Friday, October 27, 2017

Angel Wings and "Salad"

A Heavenly Day

Angels Stadium
Anaheim, CA
August 2, 2016
Oakland A's vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

August 2, 2016: Station 51: KMG-365

We had just pulled out of the hotel, and were leaving Los Angeles behind. Everyone had gotten a great night's sleep, as the previous day had been a lot of running, and now we were ready to move on to our next destination: Anaheim. We wouldn't be staying long - in fact we wouldn't even be staying a day - but we would be hitting a lot of the sights in the area, including the Queen Mary, The Long Beach Marina, and, obviously, an Angels game. First, however, we would be making a stop for me, which I had been dreaming of since I was a little boy, and had me on the edge of my seat with excitement.

"Explain to me again WHY we are going to see a firehouse?" Brendan sighed, rolling his eyes.

"Because...," I started.

"Emergency!" Ryan chimed in.

"The television show?" an exasperated Brendan replied, shaking his head.

"Is that the cheesy one, that's on the oldies TV channel?" Kevin asked, laughing at me.

"Awwww, shaddup, you," I shot back, feigning having my feelings hurt.

Now anyone who knows me, know I LOVED  "Emergency!" It was, and probably always will be, my favorite show of all time. Debuting in January of 1972, the show ran for six seasons, until 1977, and was followed, over the next two years, with six more, two-hour, made-for-television movies.

Roy Desosto and John Gage
The premise of the show was to follow two specially-trained L.A. County firefighters, John Gage (Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe), as they became paramedics (fire fighters who could provide emergency medicine, as first responders, while being in contact with doctors and nurses at the hospital), while the program was in its infancy.

A typical program would follow the firefighters as they worked their "usual" shifts: working around the firehouse, playfully bantering with one another, cooking, cleaning, and readying their gear for the calls that would always come in. Mostly the calls centered on Gage and DeSoto, but the climax would almost always be a call that involved the entire station (Station 51), which was comprised of the squad and the engine. They would work in conjunction with (fictional) Rampart General Hospital and its staff of doctors and nurses: Dr. Kelly Brackett (Robert Fuller), Dr. Joe Early (Bobby Troup), Dr. Michael Morton (Ron Pinkard), and head nurse Dixie McCall (Julie London). As the show's popularity grew, "special guest stars" began to appear, such as Jamie Farr, Melissa Gilbert, John Travolta, Nick Nolte, and Robert Alda.

As a young boy who loved firefighter stories (what boy doesn't?), this show was must-see TV, especially for its true-to-life details. This was part of the creator's vision for the show, so much so that each episode was fact-checked by real-life firefighters, paramedics and doctors, and the stars had to take courses to make the show, and all its details, as life-like as realistic as possible.

I grew more excited as we got closer to L.A. County Fire Station 127 (also known as the Robert A. Cinader Memorial Firehouse, named for the show's producer, who was a chief proponent of the paramedic program), where the show was filmed. It has always been a working firehouse, located at 2049 East 223 Street in Carson, California, and attracts fans of the show from all over the world. As with many other places on our trips, I had always dreamed of visiting this place, and today that was going to happen...much to the chagrin of the kids.

I was practically bouncing off the roof of the van when we pulled up to the front of the station. I never realized it was in such an industrial neighborhood, but that didn't bother me in the least I was HERE, actually AT "Station 51." Suddenly I was a five-to-seven-year-old child again, and everything was new and exciting.

"Pull in the driveway! Pull in the driveway!" I yelled at Tony.

"No way, across the street is good enough," he shook his head at me.

"But the doors are up and the trucks aren't there, they must be on a call," I pleaded.

"Nope, this is as close as I am getting," he told me. "I don't want the cops here, while you're being a knucklehead."
"Fine, I'll walk across the street," I told him.

"I can't believe we're here to see a firehouse," Brendan sighed.

"Let your father be a kid," I heard Nicole say.

It didn't matter what any of them thought; there was no way I was being robbed of this opportunity.

The Station, After The Trucks Came Back
I got out and snapped a few pictures of the front of the building. It was just as I remembered it, from the TV show: a low-roofed brick building, with a concrete driveway out front, and a smaller "apron" just off to the right side of the driveway. A flagpole stood in front of the office, and a fence, leading to the back of the building, was just past that. On the left of the driveway was a swatch of grass, where a few palm trees had been planted, and a brick wall, which had a large propane tank behind it. I was in heaven.

I started to wander across the street, motioning for Nicole to come, to get a few pictures of me in front of the fire station. She shook her head, but lovingly, and with a smile on her face, followed me across the street. I was happy that SOMEONE was indulging my childhood dream. The kids, and Tony, were sitting back laughing, shaking their heads, or both.

We spent the next five-to-ten minutes taking pictures. Nicole was very patient, as I wanted shots of the outside of the building with me in, and out, of the shots. Finally she had had enough, and motioned for me to come back across the street, to the van. I shook my head.

"Look, the gate's open," I called back. "I want pictures of the back lot, there's a truck back there."

"No," she said firmly, as to a young child who was not listening. "Let's get going."

But I was having none of it.

"I'm going back there, and I need you to take some more pictures of me," I said, walking through the open gate.

"OH CRAP, WHERE'S HE GOING?" I heard Nick ask everyone in the van.

"Jimmy, get back here, before you get arrested," Tony called out the window.

There Was No Keeping Me Out
I waived him off and headed into the back of the station. Nicole followed, probably only to make sure I didn't cause any more trouble than I was probably going to cause to begin with.

We spent about ten minutes in the back of the station, taking pictures with a truck, looking around, and just enjoying every moment, when I heard the sound of a loud engine, getting closer.

"The trucks are coming back," I told Nik, excitedly, and jogged back to the front of the station.

Just as I came around the corner, the firetrucks started to back into the garage. The driver looked a little puzzled, but smiled and waved. Tony, on the other hand, wasn't smiling. He was as white as a ghost and positive we were about to get in trouble, for trespassing.

"Hey buddy, what's up?" the fireman, who was driving, called to me, as he climbed down from his rig.

"Just taking a look around," I told him, smiling like a six-year-old who has just been handed a bowl of ice cream.

"I'm sorry, sir," Nicole started to apologize. "We weren't trying to cause a problem, even though it's what he does best. He's been a huge "Emergency!" fan since he was a little kind, and..."

"Say no more," the fireman laughed. "We get that all the time. Would you guys like a tour of the firehouse?"

My eyes grew as wide as dinner plates, as I tried to stammer out a "yes, please," but all I could do was nod my head, as my mouth formed a smile, but no words would come out.

"I'm pretty sure he's trying to say yes," Nicole laughed.

I could only nod in agreement.

I looked across the street, and saw Tony, who was ready to stomp on the gas in order to make a quick getaway, and motioned for him to pull up. He just shook his head.

"Sir" I finally managed to blurt out. "The rest of our group is in the van, across the street. Would it be okay if they came, too?"

"Of course," he laughed and waved them over.

Cautiously, Tony pulled the van into the driveway, careful to stay out of the way of the trucks, in case they needed to get out again.

"I'm so sorry," was the first thing he said, as he got out of the van, with the kids.

"No worries, come on inside," we were told.

Living Quarters
Once we stepped inside the station, it was if we had been transported back in time, to the 1970s, and placed on a Hollywood sound stage. Everything was just as I remembered it from the TV show. The main quarters was one giant room, divided into two sections - a kitchen area and a living room, just as in the show. There was "Emergency!" paraphernalia adorning the walls (the firemen were proud of their station's history), but aside from that it was a living quarters, where the firemen hung out when they had some downtime, and had a "homey" feel. I was having a blast, remembering all the different episodes I had seen, and all that had gone on there.

Sleeping Quarters
After taking some pictures, talking to some of the firefighters, and wandering through their "home," we went across the garage and got to see the sleeping quarters. By this time it shouldn't have surprised me that everything was exactly as I remembered it, but I was still excited, nonetheless. The bunks were partitioned by faux-brick walls, and the cots were made up exactly as I remembered it. I was amazing that no detail had been overlooked, when making the show, as well as keeping it the same, all these years later.

A Kid in a Candy Store

After spending another few minutes taking pictures and talking, it was time to go. We had taken up enough of their time, and, besides, we needed to move along, as well. I had Nik take one more pic; it was just me and the fireman, in front of the station, and then I bought a Station 51 coffee mug and t-shirt, which would come in handy later on during the trip, but this was the perfect ending, to a magical 90 minutes.

Once back in the van, I was jabbering away like a five-year-old. Nicole and Tony thought it was hysterical, but the kids were not amused.

"Uncle Jim," Kevin laughed at me, "you know you are probably the only person that remembers that show."

"I GUARANTEE your dad remembers it," I told him. "Let's call him and find out."

I whipped out the phone and dialed Andy's digits. There was no way I was losing this bet.

"Hey what's up?" a voice on the other end of the line called out.

"If I say Station 51, what's your response?" I asked.

"Emergency! You went to the Emergency! fire station, didn't you?"

"Yeppers," I laughed, looking at Kevin.

"Best show ever," Andy kept going. "Remember the episode where the guy accidentally swallowed his beer can pull tab, and they had to rush him to Rampart?"

"Yeah, dumbass couldn't even open a can of beer, sheesh," I laughed.

"You two scare me," was all Kevin could say, shaking his head, and looking mortified.

"I'll tell you all about it, when you pick us up at the airport, next week. I laughed.

"I swear to God, you two aren't normal," was all Kevin could keep saying.

