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ANGELS 1988 PREVIEW SECTION : ALL TIME ANGELS : These Fans See a Hole in Outfield

April 01, 1988|STEVE LOWERY | Times Staff Writer

The fact that Sam Ackerman rates a wave from Richard Nixon and a broken bat that nearly decapitated his son, courtesy of Alex Johnson, as his two most exciting memories of Anaheim Stadium says something about being an Angel fan.

That several other longtime fans' finest moments occurred seconds before their lowest-- Moore into his delivery, and the pitch . . . Henderson drives the ball to deep left field -- says about the same.

Being an Angel fan, over the long haul, teaches a person about lost causes, self-defense and perseverance. This was found when eight long-time Angel season-ticket holders were asked by The Times to name their all-time Angel team.

They have endured the flops of the '60s and '70s--when the only reason to attend a game was the easy-access parking--and have basked in the relative fair weather of the '70s . . . only to find a new kind of torment.

"Being an Angel fan means never getting too hopeful," said Ron Robbins of Anaheim, a season-ticket holder since 1966. "You're so vulnerable. Knowing this team and its luck, you're doomed to be let down."

Considering that, why did they keep coming back? The eight fans consulted have combined for more than 100 years of Angel viewing, which, for a large portion of the club's history, must have seemed tantamount to life imprisonment.

And yet, they seem remarkably resilient, ridiculously optimistic . . . you know, baseball fans.

"I thought about giving up my tickets several times," said Stan Pawlowski of Anaheim. "But there was always next year. They'd pickup a good reliever or sign someone like Reggie, and there you were back in the ballpark."

For others, it was the alternative that kept them coming back. Asked if he ever considered latching on with the Dodgers instead, Richard Theisen bristled, "I hate the Dodgers."

Asked why, he explained: "Because I hate the Dodgers."

So they have remained. They have traveled a long road with journeymen and players past their prime, and it has left them appreciating the effort much more than the result. What seems to matter most to them is the player's heart; try to put a decimal point in front of that.

Still, interestingly enough, the fans' team came remarkably close to the one chosen by The Times writers, albeit for slightly different reasons.

The team:

First base: Rod Carew.

Second base: Bobby Grich.

Third base: Doug DeCinces.

Shortstop: Jim Fregosi.

Catcher: Bob Boone.

Outfield: Brian Downing.

Outfield: Fred Lynn.

Outfield: Vacant (we'll explain).

Right-handed pitcher: Nolan Ryan.

Left-handed pitcher: Frank Tanana.

Reliever: Dave LaRoche.

Manager: Bill Rigney, Jim Fregosi, Gene Mauch.

About that vacancy in the outfield. Though they were instructed to pick three outfielders regardless of the actual position they played, most fans decided to pick players by the field, anyway.

Downing was a runaway winner in left, most fans citing his determination and hustle as his greatest attributes.

"He gives you 120% all the time," said Jerry Winner of South Gate.

Lynn was grudgingly put in center. Seems all those turns on the disabled list did nothing to endear old Fred to the paying customers.

"I'll put him on because of his raw ability, but I really hate to," Theisen said. "He never gave 100%. I would have loved to see someone with Lynn's ability work as hard as Downing. That would have been something to see."

Which brings us to a smartly manicured piece of property in right field, uncontaminated by cleats or tobacco. Four fans refused to put anyone in right field. Pawlowski did a bit of shuffling.

"Tell you what, put Carew in right," he said.

And still another, Theisen, put Reggie Jackson in right, only to lament: "Defensively, that's as good as no one."

Grich and DeCinces were overwhelming picks at their positions, in some cases, for reasons having nothing to do with their ability. Several of the fans mentioned daughters and crushes and oh-he's-sooo-cute.

"My daughter Mary Ann loved DeCinces," Ackerman said. "I told her I was picking (Ken McMullen at third, and she nearly killed me. She got to know the stadium ushers really well and passed notes to Doug."

Fregosi and Ryan were the only unanimous choices. Fregosi was recognized as the team's first star, Ryan as its greatest.

"They were both leaders," Robbins said. "Fregosi was a lot more fiery than Nolan. Nolan did it by example. He went out and pitched his heart out and he never complained. He was the Don Drysdale of the Angels. I think anyone who watched the Angels for any period of time would have to admit Nolan Ryan was the best of what you would want in a ballplayer."

No consensus came on managers. Two votes each for Rigney, Fregosi and Mauch. Dick Williams and John McNamara each got a vote.

Carew, with four votes, beat out Wally Joyner (two) and Jim Spencer (two) at first.

"Carew made playing first look so easy," said Janie Bianchi of Upland. "And he was a great hitter, until Dan Ford stepped on his foot."

Apparently, Bianchi has some inside information.

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