Manager Terry Collins said it was unbelievable. Right fielder Tim Salmon called it a joke. And they weren't talking about the Angels' performance this season.
The object of their scorn was a beach ball that fell from the right-field bleachers in the sixth inning Wednesday night, just as Salmon, at the wall, was preparing to leap for David Justice's long drive.
"There was no doubt the beach ball obstructed my view," said Salmon, who failed to make the catch--of the baseball or beach ball. "The [baseball] was coming down, and the beach ball came across at the same time. It was a surprise, a distraction."
The play didn't cost the Angels any runs in a 4-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians because reliever Lou Pote, with runners on second and third and none out, came on to pitch the Angels out of the jam in his major league debut.
But in this season marred by freak injuries and ruled by Murphy's Law, a year in which the Angels feel as if the sky has fallen, it was hard to accept yet another obstacle raining down on them.
"There have been 500 beach balls on the field all year and one has to drop right in front of my outfielder when he's trying to catch a fly ball," Collins said. "I hope they had a good time in the outfield."
Salmon wasn't about to rip the fans. After all, many of those in right field receive free tickets from the popular Angel outfielder.
"I'm not going to say anything about the fans--obviously they need to be entertained by something more than what's going on on the field," Salmon said. "Beach balls have always been part of the action here. It'll probably never happen again.
"But it happened to us. If ever there was a time for something like that to happen, it's this year."
The right knee that Darin Erstad thought he had injured only slightly began to swell up and cause more discomfort late Wednesday night, and Erstad underwent precautionary X-rays and an MRI test Thursday morning.
Doctors were concerned enough about an alarming test result that they kept Erstad off Thursday's flight to Detroit and ordered him to return for further examination today.
Erstad sprained his right knee while swinging at a pitch Tuesday. Test results Thursday indicated an abnormality in one of the knee ligaments, the team said. After examining Erstad on Thursday in Anaheim, team physician Craig Milhouse set an appointment for Erstad to see a specialist today in Los Angeles.
"I didn't hear a pop, but it felt like a ligament kind of toppled over," said Erstad, who has never had a serious knee injury. "I kept playing, but I woke up [Wednesday] morning and thought, 'Holy smokes.' It hurt, and I couldn't get loose before the game. I don't know what I did."
If the Walt Disney Co. decides to sell the Angels, it won't be able to shed its biggest financial liability to reduce the value of the franchise for a prospective buyer. At least, not immediately.
Mo Vaughn, who signed a six-year, $80-million deal last winter, has a no-trade clause in his contract through 2000, and a limited no-trade clause the three years after. Vaughn and the Angels will pick six teams he can't be traded to in 2001 and 2002 and eight teams he can't be traded to in 2003.
"There's all types of speculation, and it gets crazy, but I don't think about that," Vaughn said. "I just want to get healthy and play solid baseball. If I'm traded, so be it. All you can do is hope to get yourself in the right situation where you have a chance to get to the playoffs."