"Kevin, how many times do I have to tell you?" Nicole asked. "They share a brain, and your father, generally, has primary custody."

"I give up, I really do," was all he kept saying, as he shook his head and leaned on Ryan for support.

The Queen of Long Beach

As we hit the highway, everyone was starting to feel a little hungry.

"Where, and when, is lunch?" Brendan wanted to know.

"We're going to Long Beach," Tony told him. "It's about half-an-hour away, with traffic."

"Why there?" Nick wanted to know.

"We're going to see about having lunch on a ship," I told them.

"A ship, like the Titanic?" Brendan asked, excitedly.

"Preferably one that's not on the bottom of the ocean," Nicole chided him.

"What ship?" the boys wanted to know.

"The Queen Mary," I told them. "Go look up her history," I told Ryan, hoping they would relax and find something interesting to keep them quiet for the next 30 minutes.

It lasted all of five minutes.

"This is really cool," I heard Ryan say.

"What did you find out?" I asked.

Sailing Day
"Well, the Queen Mary was built in the 1930s, and sailed for the first time in 1936. It was an English ship, and run by the Cunard-White Star Line. She, and the Queen Elizabeth were going to be the premier ocean liners of their day, sailing back and forth from Europe, every other week. When World War II began, she was turned into a troop ship, carrying soldiers and munitions for the rest of the war. Once the war ended she became an ocean liner again, and was one of the most popular until jets replaced ships to cross the ocean."

"Her last voyage was in 1967, when she sailed to Long Beach and has been a restaurant, hotel, and tourist attraction ever since. In fact, she's on the list of National Historic Places, as well as the list of historic hotels in America."

"You went to Wikipedia, didn't you?" Tony joked.

"Nope, the ship has her own website," Ryan shot back. "That's where I got that information."

"Read a little more," I told him. "That way you can surprise us, when we get there."

As we came off the highway, and drove through the port of Long Beach, the kids loved being near the docks. All of a sudden, off the van's "port bow," the Queen Mary came into view.

"She's huge," Brendan said, wide-eyed.

"1,019.4 feet long," Ryan chimed in. "Weighing 81,207 tons."

"I thought I told you to surprise us with the information, when we got there," I scolded him.

"You wanna know how fast she was able to go?" he laughed.

"Yeah," Brendan chimed in, knowing I would have said "not yet."

"25.8 knots," he called out.

"Yeah, smart ass? How fast is that in mph?" I asked.

"Almost 33 miles per hour," Kevin called out, helping Ryan tag-team me.

"Let's go see her, up close," I told them, as we pulled into the lot.

A BIG Ship

The first thing I noticed, as I got out of the van, was that Ryan was right; the Queen Mary was huge. In fact, the ship was 138 feet longer, and almost 35,000 tons larger than the Titanic. It was also faster, heavier, and more powerful, but it did, however, hold fewer passengers, according to the statistical chart we were able to pull up. All in all, this was a behemoth of a ship, and we felt very small standing next to her, dock-side.

"Hey, why is there a submarine next to the ship?" Nick wanted to know.

"That's the Scorpion," Ryan told him. "It's a Soviet sub, which was a working sub, until the early 1990s, and was brought here in 1998. It was a tourist attraction, but closed this month because it was flooding and found to be unsafe."

"Inferior design and technology," Tony laughed. "See why we won the Cold War?"

We walked length of the ship, stopping to take pictures, read the signage, and determine if this was really the place to have lunch. The ship was beautiful, and looked to be some place that we would have loved to tour, but it was too expensive, considering the ages of the kids and what the tour would include. I think they would have enjoyed  a good deal of it, but would have been bored to tears with a lot of the minutia that was included.

After checking out the prices for lunch, we determined that as much as we would have loved to have eaten here, it was a little out of our league. Nicole, however, decided that when the two of us did our Pacific Coast Highway Trip, this would be a great place to have a meal, as well as spend the night in one of the hotel suites. Ryan and Brendan were none too thrilled with this idea, feeling left out of the plans, but the decision had been made; that was going to be a kids-free, future visit. It did, however, raise another issue; where to have lunch today.

We decided to head across the harbor, and see what we could find in the "village" area. I was sure we'd find something that would be perfect for the seven of us, and I was right.

Shoreline Village is a "community" of restaurants, shops, an arcade pavilion, a marina, a spa and a dock, with a boardwalk-like feel, directly across the water from the Queen Mary. We could relax, have a nice meal, enjoy the beautiful weather, and hang out on the water. It would be a perfect SoCal lunch experience.
We parked the car and strolled out on the "boardwalk," passing trinket shops, the arcade, the different restaurants, and just enjoying the early afternoon. There were a few places that caught our eye, but as soon as we saw one restaurant, in particular, we knew it was the right one.

Lunch, Overlooking the Marina
Shenanigans Irish Pub,and Grille was perfect for this group; not only was it in the perfect spot (on the marina), but it had a great menu and the name perfectly described our little touring party. We grabbed a table facing the water, ordered some appetizers and drinks, and settled in with our lunch menus, just soaking up the sun.

There was a slight disagreement over the apps, as Tony was apparently worried about the "damage" Irish nachos (fried potato wedges covered in chili, cheese, corned beef, sour cream, and jalapenos) and garlic buffalo wings were going to do to our (ie: MY) digestive system, but much to his chagrin that was what was ordered. Between that and the two beers, I was fine, but the rest of them wanted more food, so they decided on breakfast stuff, which was surprisingly still being served. Then, while plates of omelets, pancakes, breakfast burritos, corned beef hash, eggs, and something called a scramble (two eggs, onions, tomatoes, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, and avocado, with a side of hash browns), were wolfed down, we just relaxed and enjoyed the afternoon.

Family Photo, With The Queen Mary
After brunch was finished, they all waddled away from the table and decided to, again, walk around. There was a pier off to the southern end of the "village," which provided some unreal scenery for pictures. One such shot was of the Queen Mary, across the harbor, and provided the perfect backdrop for a family picture, which we simply could not pass up. After making Kevin take picture after picture, until we got the perfect one, the boys again decided that were hungry, so it was off for some homemade ice cream.

Someone's Enjoying Her Ice Cream
Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt on the Boardwalk is a MUST when visiting the area. It is continually voted "Best Ice Cream in Long Beach," year after year, and there is a reason why. With 16 different homemade flavors of ice cream, and six homemade flavors of frozen yogurt, this establishment will satisfy any frozen craving you may have. If you like banana splits, sundaes, waffle-cones, sugar cones, shakes, smoothies, or just ice cream in a cup, this place is for you. There are over 25 different toppings, which will enable any creation-concoction you can think of, and no one will walk away unhappy.

By now it was about 3 p.m. and it was time to head out. The ballpark wasn't far from where we were, about 35 minutes, but we wanted to sit back, relax, do a little tail-gating, walk around the outside of the ballpark, and just "be." It had been a busy morning, and there was still quite a ways to go before our day was done, so we were going to take advantage of any downtime we could grab.

Angels History

Pacific Coast League Angels

The Angels are not a "new" team, as one would think if they looked at MLB history. The franchise has been around since the 1890's, but in the Pacific Coast League (PCL), which was the Western United States' version of the Major Leagues, until 1957.

There had been plenty of talk, over the years, of an American League franchise moving to Southern California; in fact, the St. Louis Browns had petitioned the league in 1940 to move to Los Angeles, but were turned down. They reapplied in 1941 and were granted permission, but the bombing of Pearl Harbor caused the cancellation of those plans. There was talk, again, of the Browns relocating to the area in the 1950s, but by then they had decided to move to Baltimore, and become the Orioles. The Washington Senators and Philadelphia A's were also rumored to end up in SoCal, but none of those came to fruition either.

When the Dodgers and the Giants made the move to California, in 1957, Walter O'Malley, the president of the Dodgers, had bought the rights to the team, and its ballpark (Wrigley Field), as part of the deal. This should have ended any speculation of an American League team moving there, but with the threat of a new league forming (the Continental League), MLB granted expansion franchises to Washington D.C. (replacing the original Senators, who moved to Minneapolis and became the Twins) and Los Angeles. They would add two more teams the next year, the Mets and the Colt 45s, who later became the Astros.

Becoming Angelic

Gene Autry, The Singing Cowboy
The Los Angeles franchise was bought by Gene Autry, the famous "singing cowboy" of Hollywood western movie fame, who paid $350,000 for the rights to the team, and its ballpark, Wrigley Field. He immediately named the franchise the Angels, in honor of the long-time PCL team, but had to pay O'Malley an additional $300,000 for the naming rights, as the Dodgers still owned them, as well. The team would play its inaugural season in Wrigley Field, after having been turned down a request to play in the LA Coliseum, as the Dodgers had. The Commissioner, Ford Frick, had said the Coliseum, with it's short fences, was not a suitable ballpark for the team.

The team, which was composed of expansion draft players, as well as former PCL Angels, took the field on April 11, 1961, against the Baltimore Orioles (in Baltimore), promptly scored seven runs in the first two innings, and held on for a 7-2 victory, with Eli Grba pitching all nine innings, and recording the win. Ted Kluszewski had the team's first hit (a home run), while Bob Cerv had the second (another home run).

The team didn't play its first home game for another two weeks, returning to Los Angeles to face the Twins on April 27th, where they lost 4-2, bringing their record to 1-8. They would finish the season 70-90-1 (the tie coming against the Boston Red Sox, on June 8, when the game was called on account of darkness), which is still the highest winning percentage for an expansion franchise in its inaugural season (.435).

