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Another Pinch-Hit Game Report from Elijah, our Angelino Bauxite who had the added advantage of attending in person last night's ballgame in Anaheim. From Francisco Rodriguez's wildness to Chavez Ravine beach ball mythology, here's today's Batter's Box Game Report.


This is my third Pinch-Hit Game Report. In both of the first two games, the Blue Jays rallied to tie the game against the opposing closer in the 9th inning. However, Morgan Ensberg's three-run homer ended the first game I covered, and three Oakland runs in the top of the 11th in the Orlando Hudson injury-on-his-home-run game made me 0-2.

So naturally, when the Angels took a one-run lead into the 9th inning tonight at the Big A, I fully expected a Blue Jays rally. Francisco Rodriguez has struggled lately, and the Blue Jays came within a whisker of touching him up on Monday night. And I was at the game. So the all the stars were properly aligned.

Fortunately for the Angels, Rodriguez cleanly received all return throws from catcher Bengie Molina. Unfortunately for them, the Blue Jays were patient, K-Rod was wild, Gregg Zaun laid down a terrific bunt and the Blue Jays finally cashed in runners from third base with less than two out. Thanks to a bases-loaded walk drawn by Corey Koskie and a timely sacrifice fly from Frank Catalanotto, the Blue Jays turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead.

But it's never over in Anaheim. Why? Is it because of their offense that is hard to put away? Is it because of their timely hitting? Nope. It's because of the mysterious Rally Monkey. I'm not the superstitious type, but I have witnessed first-hand the power of the Rally Monkey over the last few years. I was at Game 6 of the 2002 World Series that saw the Angels rally from a late 5-0 deficit. On Monday night, the Rally Monkey showed up in the bottom of the 8th and the Halos tied it. And it appeared again to start the bottom of the 11th in the same game, and the Blue Jays ended up meeting their demise.

So as expected, with the Angels losing 4-3, the jumping capuchin made his first appearance in the bottom of the 9th inning. With the crowd going bananas, Juan Rivera drew a leadoff walk from the much-maligned (at least in these parts) Miguel Batista. But for some reason that defies all logic, the Rally Monkey failed to reappear the remainder of the inning. Perhaps he found a female companion (or male -- I can't tell what sex it is). But in any event, Batista got Casey Kotchman to hit into a fielder's choice, induced a popup from the loudly-booed Steve Finley, and got the dangerous Adam Kennedy to ground out to Hudson to end the proceedings and move the Blue Jays back to five games above .500.

Aside from Jarrod Washburn and our pal Scott Schoeneweis, the Angels have not had a regular lefty on their pitching staff in the last couple seasons. But Halo fans got a glimpse of the future in Joe Saunders, their first-round pick in 2002, who pitched exceptionally well. The Jays' batters rarely made solid contact (with the exception of Shea Hillenbrand's homer in the 2nd inning), and the 24-year-old lefty exited the game with one out in the top of the 8th to a rousing standing ovation from the Angel faithful. Saunders was not quite as good John Maine was last Saturday, but as Zaun said in the AP recap, "Our track record against guys spot-starting this year hasn't exactly been great. I think a surefire way to beat us is to bring somebody up from Triple-A that we've never seen before. We don't seem to do well against guys like that."

Scott Downs pitched respectably, and Brandon League, despite giving up three hard-hit grounders, retired all four Halos he faced and got his second career win.

But enough about the game. The Jays won. I'm happy. You're happy. We're all happy. Instead of doing second-guessing or hard-core analysis, I am going to further Batter's Box's mission to be less Jays-centric. As your Los Angeles-based Blue Jays correspondent, I will explain the differences between games at Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium of Anaheim to give you an idea of what to expect, should any of you venture out to my neck of the woods for a big-league ballgame.

"It's Time for Dodger Baseball"

This is how Vin Scully begins each Dodgers broadcast. Dodger Stadium is a beautiful ballpark that doesn't show its age of 40-plus years (except for some of the restrooms). They have installed new seats this season, reducing its once immense foul territory. A new scoreboard was installed last season.

Despite that, there are a several myths about Dodger Stadium and Dodger fans that persist. As a disinterested witness, I'm here to basically affirm them all.

Myth #1: Dodger fans arrive in the 3rd inning and leave in the 7th.

This is true, with a justifiable reason. Why are fans always so late? Despite being within a mile of downtown Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium is an absolute nightmare to get to. LA's notorious freeways that go through downtown were not designed with 21st-century traffic in mind. It can easily take 45 minutes to go the last couple of miles to the Dodger Stadium off-ramp. From there, you might sit in your vehicle for another 20 to 30 minutes just to get through the seemingly endless line of cars to get into the stadium parking lot. And once you get in and find a spot, the parking lot is so vast that it can take 20 minutes to get from your car to your seat inside the ballpark.

