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Moreno Doesn't Crack, Except for a Few Jokes

Angel owner gets laughs on witness stand while sparring with Anaheim's lawyer, and testifies that he didn't violate lease.

January 28, 2006|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

The name might be a mouthful, and his own lawyers might have called it "silly" in court, but Arte Moreno testified on Friday that he considers the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim "a formal team name" that complies with the stadium lease even if the team almost never uses it.

In 90 minutes of testimony, the Angel owner sparred repeatedly with Anaheim attorney Andy Guilford and cracked several jokes, including one when Guilford asked him to explain why the Dodgers might have sold a cap with the inscription, "Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles."

"Maybe they're changing their name," Moreno said, as the courtroom erupted in laughter.

Moreno defended his name change from the witness stand, more than one year after the city of Anaheim sued over the alleged violation of a lease clause requiring the team name to "include the name Anaheim therein." Since no major league team ever has used a two-city name, the city claims the inclusion of "Los Angeles" necessarily excludes the addition of "Los Angeles" on grounds of "custom and practice."

"I don't think it exists," Moreno said. "It's just some word that came up."

Under the lease, the city contributed $20 million toward stadium renovations, in part for a promise from Disney that Anaheim would be prominent in media, marketing and merchandising. Moreno, who bought the team from Disney in 2003, said he is in compliance with the lease.

"I don't believe they paid for naming rights," he said.

With the jury outside the courtroom, Judge Peter Polos warned Guilford that "the city doesn't have marketing rights over merchandise" under the lease.

Nonetheless, Guilford displayed for the jury a variety of memorabilia on which Anaheim no longer appears. At one point, he showed Moreno an Anaheim Angels license-plate frame and asked where fans might get one now.

"Maybe from you," Moreno said, drawing laughs.

Guilford also displayed a T-shirt available on the team website in October, with the team logo above what he said was the Los Angeles skyline. When Guilford asked whether he approved of the shirt, Moreno said with a chuckle, "I guess, if it's selling."

At this point, Guilford had heard enough jokes.

Said Guilford: "It's all about the money?"

Said Moreno: "I was being sarcastic."

Said Guilford: "If you make money by violating [the lease], you'll do it, won't you? It's all about the money? Please don't be sarcastic. This case is very important to the people of Anaheim."

Humor on the witness stand can be a "tricky" variable in swaying a jury, said Sheldon Eisenberg, a Santa Monica attorney.

"You certainly do not want to communicate to the jury you're taking the proceedings lightly," Eisenberg said. "On the other hand, if the humor is a natural extension of someone's personality, it can be an effective way to build a bond with the jury."

Moreno acknowledged the "Welcome to Angel Stadium" sign that stretches between the roofs of the home and visiting dugouts should have included Anaheim and said the addition would be made this season. However, he shot back when Guilford asked whether the disappearance of Anaheim virtually everywhere else was "keeping Anaheim in the name of the team."

"No, that's part of my marketing rights," Moreno said.

Guilford asked whether Moreno would drop "of Anaheim" and call the team the Los Angeles Angels if he wins in court.

"No sir," Moreno said.

He said he might open a business office in Los Angeles -- the Rams had one there when they played in Anaheim -- and said the Angels' new name properly capitalizes on the metropolitan area, the second-largest media market in the country. As such, he acknowledged, his business plan includes one element that particularly galls Anaheim -- box scores with Los Angeles or "LAA," not Anaheim or "ANA."

"It doesn't say, the Bronx or the Queens vs. Anaheim," Moreno said. "It says, New York vs. Los Angeles."

In opening statements, Angel attorney Todd Theodora said that former Anaheim mayor Tom Daly had inquired about the possibility of a two-city name during lease discussions with former Disney executive Sandy Litvack.

Such a conversation would damage the city's claim that it did not specifically restrict a two-city name because Anaheim could not have foreseen it, but the testimony of Daly and Litvack did not appear to support Theodora's statement.

Litvack testified Wednesday that he recalled no such conversation. In his testimony Friday, Daly said he asked Litvack for assurances Anaheim would be the home designation in the team name, but not the sole one.

"I would not have used the word 'sole' or had that concept in mind back in 1996," Daly said.

Later Friday, the Angels asked Polos to bar two city experts from presenting damage estimates because the methodology is speculative. If he does, and if the city prevails, then Polos said he would have to "issue an injunction and have them change the name back" on the grounds financial damages would have been impossible to calculate.

Guilford said the city would seek damages for last season, but co-counsel Mike Rubin asked whether the Angels would agree to an order reversing the name change if the city waived damages for future seasons. Angel attorney George Stephan declined.

Moreno resumes testimony on Monday. Guilford said the city could rest its case Tuesday or Wednesday and might do so without calling Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle.

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