And the Thunder rolls

It’s raining in Anaheim. That song? It never rains in Southern California or something like that? A lie. It’s been coming down off and on almost all day. Thunder275_2I’m out here in the auxiliary press box in the area behind the right-field foul pole. It’s easy to spot me. I look like Mary Poppins — at least, my computer does. I somehow propped up my umbrella in front of my computer and it’s working pretty well. I wrapped the rest of my computer in a plastic poncho I bought earlier today and I’m still typing away. Dry, baby.

People were giving me funny looks earlier. Right about now, they are wondering why they did not think of this first. The guy next to me has a towel over his computer and he’s holding his umbrella with one hand and scoring with other hand. How can you work like that? You can’t. Maybe I should patent this umbrella computer thing. Not sure who would buy it but then again, who would have thought ThunderStixx would take over the world? I know I sure didn’t, and I am reminded of it every time I come out to Anaheim for a game. Yes, I’m dry now, but I can’t hear.
Jesse Sanchez/MLB.com

Welcome to Oz?

Ozzieedit2Apparently, there’s enough room in Anaheim for two Ozzies. Rocker/reality star/bat-biter Ozzy Osbourne made an appearance at Angel Stadium on Sunday. Sorta. After the top of the first inning, Osbourne appeared on the Jumbotron behind right field and screamed. "I’m Ozzy. Goooooooooooo Angeeeeeeeeeeeeeels." I think. It was hard to understand him. Maybe he said "Gooooooo Raaaaaaaaaaaangers" or "Go Doooooooooooodgers." Perhaps it was the classic "I’m blah blah, blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, blah blaaaaahs." I don’t know. It was kind a weird and kind of a surprise. Ozzy the Angels fan? Who knows? Either way, the crowd gave the video message a nice round of applause. I did not see the reaction from White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
Jesse Sanchez/MLB.com

Eckstein not forgotten

Who says Angels fans don’t have long memories? Before Game 4 of the ALCS, almost every fan at Angel Stadium had their eyes glued to big screen monitors in right and left field, watching the final innings of the Houston/St. Louis game. There was a noticeable cheer when former Angels shortstop David Eckstein, now playing for the Cardinals, stepped to the plate in the ninth inning with two outs and the tying runner on second base. The crowd followed each pitch with a series of oohs and ahhs. When Eckstein flied out to shallow center field to end the game, a collective sigh was heard throughout the stadium. Yep, they still love Eckstein in Anaheim. Did I mention Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera has hit safely in all 10 career LCS games and in 20 of 22 postseason games?
Jesse Sanchez/MLB.com

I saw the sign

Almost immediately after the gates opened at Angel Stadium and the general public started filing in, angry fans had made their statements about the disputed call by home-plate umpire Doug Eddings that led to the Angels’ 2-1 loss to the White Sox in Game 2 of the ALCS.

A man in the field level seats above the Angels dugout held up a sign that read, ?Angels 1, Umpires 1,? and displayed it proudly — for about 30 seconds.

As soon as people began to recognize the sign and comment on it, a security guard came by and took the sign away from the guy.

Sign300_1?They don?t allow signs in the stadium,? said Jerry, the security guard who wouldn?t give his last name. ?It?s just policy. What the sign said had nothing at all to do with it.?

When asked if he agreed with the sentiments on the placard, Jerry said, ?I?m gonna have to give you a ?No comment? on that one.?

Jerry said Angel Stadium doesn?t allow signs because they block the view of other fans and that?s really all there is to it.

He said the guy with the sign had the option of retrieving it after the game if he so chose, but the guy declined, saying, ?It?s just a sign.?

When asked if he expected to have to be called into action to curtail unruly fan activity once Eddings took the field, Jerry said, ?No comment again.?

Before I left, Jerry asked me who I was writing for. I said, ?I?m sorry. I can?t comment on that.?
Doug Miller/MLB.com

A House no longer divided

People with short memories — or those who only recently started paying attention — may not believe this. But only a few years ago, playing in Angel Stadium, and before that Anaheim Stadium, frequently infuriated the home team players.

The Angels of the lean years grew to resent the fans? allegiances, which definitely were not with them. The only big-crowd dates were against visitors from the Establishment — Detroit, Boston, Baltimore, White Sox — who drew from Southern California?s vast transplanted population.

Angels_fan_275Talk about Big A. Those were the days of the Big Annoyance. It was said the only way the Angels would have been able to draw three million was to schedule the New York Yankees 81 times.

Typical were scenes such as in early 1984, when the Tigers hit town amid a historic getaway during which they would have 35 wins before their fifth loss. Crowds of 50,000 packed the then-enlarged ballpark, rooting for the Bengals with one voice.

Players such as Doug DeCinces, Bobby Grich, Bob Boone and even Reggie Jackson would complain after games about feeling unwelcome in their own house.

Tables and turnstiles have turned, of course. In a shrunken house, the Angels keep setting attendance records, and it?s safe to say that of this season?s draw of 3,404,686, 3,404,685 were red-wearing, Thunder Stix-toting, Rally Monkey-doting Angels fans.

?The last three, four years, it?s been a pleasure to play here,? says Adam Kennedy, the Angels second baseman. ?It?s taken to being other places like New York. Fans take a lot of pride in the stadium. They enjoy coming to the game. We felt it in the last series. I can?t imagine it changing now.?

