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‘Disco’ Is Part of Sunday Afternoon Fever : Old-Timers: Dan Ford, former Angel outfielder, puts on uniform again for Heroes of Baseball game.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Disco is back. “Disco” Dan Ford that is, not the dance craze of the ‘70s.

This Disco was a welcomed sight in Anaheim, where he played for the Angels for three seasons.

Ford, who watched teammate Reggie Jackson hit a first-inning home run and a third-inning, game-winning single Sunday in the American’s 2-1 Heroes of Baseball game victory over the Nationals, is now a member of the Angels’ speakers bureau. And he certainly has some stories to tell.

In 1979, he hit .290 with 21 home runs and 101 runs batted in, as the Angels won their first American League West Division championship.

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“My most vivid memory here is the night we clinched the title,” said Ford, now 39. “I drove in the winning run that night.”

Ford, who had been acquired from the Twins, capped his best season by hitting two home runs in the league championship series against the Baltimore Orioles.

“We were one of the best offensive teams ever,” Ford said. “No lead was safe against us, 8-1, 9-1, 10-1. If our pitching staff kept us reasonably close, we could win.”

But Ford’s career with the Angels was also marked by oddities and controversy.

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In 1980, Ford was caught using a doctored bat against Cleveland.

“I hit a ball off the end of the bat and the whole bat came apart,” he said. “I remember Don Baylor yelling, ‘Get the bat, get the bat!’ I didn’t know whether to run to first or grab the bat and run into the dugout.”

Said teammate Bobby Grich: “Boy, all kinds of things came flying out of his bat. Disco always did have a pretty good imagination.”

The incident got Ford a three-game suspension.

“We were struggling at the time and I was trying to do anything I could to get us going,” Ford said. “I got caught. People still remember that. They come up to me and say, ‘Hey Corky.’ ”

Ford found himself involved in controversy off the field as well. In 1981, he posed for a centerfold in Playgirl magazine, which raised a few eyebrows around the clubhouse.

However, Ford proudly proclaims himself a ground breaker and points out that other players soon followed.

“Dan just had his own way of doing things,” Grich said. “He used to drive us crazy before games. We would have a 1:05 game and Dan would still be in his socks, shorts and T-shirt at 1:02. At 1:04, he would buckle his pants and, at 1:05, he would walk into the dugout and say, ‘I thought you guys would never make it.’ It would break us up.”

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The laughs lasted until Ford was traded to Baltimore in 1982. He retired in 1985.

During his 11-year career, Ford hit .270 with 121 home runs. He also played in the 1983 World Series for the Orioles.

“I hit in front of three MVPs, Rod Carew, Don Baylor and Cal Ripken,” Ford said. ‘I made them all famous.”

Ford stayed away from baseball for four years. During that time, he helped run his family’s ranch in Louisiana.

In 1990, he moved to Riverside and began scouting for the Oakland Athletics. He got involved with the Angels last winter.

“It’s nice to be back in baseball, even in this small way,” Ford said. “The best part of my life, so far, has been in baseball. I have a lot of great memories.”


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