Exposing All Those Real Truths Behind the Ugly Big 'A' Myths

Shooting down some Anaheim Stadium myths . . .

1. The fans are all asleep. Not true. They are merely pretending to be asleep, in hopes the stadium organist will give up and go home early, letting them enjoy the game in peace.

It never works. The guy just plays louder. If Angels management had the slightest bit of compassion, they would rip out the loudspeaker system and install airline-type headsets at each seat. Listening to the Monkees greatest hits played Las Vegas lounge style would then be optional.

2. The stadium has no scoreboard. Not true, technically. There is a scoreboard, but it is not used to display scores, either of the game in progress or other major league games.

The scoreboard is used for commercials, team promos and cartoons to go along with the inspirational organ music. However, you can get the score, or the count, 24 hours a day, simply by dashing to a stadium pay phone and dialing a special hot line.

3. The Angels manager is always Genial Gene. Gene Mauch, after all these years, hasn't learned to lose. Sunday his Angels blew a game to the Seattle Mariners, 5-4. The Mariners have a roster loaded with big names--Presley, Nixon, Moses, Al Davis--but they had no business beating the rampaging, new-look, pennant-contending Angels Sunday.

After the game Mauch came out of his office to confront the press.

"You've got two minutes," Genial Gene said in a menacing voice.

Two minutes to do what, Geno? Get out of town? Present our official group opinion of the Irangate hearings? Audition for the left-field spot?

After a minute or so, Mauch loosened up. Asked if he was glad to see starting pitcher Kirk McCaskill pitch well, Mauch said, "Of course."

Who could blame Mauch for being down? A lovely day had disintegrated into an ironic annoyance for Mauch. The Little General, advocate of Little Ball, was beaten by Littler Ball, a squeeze bunt by John Moses in the top of the ninth.

Afterwards, Mauch was smoking, literally and figuratively. Still, he didn't short the press. He went overtime, but after about three minutes, he turned and walked away, muttering, "You could write a book on that (dad-burned) game."

Mauch retreated to his office, possibly to meet with Hollywood producers seeking movie rights to the book.

4. Brian Downing is not a spoiled crybaby. It's true, Downing says, that he hates to play left field, where he'll be stationed frequently now that the Angels have Bill Buckner to be the designated hitter. But Downing is not angry at Mauch or Buckner, or even at the stadium organist, who has everybody a little on edge.

(The organist played the theme song from Superman when Downing came to bat in the eighth with the bases loaded. Stricken by Kryptonite, Downing popped out.)

"I've always been a team player to a fault," Downing said. "It's completely out of my character to cry about something like that. Four days before they made the deal (for Buckner), Gene asked what I thought and I said, 'If it makes us a better team, hey, I'm all for it.'

"I'm sorry I'm out in the field again, but hey, it's no big deal. If that's what it takes for us to win, (hang) it, I'm back. It's like the old song--'You can't always get what you want.' "

Downing caught a break Sunday. Mauch made him the DH and put Joggin' George Hendrick in left, with Buckner on the bench. Buckner came off the pines to pinch-hit in the eighth, delivering a run-scoring single, leaving people wondering what the guy could do if he got four at-bats every game.

5. The most exciting element of any Angels game is a beach ball loose in the stands. Sunday the beach balls did get a big reaction, especially during one rousing session in the right-field bleachers that ended when a fan slugged the ball into the Angel bullpen. Is it my imagination, or is the beach ball livelier this year? Regardless, it's not the beach-ball action that draws the fans to Anaheim Stadium. What they come to see is the seventh-inning attendance quiz, where five figures are flashed on the scoreboard and you guess which one is the real paid attendance.

The fans love it, the excitement and the mental challenge, and management is considering doing the same thing every few innings with the score of the game.

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