County Top 20
Twenty movers and shakers and names who made headlines in 1995 (the movers you probably can already guess):
1. Georgia Frontiere: How will she be remembered here? The Art Modell of Anaheim? The devil in a blue dress? The woman who launched a million expletives during her letter-of-intent-signing press conference by beaming in front of the cameras in St. Louis: “I don’t think I’ve been this happy since the last game we won.” Now she has everything she ever wanted--a bottomless credit line, a fawning public, a plush new $260-million temple of worship, newspaper columnists who chronicle her visits to church. Yes, they love Georgia in St. Louis. But let the Rams go 7-9 again . . .
2. Michael Eisner: In 1993, he bought into the NHL to save the builders of The Pond from themselves. In 1995, he bought into the Angels to save their fans from Jackie Autry. Next, he sets sights on Donald Sterling’s Clippers. It’s the last chance they have.
3. Jim Abbott: In late July, his return to the Angels via trade with the White Sox was viewed by some as near-gluttony: What do the Angels need with more starting pitching? By late September, the Angels needed two Abbotts--how about one who could win in Anaheim?--and by late December, they needed divine (or, lacking that, Disney) intervention to keep the one they have. Only nine more signing days left.
4. Tiger Woods: Two Amateur golf championships and a trip to the Masters before his 20th birthday. He now owns five USGA titles, placing him behind only Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus among male golfers. Something to shoot for in his 20s.
5. Augie Garrido: Titans with NCAA championship rings--Garrido has been there, done that twice before. But Titans in the White House? (The idea was Garrido’s, not President Clinton’s, and the execution required three months of exhaustive lobbying.) Whatever the methodology, the man gets results--positive results, near-to-minor miracles, many of them. Maybe he should manage the Angels.
6. Mark Kotsay: Undrafted out of high school, he dominated the College World Series as no one had before--game-breaking power hitter, game-saving center fielder, game-closing relief ace. He won the Golden Spikes Award, was nominated for the Sullivan Award and returns for his junior season in 1996. Next draft, he might not last until the second pick.
7. Bill Bavasi: He made all the right moves, including and especially the Abbott trade, and it still wasn’t enough. What more could he have done? Well, there was one thing, but after July, Seattle wasn’t fielding any offers for Randy Johnson. A workaholic who’s smart enough to know his limitations (he never played or coached professionally) and ask a lot of questions, Bavasi has a chance to become the most effective general manager the Angels have had. Provided the new owners allow him the time.
8. Gary DiSarcina: He must have been the Angels’ MVP. Tim Salmon won the Owner’s Trophy, but look at the evidence: Angels up by 11 in the West on the night DiSarcina breaks his thumb, Angels down by 1 in the West on the night he returned to the starting lineup. The Angels went 16-25 with their All-Star shortstop on the disabled list, but the worst thing about DiSarcina’s injury was that it gave the team An Excuse. It was repeated often during a pair of nine-game losing streaks.
9. Marcel Lachemann: With red flags starting to pop up in late September, Lachemann set his jaw and stuck his neck out, suggesting that if the Angels didn’t hang on to win the West “they should fire the manager.” Lach pulled through, even if the Angels didn’t, but “Don’t give new owners any ideas” is one of the Ten Commandments of Managerial Longevity in the major leagues. Another: “Bring in Percival to pitch to Sojo, why don’t you?”
10. Ron Wilson: He and the Ducks agreed to a contract extension during the winning days of November. And then: Ducks started dropping like flies, Wilson began juggling his goalies, the team plunged through December like a stone and the coach, once a media charmer, took to sparring with reporters or ignoring them altogether. These are the classic signs of a coach in trouble, but is Wilson, really? Management hasn’t helped him much in the personnel department--Joe Nieuwendyk, anyone?--and the injury wave depleted whatever he already had. Management also isn’t saying much, but Wilson’s fate, and the Ducks’, shapes up as the first major local story line of 1996.
11. Milos Holan: The Duck defenseman held a news conference in late October to announce he has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. Rod Carew’s daughter, Michelle, is also fighting the disease, and once their stories were made public--as difficult as the revelations were--the drive to find matching bone-marrow donors intensified. If two matches are found, they will be the happiest developments of 1996.
12. Don Andersen: He was arguably the best thing to happen to Orange County sports in the ‘90s--helping bring the Disneyland Pigskin Classic and the Senior PGA Tour to Anaheim and Costa Mesa, overseeing the completion of the Orange County Hall of Fame, overworking to keep the Freedom Bowl afloat. But on April 1, the Orange County Sports Assn. fired him, largely because of Andersen’s inability to wave a magic wand and make it rain dollar bills. Disney couldn’t even do that, which is why the 1995 Pigskin Classic was played in Ann Arbor.
13. The Big Orange Classic: Upon Andersen’s departure, the OCSA’s first order of business was to rename the Freedom Bowl and then shut it down. Oh, beg pardon--"place the game on hiatus” is the official phrasing. We’ve heard that one before. Cal State Fullerton, whose 1984 football team was 12-0 but “not good enough” to play in the first Freedom Bowl, had its football program placed on hiatus, too, in 1992. Small world, isn’t it?
14. The Wooden Classic: Promoters love to throw around word “classic,” even before a single game has been played. In 1994, though, the term seemed appropriate when UCLA, Kentucky, Kansas and Massachusetts filled the Pond with fans and exciting basketball. In 1995, the classic was, well, wooden. Purdue shot 27.7%, Maryland shot 24.7%, lots of seats went unused. And next year, the event tries to make it without UCLA’s training wheels.
15. Yorba Hills Little Leaguers: They made it farther than the Angels--to the final four, before losing in the U.S. championship game to Northwest 45 Little League of Spring, Tex., 3-1. Eerie stat to ponder: The day after the Little Leaguers played their final game, the big leaguers began their first of two nine-game losing streaks.
16. Wild Wing: The Ducks’ mascot, nearly roasted on opening night, was later strung up 50 feet over the ice by a malfunctioning harness contraption and is a leading proponent of the burgeoning Life Insurance For Professional Sports Mascots movement.
17. Michael Chang: He returned to the Top 5 by reaching the Australian Open semifinals, the U.S. Open quarters and the French Open final, where he lost, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4, to Thomas Muster. It was Chang’s first appearance in the Grand Slam final in six years and the high point of his best year in the ‘90s.
18. Schea Cotton: Weeks after leading Mater Dei to its third state basketball championship, he returns to Bellflower St. John Bosco, proving conclusively that the Mater Dei transfer shuttle does indeed have a two-way door.
19. Bob Hawking: At many schools, a 7-20 finish would get a basketball coach fired. At Cal State Fullerton, it got Hawking a three-year contract. Considering what Hawking was left to work with by Brad (“Geronimo!”) Holland, it was the least Cal State Fullerton could do.
20. The Anaheim Piranhas: Orange County has seen its professional football future and, sorry, folks, this is it.