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'True' Baseball Fans Balk at Corporate Game

October 06, 2002

Re "What the Angels Are Doing on the Field Should Fill the Park," Sept. 22:

Dean J. Slocum wonders why the true fans of the great game of baseball are not whirling the turnstiles at Anaheim Stadi- ... er ... Edison Field. Correctly, he points out that this year's Anaheim Angels are playing the old-fashioned version of the game with smarts, fundamentals, aggression, power, patience, execution and a little bit of luck. So, Mr. Slocum asks, where are his fellow fans?

The answer is that baseball continues to reap what it has sown, and the evidence is in the bleachers in Anaheim and my living room in Santa Ana, every night.

I grew up here, my home was five minutes from the Big A, and I watched it being built with great anticipation. I could not attend the inaugural opening day in 1966 because I had a prior commitment: I was playing left field for my own team in the Pee-Wee division of Little League, and our fields were practically in the shadows of Anaheim Stadium. My father had access to season tickets in the first three rows behind home plate. Many a game I attended with my family and sat in a pure adolescent rapture, close enough to hear the thump of footsteps as my heroes trotted across the sweet-smelling, perfect grass to and from the dugout.

Then it all changed. The players rebelled against the abusive tyranny of the owners and won the rights of fair employment that all the rest of us enjoy. But in so doing, they ripped apart the very fabric of the game that had melded the individual players into a team, and fused that team into the very psyche of their fans. The conflicts between owners and players have resulted in strike after lockout after strike. As the costs of fielding a competitive team rose, individual and family owners were forced to sell their stakes in their clubs to those entities that could afford to step into the void--corporations staffed with bureaucrats blind to the history of the sport, or to the value and meaning it offers the community.

Throughout the years we true fans were left behind. Over time, more and more of us declared that we would never be back, and more and more of us kept our word. Sometimes it happened after a labor dispute, sometimes after a change in ticket distribution, sometimes because there was no longer any connection to the corporation's "staff" of players on the field. In any case, there will always be other people and their beach balls to take up some, if not all, of the slack, chatting on their cell phones and cheering for either side as need be.

So where are the true fans? Sitting at home, like me, watching the occasional game on television or listening to the radio. It's a place where we can follow the game without beach balls or sushi platters. It's a place where we can smoke a cigar, or have a beer in the eighth inning. It's a place where we can still afford a good-enough seat to refine our studies of the game without dumping hordes of cash into the wallets of the owners or the players.

And, perhaps in the most fateful result, while thousands of folks remain trapped in the parking lot trying to get away, home is where I can walk outside immediately after the game and teach my son how to play soccer.

Eric Hainline

Santa Ana


Re "Off to See the Angels in Baseball Heaven," Sept. 22:

Your photo showing an individual who has bought 18 Angels tickets is an insult to all those fans who stood in line for hours and received zero tickets! No wonder all of the tickets sold out in hours. The Angels need a better program of distribution, one that is fair to the fans and not to the scalpers!

James McNally


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