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Die-Hards' Cry: 'Finally!'

Baseball: The Angels eliminate the powerful Yankees, delighting long-suffering fans. Scores of revelers party in the parking lot.


So this is how it feels.

On a Saturday when the legendary New York Yankees were all too human, offering up more mistakes than mystique, long-suffering Anaheim Angels fans exorcised the ghosts of playoff failures past.

And they didn't even need the Rally Monkey to do it.

The Angels win means their first World Series appearance is one best-of-seven series away. That left fans at Edison International Field and across Orange County wondering whether this team has been sprinkled with a little Disney pixie dust.

"I think Gene Autry has come down from heaven and given them the power," said Gilbert Gonzales, 43, of Ontario, who sat in the right field stands. "This is the most exciting time of my life."

They stood until their legs were weak. They screamed until their throats were raw. They hugged and cried and pulled out cell phones to share a moment when memories are made.

For many, words couldn't describe what they felt.

"You can't describe it," said Jeff Willis, 32, of Rancho Santa Margarita, who had camped out at the stadium overnight to get his tickets.

And when he did, it took only one word: "Finally."

Finally, these blue-collar Angels stepped from the shadow of obscurity and earned the baseball world's respect with heart and determination, knocking the game's bluebloods back to the Bronx.

"I think it's proving a point that the Angels are something to deal with," said Yiotis Tsarnas, 28, of Orange. "They're finally going to be recognized."

A three-panel sign made by Lake Forest fans Heather Dwyer and Bryan Helmick said it all:

"Angels payroll $60 million."

"Yankees payroll $167 million."

"Yankees sent home crying. Priceless."

Those who didn't come prepared to celebrate scrambled to get in on it. When it became apparent that maybe, just maybe, this October is for real, a woman offered 27-year-old Brant Houk of Huntington Beach $75 for his red shirt.

What about $100? he asked.

Houk watched the rest of the game in a tank top.

"I was probably born with a halo on my head and a rattle with an 'A' in my hand," he said.

Scott Brown attended Friday night's game wearing red shoes, red socks, red shorts, a red shirt and a red cap. The Angels won. On Saturday, he was back at Edison after only four hours of sleep.

New day, same outfit. Don't mess with success.

"I sleep, drink and eat the Angels," said the 37-year-old season-ticket holder who works at Home Depot. "I'm taking vacation this week, but I told them at work I'm not coming back until they lose. I don't know how much more excited I can be if we get to the World Series."

A moment of thought brought an answer. "I'll strip my clothes off, paint myself red and run through the stands naked," Brown said.

In the middle of the eighth inning, police, some on horseback, took to the field. With each out, the place got louder. With each Yankee sent packing, the stadium shook.

"We're used to Angels fans being in the closet," said Michael Beamer, 24, of Brea--one tiny ripple in Edison's sea of red. "This is like being in the Twilight Zone."

When it was over, after the last high-five had been slapped and the confetti and streamers had all been launched and landed, some fans didn't want to leave the stadium.

They hung out in the parking lot long after the last pitch was thrown.

This was a day to savor.

"Now it is time to collect our bet with the mayor of New York," said

Anaheim Mayor Tom Daly, speaking of the Nathan's hot dogs and H&H Bagels he should soon receive. (Daly had pledged Anaheim oranges and chiles had he lost.)

"The energy inside that stadium was phenomenal," Daly said. "The Angels are making Anaheim proud."


Times staff writer H.G. Reza also contributed to this report.

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