5 Stories All Angels Fans Should Know
If you're an Angels fan looking for more ways to prove your diehard loyalty, there's a book out there that might hold a helpful suggestion or two. Baseball writer Joe Haakenson recently released 100 Things Angels Fans Should Know and Do before They Die and we took some excerpts from the book to guide you.
Below are five things you should known about the L.A. Angels of Anaheim before you die -- and while you're alive, obviously, so you can show off.
5. Tragedy in Gary, Indiana -- Lyman Bostock
Lyman Bostock played less than one season with the Angels in his abbreviated major league career, but his impact was as powerful as any player who wore an Angels uniform. Bostock, 27, was shot in the face while sitting in the back seat of a car in Gary, Indiana, on September 23, 1978. He was a victim of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But Bostock's short life was a glimmer of light for those who knew him. Bostock moved with his mother from Gary, Indiana, to South Los Angeles at the age of eight, became a standout baseball player at Manual Arts High School, and went on to play at San Fernando Valley State College (now Cal State Northridge).
He was drafted in the 26th round by the Minnesota Twins in 1972 and reached the big leagues in 1975. He quickly made an impact, batting .282 in 98 games his rookie season before taking off the next two seasons in Minnesota.
He hit .323 in 1976 but actually had his 1977 salary reduced to $20,000 because the small-market Twins knew they would not be able to retain Bostock when his contract ran out after the 1977 season.
Bostock hit 14 home runs, drove in 90 runs, and batted .336 in 1977, finishing in second place to teammate Rod Carew (.388) in the American League batting race. Angels owner Gene Autry, anxious for that first championship, was more than willing to pay Bostock his fair value and signed the outfielder to a five-year $2.25 million deal.
Bostock turned down potentially more money from the Yankees and Mets to play close to home. "I was very close to signing with the Yankees," Bostock said after signing with the Angels. "But with all that controversy, I thought I might wind up being a vegetable. I'm not a flashy guy; I'm not a Joe Namath or Clyde Frazier."
Bostock, though, wasn't even Lyman Bostock once the 1978 season started. After an 0-for-4 game against Toronto on April 29, Bostock, whose average fell to .147, made an unthinkable offer. He wanted to return his salary for the month back to Autry, who flatly refused. "We wouldn't give him a raise if he had a good month," Autry explained, "so I'm not going to withhold his pay just because he had a bad one."
"I just can't make that kind of money and not produce," Bostock said.
So if Autry wouldn't take it, charity would. Bostock donated $36,000 to charity, some of which went to his church, Vermont Square Methodist in South Central L.A. Bostock quickly turned around his season and began to hit as everyone knew he could. He hit .261 in May, .404 in June, .294 in July, .317 in August, and .302 in September, raising his season average to .296 by September 23.
With just a week left in the season and the Angels in Chicago to play the White Sox, Bostock got permission from the team to go to Gary to visit with his uncle and friends. One of the friends was a woman who was in a tumultuous relationship with her husband. The husband incorrectly assumed his wife was having an affair with Bostock and followed them in his car. At a stoplight, the man pulled out a shotgun and shot through the backseat window, killing Bostock.
At the funeral, Angels pitcher Ken Brett spoke on the team's behalf. "When he found the road to success, his first thoughts were to help the people who had helped him. We are all better people for having known Lyman and having him touch our lives."
"Lyman Bostock," former Angels outfielder Rick Miller said, "was one of the best people you'd ever be blessed to know."
4. Bobby Valentine and a Chain-Link Fence
Bobby Valentine came to the Angels in what would be considered a blockbuster trade.
Following the 1972 season, the Angels sent Andy Messersmith and Ken McMullen to the Dodgers for Valentine, Frank Robinson, Billy Grabarkewitz, Bill Singer, and Mike Strahler.
Valentine had been a standout athlete in his home state of Connecticut and was even offered football scholarships to both USC and Notre Dame. But after the Dodgers selected him with the fifth pick overall in the first round of the 1968 draft, he chose base- ball. He was a star among stars in a Dodgers minor league system that included Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Tom Paciorek, and Bill Buckner. He led the Pacific Coast League in hitting with a .340 average in 1970, and many people had him ticketed as the Dodgers' shortstop of the future.
