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Empty Feeling Is Going, Going Gone

Longtime Angels fan felt a twinge of old fears during a Twins rally, but then his team slugged its way to the pennant.

October 14, 2002|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

Dave Owens knows that empty feeling all too well. That feeling in the pit of his stomach that comes when hope is waning, when something really bad is about to happen.

Owens, a 57-year-old Lake Forest resident, has been a season-ticket holder for 26 years with the Anaheim Angels, a team renowned for fading when it really matters.

Sunday afternoon, there was a moment -- early in the seventh inning, to be precise -- when that feeling returned. The Minnesota Twins scored three runs and took a 5-3 lead.

Then the Angels' Adam Kennedy hit his third home run of the night, sparking a 10-run inning that cemented the Angels' first trip to the World Series in the team's 42-year history. Instead of fading as in playoffs past, the team rallied. It was an apt end to a game that has taught longtime Angels fans to see their team in a new light.

"That empty feeling? It's gone," Owens said, gloating in the stands as the team celebrated with spewing champagne. "The ghosts are gone. Everything about this day, this series, this season, has been great."

Owens stood next to his son at Edison International Field, after the game was long over and the crowd had begun to dissipate. They both wore giddy grins. They refused to budge.

Owens, a computer consultant for Unisys, grew up a Philadelphia Phillies fan. When he moved to California in 1971, he couldn't bring himself to switch his allegiance to the Dodgers -- which, like the Phillies, are a National League team.

Among other reasons, he chose the Angels because of a personal connection: He had once played in the same men's basketball team as former Angels pitcher Dave LaRoche. "He was a ringer," Owens said. "He was good. The rest of us were average."

And there was an early excitement about the team and its famous owner. "It was perfect. We loved Gene Autry. The players at the time were exciting."

But for 26 years the team tested his resolve. Strikes made him rethink whether he should renew his season tickets. Losing teams made him wonder why he was at the ballpark.

Now, his only worry is figuring out who gets to go with him to the World Series.

At least one seat is earmarked for his 30-year-old son David, an Air Force pilot who now lives in South Carolina. In March, when he had to put in for leave, he asked for the first two weeks in October, thinking that maybe, just maybe, this would be the Angels' year.

"Every year, I always hope," David Owens said. "This year, it was too good to be true. I would have kicked myself watching it on television if I didn't work my way out here somehow."

They scoff, a tiny bit, at the idea that this is a Cinderella story. This team, they said, is just good. Plain and simple.

But then there was Kennedy and his three home runs. There was that crazy 10-run seventh inning. There's the sea of red. The sky still hazy from fireworks.

And then, it's hard not to believe in magic. Dave Owens conceded: "It's almost like this year it was meant to be."

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