Starting in 1962, the team would play its home games at Dodger Stadium (under the terms of their agreement with O'Malley), while their new ballpark was being constructed, though they would refuse to call it Dodger Stadium; it was always referred to as Chavez Ravine. The team was in the thick of the race for a lot of the season, even leading the AL in early July, but they ended up in third place, ten games behind the pennant-winning New York Yankees. They would, however, finish the year with 86 wins, 16 more than the year before, and provide home fans with their first real franchise moment; a no hitter; over the Orioles, pitched by fan favorite, Bo Belinski. Over the next three years, the team would continue its up-and-down trend, going 70-91 in 1963, rebounding to 82-80 in 1964, but falling again, in 1965, to 75-87.

By now it was getting imperative that the Angels find a home of their own. It was thought the team could never develop its own fan base playing at Dodger Stadium, and, besides that, O'Malley was "holding them up" with a usurious lease, which charged them 50% of all stadium supplies, even though they only drew about half of the fans the Dodgers did.

Autry considered areas all around the Los Angeles area, once he realized how difficult O'Malley was going to make it for him in that market. The first proposed area was Long Beach, but when city officials insisted he rename the team the Long Beach Angels, he decided to look elsewhere. He was able to, eventually, come to terms with the city of Anaheim, and construction began on Angels Stadium right away.

A New Home

A New Logo
In their final year at Dodger Stadium, the Angels drew almost 600,000 fans, but with the opening of their new ballpark, in 1966, they jumped to 1.4 million, and led the league in attendance. Besides getting a new home in 1966, the Angels would get a new name, as well - they would be known henceforth as the California Angels. They would be the second MLB franchise named for a state (the Minnesota Twins being the first), and the first that was exclusively from California, as the Dodgers and Giants had relocated from New York. The name California Angels would be kept through the 1996 season, even though, by that time, there were five teams in the state (Dodgers, Giants, A's, Padres, and Angels).

Angels Stadium, 1966
The new park, Anaheim Stadium, affectionately known as "The Big A" by Southern Californians, would open on April 19, 1966, when the Angels hosted the Chicago White Sox in front of 31,660 fans. Jim Fregosi would notch the team's first hit in their new home, a second inning double, while Rick Reichardt would plate the first home run, an RBI, in the second. Unfortunately the Angels would fall to Chicago, 3-1, on this inaugural opening day, but the fans would come in droves to support their team, despite their ineptitude.

For the remainder of the 1960s, the team would only finish above .500 once, in 1967, when they went 84-77, and never made the playoffs. They would, however, contend for the pennant in 1967, along with Detroit, Boston, Chicago, and Minnesota, before finishing in third. There was some solace in that, though, as they were able to play the spoiler by knocking Detroit out, on the last day of the season, and help Boston to its first pennant-winning season since 1946.

The Dawn of a New Decade

The 1970s were a tumultuous time for the Angels. During the course of the decade they would go through eight managers (Lefty Phillips, 1970-71; Del Rice, 1972; Bobby Winkles, 1973-74; Whitey Herzog, 1974; Dick Williams, 1974-1976; Norm Sherry, 1976-1977; Dave Garcia, 1977-1978; and Jim Fregosi, 1978-1981), run a record of 781-831, and only finish higher than third place once, in 1978, when they finished second, five games behind Kansas City. It's not that they didn't have plenty of good players (they did); they just couldn't get out of their own way, and a terrible tragedy engulfed the team in 1978.

The Ryan Express
Staring early in the decade the Angels swung a trade with the Mets, which sent Jim Fregosi east and brought back 25-year-old fire-baller; Nolan Ryan. Ryan, then 25, would get his first chance to pitch on a regular basis, and he did not disappoint. That year he would go 19-16, with a 2.28 ERA and a league-leading 329 strike outs. For perspective, the team would only win 75 games, so Ryan comprised almost 25% of the ball club's wins. Ryan would stay with California through the 1979 season, winning 138 games, and losing 121. Despite being one of the best in the league, his general manager (Buzzy Bavasi) called him "nothing more than a flashy .500 pitcher," and let him leave, via free agency, when he would sign with the Houston Astros.

Ryan wasn't the only good ballplayer the Angels had, during the 1970s. Bobby Bonds, Frank Tanana, Don Baylor, Denny Doyle, Doug DeCinces, Joe Rudi, Mickey Rivers, Jerry Remy, Bobby Grich, and Ed Figueroa all pulled on the "haloed hat" at one point or another. But besides Ryan the one player every fan remembers from that decade, sadly, was the one with the most promise, and the most tragic: Lymon Bostock.

Bostock was a heavily scouted player, from Gary, Indiana (he was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and moved to Gary when he was four years old), and was drafted by the Cardinals, in 1970. Bostock decided to stay in school, and attended San Fernando Valley State College (now Cal State Northridge), where he led his team to second place in the 1972 College World Series. He was then re-drafted by the Minnesota Twins, in the 1972 draft, and decided to turn professional despite being only 15 credits short of graduating.

Bostock Signs With Halos
Bostock worked his way through the Twins minor league system, with stops in Charlotte, Orlando, and Tacoma, before debuting with Minnesota in April of 1975. His first full year in the majors was 1976, when he played centerfield and finished fourth in the AL batting race. He followed that up, in 1977, by finishing second, behind his teammate, Rod Carew. After the 1977 season, Bostock became a heavily sought after free agent, and signed with the California Angels. He immediately donated $10,000 to a church in Birmingham, the city of his birth.

His opening month for the Angels was a tough one, as he saw his batting average plummet to .150, and he was so embarrassed about not earning his salary that he offered to give it back. When owner Gene Autry refused to take the money back, Bostock donated it to a charity of his choice. He would find his stroke, hitting over .400 from June through the end of the year, and end up hitting .296 for the season.

With a week remaining in the season, the Angels found themselves in Chicago, to play the White Sox, and Bostock decided to head home to Gary, Indiana, for a visit with his uncle, Thomas Turner. After having a family dinner, Bostock and his uncle went to visit a young lady whom he had tutored as a youngster (Joan Hawkins), but had not visited with for a while. After the visit, Bostock and his uncle agreed to give the young lady, and her sister (Barbara Smith), a ride to their cousin's house. Bostock's uncle drove, while he rode in the backseat with Smith.

The Angels Pay Their Respects To Bostock
Unknown to Bostock's group, the sister's estranged husband, Leonard Smith, had been watching the house, and when he saw Bostock get into the back of the car with his ex-wife he assumed the two were carrying on an affair. Smith got in his car, and followed the others until they came to a traffic light. It was at this time that Smith pulled alongside the other car, and pulled out a shotgun. He later told police that his intention had been to shoot his wife, but Bostock was sitting between her and the shotgun and was hit in the right temple by the blast. He died two hours later, at the age of 27.

The Angels, understandably, played out the rest of the year in a funk, finishing second to the Royals, five games back.

The Great Rod Carew
In 1979 the team signed another prominent free agent away from the Minnesota Twins: Rod Carew. Carew had been quite the star in Minnesota, having signed a free agent contract in 1964 and working his way through the Twins farm system. The Washington Heights, New York, native would go on to play for the Twins until 1978, hitting .328 with 2,085 hits, 305 doubles, 90 triples, and 74 home runs. He would be a 12-time All Star (1967-1978), a seven-time batting champion (1969, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, and 1978), an MVP (1977) and a Rookie of the Year (1967).

Flying High

The 1980s started out slow for the Angels, as the team finished sixth and fifth, respectively, to start the decade, but after the 1981 season things started to pick up, as they finished in first place in 1982. That was in no small part to the man they brought in, to help move the franchise forward...Mr. October: Reggie Jackson.

Reggie Jackson
Unlike many others, Jackson did not come to the L.A. area to become a star: he brought his star with him, and it was a bright one. Since making his major league debut with the A's in 1967, Jackson had been voted an All Star 11 times (1969,1971-1975, 1977-1981), was a three-time HR leader (1973, 1975, and 1980), had been an AL RBI Leader (1973), an AL MVP (1973) a five-time World Series Champion (1972-1974, 1977-1978), a two-time World Series MVP (1973 and 1977), and a Silver Slugger Award Winner (1980). To say he was one of the biggest stars in baseball (if not the biggest) would be an understatement.

1982 Angels
Jackson would be joining an impressive roster, which already included infielders Carew, Bobby Grich, Doug DeCinces, Rick Burleson, and Tim Foli, as well as outfielders, Brian Downing and Fred Lynn, a pitching rotation of Tommy John, Stan Bahnsen, Don Aase, Andy Hassler, and Luis Tiant, as well as a power hitting DH, in Don Baylor, with Bob Boone, behind the plate. This team would go on a tear, winning 42 more games than the 1981 version, and finish the season with a record of 93-69, which was good enough for first place in the AL West, by three games over Kansas City. They would play the Milwaukee Brewers, who finished 1982 with the best record in baseball (95-67), for the ALCS, with the series beginning in Milwaukee.

The Brewers, known as Harvey's Wallbangers (after their manager Harvey Kuenn, and the fact that their hitters POUNDED the baseball), were led by future Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, as well as pitchers Mike Caldwell, Rollie Fingers and Don Sutton, and position players Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, and Gorman Thomas. They were a team to be feared, but the Angels were just as strong, and this was anyones series.

The Angels jumped out an early series lead, when they scored six runs in the first four innings, and defeated Milwaukee, 8-3, behind the solid pitching of Tommy John in Game 1 , and followed that up with a 4-2 victory in Game 2.

