By the time the fourth beach ball--in five minutes--had floundered onto the field Sunday afternoon at Anaheim Stadium the question had to be asked: Does anybody here know there's a pennant race going on?
The Angels were eager to go a game up on the Kansas City Royals, who lost to Minnesota, 7-3. They were leading the Cleveland Indians, 4-3, after Bobby Grich had hit a grand slam off Indian starting pitcher Jamie Easterly in the first inning.
The crowd of 47,895 that came for Fan Appreciation Day responded properly to Grich's feat. They cheered wildly until he came out of the dugout for a curtain call.
However, after that well-orchestrated show of affection, Fan Appreciation soon deteriorated into Bad Appreciation Day:
--Paper aircrafts of all design joined beach balls as unwanted debris on the field.
--Fans, Angel fans, performed The Wave as the Indians' Andre Thornton hit a two-run home run to give Cleveland a 5-4 lead.
--In the seventh inning, with the Angels leading, 9-8, history minded fans started that time-honored cheer, "TASTES GREAT . . . LESS FILLING . . . TASTES GREAT . . . " Connie Mack would have been proud.
--And on the surlier side, a middle-aged man ripped a foul ball out of the hands of a young boy who immediately began to cry. The crowd booed the man. He kept the ball.
"I don't like it at all," said Jim Griffin of Westminster. Griffin, wearing an original California Angel cap, said he's been an Angel fan for six years.
"Fans should be getting serious about baseball in a pennant stretch like this. I think it means a lot to the players to know they have fans that are in tune with what's going on."
An explanation for the fans' off day may be that they were in total synchronization with what was going on in the game. Life imitates farce.
The Angels and Indians played a game that can only be described as nutty.
The lead changed five times. The Angels committed four errors. The Indians, obviously through a loophole in baseball scoring, managed to blunder their way through 11 innings without being charged with an error.
Of course, Julio Franco's error on Rod Carew's ground ball in the 12th inning scored Rufino Linares and won the game for the Angels, 10-9.
The teams also showed off their ability to litter the field.
Cleveland Manager Pat Corrales was ejected in the fifth inning by home plate umpire Ken Kaiser. Corrales responded by throwing a few projectiles, with densities much greater than paper, of his own.
He let fly with a metal first-aid kit, a bat and numerous batting helmets. Three helmets made it all the way from the dugout to the pitching mound. A healthy toss in any league.
Ryan Batzel of Fullerton said those people busying themselves with throwing items from the stands were not baseball enthusiasts, but rather took their cue from another spectator sport.
"Those people aren't fans, they're carry-overs from the rock concert scene," said Batzel, a former season-ticket owner who has seen about 25 games this season. "A real fan is sitting in the cheap seats with a scorecard in one hand and radio in the other."
Real fans may have been in short supply Sunday.
"Let's face it, a lot of these people just came out here to win a prize," said Regina Gould, an Anaheim Stadium usher.
Indeed, many people looked more concerned with who would win the case of Super Socko (a soft drink), than which team would make it to the league championship series.
Was it pennant fever that kept most of the 47,895 in the stadium for the entire 4-hour, 25-minute ordeal, or was it the seven-day, all-expense-paid trip to Puerto Rico?
"You can't blame them," she said. "They can come out here and get something for practically nothing."
Well, even that proposition isn't enough sometimes.
As the prizes were being announced (the Chevy Camaro may have received the biggest cheer of the day) the authentic autographed jersey of Reggie Jackson was soundly booed. Jackson struck out four times in the game.
Makes you think there were some people who were paying attention to the game after all.