my mind that those Oakland A’s teams from 1972, 73 and 74 were some of the greatest teams of all time!
Right away I had a bit of a problem with the Oakland lineup. The A’s were facing a left-hander in Hector Santiago, and their 8/9 hitters were both lefties, each of which were batting .100 and .080, respectively. With Nick Punto batting in front of Reddick and Barton in the 7 spot, we were essentially GIVING AWAY 3 outs. Jesse Chavez gave up an RBI single and a homer to Albert Pujols, (his 496th) which were all the scoring the Angels did as they were shut down in the last 6 innings. Hector “who the fuck is this guy” Santiago had a shutout going until Oakland cut the lead in half with a Yoenis Cespedes solo shot in the 4th. The game resumed and Angels fans were being their typical, boring selves. There was absolutely ZERO passion. They remained in a zombie like state until they started to do “the wave” in the 6th inning; completely ignoring the fact that the A’s were threatening to tie the game with runners on. Oakland fans were out numbered 3,000-1 and were undoubtedly louder and more into the outcome of the game.
The game was essentially dominated by the bullpens until the 9th. Whipping boy/super scrub Jim Johnson shut down the Halos in the 8th; and then this happened with a runner on and 1 out in the 9th:
The entire stadium deflated. The smug, “we all but have this in the bag” quietness turned into disbelief, verbal disappointment and booing. It was one of the MOST WONDERFUL moments I have EVER experienced at a ballpark. I was beaming as Oakland fans high- fived each other on the way out of the stadium. We had proven who the KINGS OF THE WEST were once again.
The current bath salt/zombie epidemic has jolted my quivering brain into a time-lapse…. I was jolted back to the 80’s and smack dab in the middle of the “crack cocaine era”. Plenty of MLB players at the time dabbled in the “rock” (hello, Darryl Strawberry and “Oil can ” Boyd.)
John “Blue Moon” Odom was one of the first star pitchers for the A’s after they moved from Kansas City. He made the All-Star team in 1968 and 1969, winning at least 15 games and posting an ERA under 3.00 both seasons. When Oakland won their first World Series title in 1972, he went 15-6 with an ERA of 2.50. The team won additional world championships in the next two years, but Odom’s numbers got worse: 5-12 in 1973 and 1-5 in 1974. Odom rounded out his career with the Indians, Braves and Whitesox before retiring after the 1976 season.
The problems for the former pitcher, now 42, began when he was arrested May 24, 1985, by Irvine police near the Xerox plant where he had worked quietly and efficiently for six years. He was charged with two counts of selling a small amount of cocaine to a co-worker.
Months later, the case still pending and Odom still unemployed, he snapped. He drank heavily one night, threatened his wife ,Gayle, then barricaded himself in his Fountain Valley apartment for 6 hours.
He doesn’t remember much about that night. But the episode was only the beginning of another long year of despair. The court case was delayed several times before he was finally tried and convicted. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, but before paying that penalty, Odom spent 42 days in an alcohol rehabilitation
That done, he served 55 days in jail and was released Dec. 16, 1986. The couple then struggled for months before Gayle Odom found a job with a computer company in Tustin and he began receiving steady invitations for public appearances and started painting houses.
Attorney Stephan A. DeSales, who has represented Odom for the last 2 1/2 years for almost no fee, recently persuaded a judge to let Odom serve the remainder of his 5-year probation without supervision. Actually, it was a favorable report on him by the Orange County Probation Department that swayed the judge to grant Odom more freedom. “I think society has extracted its pound of flesh from him,” DeSales said.
as my quivering brain nodules settled, my lesson was learned…. ball players aren’t perfect, and to romanticize them as unflinching superheroes takes away all the human aspects from the game; stripping away all the poetry, beauty, and unpredictability of life.