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In my last entry I referred to inter-league play as baseball’s Christmas, as fun as inter-league play can be, nothing compares to the pageantry that is the Freeway Series. I know I’m a little late in commenting about the Freeway Series especially since the Angels just swept the Washington Nationals; but on the other hand, this is the perfect time to comment since I can reflect on the first half of the series since I’m writing on the eve of the second half of the series. Writing during the midpoint facilitates the ability to juxtapose what went on against what to expect.
The Angels all-time record against the hated Dodgers is 48 to 35 favoring the Angels since their first meeting during the regular season on July 17, 1997 the inaugural year of inter-league play, to me, as an Angels’ fan, that is a beautiful number. Dodgers’ fans often boast that they are the better team just because they have five championships compared to the Angels one Ring. Although I would normally agree that a better team is defined by the of number rings they possess, in the Dodgers’ case, I must wholeheartedly disagree.
The Freeway series to me is primarily about the battle over Interstate 5 because the interstate defines California. Interstate 5 runs from Sacramento in the north to San Diego in the South, maybe even beyond (note to self: I must refresh my geography, remember to look it up on Google) Interstate 5 is the main artery that runs through California. California prides itself on tradition whether it’s the fact that California is the sixth largest economy in the world, (yes, California would be able to function as a small country on its own.) Or it’s wonderful whether, or even still defining its own moments in history, like landmark court cases and historical movements that often defines the course of history for the United States. Interstate 5 connects Anaheim to Los Angeles the two cities are only about 35 miles apart. The Freeway Series is about the battle for the heart and soul of Southern California. It’s about Orange County versus Los Angeles County, Universal Studios versus Disneyland, Santa Monica versus Huntington Beach, LAX versus John Wayne Airport, but most importantly it’s a battle to define tradition.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were originally the Brooklyn Dodgers who had a long standing rivalry with the New York Giants or now the San Francisco Giants. When both teams were imported to California, their rivalry was imported with them so that specific rivalry began in New York not Southern California. When those two teams get together they are simply rekindling something that they started in New York if one thinks about it there is nothing “California” about that rivalry. Throw the Angels into the mix however, in its quite a different breed of animal.
The Angels were founded in 1961 by a group of people interested in bringing an American League team to Southern California. they were a group led by country singer, “the singing cowboy” Gene Autry ; who owned a local Los Angeles radio station of the time. When he was approached by Major League Baseball who was interested in becoming Autry’s broadcast partner. Autry felt better suited to own a major league baseball team rather than just simply be broadcast partners with Major League Baseball, and the Los Angeles Angels were born; playing their first game at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles as a major league team on April 11, 1961.
The name “Angels” was derived from the nickname of the city of Los Angeles “the city of Angels.” Thereby establishing their native roots in Southern California and establishing a tradition that is not that of an imported team or imported reveries.
When the team moved to Anaheim for the 1963 baseball season they change their name to the “California Angels” not only establishing the roads in Los Angeles but expanding the roads 35 miles south by way of the Interstate 5 in Anaheim. California in major league baseball team to call its own. And that’s why I have such an affinity to the team like myself, the Angels regardless of the name they choose at any particular point in time for marketing purposes or otherwise, is a native Californian team. It has no ties or legacy to the East Coast, the team’s tradition was born and built in Southern California, not Brooklyn New York. I do not want to take anything away from the Brooklyn Dodgers, after all every single team in Major League Baseball has ties to the Brooklyn Dodgers by virtue of their retirement of Jackie Robinson’s number 42 in honor of his positive change in all of sports not just baseball.
The Freeway Series, is a very special time of the year for both the Angels and the Dodgers not only is it a battle for the right to claim the Southern California tradition as their own, but is a battle to establish themselves as the marquee team in the Los Angeles area.
Now that I have taken a look back at history just a little bit, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for these two wonderful hated yet respected rivals, will the Dodgers promptly resolve the McCourt saga? I hope the Dodgers are able to attract an owner similar to Arturo Moreno and owner who understands the beauty of baseball, and most importantly respects such a beautiful rivalry as the Freeway series. Perhaps a Mark Cuban? Although I may hate the Dodgers, I have a healthy respect for them and they deserve better. I wish the franchise and their fans all the best.
As far as the future of the Angels, well, it’s the 50th anniversary of the franchise, and after a poor offensive start the bats are starting to warm up; especially Vernon Wells who has been on somewhat of a tear for the last few games. The Angels have spectacular pitching, and they just took two out of three from the Seattle Mariners, two out of three from the New York Mets, two out of three from the Florida Marlins, two out of three from the Dodgers and just swept the Washington Nationals. The battle between Jared Weaver and Clayton Kershaw the respective aces of each team should be an excellent match up on Saturday night. Overall the American League West championship is still a very real possibility for the Angels despite a poor start; the halos are only 1 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers. As of now the golden Halo shines bright.