The Brewers would fight back, at home, capturing Games 3 and 4 (5-3 and 9-5), and setting up a winner-take-all Game 5, played at County Stadium, in Milwaukee.

The teams would trade first inning runs, with the Angels plating theirs on a double by Brian Downing and a single by Fred Lynn, but the Brewers would come back in the bottom of the inning, when Molitor doubled and eventually came home on a sac fly.

The Angels would score two runs (one in the third, and another in the fourth) on RBI singles from Lynn and Bob Boone, but Ben Oglivie's homer in the bottom of the fourth would cut the lead to 3-2. The score stayed that way until the bottom of the seventh, when the Brewers loaded the bases on a single and two walks, and Cecil Cooper delivered the series-winning two-run single, off Luis Sanchez.

The Halos threatened again, in the ninth, but when Rod Carew grounded out, the Brewers had won their first AL Championship, and were headed to the World Series. They would eventually lose to the St. Louis Cardinals, in another thrilling series, that went the distance, but the Angels felt their future was bright, and they would be challenging for the pennant again, next year. They were wrong.

1983 started out hopeful for the Angels, as it does for every team at the beginning of the season, but it quickly started to fall apart, and by the end of the year the team had fallen to fifth place (70-92), 29 games back of the AL West-leading White Sox. The team would rebound in 1984 and 1985, climbing back up to second place, but they would eventually finish behind Kansas City (three games and one games, respectively) both times.

In 1986 everything, finally, came together for the franchise. They would finish 22 games above .500 (92-70), with the second-best record in the American League - only Boston would finish higher (95-66) - and though they lost Don Baylor to free agency, they would add  Rookie-of-the-Year runner-up Wally Joyner, and pitcher Chuck Finley, and almost never miss a beat. They would finish five games ahead of the Texas Rangers, and meet the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.

The Red Sox were the second-best team in baseball, behind the Mets, and boasted a lineup that featured Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Don Baylor, Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, Bob Stanley, Calvin Schiraldi, Tom Seaver, and the eventual Cy Young Award Winner, Roger  Clemens. They finished five games ahead of the New York Yankees, and marched into the playoffs looking to break "The Curse of the Bambino," which had kept them from winning the World Series since 1918.

The Angels took three of the first four games, in the best-of seven series, winning Games 1, 3, and 4 (8-1, 5-3, and 4-3) behind solid starting pitching in their first two wins, and timely hitting in Game 4. The Red Sox, in fact, held a 3-0 lead, going into the bottom of the ninth, before scoring three times to tie the game, and winning it in the 11th inning. The Halos were looking to close out the series, and head to their first-ever Fall Classic, in Game 5, and were one strike away, when disaster struck.

The Red Sox drew first blood, with two in the top of the second, but the Angels cut the lead in half in the third, and added two in the sixth, and another two in the seventh, taking a 5-2 lead into the ninth. The Angels' starter, Mike Witt, surrendered a lead-off single to Bill Buckner, but then retired the dangerous Jim Rice to put the Angels two outs away from moving on. Former Angel Don Baylor then hit a two-strike, two-out, homer, which cut the Angels lead to 5-4, and brought up Sox catcher Rich Gedman as the tying run. Gedman was promptly hit by a pitch, and the Angels decided it was time to bring in their closer, Donnie Moore, to face Dave Henderson.

Moore was an effective closer, posting 21 saves in 1986 (he had finished 1985 with 31), and, quickly, recorded two strikes on Henderson. However, with the count 2-2, Henderson launched the next pitch over the left-centerfield wall, for a two-out, two-strike home run, which gave Boston the lead, 6-5.

The Angels would tie the score, and almost win the game, in the bottom of the ninth, but they were not able to push across the winning run, and when Moore gave up a sacrifice fly, to Henderson, in the 11th, the Angels had run out of luc; the Sox had stolen the game.

Moore, After Giving Up the Home Run
The Angels still led the series, 3-2, but they traveled back east and were pummeled by the Sox in Game 6 (10-4), and again in Game 7 (8-4), and wound up losing the series in seven. Moore, who had long-battled depression, never really recovered, and after a few more injury-plagued seasons  he was traded to Kansas City, where he finished out his career. On July 18th, 1988, Moore shot his wife, and then turned the gun on himself. Moore had, repeatedly told people that he never got past the blown save, costing his team a shot at a World Championship. Thankfully his wife survived the shooting, but he, unfortunately, did not. He was 35.

To Hell and Back

Mo Vaughn
For the next 15 years the Angels found themselves in baseball's version of Hell, either playing poorly enough to be a laughingstock (finishing four seasons in 5-7th place), right at the heart of mediocre (eight seasons of third and fourth place), or just not good enough to reach the summit (three seasons in second place). The team went through many changes between 1986 and 2000, especially at the helm,  where the team went through 12 managers from 1987 to 2000, including Cookie Rojas, Buck Rodgers, Marcel Lachmann, John McNamara, Terry Collins, and Joe Maddon. The players came and went so fast, fans couldn't latch onto any one in particular, but some of the favorites were Jim Edmonds, Tim Salmon, Mo Vaughn, Garret Anderson, Chuck Finley, and a host of others.

Another issue with the team, during these years, was the ownership. Gene Autry remained the chairman of the team until his death, in 1998, but in 1996 the Walt Disney Company had enough support to hire Tony Tavares as the president and Bill Stoneman as the general manager. The Disney Corporation had been big players in Orange Country since Disneyland was built, in 1955, and Walt Disney had been appointed to the team's board by Mr. Autry, serving until his death, in 1966. Since then a member of the Disney organization had sat on the board at all times. In 1994 Disney had re-made the movie "Angels in the Outfield," and based it around the team; and owning them outright was the next logical step, especially after becoming owners of the Anaheim Ducks hockey team. This came to pass after Autry's death.
New Unis, For New Owners

During this time the team's name and uniforms changed as well. This did not sit well with the fans, but Disney was hoping to market the area as a destination city, due to the theme park being located there (Anaheim), and they believed this was one more way to do so. Beginning in 1997, the team became the Anaheim Angels, and also were sporting a new on-field look. The spelling of the team name, on the front of the uniforms, was replaced by a giant letter "A," with an angel's wing on the left hand side of a vest-style pinstriped-jersey. Needless to say, it was roundly ridiculed around baseball, by the players, the media, and the fans.

Ascending to Heaven

New Manager, Mike Scioscia

By 2000 the team was undergoing more changes, had quietly been putting together a soon-to-be winner, and had found the man to lead them, Mike Scioscia. Scioscia, himself, was familiar with the SoCal baseball world, having played for the Dodgers from 1980-1992, and having won two World Championships there (1981 and 1988). He studied under Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, and when his playing days were through he rose through the coaching ranks of the Dodgers' organization, until he was hired by the Angels after the 1999 season. Scioscia had his team finishing third in both 2000 and 2001, and by 2002 the team was ready to take the next step.

Rally Monkey
Along with a new manager, the team also found itself with a new mascot for the 2000 season: the Rally Monkey. This started as a joke, when the video crew wanted to inject some life into the crowd, during a game in which the team found itself behind, in the late innings, so they played a clip from the Jim Carrey movie "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," where a monkey was jumping up and down, every time the Angels put a runner on base, or scored. The team came back and won the game and the fans loved the monkey, so a new tradition was born.

Hoping to build on their modest success of the previous years, in 2002 the Angels "shocked" their fans by returning to the postseason for the first time since the 1986 loss to the Red Sox. They didn't win the AL West, finishing four games behind Oakland, even though they recorded 99 wins, but they did win the Wild Card and found themselves up against the defending American League Champion New York Yankees.
The Yankees had been the winningest team in baseball since 1996. They had won four World Championships (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000), and had been American League representatives in the 2001 World Series, where they lost a heartbreaking Game 7 to Arizona. They had been the best team in baseball, winning 103 games, and were expected to make short work of the Angels. Instead, "divine intervention" took place.

The Yanks took Game 1, by a score of 8-5, which made people feel the series was already over, but what they failed to see was that the Angels had a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth, before the Yanks came roaring back. If the Angels could righten their bullpen, and get the game to their bullpen, anchored by Troy Percival and Francisco Rodriguez, they had as good a chance as New York to win the series, and that's exactly what happened. The Halos handed the back end of their pen a lead, in each of the next three games, and they protected all three, stunning the baseball world and knocking New York out, three-games-to-one.

The Angels would next face the Minnesota Twins, in the ALCS, with a chance to go to their first World Series. Minnesota had just come off a hard-fought five-game series with the A's, prevailing 5-4 in the final game, after having scored three runs in the top of the ninth, and then holding off a furious charge from the A's, who did the same in the bottom of the inning. The Twins, led by Ron Gardenhire, had finished the season as the AL Central Division Champions, with 94 wins, but were exhausted, and it showed.

Though they took the first game, 2-1, behind a spectacular outing by Joe Mayes, the Twins had nothing left in the tank, and were buried by the Angels in the next four games (6-3, 2-1, 7-1, and 13-5). The final blow was a ten-run seventh inning, for the Angels, in Game 5, which Minnesota couldn't possibly overcome. The Angels had finally overcome the ghosts of the past, and were headed to their first-ever World Series, where SoCal would meet NoCal, and the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants, like the Angels, had won the Wild Card, before dispatching the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals en route to the World Series. They had won 95 games, but were led by Barry Bonds, the most dangerous, and despised, man in baseball.