I work about 20 miles south of downtown, but it can easily take me about an hour and a half to get from my office to my seat when the game is sold out. And those who come from the Valley have drives worse than mine. There is no reliable public transportation to get to Chavez Ravine. The only way to get to Dodger Stadium and ensure being there in time for the first pitch is to leave obscenely early, which most fans can't do because of that job thing.

The same holds true when leaving. There are only three exits leaving the parking lot, and after the game, all three are so congested that it can take 30 minutes just to get out to the three freeways that border the Chavez Ravine area. So to beat the rush, fans have to leave early because, remember, it's a 20-minute walk to your car. So you reach your car about the time the final out is recorded. The emergence of Eric Gagne had kept most Dodger fans inside until the end. But now that Gagne is out and Yhency Brazoban has reminded Dodger fans of Tom Niedenfuer, fans are leaving early again.

Myth #2: All fans care about in Dodger Stadium is playing with beach balls.

Again, this is true for lots of fans. In a game I attended earlier this year, I counted no fewer than 20 beach balls bouncing around the stands at one time. I don't like beach balls, because fans recklessly try to hit them. I've been smacked in the face by an overzealous beach ball chaser. And it does seem the fans are more interested in playing keep-away from the usher than the game on the field. The cheers are louder for a fan who prevents a beach ball from falling into the lower deck than for a Dodger hit or nice play. And the loudest boos are reserved for ushers who seize beach balls and for fans who let the beach balls fall to the lower deck or onto the field. In my opinion, beach balls are almost as annoying as fans trying to start the wave in the bottom of the 9th in a tie ballgame. When you visit, you can find out which annoys you more, because the latter happens here too.

Myth #3: Dodger Stadium is dangerous.

Sort of. During the Nomomania and Piazza years of the' 90s, there were lots of youngsters at the park, and the atmosphere was congenial. However, Dodger Stadium has gained the reputation that the L.A. Coliseum had during the Los Angeles Raiders days. Two years ago, a Giants fan was shot and killed by a Dodger fan in the stadium parking lot. Just a few weeks ago, a vendor hocking unlicensed Dodgers merchandise was confronted outside the stadium by plain-clothed security personnel (like I said, there's always a long line, so the vendors outside can make a killing; no pun intended). Security ordered the vendors to cease and desist selling the fake gear. An altercation erupted and two men were stabbed. Finally, the amount of drunkenness, cursing and violence in the stands at Dodger games has escalated dramatically over the last several seasons. "$2 Tuesdays" had to be discontinued because of an increased number of violent incidents in the stands.

I've worn Blue Jays, Giants and Padres jerseys to games when the respective teams were the opponents. As recently as a couple years ago, I would have been ignored. This year, people cursed at me, mocked my ancestry and threw food and beer at me. Why anyone would throw a cup of beer when it costs $7 a cup is beyond me.

The result of the unruly crowds is that there are comparatively few children at games. And this is sad. Dodger tickets are still reasonably priced, but many of my friends with children refuse to take their kids to games there because of the atmosphere. The demographics for Dodger fans is vastly different from those who attend Angel games (more on that below).

I still go to several Dodger games a year, because it is a beautiful ballpark and the Dodgers have been a decent team over the years. And Barry Bonds coming to town was always fun to watch. But the times have changed the formerly jovial and friendly ambience to one of belligerence and unruliness. That being said, Dodger fans still come out in droves to support their team.

The Los Angeles, California, Anaheim, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County

I've been to countless more Angels games than Dodger games, because I would try to attend every Jays game when they visited. So I have seen the ups and downs of this franchise over the last 20 years.

For most of the late '80s and '90s, the Angels flat-out stunk. They were rarely competitive and crowds were sparse. For a typical weekday evening Blue Jays game, the attendance would be about 10,000. There were nights when there would be more fans across the 57 Freeway at the Pond to watch a Mighty Ducks game. Tickets were cheap and never a problem to obtain. Even after the stadium was remodeled after the Rams left, the fans still didn't really come.

But something funny happened: the Angels got good. Real good. Tickets were harder to come by. Ever since the Angels won the World Series and Arte Moreno purchased the team, fans have filled the stadium to the top. Tonight's game was a near-sellout, and I actually have to buy tickets in advance or risk having to negotiate with a scalper.

Before, there were a few diehard Angel fans. They wore the old-style uniforms and bought the gear, even when the team's color went from red to periwinkle. Crowds were on the older side, and it wasn't unusual for me to be regaled by a long-time fan about watching Nolan Ryan, Jim Fregosi, Dean Chance and Bo Belinsky play. These fans were fiercely loyal, and I admired them for sticking with the team during the lean years.