Dodgers manager Walter Alston, however, favored Russell. After two seasons in Los Angeles, Valentine was sent up the freeway to Anaheim. Valentine was the Angels' Opening Day shortstop in 1973, and in the season opener against the Royals, he went 2-for-4 with a triple, an RBI, and a run scored. On May 17, he was hitting .302, and at age 23, it seemed his career was about to blossom.
But that day, center fielder Ken Berry was sick. So manager Bobby Winkles had to re-do his lineup, moving Valentine from shortstop and putting him in center field. Valentine's athletic ability allowed such a move.
But in the top of the fourth inning, Dick Green of the Oakland A's hit a drive to left-center field. Valentine ran hard, fast, and with a purpose, got to the warning track, and leaped into the chain-link fence. His spikes caught and his right leg was shattered, both bones in the lower leg were severely broken. Ironically, after Valentine was carted off, it was Berry who entered the game in center field, apparently feeling well enough to play.
"I ran as fast as I could into the wall, and the wall didn't go down," Valentine said years later. "It was the exact same break as Joe Theismann's. The only difference is that in 1973, medicine was a little different, and I came out of the cast with a leg that had a 20-degree bend one way and an 18-degree bend the other."
Valentine spent six months in a cast, and when the cast was removed, it was found that the bones had mended poorly.
Valentine was giving the option of having leg reconstruction surgery, but that meant another 12-18 months of rehab.
Valentine opted against the surgery but was never the same.
He hit .261 in 117 games for the Angels in 1974, then he was traded to the Padres late in the '75 season. He played five more seasons in the majors but never played in more than 86 games in a season. He bounced around from the Padres to the Mets to the Mariners, retiring after the 1979 season with a .260 lifetime average.
Valentine's baseball career was not over, though--not by a long shot. He has become a successful major league manager, managing both in Japan and the majors thanks to some advice he received from Tommy Lasorda not long after the accident. Lasorda had managed Valentine in the Dodgers' minor league system, and Valentine respected Lasorda's opinion.
"Lasorda was managing down in the Dominican winter league where I'd played for him five years before," Valentine said. "And I said, 'Tommy, all these people don't believe I can still play at the same level I did before I broke my leg. Why don't you let me come down and play for you, and you can tell me what you think.'
"We had a deal. And at the end of the season we went out for pizza and he said, 'Okay, I'll tell you. I think you should start thinking about coaching or managing.' And we both cried."
3. Palm Springs -- Spring Training or Spring Break?
One hundred miles east of Los Angeles sits Palm Springs, a desert resort community that seemed to have everything the Angels wanted in a spring training facility.
It had the Polo Grounds baseball facility. It had warm, dry weather, perfect for getting ready for the season. And it had a night- life. The Angels players in those days played hard on the field, and they played hard off the field. Initially at least, new Angels manager Bill Rigney thought it was a great place to hold camp and credited general manager Fred Haney for making the decision. "Fred had about five minutes to get organized and did a great job of finding that little park--then known as the Polo Grounds-- in Palm Springs," Rigney said.
"Fred felt it was close enough to L.A. for fans, sponsors, and media, and far enough for the players to realize they were in spring training.
"Everyone loved it. I mean, as long as we were in Palm Springs, I never had any trouble getting players to report early."
President Dwight Eisenhower, only a couple of months from leaving office in January 1961, was a frequent guest at the ballpark of Angels owner Gene Autry. Eisenhower was a resident of nearby Rancho Mirage.
Autry led a parade of players on bicycles down the street to the ballpark in a publicity stunt to get the party started in 1961, and boy, was it a party. "It was a four-week Mardi Gras is this chic resort mecca," said Dick Enberg, the longtime voice of the Angels.
The drinking was enough of an issue that manager Rigney felt it necessary to address it the following year in 1962 as spring training was about to begin. "Look boys, we've had one year in this town, and I know how it is," Rigney told his players. "I enjoy it, too. But until we get in good shape, no drinking, and I mean no drinking for anybody, for two weeks! We're a new ballclub, and for some of you this is a second chance. For some of you, it's a first chance. So let's dry out and get in the best shape we've ever been in in our lives. Okay?"