The Angels had home field advantage, but neither team could take advantage of their home fields, splitting the first six games of the series, the Giants taking Games 1 and 4 (both by scores of 4-3), while the Angels won Games 2-3 (11-10 and 10-4).

World Champs
In Game 5 the Giants came out and pounded the Angels, 16-4, scoring three in the first, three in the second,and four in each of the eighth and ninth innings. The Angels then, in Game 6, erased a five-run deficit, scoring six runs over the seventh and eighth innings (on a dramatic three-run homer by Scott Spiezio, along with well-timed singles, and a game-winning double, by Troy Glaus), to even the series at three games each.

Game 7 was everything the Angels and their fans,had been dreaming of, over all those years. The Giants may have scored first, with a run in the top of the second, but the Angels countered that with one of their own in the bottom, and then added three more in the third, and shut the door, to capture the series, and their first World Championship.

The Aftermath Years:

Arte Moreno
The team would have a new owner for the 2003 three season. Disney wanted out of the sports industry, and sold the franchise to Angels Baseball L.P., an investment group led by Arturo "Arte" Moreno, who had made his money in advertising. Upon the sale becoming final, Moreno became the first-ever Hispanic owner of a major American sports team. The Angels didn't do well in the season after winning the World Series, finishing in third place, 77-85, and out of the playoffs.

In 2005 the team decided to rebrand, and, once again, change it's name. This time, in an effort to link themselves with the world-renowned city of Los Angeles, they would become the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This, however, did not sit well with either city, or the fans, who argued the team did not play ANY of its home games in Los Angeles or Los Angeles County, and should, therefore, not be allowed to capitalize on the name. The City of Los Angeles, the City of Anaheim, the Walt Disney Company, and every city in Orange County joined in a lawsuit, claiming the team was violating its lease. The Angels countered with the wording in the lease, which said that the name of the city, Anaheim, had to be prominent in the name and it was so, even if they were called by the new name. A jury trial was concluded in February of 2006, with the team being allowed to keep the new name. By January of 2009, the Anaheim mayor announced that all legal challenges would cease, and the team would now be known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

In the years since 2002, the Angels have become a model franchise; they are a perennial playoff contender, having returned to the postseason in 2004 (ALDS, against Boston), 2005 (ALCS, against the White Sox), 2007 (ALDS, against Boston), 2008 (ALDS, against Boston), 2009 (ALCS, against the Yankees), and 2014 (ALDS, against Kansas City), but they have been unable to return to the World Series, despite having had two of the better players in the game: Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.

Albert Pujols
Pujols had been one of baseball's superstars,for the first portion of his career. He was a power-hitting first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, a nine-time All Star (2001, 2003-2010), a three-time NL MVP (2005, 2008, 2009), an NL Batting Champion (2003), a six-time Silver Slugger Award Winner (2001, 2003, 2004, 2008-2010), the 2001 Rookie of the Year, and a two-time World Series Champion (2006 and 2011). Having just won the 2011 World Series, he became a free agent that winter, but no one expected him to leave St. Louis. When he did, it sent shock waves through the sport, and when he landed in Anaheim, the Angels were thought to have the best 1-2 punch in baseball, with him and Trout.

The Franchise: Mike Trout
Mike Trout was taken with a compensation pick (25th overall), by the Angels, in the 2009 draft. The pick was awarded to Anaheim because the Yankees had signed Mark Teixeira as a free agent the year before, and they did not bungle it. He quickly rose through the minor leagues, being promoted to the big club in July of 2011, where he has been the everyday centerfielder since. As of today, he is considered the face of baseball, as well as its best player, having been a six-time All Star, a two-time MVP (2014, 2016), the 2012 Rookie of the Year, a five-time Silver Slugger Award Winner, an RBI leader (2014), a stolen base leader (2012), and a member of the 30/30 Club (2012), and he hasn't even turned 27 yet.

With these two players at the heart of their line-up and only one playoff appearance since they have been together, to say things have gotten frustrating, would be an understatement. But, for the fans, hope springs eternal, and with Mike Scioscia still at the helm, and the best player in the game in centerfield, it'll happen sooner or later, but it wasn't going to happen the year we got there.

Tailgating, and Stadium Exploring

As we pulled off the highway, and into the parking lot, we noticed we were more than a little early.

"What times does the game start?" Nicole wanted to know.

"7:05," Ryan told her.

"Then why are we here at 3:30?" she asked, giving me a dirty look.

"Tailgating, and looking around the outside of the ballpark," was the answer Ryan gave her.

I could tell by the rolling of her eyes, she didn't like what she had heard.

Ryan and Big D, Tailgating Outside the Big A
We parked the car in the back of the lot for easy exiting after the game, threw open the doors, and soaked in the warm SoCal sunshine. Nick, Kevin, and Brendan dozed off while watching videos on their phones, Nicole listened to some music with her eyes closed, and Ryan, Tony, and I opened the back doors, and cracked two beers and a water. It was a perfect afternoon - not too hot, with a breeze to keep things cool, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

As the three of us talked, we got to discussing the stadium itself. From where we were sitting, it wasn't much to look at, but I was hoping it would be better inside.

"You know, they played their first year at Wrigley Field," Ryan told us.

"Why would a team from Los Angeles play in Chicago?" Tony joked with him.

Ryan wasn't taking the bait.

Wrigley Field, L.A.

"Wrigley Field was a minor league ballpark, where the original Los Angeles Angels (a Pacific Coast League team) and the Hollywood Stars played. It was sold to O'Malley, when the Dodgers moved here, in 1957, and demolished after the 'new' Angels left, after their first year," he told us.

"Do you know why the Angels left, and where they went?" I asked him.

"It was a dump, in a bad neighborhood, so they moved in with the Dodgers, at Dodger Stadium, in 1962, and stayed there until this place was finished. The funny thing is that they refused to call it Dodger Stadium when the Angels played there, they always referred to the ballpark as 'Chavez Ravine,' which was where it was located."

"What else do you know?" I asked him.

"I didn't have time to do any more research," he told us.

"No worries, you did a damn good job," I reassured him.

"The worry was," I told them, "that the team was never going to develop its own fan base, playing in someone else's home. They wanted a place of their own, and don't forget that O'Malley was a cheapskate. He charged ridiculously high rents, and also made them pay for stadium supplies, on top of that, even though the Angels drew barely half of what the Dodgers did. This is what led the owner, Gene Autry, to look for a place of his own. The first choice was Long Beach, where we just were, but the city wanted to rename the team the Long Beach Angels, and Autry said no. He eventually agreed to Anaheim, where they would call the park Anaheim Stadium, and the locals would refer to it as 'The Big A,' which is what you're looking at, across the parking lot."

I was growing sleepy, thanks to the sunshine, and getting a little tired of the story-telling, so I decided to grab an iPad, and go through it with Ryan and Tony, just so I could focus, and stay awake.

A Home of Their Own

The New Ballpark
By summer of 1964 shovels were in the ground for the new ballpark, which was constructed on what used to be farm land, in the Southeast corner of the city. It was built in proximity to other tourist attractions, such as Disneyland, in a suburban neighborhood, like other stadiums of the era. The Angels also conducted a scientific study, before building the park, which made for the optimal weather conditions, for the hitters, pitchers, and fielders, based on average weather conditions at game time. The Angels have since adjusted the field dimensions, over the course of the years, in an effort to maximize the perfect balance. Needless to say, they didn't take into account their own freak of nature, Nolan Ryan, who recorded two no-hitters (of his seven), as well as almost 2,500 strike outs, at The Big A.

The team and the architects (Nobel W. Herzberg and Associates) had finally agreed on the dimensions of the park: 347 feet to Left Field, 390 feet to Left-Center, 396 to Center, 370 to Right-Center, 350 to Right Field, and 60.5 feet to the backstop. The playing surface was covered in a beautiful shade of green, provided by Tifway 419 Bermuda grass, and the stands could hold a crowd of 43,250, when filled to capacity. The construction cost was $24 million, which would translate into $177 million, today. At that time Anaheim Stadium was a baseball-only facility, but that would change in the distant future.

When the park opened, on April 19, 1966, the Angels not only had a new home, but a new name as well. They had agreed to change the name from Los Angeles Angels to California Angels, and had become the second Major League team to be named after a state, as opposed to a city. The Angels took the field, that day, against the Chicago White Sox, with Marcelino Lopez on the hill for the Angels, facing Tommy John of the White Sox.

Jim Fregosi of the Angels had the first hit, a double (in the bottom of the first), while Rick Reichardt had the first RBI, run scored, and home run, when he hit a solo shot, to put California up, 1-0. The White Sox, however, would tie the score, on a Tommie Agee homer, in the sixth, then tack on two in the eight, to spoil the stadium-opener, 3-1.

Though the stadium was built specifically for baseball, the Angels did have tenants as early as 1967. The Orange County Ramblers, of the defunct Continental Football League, called The Big A home for the 1967 and 1968 seasons. The team moved to San Bernadino in 1969, citing poor attendance, and the facility remained a baseball-only one until 1974, when the World Football League placed a team (the Southern California Sun) there, for the 1974 and 1975 seasons. Also, from 1978-1981 the California Surf, of the North American Soccer League, called The Big A Home.

