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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

Don't Tell Them, but 'Big Red Machine' Is Taken

January 10, 2002|T.J. Simers

I received an invitation to an event Wednesday announcing, "It's a Red Dawn for the Anaheim Angels." I don't get invited to many places anymore so I went.

Obviously I was concerned, having seen the movie "Red Dawn" starring Patrick Swayze, in which a Soviet-led invasion takes over what we hold so dear, and now fearing we were about to be told Disney has been overrun by communists.

But the first thing I saw when I arrived was World Series-like bunting--immediately making me angry because I had forgotten my camera and I might never see this again at Edison Field. Then I noticed a bunch of red balloons, red-dressed employees, red carpet, 800 school kids wearing red T-shirts, and got this sinking feeling I'd made the wrong turn, and I was in Nebraska.

I was further confused when I spotted a line forming at what I thought was the Angels' ticket window. I asked the people in line why anyone would buy Angel tickets, and each one told me the same thing: They were there to buy seats for the monster truck show. I was relieved, but I still could not be sure I wasn't in Nebraska.

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THE ANGELS had a stage outside Edison Field, and had a hung a sign: "THINK RED INSTEAD." The sign didn't make any sense. I know the Angels lost 19 of their final 22 games so I could see: "STOP THE BLEEDING," or knowing Disney's interest in the bottom line maybe: "WE'RE IN THE RED AGAIN."

But THINK RED INSTEAD of what? Tim Salmon's batting average?

I was given a press release, explaining, "It's a Red Letter Day for Orange County" because the Angels were announcing a new team logo and uniform and were going to have school kids painting the Big A outside the stadium red.

I know what professional painters charge by the hour and Disney's commitment to hiring cheap labor, but asking sixth graders to climb to the top of the Big A for a T-shirt seemed a bit much. That's when I ran into Rex Hudler, and while I expected Mr. Positive to tell me not to worry and every tyke falling from the top of the Big A would be caught--I noticed Garret Anderson was one of the fielders, and everyone knows if it comes to making a diving catch, there's no way he'd do it.

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IT APPEARED the kids were being played for fools, invited to sit as a cute audience while a bunch of politicians read off proclamations declaring it was a great day in Angel history because everyone would have to go to the team store and buy Angel paraphernalia with the new logo.

Each of the kids wore a "One Finger Painted the Town Red" T-shirt, and fortunately by the time they understand what it really means to paint the town red, someone will also have given them a "Just Say No" T-shirt.

It was up to Hudler and Ed Arnold, the emcees for this Earl Scheib special, to keep the kids' attention. Hudler introduced the kids from the Walt Disney School, and told them they were special, "because Walt Disney is 100 years old today." No one dies in Hudler's world, of course, so I'm sure it was just an oversight when he didn't tell the kids from the Dr. Albert Schweitzer School--Al is 126 years old today.

You could tell some of the kids had already been to an Angel game because they weren't bothered by the fact nothing exciting was going on. The two most recognizable Angels--Manager Mike Scioscia and the Rally Monkey (and not necessarily in that order)--did not speak. That left the microphone in the hands of Paul Pressler, who oversees the Angels and Ducks for Disney, but apparently didn't get the Red Dawn memo, because he wasn't even wearing a red tie.

"We're incredibly thrilled to unveil our new look," Pressler said. "We have a fantastic team and we're thrilled about it." Obviously it doesn't take much to thrill this guy, which makes him the ideal person to oversee the Ducks and Angels.

Pressler mentioned "The Hunt for Red October" while thrilling the crowd, and I'll have to be honest with you--I have no idea what the search for a Soviet submarine attempting to defect has to do with the Angels. Unless it's Disney's way of telling us the franchise is willing to sink even deeper if necessary.

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THE ANGELS had a high school band playing, and blowers showering the kids with red confetti when they unveiled the logo. A fire engine arrived with the players, who modeled the uniforms. Anderson, sporting the new home look, told the crowd, "It looks like a baseball uniform," which tells me he came up with last year's Angels' slogan: "It's about baseball."

The wings have been replaced by a halo, although I would think with this new emphasis on red, the devil's pitchfork would be more appropriate--and a good indication of where this organization has been the last few years.

The new home uniform looks like something a team with the nickname, "the Reds," might wear, while the road uniforms will have "Anaheim" across the front. I was just happy to see it didn't say "Nebraska."

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WHEN THE ceremony was over I stopped by the ticket office, but the Angels' schedule for 2001 was still posted--despite the grand marketing push to pump up the new season. I figured this would have been the day to pass out new schedules to everyone, but I guess you can't really blame them.

The Angels open the 2002 season on April Fools' Day, which might be hitting a little too close to home, and why they want you to THINK WHITEWASH INSTEAD.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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