It was a nice thought, but it didn't work.
Catcher Buck Rodgers roomed with first baseman Steve Bilko, who was a veteran of the old Pacific Coast League and wasn't about to miss out on living the big-league lifestyle. Bilko filled the bathtub in their room with cans of beer, and Rodgers said the tub was never empty all spring.
"We never took a shower or a bath in that tub all spring," Rodgers said in Rob Goldman's Once They Were Angels. "The older players were always in our room--Eli Grba, Ken Hunt, Ned Garver. Some of us younger players--Jim Fregosi and Lee Thomas--we'd all hang out together. When I got back after dinner, Bilko would be in his bed snoring up a storm so bad the windows would rattle."
Pitcher Ryne Duren might have been the club's biggest partier of all. One early morning in spring training, Duren decided to hit golf balls from the back patio of his room onto the roof of pitching coach Marv Grissom's room.
"Kind of an early starting time, don't you think, Ryne?" Grissom quipped.
Palm Springs was a glamorous spot for the new club, which stayed at the Desert Inn before Autry eventually bought his own hotel in town.
The Angels continued to make Palm Springs their spring training home until moving to Tempe, Arizona, in 1993. The Palm Springs facility eventually became outdated and too small. Many clubs were moving their camps to Arizona, and it simply became a logistical nightmare to bus the team several hours to Arizona every day just to play a game or for other teams to bus to Palm Springs.
The Angels' last spring training in Palm Springs in 1992 gave many Angels a chance to reflect. Scott Bailes, an Angels reliever on that 1992 team, had T-shirts made up that said, "Last Hurrah in Shangri-La."
"The thing I've missed most is spring training in Palm Springs," Grich said about his life after baseball. "It was my favorite time of the year, with the intimate crowds, the relaxed atmosphere, the great weather, the chance to see some of the young players, and Gene Autry watching from that tunnel under the stands, right there next to the dugout.
"It was a beautiful place to play, and there was no more wonderful view than to stand out at second base and look at that small grandstand with all those tank tops and shorts, and snow-capped San Jacinto in the background."
2. 1999 -- A Pivotal Season
The new era in Angels baseball that began in 2000 under general manager Bill Stoneman and manager Mike Scioscia would not have happened if not for the implosion that was the 1999 season.
Big things were expected of the Angels in 1999. The Angels had back-to-back winning seasons under manager Terry Collins in 1997 and '98 and figured they were close to finally getting over the hump and ending their playoff drought.
General manager Bill Bavasi got the go-ahead from Disney ownership to spend some money, and he identified his first target -- pitcher Randy Johnson. Johnson, though, spurned the Angels in favor of the Arizona Diamondbacks, partly because he lived in the Phoenix area.
Bavasi's next target was Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn, who was the American League MVP in 1995. It took the biggest contract in club history -- $80 million over six years -- but it got the job done. Vaughn, many thought, was the final piece for the Angels.
Of course, no Angels fan needs to be reminded what happened next. On Opening Day, the second batter of the game, Cleveland's Omar Vizquel, hit a foul pop-up that drifted near the Indians' dugout on the first base side. Vaughn fell into the dugout and severely sprained his ankle, hampering him for the entire season.
As bad as things seemed at the time, Vaughn actually put up good numbers in 1999--.281, 33 homers, 108 RBIs. But there was some underlying dissension building within the club throughout the season, and it eventually boiled over.
Players complained to management about Collins, who had been hired by team president Tony Tavares after the 1996 season because of his no-nonsense approach that was a direct contrast to previous manager Marcel Lachemann, who employed a more laid- back approach.
Tavares and Bavasi, though, supported Collins. Tavares even likened the Angels clubhouse to a day care center, and at one point he had the big screen televisions removed from the clubhouse as some sort of punishment.
Collins, however, lost the team soon after a game on August 31, 1999, against the Indians at Jacobs Field. The Angels held a 12-4 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning when the Indians put up a 10-spot, the final runs coming in on a home run by Richie Sexson off Troy Percival.
David Justice followed Sexson, was immediately hit by a pitch from Percival, and a bench-clearing fight ensued. After the game the team watched highlights in the clubhouse, and many of the Angels players noticed that during the chaos, Vaughn was still in the dugout and didn't join his teammates on the field.