Angels Stadium, After Renovations
The first major changes to the stadium came in the late 1970s, when the L.A. Rams were looking for a new home. They had been playing at  the Los Angeles Coliseum, but were looking for something a little smaller because they had trouble filling the 100,000-seat facility, which then had games being blacked out in their local TV market. The Angels quickly agreed to add more seats for football, which would bring the total capacity to 69,008, and increase the baseball capacity to 64,593. In order to do this, the upper decks and mezzanine were now expanded to encircle the playing field, which now made for an enclosed stadium. There were also "portable" bleachers, which were kept under the right and left field stands, and brought out only for football games. These new alterations did, however, come with a drawback: with the now-enclosed stadium, fans no longer had the views of the local mountains, and Highway 57, which they had been proud of.

The Big A Scoreboard, Today
Another casualty of the new-look stadium was that the Big A scoreboard, which had stood in left field, was now moved to the parking lot behind right field, and would now be used as a marquee board. To replace the original Big A scoreboard, a black and white scoreboard/instant replay board was put up, over the left field stands, but it proved useless during day games, because of the glare. This board was replaced in 1988, by a Sony Jumbotron, which was positioned in right field, but that only lasted until 1994, when it collapsed during the Northridge Earthquake. Thankfully no one was injured, as the quake occurred in the early morning hours of Martin Luther King Day, and no one was in the facility.

These changes did not sit well with the baseball fans, due to the distance they now were sitting from the field. Originally, no seat was more than 109 feet from the field of play, but now the center field seats were deemed too far from the action, and no one wanted to sit there. Despite the protests, the changes allowed for the stadium to become home to the Rams, who moved in for the 1980 season and stayed until the team left for St. Louis, in 1995.

The stadium stayed this way until 1996, when Disney took over the team and decided the facility needed a major overhaul. The Angels and the City of Anaheim quickly came together on a deal that would keep the team in Anaheim until 2031, but had an "out clause" after the 2016 season.

Due to these the renovations the stadium became a baseball-only facility, again, and the capacity dropped back down to 45,477, where it stands today.

Before the 1997 season began, the section of the stadium beyond the outfield walls were torn down, and thought was given to move the Big A scoreboard back to its original location. These plans were quickly given up, due to the cost of moving the structure and the fact that it had become a landmark in its "new" location. Construction continued during the baseball season, and was completed over the winter.

The California Spectacular
When the 1998 season opened, the fans were in for a treat. The enclosed stadium was completely gone, which allowed, once again, for a view of the San Gabriel and Santa Ana Mountains, along with the Bea Hills and Highway 57. There was also a new video board, an out-of-town scoreboard (located underneath the right field seats), as well as new outfield pavilions and concourses, but the most "inspiring" new feature was something called "the California Spectacular."

Pride Rock, from Inside
This spectacle is located in left-center field and looks to be a gigantic rock formation. It supposedly represents California's mountainous region, and has a stream that flows over the rock formation (named Pride Rock, after the home of the lions, in the Disney movie "The Lion King"), geysers that shoot water up into the air, and is surrounded by real trees, as well as real rocks. Fireworks are also set off from this location, at the beginning of each game, after every Angels home run, and at the end of each win. It has become a fan favorite spot to meet, hang out, and watch the games from.

Also renovated, at this time, was the outside of the ballpark. The structure was repainted in green and sandstone colors, and a lot of the facade was removed, to give a more "open" feel to fans and visitors, but the biggest renovation came at the Home Plate Gate area, which is now ringed with concrete baseballs, with the Angels logo carved into them.

Home Plate Gate
Home Plate Courtyard
This area was now "blown open," and features two giant New Era
Angels caps (one with a size indicator of 649 1/2), originally painted blue, and featuring the Disney winged-logo, the caps have since been repainted red, with the "halo" insignia on the front. These caps stand above a giant brick-courtyard, which is made up to represent the infield, with a regulation pitchers' mound, and light-up bases, which have bricks that have been engraved with the names of the players who manned those positions every Opening Day, since the Angels joined the league in 1961.

Courtyard "Canopy"

Above the courtyard stands signage, with the name of the team, held in place by six giant replica baseball bats. Flanking this sign are giant flags with the pictures of the biggest names on the team today, and underneath those are the box office, and the team store.

The renovated stadium opened its doors, for its first game, on April 1, 1998, with a new name, as well as a new look. At this time the stadium became Edison International Field of Anaheim, after the team and Edison International Utilities came to an agreement on sponsorship for twenty years. Unfortunately, after 2003 Edison International activated its opt-out clause and the stadium has since been known as Angels Stadium, or simply The Big A.

There had been no more major changes to the ballpark when we arrived, but they were now celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the ballpark, and there was signage celebrating this occasion all over the place. The celebration was not only for baseball, but for everything that had occurred here over 50 years of existence, though baseball was the primary focus. The 1967 All Star Game had been played here; it had been the site of numerous ALDS, ALCS and World Series games, Mickey Mantle's last game-winning home run had occurred here, as had Vladimir Guerrero's 400th home run, Reggie Jackson's 500th career home run, and both George Brett's and Rod Carew's 3,000th hits. It had also been host to several games during the 2002 World Baseball Classic.

As for non-baseball events, the ballpark may not have been as prestigious as Yankee Stadium or Dodger Stadium, but it has held it's share of entertainment too, such as concerts by U2 and movies such as Angels in the OutfieldDeuce Bigelow, Male GigoloThe Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad; and The Fan. It has also been the host to motorcycle events, international soccer matches, and, twice, was used when Barack Obama spoke at the graduation ceremony for University of California, Irvine.

Starting Line-Up

Golden Anniversary Year, For The Big A

Jim Kulhawy
Nicole Kulhawy
Ryan Kulhawy
Brendan Kulhawy
Kevin Johnston
Tony D'Angelo
Nick D'Angelo
Henning Morales
Fabiana Morales
Xander Morales
Darius Morales
Cameron Khani
Emily Khani

By now everyone was getting tired of walking around the outside of the park, looking at whatever we could find, though, in truth, there wasn't much, so we headed back to the van to wait for Tony's friend Henning, and his family, who would be joining us for the game, as well as Tony's other friends, Cameron and Emily Khani, who had joined us, at Manhattan Beach, on our first day. Henning and Tony have known each other for over thirty years and keep in touch regularly, even though he had long since moved out to California, and is working on a book and a movie, while Tony had met Emily's parents while on his honeymoon, when she was about 8 years old, and has "seen" her grow up, from afar.

About ten minutes later Henning and company pulled into the lot, and after a brief round of introductions, and another adult beverage, we headed into the park. Henning had brought his three kids - Fabiana (16), Xander, and Darius (both 8) - who were super-excited to be going to the game, especially with the older kids.

The Mouse is Everywhere
We wandered around the Home Plate Gate for a bit, letting the kids look at all the bricks in the replica field, as well as play the "spin-the-wheel" games, where everyone "won" a drawstring bag, and Ryan managed to win vouchers for some free stuff, from local vendors, which he promptly gave to Henning's boys, which made him a "hero." Even Nicole got in on the fun, as she found a Mickey Mouse statue, decked out in Angels gear, and had to have her picture taken with it. The boys and I just shook our heads, and laughed, but she was having a good time, and that was all that mattered to us.

Once inside the ballpark we decided it would be best to split up, as Xander and Darius wanted to try and catch batting practice balls and Ryan, Brendan, and Kevin wanted to check out the ballpark. My first impression, upon walking in, was not a good one. We were greeted with a walled-in concourse, with no view of the playing field, aside from what we could see through access tunnels. It reminded me a lot of the old Yankee Stadium, and I had to stop for a moment and remember that this was a 50- year-old ballpark, not one of the newly-constructed parks of the last 25 years.

Memorabilia Case, at Home Plate Gate
The hallway was filled with Angels memorabilia, both past and present, and there were cases that housed things like historical balls, bats, jerseys and a Gene Autry cowboy hat. We saw a wall mural, depicting the postseason memories thorough the franchise's history, and the 2002 American League Champion and World Series trophies. There was also a wall dedicated to nothing but the 2002 team, and banners commemorating their accomplishments.

Angels Wall of Fame
As we walked a little farther down the first base concourse, we came to an outdoor area that housed an Angels Hall of Fame. Here we saw individual awards for the different record-holders in franchise history, such as, batting average (Vlad Guerrero, .319); games played (Garret Anderson, 2,013); runs scored (Garret Anderson, 1,024); hits (Garret Anderson, 2,368); doubles (Garret Anderson, 489); triples (Jim Fregosi, 70); home runs (Tim Salmon, 299); RBIs (Garret Anderson (1,292); and stolen bases (Chone Figgins, 280).

"Those are some pretty low numbers," Ryan said, unimpressed.

"Remember, the team has only been around since 1961," Kevin reminded him.

"Still, you would think someone might have more than some of those numbers," he said.

Pitching Leaders
Another plaque, on the "Wall of Fame, was the pitching leaders board, which also had a few familiar names, and one that stood out by itself. There were categories for combined ERA (Dean Chance, 2.83); wins (Chuck Finley, 165); games (Troy Percival, 579); starts (Chuck Finley, 379); complete games (Nolan Ryan, 156); shutouts (Nolan Ryan, 40); saves (Troy Percival, 316); innings pitched (Chuck Finley, 2,675); and strike outs (Nolan Ryan, 2416).

"Think about how great Nolan Ryan was," I told the boys. "He still holds all those team records, was only here from 1972-1979, and no one else has surpassed him, almost thirty years later.

"He was a freak," Brendan laughed.

"Nah, that was Tim Lincecum," Ryan shot back.

Rookie of the Year
Cy Young Winners
As we walked around the "Hall," we also saw plaques that honored the two Angels Rookie of the Year winners (Tim Salmon, 1993, and Mike Trout, 2012); as well as their Cy Young winners (Dean Chance, 1964; and Bartolo Colon, 2005). There was also a listing of all the Angels players who had played in the All Star Game since the team's inception.

