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DANA PARSONS / ORANGE COUNTY

Angels cursed by Moreno's mistake

October 10, 2008|Dana Parsons

What does Angels owner Arte Moreno have in common with a long-dead Broadway producer and a smelly Chicago goat?

Answer: Each played a leading role in cursing a successful baseball franchise.

The producer was Harry Frazee, the Boston Red Sox owner who sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. Ruth went on to have a fine career; the Red Sox, after winning five of baseball's first 15 World Series, didn't win another one for 84 years.

The goat belonged to a Chicago tavern owner and huge Cubs fan who took him to a World Series game in 1945. After fans complained about the goat's body odor, the tavern owner was asked to leave with the goat, prompting the man to place a curse on the Cubs. It was a good one -- the team had made several World Series appearances over the years, but none since that fateful October 63 years ago.

Now comes Moreno, generally considered one of baseball's best owners. I'd agree, except for the tiny matter of him cursing the Angels in 2005 when he announced that he was changing the team name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Before that, the Anaheim Angels won a World Series in 2002. Moreno bought them the next spring. And, well, you know the rest.

The way you can tell a curse is in place is that your team doesn't just lose; it often does so in painful or bizarre ways.

In October 2004, the Angels' season ended when the Red Sox finished them off with a walk-off home run. Yes, that was a few months before Moreno announced the name-change idea, but you just know he'd been thinking about it before that.

In 2005 -- the first season after the name-change announcement -- a highly controversial home plate umpire's call on a presumed strike three extended the bottom of the ninth inning for the Chicago White Sox.

They went on to win the game a few minutes later, tying the series at a game apiece. The Sox won the next three games and went to the World Series.

In October 2007, the Angels were outscored 19-4 in three games against the Red Sox and meekly went home again.

Then, this week, the Angels brought baseball's best record into the playoffs but were summarily dumped by the Red Sox in the first round. The Halos lost two of the games, including the clincher, in the ninth inning.

That is four playoff departures in the last five years.

Contrast all that with the Anaheim Angels' performance in the 2002 World Series. Trailing the Giants, 5-0, in the seventh inning of Game 6 and facing elimination, the Angels scored six runs in the next two innings to win. The next day, they won the whole thing.

You don't do that with a curse attached.

Sadly, Moreno didn't recognize that.

As with all curses, they're not accidents. They are rooted in things that defy good behavior. They're punishment, if you will.

The Curse of the Bambino resulted when Frazee sold one of baseball's best players to finance his Broadway shows.

The Curse of the Billy Goat happened because Cubs management caved in to fans who didn't want to smell a goat during a World Series game in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

And the Curse of the Moreno Mistake is a result of his decision to put a "Los Angeles" moniker on a team that plays in Orange County.

He made the decision for business reasons, but so did Harry Frazee and the Cubs management.

I wrote at the time that Moreno was entitled to rename the team because he owned it. But I also wrote that that didn't make it right or sensible.

A curse was born.

A pity, because it is Angels fans and players who must pay the price.

You think it's the fault of the Angels' most potent sluggers that they turned into singles hitters? That one of the team's best bunters couldn't lay one down in the ninth inning with the game on the line against the Red Sox, which could have sent the series back to Anaheim?

Hardly.

Ah, you say, but how cursed can the Red Sox be if they've won two World Series this decade and might add a third this year? True, but they waited 84 years to do it.

Strap yourselves in, Angels fans.

When Moreno bought the team, I warned him in print that baseball can eat you up. I advised him to expect heartbreak.

Little did I know he'd bring it on himself.

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Dana Parsons' column appears Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at dana.parsons@latimes.com. An archive of his recent columns is at latimes.com/parsons.

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