According to players in the clubhouse, Percival confronted Vaughn, but Vaughn explained that as the designated hitter that day, he was in the clubhouse when the fight broke out. And by the time he got to the dugout, the melee had subsided.
The next day, a number of players went into Collins' office and said they wouldn't play that day if Vaughn was in the lineup. Feeling he had no choice, Collins benched Vaughn.
Less than a week later, on September 3, Collins tearfully announced his resignation.
"I kicked butts, patted butts, and tried everything I knew to motivate them, but a manager today only has one hammer--and that's the lineup card," Collins said. "I love managing. I'll miss coming to the park and putting the uniform on, but I won't miss the bickering that went on this year."
Then it was Bavasi's turn -- he resigned as general manager four weeks later. Bavasi, at one time the club's director of player development, had a personal interest in many of the Angels' major leaguers in '99 because he had a role in their rise through the minor league system.
But some hinted, Tavares chief among them, that Bavasi was too closely tied to those players and it affected his judgment in evaluating them. Tavares felt sweeping changes needed to be made, but Bavasi stood firm. "Am I too attached to these players?" Bavasi asked, repeating a reporter's question. "Maybe. However, I don't believe I ever allowed that attachment or those emotions to get in the way of doing what was best for the team."
Ironically, when Stoneman took over, he seemed to agree with Bavasi's evaluations of many of those players, who ultimately made up the core of the World Series champions three years later in 2002.
1. Bleacher Bum -- Charlie Sheen
Major League Baseball parks have that certain something, that ability to transform a hard-working, respected member of society into a child-like oaf, someone who will risk life and limb--and their dignity--all for the chance to snag a baseball worth $17.99.
There's something about catching a foul ball at a major league game that is so special it defies logic. But we've all been there. We've felt that rush of adrenaline when that ball has come close, maybe a few rows in front of you. And we've experienced the buzz in your section of the crowd after that mad scramble.
For those who've actually caught that foul ball -- or even better, a home run ball -- congrats, you're one of the lucky ones. That drive for cowhide can make you do crazy things, and if you have money to burn, you can take it even further. That's why actor Charlie Sheen -- a big baseball fan and star of the movies Major League and Major League II -- took it to another level on April 19, 1996, at Anaheim Stadium. That was before the stadium underwent the renovation that turned it into more of a baseball park than a football stadium. It was also a time when crowds were sparse because the Angels were not a good team -- they finished 70-91 that year.
So Sheen probably could have had all those seats behind the left-field fence to himself anyway for that Friday night game against the Detroit Tigers. But just to be sure he would have no competition for a home run ball, he spent $6,537.50 to purchase 2,615 seats in left field.
He invited three friends, including Bret Michaels, lead singer of the rock group Poison, to patrol those seats and have unimpeded access to any and all home run balls.
"I didn't want to crawl over the paying public," Sheen explained. "I wanted to avoid the violence."
Sheen got the chance to interact with members of the Angels bullpen out in left field, exchanging autographed baseballs. Sheen signed his and added "#99" to reflect his character Ricky Vaughn's number in the Major League movies.
Angels starting pitcher Chuck Finley, always a quick wit, said, "He should have bought tickets when I was pitching. I could have served him up a couple."
As it turned out, the game pitted Angels starting pitcher Mark Langston against the Tigers' Scott Aldred. Langston pitched a complete game, earning the victory when Don Slaught's single to center field in the bottom of the ninth scored Dick Schofield for a 4-3 Angels victory.
As for Sheen, he went home empty-handed, except for those two thousand or so ticket stubs. There were two home runs in the game -- one by the Angels' Tim Wallach, the other by the Tigers' Mark Parent -- but both cleared the fence in right field, captured by fans the old-fashioned way.
Sheen's best bet for a home run ball was probably Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder. But Fielder, who wound up hitting 39 home runs that year, went 0-for-3 with a walk.
"It sounds like he has more money than sense," Finley said of Sheen. "But baseball needs 2 million fans just like him. Every game would be a sellout."
This excerpt from 100 Things Angels Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die is printed with the permission of Triumph Books / www.triumphbooks.com/100ThingsAngelsFans.
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