It was an interesting walk through Angels history, and it was made complete with statues honoring former owner Gene Autry, as well as one memorializing Rod Carew's daughter, Michelle, who passed away in 1996, at the age of 18, from leukemia.

After wandering through the outdoor Hall of Fame, there really wasn't much to see in the main concourse, so we decided to wander up to the Suite Level. Normally "regular fans" don't get access to this part of a ballpark, but we decided we had to try. Surprisingly we were granted access, and it was here that we found a lot more of the history of the team told through pictures, banners, and memorabilia.

Two of the Most Famous Angels
The Legends Wall
As we walked the halls, we found the walls adorned with the likenesses of famous players, such as, Dean Chance, Tim Salmon, Don Baylor, Chuck Finley, and Jim Fregosi. There were also plaques for all-time greats Nolan Ryan, Bobby Grich, and Rod Carew, as well as another painting of the 2002 World Championship team. It seemed to me there was an over-abundance of memorabilia for that particular team, but if you only have one in your history it should be something to be proud of, and shown off  as much as possible.

Waterfall Wall

We were even allowed to wander into one of the suites, which had never happened at any other ballpark (unless we were taking a behind-the-scenes tour), and while it didn't have the extravagant luxuries of some of the newer parks, it was a nice place from which to sit and watch a game. The boys were captivated by the wall of flowing water, with the Angels logo encased in it.

Family Photo, at Pride Rock
Camera View, From Pride Rock
At this point we figured it was time to head out, before they asked for our
tickets, so we made our way outside, and decided to walk around the outfield concourse. Here we were able to walk behind "Pride Rock," and take some great pictures of both ourselves and the ballpark. The views were actually very good, though there were no actual seats from which to watch the game. It was here that the local camera crews set up shop, to film the game, with the "behind-the-pitcher view."

Pujols Wall

There was also a wall honoring Albert Pujols, and his quest to reach 600 home runs. It seems the Angels had installed a giant sign that had a picture of Albert on the left side, standing in front of his current home run number, with his place in home run history on the other side of that, and his name at the top. As of our game, he was at 580, and counting.

I will say, aside from the 2002 World Series memorabilia there was a lot of Mike Trout paraphernalia, as well. This too is understandable; when you have the best player in the game, you expect to see his likeness everywhere, and it was everywhere. We saw Mike Trout plaques, Mike Trout Nike advertisements, Mike Trout Fox Sports posters, and Mike Trout t-shirts and caps, in all the merchandise kiosks.

"Do you think they'd have Mike Trout fish sticks, in the concession stands?" Brendan laughed.

"That'd be weird," Ryan said, wrinkling his nose.

"Not to mention a little creepy," Kevin added.

"Speaking of food, who's hungry?" I asked, knowing the response I would get.

"Take me to food," became the rallying cry of three hungry teenagers.


Perfect Food Item
When Ryan and I started this trip, back in 2001, we said that we were NOT going to eat just any ballpark fare, but rather find the food that was indicative of each of the ballparks we visited. Along the way we had prime rib (Yankee Stadium), a Fenway Frank (Fenway Park), a cheesesteak (Philly), Boog's BBQ (Camden Yards), Skyline chili dogs (Great American Ballpark), pork chop on a stick (Target Field), a Chicago dog (U.S. Cellular Field [side note: BLECH]), a sausage and Italian beef-dipped sandwich (Wrigley Field), and elk bratwurst (Coors Field), and a Dodger Dog (three days before, at Dodger Stadium), to name a few, but there was NOTHING at Angels Stadium that screamed "Southern California." It was basic ballpark fare - burgers, dogs, sausage and peppers, chicken fingers, etc, - and that just wouldn't do. Finally we spotted the only stand in the ballpark that would satisfy our "rules." It was tacky, it wasn't punny, but it would do, and it sold one thing: "Angel Wings."

"I guess it's wings, for dinner," Ryan laughed.

"Can we really do anything else?" I asked him.

"No, but I'm not really hungry," he informed me.

"How about the rest of you?" Nicole asked. "Is anyone hungry, after that monster lunch?"

"Not really, but what if we split the jumbo bucket?" Kevin asked.

"That works for me, and I'll get you ice cream helmets, later," I told them.

"DEAL," they all agreed.

So we ordered the jumbo bucket (about 30 wings), sodas and water, and a beer for me, and headed to our seats, to relax and wait for the others to meet up with us, and the game to begin.

We were the first ones to our section, so we decided to take a few pictures before the rest of the crew joined us, and the boys settled in to eat their wings.

Dinner Time
They were big, meaty, and covered with sauce, which soon covered Brendan's entire face. There was a slight "heat" to them, but not so much that they were uncomfortable to eat. I prefer my wings a little less "mild," and while they weren't the best we have ever had, they were better than I expected, having been mass-produced in a ballpark. The boys enjoyed, which was all I wanted, but I was left more than a little disappointed that there wasn't more local fare from which to choose.

Nicole, who is not the biggest fan of wings, went with a simple hot dog, which wasn't very impressive either. All in all, the food was less than I would have hoped for, especially considering all the SoCal cuisine that they could have worked with.

The Game

View From Our Seats

The others joined us, as Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker was taking his warm-up tosses. Neither team was very impressive - in fact both were under .500 at this juncture of the season (both teams having identical 47-58 records) - but we were hoping to see an Angels win, powered by Mike Trout.

First Pitch
As we took our seats, Ryan tried to get a "LETS GO ANGELS!" chant started, but no one besides us seemed interested. Once again the laid-back SoCal fans didn't seem to be as "into" the game, but at least they didn't show up in the third inning, and depart by the bottom of the seventh, as we saw at Dodger Stadium, a few days before.

Shoemaker set the A's down 1-2-3 in the first inning, which made everyone happy. Now we were going to see Mike Trout, who was, arguably, the best player in baseball, in the bottom of the inning.

Sean Manaea was toeing the rubber for the A's. He was no one I was overly-familiar with; in fact he was 6-10 so far, and we were hoping the Angels, led by Trout, could jump on him early. He, too, unfortunately, retired the first two batters he faced, before Trout came up. The kids were on their feet from the moment he stepped into the box, as they are when any big name player comes to bat, but they were the only ones.

"What the hell is wrong with these people?" Ryan wondered, aloud.

"They're so quiet," Brendan replied, shaking his head.

"Show 'em how we do it in The Bronx," I laughed.

This just cranked them up to another decibel level, which didn't look like it pleased the people three rows in front of us, but none of us cared. The boys quickly turned our section into the loudest one in the park, and whether you believe that helps or not, Trout crushed a single, back through the box and into centerfield, for the first base runner of the night. This made everyone "whoop" even louder, which seemed to have brought smiles from the people behind us, as they reacted with high-fives.

The joy, unfortunately, was short lived, as Trout was caught stealing on the second pitch to Pujols.

"DAMNIT!" I heard Ryan exclaim, above the crowd's groan.

I settled in for the night, hoping a first-inning caught stealing wasn't going to impact the night.

The A's, fired up from the end of the first inning, took the lead one batter into the second, on a Khris Davis home run to right-center. Shoemaker didn't seem unnerved, as he got the next two outs, but then surrendered a walk and a hit batsman, putting runners on first and second, with two outs. The next batter, Ryon Healy, flied out to right, ending the threat, and the inning. The Angels went down, 1-2-3, in the second and there wasn't a hard hit ball in any of the at-bats.

Over the next 1 1/2 innings both teams combined for four base runners, and one run. The A's had a walk in third; a double, which was erased in a next-batter double play in the fourth; and a Coco Crisp home run, in the fifth, while the Angels could do nothing but an Escobar single, in the fourth. So with the game half-over, the A's were leading, 2-0, and the Angels looked inept at bat.

In the bottom of the fifth, however, that all changed, as the Angels' bats came alive. After a Jefry Marte fly out, Andrelton Simmons singled, and Jett Bandy homered to left, tying the score, and getting the kids up, for their first real reason to cheer. They made the most of it, chanting Bandy's name as he circled the bases, and hugging and high-fiving as if he had just hit a walk-off. Their enthusiasm must have been contagious, as the people around us started smiling, clapping, and getting into the moment. The Angels did their part in keeping the fans engaged, with a double and a walk, but nothing came of it. The bigger picture, though, was that the score was now tied, and everyone seemed to be "into" the game.

The A's threatened in the top of the sixth, with a walk and a single, but Shoemaker pitched around the trouble, retiring Marcus Seimien for the final out. This set off another round of whoops, cheers, and high-fives from the fired-up fans around us.

The excitement was palpable, and paid dividends, in the bottom of the fifth. Mike Trout led off the inning (which again produced a loud response from our section) with a walk, before an error on an Albert Pujols grounder put runners on first and second, with none out. The next batter, Jefry Marte, drove a ball far into the left field stands, for a home run, giving the Angels a 5-3 lead, and sending our section into delirium. It was beginning to sound more and more like home, the kids were having a blast, and their enjoyment was infectious, as the rest of the people around us were up and celebrating as well.

The Angels didn't do anything more in the inning, but the electricity in the stands was palpable, and they headed to the last 1/3 of the game with a three-run lead and, at least, one section of fans who were having a blast.

We Made The Scoreboard

"Hey look," Ryan shouted over the din, pointing at the scoreboard.
"We're famous," Brendan laughed.
"More like infamous," Nicole popped off.
"Either way, it's now etched in history," I told her, sticking my tongue out, and smiling.