You White Sox may want to consider some earplugs. Check with Rafael Palmeiro, who doesn?t need his anymore.
– Tom Singer/MLB.com

A heavenly ballpark

Angel_stadium_191 If you are putting together a list of ballparks to visit, I’d rank Angel Stadium up there among the best. I love the weather here. It always feels great during the day and even better at night. The press box is open and you really feel like you are part of the game, so that’s a part I really like. The caverns, mountains, greens or whatever that thing is in left-center field is pretty cool. It looks like some type of rock formation decoration — there is usually water running through it, if I remember correctly. I like that.

The atmosphere is great here as well, especially during the playoffs. This place is always rockin’ and it’s a sea of red and white. Don’t get me wrong. I like Chicago — a lot. It’s one of my favorite cities. And the scenery in Chicago? Wow. But this stadium in Anaheim feels like home. It’s sunny. It’s hot. If it’s not the best, it’s close. To me, anyway.
– Jesse Sanchez/MLB.com

Ozzfest

Guillen_191 It seems like anything Ozzie Guillen says makes people laugh — even when he’s not that funny. He’s just being Ozzie. Take today’s press conference, for example.

Here’s the background: During scheduled interviews with a manager or player in a designated room, there is a person, likely a court reporter, who sits in front of the reporters with her machine, typing the questions from the reporters and answers from the player/manager in real time. The transcripts are later Emailed or printed for reporters who are unable to attend the scheduled interviews. It’s a great process and those transcripts really help a lot.

Soooooo … Ozzie is doing his thing. Answering this and that in English. The woman types, types, types.

A question is posed in Spanish and Guillen responds in Spanish. In the middle of his answer he stops, looks at the woman and says, "Hey, you stopped typing!" Everybody bursts into laughter. The woman freezes. Then she laughs. Part of the reason it was sort of funny is that most managers never even acknowledge the person who is typing up the quotes and they surely don’t joke with them. It was an awkward moment made into a funny moment. It was Ozzie being Ozzie. I’m pretty sure it was on video tape even if it was not recorded on paper.
– Jesse Sanchez/MLB.com

The Pied Piper

It started with Ozzie Guillen quickly moving up to the top step of the White Sox dugout and engaging in a little lively banter with a small group of Chicago media members, numbering about five or six, approximately three hours before game time Wednesday. Thirty minutes later, Guillen still was talking and the interested group of media had grown to 45 or 50.Ozzie320

Anyone who has been around Guillen for more than two or three games knows that the White Sox manager can mesmerize an audience more impressively than Tony Robbins or Dr. Phil on their best days. And he?s far more colorful and entertaining.

In this instance, Guillen?s topics of conversation ranged from a thought-provoking movie he watched on one of the cable channels late Tuesday, dealing with how girls and women are treated in the Muslim culture, to a roundtable discussion on the comedians who are truly funny these days. Guillen?s vote, by the way, was cast for Carlos Mencia.

Guillen could give Mencia a run for his money. And speaking of voting or running, Guillen quipped that he might run for Mayor of Chicago if the White Sox win the World Series. If the White Sox pick up eight more postseason victories, Guillen can set his sights even higher.
Scott Merkin/MLB.com

Contreras the card

Jose200_2The funniest guy in the White Sox dugout is not Ozzie Guillen. It’s Jose Contreras. Yes. That Jose Contreras. Part of Contreras’ charm is how he shares his life experiences, and the other part is his delivery of jokes. Guillen said the pitcher is so big and sometimes goofy that anything he says comes out sounding funny. According to Guillen, Contreras is a laugh-a-minute and is usually in the middle of a group of players cutting up. Guillen even pulled his son, Ozzie Jr., into the middle of an impromptu media session to ask him who was the biggest clown on the team. Without missing a beat, Ozzie Jr. blurted out "Contreras."

But as the story goes, Contreras is extremely respectful of Guillen and does not always share that side of himself with the manager. In Spring Training, Guillen said he watched a huge crowd of players laughing hysterically in the opposite side of the dugout after one of Contreras’ jokes. When Guillen asked what was so funny, Contreras said he would tell him the joke later. Guillen is still waiting.
Jesse Sanchez/MLB.com

Diggin’ the Dean

The Commissioner of baseball was on hand for the opener of the AL Championship Series, but for some of us, the truly distinguished guest was Jerome Holtzman. Holtzman300

To anybody who wrote baseball during the last two generations in the Midwest, Mr. Holtzman was The Dean of Chicago baseball writers, Midwestern baseball writers, baseball writers, period.  His journalistic credits are nearly too numerous to mention, but to hit the high spots, he has been inducted into the writers? wing of the Hall of Fame, he wrote the defining book on the trade, ?No Cheering in the Press Box,? and he invented the save rule. He is now the official historian of Major League Baseball, and, we are happy to note, a columnist for MLB.com.

Mr. Holtzman was in fine form in the U.S. Cellular Field press box. He is one of the recognized experts on the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Some among the local press have used the White Sox appearance in this postseason to revisit that episode and to once more suggest that maybe Shoeless Joe Jackson wasn?t really guilty. The papers call Mr. Holtzman and he tells them the truth, that all the available evidence points directly to Jackson?s participation in the fix and thus his guilt. So the papers have to call somebody else for a kinder, gentler, less accurate view of this scandal.

?I keep telling them the truth, but they don?t want to hear it,? Mr. Holtzman said.

He hasn?t lost a step. You could take that sentence and frame it around his career. Whether anybody liked it or not, Jerome Holtzman was a truth-teller and still is. As always, it is a privilege to be in the same press box as this gentleman.
Mike Bauman/MLB.com

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