But as tends to happen with fair-weather Los Angeles-area fans, the Angels' success has a lot of people jumping on the bandwagon. Every night, the crowd is a sea of red. Angel Stadium retains a friendly atmosphere and children are in abundance. Being in Orange County, crowds tend to be more white-collar than those at Dodger games and, perhaps, less vocal, at least in a vulgar sense. The loyal older fans are still there, but are now surrounded by a new generation of baseball aficionados. Moreno has done everything right: brought in exciting and productive players, televised more games, lowered the price of concessions (except for the $6 nachos) and kept ticket prices relatively reasonable.

Angel Stadium is situated among three freeways, but unlike Dodger Stadium, there is easy access and plenty of parking (even free) near the stadium. I park offsite, but it only takes me about ten minutes to get in and up to my seat. There's a train station in the parking lot to make it easy for local commuters. Even during near-sellouts like tonight, getting in and out is a breeze. From a transportation standpoint, the Big A is everything Dodger Stadium is not.

Angel fans had the reputation of being among the least knowledgeable of any fans in the country. That may have been true in the past (with the exception of the aforementioned diehards), but it is getting better. There appear to be a lot of new fans interspersed with the old, and it makes for a pleasant ballgame experience. For some of you, the downside about both stadiums (as well as all stadiums in California) is that there are no beer guys going up and down the aisles. You actually have to get up, walk to the concession stands, and get your beer. But if any of you are going to visit LA and want to check out a ballgame, I can give you some tips about each ballpark, notably, shortcuts that can get you around much of the traffic to both stadiums.

I cannot possibly be the only Bauxite based in the Los Angeles area. To find out, I have an extra ticket to Wednesday night's game at the Big A. I got these seats from a friend who can't make the game. The seat location is not great (near the left-field foul pole), but the seats are on the club level and as such, they are cushioned and waiter service is available. If anyone is interested in meeting up, e-mail me. First come, first served.

I Love L.A. (Anaheim) | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
braden - Wednesday, August 17 2005 @ 09:57 AM EDT (#125871) #
Was it ever established as to why Gibbons came out to argue/discuss something with the HP ump
in the ninth last night? I know Jamie and Rance were wondering what it was all about.

The thing is, I think I might know why.

Gibbons came out immediately after Zaun's bunt single. If anyone has the game on tape,
perhaps they could check what K-Rod (or should he be called BB-Rod?) did with the ball when
Figgins handed it back to him after he booted the bunt. The camera was panning away but I'm
sure I saw Rodriguez toss the ball into the Angels dugout, presumably in disgust. Now, if
I'm not mistaken, the play was still live at this point. Thus, I believe, if anyone had
caught it at the time, all Jays on base should have been awarded two bases. Now, I assume
this is what Gibbons was persuing. I'm wondering if one of the base umps had in fact called
time or if it simply went unnoticed by everyone else. Gibbons didn't really come out until about fifteen seconds later....

Again, if anyone has tape of the game, I'd be interested in knowing if Rodriguez did in fact
toss the ball away.
sweat - Wednesday, August 17 2005 @ 10:10 AM EDT (#125873) #
I also noticed that. When I saw it I figured an ump off screen had called time. The Umps and players can be very casual about switching balls out, but usually the ball being replaced, in a live situation, is handed right to an umpire.
costanza - Wednesday, August 17 2005 @ 10:41 AM EDT (#125875) #
Despite being within a mile of downtown Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium is an absolute nightmare to get to.

I believe the solution found for this problem is to hire a prostitute. Not for sex, of course, but rather to sit in the passenger seat so you can take the carpool lane to the ballpark...

DepecheJay - Wednesday, August 17 2005 @ 10:48 AM EDT (#125876) #
Ahh... what would the world be without Curb? Classic.
Jobu - Wednesday, August 17 2005 @ 02:46 PM EDT (#125923) #
Zaunie live on the Fan right now.... GO!
Named For Hank - Wednesday, August 17 2005 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#125924) #
Zaun says "For those of you who don't know how hard it is to bunt, it's exceptionally hard, especially against a guy throwing that fast."
Named For Hank - Wednesday, August 17 2005 @ 02:51 PM EDT (#125925) #
"...and when you don't get it done, you feel like the biggest idiot in the world."
Magpie - Wednesday, August 17 2005 @ 03:03 PM EDT (#125927) #
it's exceptionally hard,

And everybody - yes, even Hinske - works on it every single day in BP. It's just that it's one thing to get a bunt down against a coach throwing 70 mph, and quite something else against a real major league pitcher.

Magpie - Wednesday, August 17 2005 @ 03:06 PM EDT (#125928) #
Good job, Elijah, and thanks for the memories. My one visit to Dodger Stadium was a long time ago, and I had completely forgotten about the parking lot.

I'm pretty sure I've been in cities that were smaller than the Dodger Stadium parking lot.

I Love L.A. (Anaheim) | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.