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Angel Fans in N.Y. Are Few but Fearless

Sports: The Anaheim faithful brave the boos to support their team in its first playoff since '86.

October 02, 2002|KIMI YOSHINO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — In the sea of blue at Yankee Stadium, Anaheim Angels fans passed one another in the stands Tuesday night, tipped their red caps and exchanged knowing smiles.

They ignored the boos and the shouts: "Go back to Disneyland!" and "You guys are going down!" They didn't care. This moment has been too long in the making to let Yankee ego spoil their fun at the Angels' first playoff game since 1986.

"All these people have no idea how good we are," said Jeff Peterson, 45, a transplanted Orange County resident who lives in Pleasantville, N.Y. "We're going to be taken lightly, and I think they're going to be surprised."

Without question, the Angels were in Game One until Bernie Williams hit an eighth-inning home run that sent Yankee Stadium into a roaring frenzy and lifted New York past Anaheim, 8-5.

"We will be back to fight another day," Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly said from his seat behind home plate. "The Angels are never out of it."

The Angels fans--what few there were Tuesday night--joked that there were only eight of them at the stadium in the heart of the Bronx. Well, maybe 18.

But the loyal plunked down their credit cards, left their jobs behind and caught last-minute flights to New York City, some arriving mere hours before the American League playoff series opening pitch at 8:15 p.m. EDT.

"We just decided this weekend, we're going to Yankee Stadium," said Doug Steele, 37, of Trabuco Canyon from his seat, also behind home plate. "We got here about 2:30 p.m., took the bus to the subway. And here we are."

Steele had come with his cousin Mike Faulkner, 43, of Anaheim. Decked out in Angels hats and T-shirts, they braved the subway, with Faulkner waving his father's old California license plate that says, simply, "ANAHEIM."

They made it to the stadium despite the heckling of Yankee fans who urged them to get off at the wrong stop.

Daly, who became a fan even before the team moved to Anaheim in 1966, has a lot on the line after finalizing a friendly wager with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg: a crate of Anaheim chiles and oranges if the Angels lose. If the Yankees lose, Bloomberg will ship Nathan's hot dogs and H & H bagels.

"It's just about the most fun I've had as mayor," Daly said. "It feels like a dream. For me, this is the most exciting Angels season since the team began playing in Anaheim."

The youngest Angels supporter in the audience may have been 7-year-old Karcher Smith of Santa Ana, whose dad is one of the team's trainers. He's a huge fan, and despite his youth, he spoke with the authority of a veteran.

"They're gonna win," Karcher declared. "Twenty to zip!" Although most Yankee fans couldn't help a good-natured jab at the Angels, at least one New Yorker, Harlan Berman, stopped to pay his respects.

"Oh my god, Angels fans?" Berman said, a bit incredulously. "My friend lives in Los Angeles and he claims he's never met an Angels fan--that everybody roots for the Dodgers. I'm going to call him and say, 'I've met two.' "

As the Angels scored more runs, Anaheim real estate agent Paul Kott, 48, said he'd decided just to ignore the cheering, jeering Yankee fans.

"We just keep telling them to watch the scoreboard," he said.

Kott, who started planning his trip to New York the day before the Angels clinched their wildcard berth in the playoffs, flew to New York late Monday night with Daly. He has tickets to today's game too.

"The weather is perfect,'' the die-hard Angels' fan said. "New York is a dynamic city, and the Angels are going to win the series. What more could I want?"

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