Major League Stadium had Baseball Gamers

For those who have been following my major league stadium rankings, you did not miss one as I had unintentionally listed two stadiums at #11, since corrected, giving a minor boost to the last two stadiums.

I only have 8 major league stadiums left in my rankings of major league stadiums of yesteryear. As my number one criteria for stadium beauty is “How I played there,” I am expecting big things from the remainder of the stadiums. Unfortunately, not yet, as I did little remarkable in this one; but hey, it was part of “living the dream” as every young, aspiring ballplayer dreams of playing here.

You would think that this place must be ugly, have terrible weather, nothing to do around it or just had bad teams, or something uninviting, with how many different teams have come and gone from playing in this major league stadium.

My #8 rated stadium of yesteryear takes me back to southern California in the way of the Big A – Anaheim Stadium, the major league home of? Wait; let me try to figure out this out.

The Big A – Anaheim Stadium  
Baseball Gamers

First, the California Angels played there, then the Anaheim Angels, followed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and now the LA Angels of Anaheim. Forgive me if I missed a team or two. I believe we can just agree they were and are the Angels, regardless of the name games, and before they consider something as, “Mike Scioscia’s Merry Band of Angels in the Outfield featuring Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.” Hey, that has a ring to it; maybe, I should not give them any ideas, as they are about due for another name change.

Unfortunately, I cannot recall any memorable, personal basehits in Angel land, game winners or home runs (ha), as my most memorable plays in Anaheim Stadium were of turning double plays – one good, one not so good. The good one ended one of the most remarkable “no hitters” in baseball history. Why so remarkable?

The day before the no hitter, the Angels had 18 runs. Even more notable, our White Sox pitcher Joe Cowley, the history-making pitcher, walked seven and allowed a run, as the no hitter seemed nowhere close to remarkable at the time. Players, at least me, did not feel the normal no hitter pressure building because I did not even realize it was a no-no until very late, if at all; as there were base runners and trouble throughout the game, taking away the normal no-hit build up.

As for my part, the game ending double play came on an illegal slide – called by the umpire – but even though I was killed on it, I turned it for a great memory.  The classy, sliding player apologized – unnecessarily, but appreciated – to me the next day. Unnecessary because I would expect no less to avoid losing, especially with a no hitter possibly riding with another at-bat. What is also remarkable and a great trivia question – it was Joe’s last win in the major leagues. Unlikely as it was with the lack of control no-no, a great last win to remember nonetheless. Way to go Joe, it gave me a part and memory of being in a major league no hit game – the only one I was a part of in the majors on either side, as far as memory recalls, even if it was not the normal extraordinary event.

Getting back to the Stadium, it had such a beautiful atmosphere for which to play baseball and the Angels in that day were not only good, but they had a team full of “Baseball Gamers,” the ultimate compliment for a ballplayer. Many were big names and All Stars or All Star caliber players, but most of all, they “came to play every day and they played (and slid) hard, no matter the score,” the definition of a gamer, of course.

Baseball Gamers in the Outfield and Infield

My memories of the Angels, led by the great manager Gene Mauch, were that they were a class act team with the likes of:

Bob Boone, who presented the greatest of challenges to steal on for a player like me, who loved the challenge and took pride in stealing bases.

Rod Carew – can’t say anything about this great that hasn’t been written before. Like all the great ones, played the game with such ease and fun, so cool to be on same field with him.

Booby Grich – so good, so hard-nosed.

Doug DeCinces – another super, professional that came to play every day.

I could be describing the rest of the angels, Downing, Burleson, Schofield, Picciolo, Pettis, etc, all played the game the right way. As mentioned, with no memorable hits to my credit in Anaheim stadium, their pitching staff was formidable, too. Kidding and not kidding at the same time.

Then there was Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson – who could do it all, which is the definition of a Hall of Famer. There was probably only one other similar player in the history of baseball – people came to watch and enjoyed watching the “All in” swing, like no other – had to be the same as when people went to see the Babe (Ruth), when the swing and miss was almost, or more exciting, than the home run.

Reggie’s swing was so prodigious and probably changed the game (for better or worse) for the modern player – making it acceptable and the objective to swing for the fences, and who cares if you strike out and who cares if contact is not made. The memories of him facing Dodger pitcher Bob Welch, in a late 70’s World Series, are forever etched in my mind. As written about in the past, Hall of Famer players walk different from the normal player, and no one walked better than Reggie Jackson did. Just watching Reggie walk to home plate, or jog around the bases when it left the park, or walking back to the dugout after his three enormous cuts – was priceless, and like no other player before or after, in my opinion.

The other memorable play for me was a double play I did not turn – too nervous. I had the opportunity to play in the pre-opening day Freeway series between the Dodgers and Angels. If I had never made it to the Show – it would have been a little taste anyway, as the games were much more exciting back then because there was not interleague play as in today’s game, another sign of the changing game and times.

Being from Chicago, I knew what it was like to be a Sox fan in a city where they seemed to be second rate to the other team. Similarly, the Angels were always in the shadow of the Dodgers, but, it was still a special place and the Angels had such great ballplayers back in the early 80’s. It seems as though the Angels are not so second rate anymore, stealing  the great ex-Dodger, Mike Scioscia, from the other Hollywood team, who led the Angels to the 2002 World Series championship.

Finally, I was surprised to find that the Angels have had 20 rainouts in their history, as I believed “It never rains in southern California”- song from my youth. Of course, a little research shows that a British songwriter wrote the song; so no wonder, “it pours, man it pours.”

Clue to my #7th rated major league stadium of yesteryear – so close, and so cool – #8, number is a dead giveaway.

 

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