- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2005

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The way general manager Bill Stoneman tells it, perhaps his franchise should be called the Boston Angels of Anaheim, or the New York Angels of Anaheim.

They are called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but, according to Stoneman, the fans that come to Angels game don’t resemble anything like Los Angeles sports fans.

“I used to go to games when I was growing up was a very quiet, reserved crowd,” said Stoneman, who grew up nearby in West Covina. “That crowd doesn’t come to Angels games anymore.

“The crowd now is really into and unbelievably passionate. Sometimes you think you are on the East Coast, in the northeast. The fans there are very passionate about their sports. And Angels fans, every year, are becoming more like those passionate northeast fans.”

A bold claim for a franchise that at one time barely made a blip on the Southern California sports radar screen. We shall see how passionate Angels fans are tonight.

After all, if this was Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, umpire Doug Eddings — he of the A.J. Pierzynski ninth inning call Wednesday night in Chicago — would need a police escort to get into the ballpark. We’d be talking about extra security and strip searches and cutting off beer sales in the middle of the first inning.

Not at Angel Stadium of Anaheim (nothing simple about any names connected to this franchise. Why not name it Bo Belinsky Field and Pleasure Emporium and be done with it?). Heck, this is the place where the owner, Arte Moreno, cut beer prices when he first bought the team three years ago.

Can you imagine cutting beer prices at baseball games in Boston or New York? They would have to put a moat around the field.

No, I doubt that Angels fans will display the sort of passion East Coast sports fans might display when the most hated man in Southern Calfornia takes his place in right field tonight for game three of the American League Championship Series between the Angels and the Chicago White Sox, with the best-of-seven series tied at one game apiece.

Oh, they hate him, all right, for if you took a drink every time you heard the name “Doug Eddings” on sports talk radio yesterday here, you couldn’t get through an hour sober.

Everyone here has talked themselves into being absolutely convinced that Angels catcher Josh Paul caught strike three from Kelvin Escobar in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-1 tie in game two at U.S. Cellular Field and that Eddings should never have let Pierzynski take first base on the disputed call.

Personally, I don’t think the replays, which probably took up about six full hours of programming on ESPN yesterday (the worst thing that happened to this umpiring crew was for yesterday to be an off day in the ALCS) conclusively show that Paul caught the ball instead of trapping in the dirt, and if this was the NFL, and there was instant replay, the call would have stood because the replays were inconclusive.

There was much analysis over whether or not Eddings called Pierzynski out when he made a fist in a “ringing him up motion.” Angels manager Mike Scioscia kept pointing to Eddings motion in his argument that the batter had been called out, and the play was over. “The hitter can take off, but as a catcher when an umpire calls him out, rings him up with a fist, he’s out,” Scioscia said.

But if Angels fans are really like East Coast fans, they might want to save a piece of their outrage — in true Bill Buckner-style — for Paul, the catcher who rolled the ball back to the mound as Pierzynski turned around after taking a step toward the dugout and took off down the first base line. None of this becomes an issue if Paul performs the standard operating procedure when there is even the slightest hint of a dropped third strike or one in the dirt — tag the batter immediately.

It really didn’t matter if Eddings raised his fist, blessed himself or thumbed his nose at Paul. The catcher had his back to the umpire. There was no way for him to know what gesture Eddings made.

If Angels fans have gained a little knowledge with this passion that Stoneman attests to, they should ask themselves this:

What would Mike Scioscia had done when he was behind the plate?

Not let Doug Eddings decide the game for him, that’s what.

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