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Memo to Disney: Make Angel Games Less Goofy

August 11, 1996|Bill Plaschke

It is 7:38 p.m. on a cool summer evening, and I am witness to a Main Street Electrical Parade Through Hell.

Fireworks tracers linger in the sky above Anaheim Stadium, baseball players trip over themselves on the grass, fans throw sponge baseballs at giant cardboard mitts in the stands, a blues band furiously jams on the visiting dugout.

The scoreboard reads 5-0. The visiting Kansas City Royals have the five. The Angels are the zeros.

It is 7:39 p.m., and I am exhausted.

The object here was to write an evenly paced column on the problems of our American League baseball franchise. In the previous 11 days it had lost a manager, three coaches and nine games.

The column was going to start slowly, continue on a gentle but constant flow, include several unexpected moments of drama, take a seventh-inning break, then finish with a flourish.

But . . . oh no, here come the Angel cheerleaders again, packing slingshots, cramming T-shirts inside them, the crowd standing and screaming as if they've been asked to choose a door.

This baseball contest will become a game show soon. This column needs to hustle up, forget the flow.

Time to track down Tony Tavares, team president and Disney honcho.

"Sorry, but he's not coming tonight," a team official says politely.

Smart man. But we have to talk, so we'll do it right here and now.

Disney, your new purchase is a clunker. It has stopped in the middle of the road with the finality and smell of--no offense to Bambi's friend Flower--a dead skunk.

You can cover it with gaudy paint. You can adorn it with purple fuzzy dye. But it's still not budging.

Disney, you need help. Your Angels have flatly announced that their season is finished, even if your eighth-inning Chicken Dance isn't.

Disney, time to think ahead. Who knows? In seven months the Dodgers could be coming off a disastrous finish and thousands of fans will be up for grabs.

You want to be ready. Some thoughts:

--Trade J.T. Snow, move Jim Edmonds to first base, move Darin Erstad to center field. You keep all four good outfielders while dumping a guy who whined about being platooned even though he was recently .182 against left-handers.

--Get rid of the cheerleaders, and their little-league bats, and their phony baseballs, and their Laker Girl routines.

The women work hard, and smile lots. But when on the dugouts and on the field, they foul a baseball atmosphere like cigar smoke.

That stuff works for your Mighty Ducks hockey team, adding ebbs and flows and excitement. But for about 100 years now, baseball has been creating such things all by itself.

You want fans to give the Angels a chance? Show fans you are willing to give baseball a chance.

--Get rid of the blues band. Now.

It's not that I'm opposed to the wearing of sunglasses at night. But once Friday, when the Angels' Mark Langston was ready to pitch, they wouldn't stop playing.

"We just had to stand there and wait," catcher Todd Greene said. "What were we going to do, run over and tell them to get off the field?"

--Make the signing of potential free agent Chuck Knoblauch from Minnesota a top priority.

You need a second baseman and a guy who is not afraid to break bats, egos and opponents' hearts. He is all of that.

--Keep Rex Hudler. Not for his increased power or versatility or glibness, but for at-bats like his final one Friday.

With the team trailing 5-3, two out, nobody on base, teammates heading for the food table . . . he fouled off two tough pitches. Broke his bat and gave it to a child in the stands. Then hustled halfway to second base on a game-ending flyout.

--Get rid of the eighth-inning Chicken Dance. Don't know what it is, don't want to know, but by the time it ended Friday, half the stadium was standing on one of the dugouts.

At last count there were only 150 people in a crowd of 35,977 who had not clomped over the players' heads during Friday's nine innings.

Some teams simply paint the roof of their dugouts with team emblems. At this rate, Disney would be smarter to install moving walkways.

--Get rid of the sound effects, particularly the one that turns a high pop foul into a World War II bomb. I shouldn't have to tell you why.

--Keep the silent pregame shooting-star fireworks that accompany player introductions. Keep the promotions involving dancing kids. Both are kind of cute, and neither involve door prizes.

--Get rid of Chuck Finley. Send the message that aces who refuse to be aces are going to be folded.

--Pull it all together by hiring a San Diego Padre coach as your new manager.

He's a longtime infielder who watched and learned until one day he became a minor league manager and discovered he knew exactly what he was doing. He's young, he surfs, he has Orange County connections, and he's currently a third base coach who won't last long there.

His name? Tim Flannery. But being Disney, you knew that.

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