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Will Yankee Fans' Arrival Turn Edison Field Into a China Shop?

Sports: Game 3 of the playoffs is a chance for the vociferous New York crowd to have some in-your-face time with the more sedate Angel supporters.


There's a certain swagger to the stride of a die-hard New York Yankees fan, a cocksure royal strut propelled by Big Apple moxie and the team's staggering history: 26 World Series championships and counting, thank you.

That hubris can really get under an Angel fan's skin.

"They're just rude, corrupt and have a blatant disregard for the people around them," fumed Mark Miller, 41, a Costa Mesa barber who has hated the Yankees and their fans for a quarter-century--almost as long as he's loved the Angels. "All the rude remarks--there's just no intelligence to them. And they can't stand to lose. They have an excuse every time they do."

In a looming clash of baseball stereotypes, tonight's third American League divisional playoff game between the Yankees and the Angels--the first at Edison International Field--shoves West Coast cool within elbow reach of the Yankees fans' notoriously high-octane enthusiasm, in which insults are refined to an art form and abusing opposing players is considered a birthright.

Envision Mickey Mouse in shades next to Spike Lee.

"Yankees fans are definitely louder," admitted Dave Metrick, who grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., and fell in love with the Yankees while watching former Yankee shortstop legend Phil Rizzuto announce games over WPIX-TV out of New York City.

"The problem with the Angels fans, and I don't know if it's the suburban location where there are more families at the games, but they don't tend to be as intense," said Metrick, a 28-year-old writer's assistant who lives in Palms, near Culver City. "I've been to Yankee games at Anaheim where it seemed like the Yankee fans outnumbered the Angels fans."

A little time on the analyst's couch can shed some light on both Yankee smugness and Angel resentment. It's almost Pavlovian. When a team wins as much as the Yankees, fans expect victory. When a team has struggled as much as the Angels, fans expect failure.

And that engenders Yankee envy.

"They're the easy target because they're the winners," said Christian M. End, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Missouri-Rolla who has studied fan behavior for five years. "The Yankees are where the Angels fans want their team to be."

The team, which formed as the expansion Los Angeles Angels in 1961, is a relative newborn in baseball. Based in Anaheim since 1966, the Angels are part of a broad local entertainment backdrop, and fans are not as emotionally involved compared with fans in places like New York--or Boston and Detroit, where the local baseball teams have been part of the city identity for a century.

Still, Yankee fans are made, not born, though Yankee faith often is passed down generationally, like Catholic parents raising Catholic children.

"The difference is the socialization that has occurred over the years," End said. "With the Yankees fans, they can say that their father, their grandfather and their great-grandfather were Yankee fans. Growing up in an environment like that is going to influence their connection."

How those fans behave depends in large part on what behaviors the overall group tolerates, which in turn connects to the team's history in the local community, End said. While Yankee fans might think nothing of insulting opposing players, umpires and even poorly performing Yankees, Angels fans are largely a polite lot.

"We think of Yankee fans as being more passionate and emotional, somewhat antisocial," End said. "In New York, over time, what is transmitted to the fan as appropriate is the person who yells himself hoarse yelling at the umps and the players, booing the other team. It's a tougher fan."

In Anaheim, he said, the group norm is calmer. Screamers are ignored or glared at, and the subtle message from the group is negative, which dampens the confrontational spirit that seems to rage within the Yankee heart.

"A true Yankee fan never tries to keep a low profile," said Ismael Gonzalez, 47, of Corona, a New York native and Yankee fan who stood in line with his 18-year-old son Alex last week to buy tickets for the games at Edison Field.

The son wore a Yankee cap, which made him a lightning rod for an Angels fan who ignored peer pressure and heaped good-natured abuse on him. Efrain Leanos, 33, of Garden Grove, also wearing a Yankee cap as a Bronx cheer to the Angels fans, caught some abuse too.

"I've been getting a little harassment," Leanos said, brushing it off in typical Yankee-fan fashion. "It comes with the territory."

Whereas the Yankees are owned by a group headed by the larger-than-life George Steinbrenner, the Angels were founded by a movie cowboy--Gene Autry--and are owned by Disney, a company that got rich making cartoons and calls its fans "guests."

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