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Angels Play Host to an Intimate Crowd

August 03, 1994|JOHN WEYLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — It was an appropriate setting for this meeting of the American League's losingest teams, a couple of clubs down on their luck and virtually homeless.

The Seattle Mariners, the major league's answer to Chicken Little, are fleeing the Kingdome, where the roof is caving in on a season that began with high expectations and has deteriorated into yet another exercise in ineptitude. And the Angels, intruders in their own ballpark, are running on empty in the shadow of the contenders for the dubious title of AL West champion.

Maybe a work stoppage isn't such a bad idea.

For now, however, the games must go on. But not in Seattle, where a ceiling tile might really spoil someone's day. And not in triple-A Tacoma, which might have been a more suitable venue for the kind of baseball played by the Mariners and Angels, who have lost 17 games between them in the last 12 days. If this were English soccer, these two franchises would have been playing in a lower division long ago.

So it was "Batter up," Tuesday night in Anaheim Stadium--home of Yankee fans, Red Sox faithful, Tiger lovers and even an occasional Angel supporter--where a gathering of 11,478 took advantage of the opportunity to buy box seats for $6.

Tickets went on sale Friday morning and reached a total of 6,000 by Tuesday afternoon. Angel officials were pleased by the walk-up sales, which pretty much filled out the only level open, the field level, between the foul poles. Two hours before the game, you could still buy a box seat a few feet beyond first or third base and just a dozen rows back from the field.

Steve Aronson, a Red Sox cap pushed back on his forehead, ordered tickets by phone on Friday afternoon. He and his wife, Toby, son, Jesse, 15, and daughter, Leah, 13, were excited about their seats five rows behind home plate.

"The kids have never sat this close and they're always saying they can't see what's going on when we sit up there," Aronson said, pointing to the vacant upper deck. "I wanted them to have the chance to appreciate the game more."

The Aronsons, who left Boston to live in Riverside eight years ago, admit they are among those who have turned Anaheim Stadium into a home away from home for teams such as Boston, New York and Detroit and they make no apologies.

"It's hard for us to give up the Red Sox because we've rooted for them all our lives," Toby Aronson said.

"It makes me mad when I hear the Angels complaining about the fans here rooting for other teams," Steve said. "I have the right to root for whoever I want. If they want the fans to cheer for them, let them field a good team. I think it's the fans who deserve better treatment, not the players."

The worst news was yet to come, though. The concessionaires elected not to open the Cinnamon Shop, home of the Big A's biggest winner, the gooey and delicious $2 cinnamon roll.

Naval Commander Jon Mukri, and his wife, Janet, with four of their six children in tow, brought their own supplies--peanuts and sunflower seeds--for their "foul-ball hunt" from their seats behind the third-base dugout.

"The kids are ready, but Janet was hoping we'd be under the net," Mukri said. "She's worried about her dental work. You don't see many balls up in the cheap seats where we usually sit."

Foul balls, a chance at an autograph or simply a glimpse of a face under a batting helmet drew most of Tuesday night's fans to these close-to-the-action vantage points. Many were so unfamiliar with their choice seats they didn't even know what to do with the ever-present beach balls that appeared.

Clearly, however, they got their money's worth. Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 37th home run of the season in the seventh inning. Bo Jackson was ejected in the fourth. And Chili Davis broke a bat over his knee.

Shawnna Seidl, who was in the first row behind the Mariners' on-deck circle, came from Rialto with her boyfriend, Jonathon Miller, on an unusual mission.

"I hope there are some big arguments," she said. "I want to hear what they really say to the umpires."

She got half of her wish when plate umpire Al Clark threw out Jackson for arguing a called third strike. But Jackson's vocabulary didn't carry the 40 or so feet to their seats.

"Everybody was screaming so loud, we couldn't hear a thing," Miller said, obviously disappointed.

Oh well, if it was cursing they sought, surely the Angel fans in the vicinity had already provided a colorful oration. By the time Jackson was heaving baseballs and bags of sunflower seeds onto the field, Seattle led the first game of this Adventures in Futility Series, 5-1.

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