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Angels Magic Hasn't Totally Disappeared

The World Series champions are struggling, but not at the gate. They should draw 3 million fans for the first time.

August 30, 2003|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

So the World Series-champion Anaheim Angels won't be making the playoffs this year. They might even finish the season in last place.

"It's the injuries," Rob Mawhinney said.

"It didn't all fall into place this year," said Karen Gaines of Corona.

"We can't win all the time," said Betty Morley of Garden Grove.

No, the Angels can't win the World Series every year. But despite the team's lackluster performance, fans and Anaheim officials say last year's magic is still alive.

The World Series victory "ushered the image of Anaheim out there in such a prominent way that I think it will provide a glow for years to come," Mayor Curt Pringle said.

Not that he wants to brag, but Pringle does note that Sporting News this month named Anaheim-Los Angeles the "best sports city," putting his town ahead of the next-door metropolis. ("Angels red had become as chic as Dodger blue," the magazine commented.)

It's more than just a warm and fuzzy feeling: Attendance has soared for the Angels, who could outdraw the Dodgers this year. They expect to break the 3-million mark for the first time in team history. Last year they drew 2.7 million, including the playoffs and World Series.

With 12 games remaining on the 2003 home schedule, they have drawn almost 2.6 million.

Anaheim stands to profit: For every ticket sold over 2.6 million, the city receives $2. For everything over $4 million in parking revenue, the city receives 25%. All told, city officials are expecting to net about $850,000 in parking and ticket revenue.

Fans at Edison International Field may have noticed something else besides more people: lower prices. New owner Arte Moreno, a former billboard mogul, bought the team from Disney in May and already has lowered the prices of beer, food, souvenirs and tickets.

During homestands, Moreno can frequently be spotted roaming the stadium, chatting with fans.

"We've got an awesome owner," said Eddie Tancioco of Tustin.

"It's good to have the personal touch, especially with the fans."

His friend John Garrow said: "He's way better than Disney, no doubt about it."

Even with the injury-plagued Angels losing more than winning, Ralph Guirgis of Tustin, said, "It hasn't stopped me from coming."

"And it hasn't stopped me from singing that song," said his 5-year-old daughter Caroline, who somehow managed to rouse the stands three sections away with an ear-shattering rendition of "Let's go, Angels, let's go!"

"Whistling and yelling is my hobby," she said.

Guirgis, who brought Caroline and her 7-year-old sister Emily for some quality time, might be the prime example of the transformed Angels fan. Guirgis has cheered the team for years, but this season he bought a 20-game ticket package.

Next year, he thinks he'll buy season tickets now that his daughters are old enough to appreciate the experience. As the girls spooned up their chocolate malts, decked out in Angels caps and World Series T-shirts, they may very well be Angel lifers in the making.

As the season draws to a close, along with any chance of a repeat performance, there's no doubt this has been a disappointing year, fans said.

But many are like Don Gaines, who said he can pull out the photos, look at the World Series memorabilia and just about get a high remembering those magical games of 2002.

"We'll be back again next year," Gaines said.

"We'll be back forever until we have to sit up there with the wheelchairs. There's nothing like a baseball game -- win, lose or draw."

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