Memo to Anaheim fans: Lose the ThunderStix

October 20, 2002|By LAURA VECSEY

ANAHEIM, Calif. - It's loud here. Lord, is it loud. It's so loud that the next ballpark giveaway by the Anaheim Angels will have to be hearing aids. Step right up, folks.

No question that this wild kingdom of freeways, strip malls, warehouses, parking lots and fast-food joints is trying hard to be heard. Way too hard. Anaheim won't be denied its claim that this is now - thanks to the Angels - a viable, vocal and relevant sporting locale.

That must explain the relentless use of those obnoxious ThunderStix again last night at Edison Field. Not even Barry Bonds and his quick-strike second-inning bases-empty homer was enough to take the air out of those dreaded inflatables.

Maybe that's because Bonds merely opened the floodgates on a night of long ball. It was homers all around, fellas. The 98th World Series kicked off as a bona-fide slugfest, despite all the pre-Series hype about how the San Francisco Giants and Angels would match strategy, wits and execution toward a small-ball postseason utopia.

With Bonds leading the way, moonshots ruled - all the way down to first baseman J.T. Snow's two-run homer in the sixth inning that gave the Giants a 4-1 lead.

Unfortunately, so did the ThunderStix rule. That was them pounding out Morse code all the way to Pluto (the planet, not Mickey's Disneyland pal) as the Angels commenced a comeback. Not for lack of noise pollution did the Angels fall short, despite a second homer on the night from Anaheim third baseman Troy Glaus and an RBI single from Adam Kennedy. The Rally Monkey was beside himself when the Angels dropped Game 1 by the score of 4-3. Get the critter some cotton balls for those ringing eardrums.

If baseball can ban the use of andro and allegedly attempt to legislate the use of steroids, can ThunderStix be next on the commissioner's contraction list? Please?

Baseball used to be such a nice, quiet game. Now, it's like the Indy 500, or an NBA game. It isn't right. In fact, it's a strange place that needs to channel its entire identity into dopey little props - enough with the Rally Monkey and his furry, faux offspring. It is also an imagination-challenged populous that chooses to rely so heavily on artificial noisemakers to help make its case.

Yet inhabitants here in one of America's signature pieces of suburban sprawl refuse to wander silently through the game of life anymore.

We are here. We are loud. We are proud, which is why we pitch to Bonds while all those other teams did not, except in the eighth inning, when Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought in his only lefty reliever, Scott Schoeneweis, who issued four consecutive balls to the slugger. What was the point of that?

Like hair sprouting from a Chia Pet, the people of and around Anaheim - which is a city, despite the lack of any discernible downtown - are up to something this October. They are making a statement. No one can fault their intent on being heard, being recognized, being named. But the way they're going about it?

They are trying to instantaneously create something real and tangible out of thin air - or smoggy air, as was the case yesterday, when the Angels played their first World Series game.

The Angels' franchise, born in 1961, had been tied with the Senators/Rangers for the longest run by an expansion team without reaching the World Series. Last night, against the Giants, the Angels separated themselves from the Rangers and erased themselves from a list of teams that have failed to ever play in the Fall Classic.

No doubt this inaugural World Series is a watershed moment - even if the geysers and waterfalls cascading down the rocks behind center field at Edison Park are fake.

Fake rocks. Imagine that. At best, fake rocks and manufactured atmosphere is an unflattering sports metaphor, especially when you consider the grit, history and longstanding sentimental attachment some old-world baseball burgs have toward their teams and stadiums.

In Baltimore, where the Orioles are coming up on the 20th anniversary of the last time they played in a World Series (1983, defeating the Phillies in five games), it was reported last week that concrete from demolished Memorial Stadium was being used to construct an oyster reef in the Chesapeake.

In some cities, news like that might be relegated to the environmental pages. But in the land of the Orioles, there was something spiritually amazing about Memorial Stadium concrete being recycled into something new and useful like that. It happens when there is history, when there are memories and traditions. Now, vibes from all those championship plays, pitches and hits by Brooks Robinson, Rick Dempsey and Jim Palmer can resonate into that mighty body of water. A bit of the Orioles' championship past is now regenerating life in a uniquely Baltimore fashion.

As for what's happening here in a place Giants manager Dusty Baker chidingly called "southern L.A," let's just say there's a long way to go before any of this stuff or anything about this place gets built up to mythic proportion.

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