The A's singled to start the seventh inning, but the runner was quickly erased on a double-play ball, hit to shortstop Andrelton Simmons. The A's then, again, singled, but the inning ended a batter later with a line out to right field. The Angels were six outs away from victory, but did nothing to tack on to their lead in the bottom of the inning.

With the kids being able to "smell" a victory, and whooping it up accordingly, the Angels decided to play head games with everyone. After the lead-off batter lined out to right, Khris Davis singled. "No harm," we all thought, especially after the next batter struck out. Two outs, one on, Angels up by three, four outs from a win - and Yonder Alonso homered to right, cutting the lead to 5-4.

"What the actual...," Ryan started.

"Don't finish that thought," I warned him. "Your mother will kill you."

He just smacked his chair, and shook his head, as a look of pure disgust came across his face.

Marcus Semien then stroked a single to left, and I thought Ryan was going to lose his mind.

"If they blow this lead, I'm gonna be pissed," he said, turning to me.

"I wanna see a walk-off," Brendan then laughed, knowing the response it would get from his brother.

"Are you out of your mind? If there's a walk-off, that means the Angels blew the lead."

"I know," Brendan laughed.

By this time, Kevin was just smiling as he watched the exchange. I could tell he was torn between watching Ryan squirm, and just being able to leave right away, as we still had to drive to San Diego after the game.

Thankfully the Angels got out of the inning without any further damage, either to themselves or Ryan's psyche, though they again didn't add any insurance runs, which would have made things a lot easier on themselves...and us. We were headed to the ninth inning, with a one-run lead, hoping to hold on and earn the win.

The Angels brought in their closer, Cam Bedrosian, to nail down the win, while the A's sent up a pinch hitter (Max Muncy), to replace Ryon Healy. Bedrosian won the battle, with a strike down. The next up to the plate was Coco Crisp, who also went down looking...two down. This brought us all to our feet, just like back home at The Stadium, to clap and cheer for the last out. We must have been looked at as some sort of trend setters, because everyone else in our section looked over at us, and got up as well.

Jed Lowrie came to the plate, with the game on the line. There were two outs, none on, and the Angels leading by one. Lowrie took the first pitch for a called strike. He then took a huge hack at Bedrosian's second offering, but came up empty. Strike two.

"He's trying to hit it out onto the freeway," Ryan said, shaking his head. "They need him to reach base, and move the baton."

"That kind of approach won't end well, for him," I said, above the din.

Bedrosian reared back and threw a laser towards home plate. Lowrie, again, took a huge cut at the pitch, but, as before, came up empty.

"STRIKE THREE....BALL GAME OVER," Ryan called out.

"Angels win...THHHEEEE ANGELS WIN!" Brendan tried to finish his brother's sentence, with a John Sterling quote.

"Don't ever quite John Sterling," Ryan and Kevin laughed, bopping Brendan on the head, before turning to give high-fives to the fans who hadn't immediately started to leave.

Final Score

Angels 5, A's 4
Shoemaker (W, 6-11)
Manaea (L, 3-6)
Bedrosian (S, 1)

Post-Game Wrap-Up, With a Side Salad:

Back: Nicole, Cameron, Me
Front:Brendan, Emily, Tony, Nick, Kevin, Ryan

As the game ended, we quickly realized we didn't have a picture of the whole group. We usually take one before the game begins, but the group had splintered, and Cameron and Emily weren't with us yet, so we quickly asked a gentleman if he could take a quick shot. Unfortunately Henning and the kids had to leave earlier, as it was getting late and they needed to be up early the next morning, so they wouldn't be in the group shot. We assembled everyone, with the field behind us, and hammed it up for the camera, as one usually does after a win.

"Uncle Jim," Kevin called out to me. "Can we, please, go to the team store, so I can get a shirt?"

"Of course," I told him, as we headed down the stairs, and out to the parking lot.

I quickly reminded everyone that we needed to go to the store, and made sure we were all together, as a group, as we made our way downstairs. Emily and Cameron didn't need anything from the store, so they said goodbye and headed for a different exit, while we made our way to the concourse level.

Once we got inside the store Kevin headed directly to the Dri-Fit t-shirt section. He much prefers these kinds of shirts, as he can work out in them, and they don't absorb all the sweat and become wet and uncomfortable. He found one he absolutely loved, but someone beat him to the last size that would fit him. Seeing how dejected he looked, I told him to give it some time and maybe the other kid wouldn't want it. As we stood there, looking around, the other boy's father noticed my Yankees shirt, and struck up a conversation.

"Love the shirt, especially since it's a Munson one," he told me.

I quickly explained that we were Yankees fans, how we had come about being in Anaheim, what our trip had been like, so far, and where we were headed next.

"I see Mr. Kulhawy found someone else to talk to," Nick laughingly told Tony, who leaned in closer to hear what was going on.

"Munson was my second favorite player, behind Nettles," I told the gentleman. "Today is also the anniversary of his death, so I wear the shirt as a memorial."

"I'll never forget where I was," he told me. "As a Yankees fan, it was like my 'Where Were You When Kennedy Was Shot' moment."

"I know exactly what you mean," I told him, explaining how old, and where, I was, when I heard the news of Munson's death.

As our conversation continued, his son was looking at other shirts, but not putting back the one Kevin had his eye on.

"Dad," he came over. "I love this one, but it feels too tight on me."

"Let's have a look," he said.

The boy put the shirt on, but it was a little snug.

"What do you think?" he asked his dad.

"You're right, it seems a little tight," he sighed. "You did tell me earlier you needed to lose ten to fifteen pounds, for football. Don't they have it in a larger size?"

"No," the boy said, dejectedly. "Only smaller."

"Well it doesn't fit you. What do you think, buddy?" He said, turning to me.

I saw my opening and went for the jugular.

"Well, the way I see it," I started. "He has three options; see if they have another in the back, choose another shirt, or buy this one, but not wear it until he loses the weight he says he needs to lose."

We quickly called a worker over, who told us there were no more of this design in the back.

"Well, we're down to two choices," I told them.

"I don't really like the others," the boy told his dad.

"Yeah, but do you really want to buy something that doesn't fit you?" The father asked.

"Where are we going for dinner?" The boy asked, trying to buy some time to make a decision.

"You just told me you needed to lose 15 pounds, and now you're talking about dinner?" the exasperated father said, shaking his head.

"I suggest somewhere for a salad," I told them, laughing.

"Yeah, salad," the kid reiterated. "A Buffalo chicken salad."

"That'll start you on your 'diet,' and you'll feel better," I told him. "Hell, you'll be into that shirt in no time," I said. For emphasis I put my arms across my chest, one directly over the other, and pulled in opposite directions, to show him that 'eventually' the shirt would fit. "Salad," I said, again.

From behind me, I could hear Tony guffaw, and saw he was ready to bust a gut. The time was now to strike.

"Get behind me, get ready to take the shirt, and take it to Aunt Nicole at the register," I told Kevin.

Sensing what was happening, he did what he was told.

"So...can I get this shirt?" the boy asked his father.

"I think you're better off with one you can wear now. I don't want to spend $40 on a shirt you're going to have to wait three months to wear. Do you agree, buddy?" he said turning to me.

"Salad," I laughed, again making the arm motion. "It's all about the salad."

"Yeah, put that one back, and take this one," he told his son, pointing to the boy's second choice.

"I guess you're right," the kid said, getting ready to hang the shirt back on the rack.

"I'll do that for you guys, I'm gonna be here for a bit it appears," I told them.

"Thanks," he said, handing me the shirt. "Nice talking to you, safe travels, and go Yankees."

I waited a minute, until they were out of sight, then handed the shirt to Kevin, who quickly took off in the other direction, zig-zagging around the store, to get to Nicole, without getting caught.

Tony, not being able to take it any longer, bust out laughing.

"You're an asshole," he laughed. "You used the memory of a dead ballplayer to make nice with the guy, then helped talk the kid out of the shirt he wanted, just so you could get it for Kevin."

"Shaddup," I told him. "But, yeah."

We met Nicole and the boys at the exit, and they wanted to know what had just happened.

"Why was Kevin rushing me to get this paid for, and in a bag?" She asked.

"Don't worry about it," I laughed.

"No, seriously, what just happened?"

Tony was all too ready to tell her the story...Every detail.

After listening, she turned to me and laughed. "You're going to hell," was all she said.

"I did what I had to do for my nephew," I said, straight-faced.

"You're still going to hell," she laughed. "I can't believe you told that kid he was fat."

"I never said he was fat. He said he needed to lose weight, his father agreed, and I said a salad would be perfect."

"You insinuated he was fat," she continued laughing.

"Semantics," I said, grabbing Kevin in a headlock. "Did you get the shirt you wanted?"

"Yup," he said, smiling.

"Who's your favorite uncle?" I asked.

"You, of course," he replied, as if there was any other answer.

"Still going to hell," Nicole and Tony laughed, as we walked thorough the empty lot.

"Hey guys," we heard from about 20 yards away.

It was the guy, and his son, whom we had "talked out of" the shirt.

"Thanks for helping us out. We found a shirt he likes better, and we're off for that salad."

I made the "salad" gesture, laughed and told him to have a great night.

"I saved that kid's life," I told everyone. "He said he needed to lose the weight, and I put him on the right path."

"Hell," was all Nicole said, as we climbed into the van.

Next Stop
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
San Diego, California
Petco Park
Milwaukee Brewers vs San Diego Padres