On Sept. 5, 1995, the Angels played a bit part in history. As the Baltimore Orioles' opponent that night, they were the foil when Cal Ripken tied Lou Gehrig's record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games.
Turns out the date is historic for the Angels -- and the Dodgers too. Until the Angels shook off the Texas Rangers last Thursday, the Angels and Dodgers had not had first place to themselves this late in the season since Sept. 5, 1995, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Angels led the Seattle Mariners by 5 1/2 games in the American League West. The Dodgers led the Colorado Rockies by one game in the National League West. Neither season turned out well -- the Angels coughed up the rest of what had been an 11-game lead and missed the playoffs, the Dodgers got swept out of them -- but the dream of an October Freeway Series is alive again.
The Dodgers and Angels have never made the playoffs in the same season, let alone met in the World Series. Today, however, the best record in the American League belongs to the Angels, not the New York Yankees nor Boston Red Sox. The best record in the National League belongs to the Dodgers, not the Chicago Cubs nor Houston Astros.
As the Angels flew to New York on Monday to take on the Yankees, club executives couldn't help marveling at the standings -- and not just the ones in the American League.
"We were talking on the plane about how great it is for Southern California, when you have the Angels playing well, the Dodgers playing well and the Padres playing well," Angel President Dennis Kuhl said. "It brings an excitement. The enthusiasm about baseball helps everybody."
With the Cubs in town tonight, the Dodgers are returning from a trip in which they swept the Pittsburgh Pirates and won two of three from the World Series champion Florida Marlins. The Angels left town after an undefeated homestand that extended their winning streak to nine games, two shy of the franchise record.
For the first time in the 43 years the teams have shared the Southland, the Dodgers and Angels each sold 3 million tickets last season.
The average attendance for both teams is up this season, under the new ownership of Arte Moreno in Anaheim and Frank McCourt in Los Angeles.
The Yankees lead the majors in average attendance at 46,415, followed by the Dodgers at 41,399 and the Angels at 39,359. The Dodgers open a six-game homestand tonight.
Kuhl insists that he is dreaming of the Angels in the World Series, not an Angel-Dodger World Series.
"It would be awesome for baseball," he said. "But, as long as we're there, it'll be great."
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Top of Their Games
The Dodgers and Angels are in first place, the first time they have been in first place this late in the season since 1995. Comparing the two teams (with major league rank when appropriate):
*--* CATEGORY Dodgers Angels RECORD 20-10 (2) 22-10 (1) HOME 9-6 (8) 11-5 (1) ROAD 11-4 (1) 11-5 (3) BATTING AVG 277 (6) 285 (3) RUNS PER GAME 4.93 (17) 5.78 (4) HOME RUNS 36 (12) 35 (13) ON-BASE % 334 (19) 344 (12) SLUGGING % 442 (8) 452 (6) STOLEN BASES 24 (5) 28 (3) ERA 4.04 (9) 4.26 (12) STARTERS' ERA 4.68 (15) 4.96 (20) BULLPEN ERA 2.87 (5) 2.94 (7) SAVES 11 (5) 13 (2)
A look at the usual starting lineups for the Dodgers and Angels in 1995. The Dodgers won their division that season, while the Angels lost the AL West to Seattle in a one-game playoff.
*--* DODGERS Position 1995 2004 Catcher Mike Piazza Paul Lo Duca First base Eric Karros Shawn Green Second base Delino DeShields Alex Cora Third base Tim Wallach Adrian Beltre Shortstop Jose Offerman/Chad Fonville Cesar Izturis Left field Roberto Kelly Dave Roberts Center field Brett Butler Milton Bradley Right field Raul Mondesi Juan Encarnacion Starting pitcher Hideo Nomo Hideo Nomo Starting pitcher Ramon Martinez Kaz Ishii Starting pitcher Tom Candiotti Jeff Weaver Starting pitcher Ismael Valdez Odalis Perez Starting pitcher Kevin Tapani Wilson Alvarez Closer Todd Worrell Eric Gagne ANGELS Position 1995 2004 Catcher Jorge Fabregas Ben Molina First base J.T. Snow Darin Erstad Second base Damion Easley Adam Kennedy Third base Tony Phillips Troy Glaus Shortstop Gary DiSarcina David Eckstein Left field Garret Anderson Jose Guillen Center field Jim Edmonds Garret Anderson Right field Tim Salmon Vladimir Guerrero Designated hitter Chili Davis Tim Salmon Starting pitcher Chuck Finley Bartolo Colon Starting pitcher Mark Langston Jarrod Washburn Starting pitcher Shawn Boskie Kelvim Escobar Starting pitcher Brian Anderson John Lackey Starting pitcher Jim Abbott Aaron Sele Closer Lee Smith Troy Percival