Ted ‘Big Klu’ Kluszewski

The left handed first baseman of Polish-American ancestry arrived in Los Angeles at the tail end of a career that had sparkled with regular National League All Star appearances.

Angels Over the Pond founder, Editor and features writer, Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

Angels fans who are not familiar with the name can be forgiven for forgetting him, having played just one injury ridden season for the Halos, the man famous for his short sleeves and big arms is hardly an iconic Angels player. But that one season just happens to be the inaugural 1961 season, and ‘Big Klu’ will forever have his named etched into the annals of Halos history, being responsible for the organisation’s first hit. Kids of the era were said to struggle not just with spelling Kluszewski but also pronouncing it, and whilst some quarters found his short sleeves to be something of a vanity issue, the sight of his well developed arms makes the adopted moniker quite suitable.

Having cemented his place in Cincinnati Reds folklore, the left handed first baseman of Polish-American ancestry arrived in Los Angeles at the tail end of a career that had sparkled with regular National League All Star appearances. In the 1955 season Kluszewski hit 47 homers, striking out 40 times, an incredible feat as demonstrated by the fact that no player has hit 40 homers and struck out 40 or fewer times in one season since, though Barry Bonds came close in 2004. His superhuman strength was widely appreciated whilst at the peak of his powers and he hit .300 seven times while on the Reds roster, whilst also leading the National League first baseman in fielding percentage for five straight years.

Battling cleanup, Kluszewski belted over right field off Milt Pappas in the first innings, in the process becoming the first Angels to hit a home run and simultaneously the first player to hit a two run home run.

In 1958 Kluszewski was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, then again to the Chicago White Sox in 1959. As a native of Chicago the trade offered Kluszewski the chance to be a home town hero, as the White Sox faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. But ultimately, despite him hitting two homers and driving in five in an 11-0 demolition of the Dodgers, the White Sox fell short of the big time. Whilst with the White Sox, in 1959, the organisation pioneered the addition of player names on jerseys, leading to a comical array of mis-spelled jerseys for Kluszewski. As the first ever expansion draft of 1960 approached, Kluszewski’s contract was left unprotected and the Angels, taking note of his 1959 World Series performance, where he hit .391 with 3 HR and 10 RBI, selected him in the draft, despite his clear back injury issues.

On the 11th of April 1961 the Angels faced the Baltimore Orioles on Opening Day. Batting cleanup, Kluszewski belted over right field off Milt Pappas in the first innings, in the process becoming the first Angels to hit a home run and simultaneously the first player to hit a two run home run. In the second innings, now facing reliever John Papa, he repeated the feat, but this time becoming the first Angels player to hit a three run home run. The name that kids, and kit men, had struggled to get right his entire career was entered forever into Halos history. Tragically Big Klu passed away at just 63 years of age, in 1988. Ten years later the Reds retired his jersey number in honour of his service and achievements.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

The Fallen Angel, Eli Grba

Gene Autry, keen to add proven talent and well known prospects to his new franchise, took the recommendation of Yankees manager Casey Stengel. Grba fit the mould perfectly, becoming the Angels’ first choice in the draft.

Angels Over the Pond founder, Editor and features writer, Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

Eli Grba isn’t exactly a name that slips off of the tongue but it is a name that forever will be remembered by Angels fans, as an answer to a trivia question, something which Grba himself found a great amusement. Not only was he the first Angels player selected in the very first expansion draft, prior to the inaugural Halos season in the American League, but on the 11th of April 1961 he also threw the first pitch for the Angels. In winning that Opening Day game, versus the Baltimore Orioles, Grba secured another first, then added another as he was also named in the starting line up of the first Angels home game. On many counts Grba will be forever remembered as the ‘original Angel’ and by his own admittance the ‘fallen Angel’.

As the 1960 season drew to an end and with the New York Yankees chasing down the Orioles to the American League title, Grba found himself named in the Yankees World Series roster and appeared be set for a breakthrough. It was something of a surprise then that the Yankees chose not to protect their young pitcher in the upcoming draft. Gene Autry, keen to add proven talent and well known prospects to his new franchise, took the recommendation of Yankees manager Casey Stengel. Grba fit the mould perfectly, becoming the Angels’ first choice in the draft. Halos manager, Bill Rigney, appeared to be getting the best out of his starlet, and the 1961 inaugural season ended with Grba throwing eight complete games, including the Opening Day win over the Orioles.

Grba was apoplectic, asking at the time; “how a guy can be good enough to pitch the opening game two years in a row and then isn’t even good enough to pitch in the bullpen?”

The journey to the major leagues had not been easy for the bespeckled pitcher, having had his progress halted by military service in 1957 and 1958, and his fresh start with the Angels should have been the launching point of a steady career. The 1961 season saw Grba go 11-13 with the Angels in 40 games, starting 30 and ended with a 4.25 ERA, his best season in the majors. On the field there were perhaps hints that not all was well with him, a public feud with future Hall of Famer and former Yankees teammate, Micky Mantle, made him the talk of the town. Pitching for the first time in an Angels uniform at Yankee Stadium, Grba screamed abuse at Mantle as he rounded the bases, from his mound. It was no surprise that he had not been keen to join the Yankees when traded away by the Chicago Red Sox, so no love was lost.

Despite being named starting pitcher in the Angels Opening Day rosters for both 1961 and 1962 Grba was proving to be inconsistent with form and was used increasingly as a reliever, until 1963, when he was sent down to the minor leagues. Grba was apoplectic, asking at the time; “how a guy can be good enough to pitch the opening game two years in a row and then isn’t even good enough to pitch in the bullpen?” Alcoholism was gripping Grba by 1963 and it never allowed him to recover to the major leagues, despite numerous attempts, including one with his beloved Chicago White Sox. His life became that of a journeyman ball player, who enhanced his earnings by doing odd jobs. Following a drunken fall, in 1981, Grba finally found the spark to get sober and stay sober, and eventually a route back into baseball as a profession.

In his later career a sober Grba held down a number of roles, including in the Philadelphia Phillies’ wider system, thanks to 1961 Angels teammate, Lee Thomas, then the Phillies’ general manager. He also spent time as pitching coach with the Vancouver Canadians [his Canadians baseball cards were something of a must have for me, with my family ties to Vancouver], of the Milwaukee Brewers organisation. Grba always took great pride in his status as an Angel and of his place in the franchise history, but his proudest moment was arguably his return to Angel Stadium in 2011, when threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the season in celebration of the Angels’ 50th anniversary. On this 60th anniversary of that first season we as Angels fans once again remember Grba, the man who had to lose it all to find it all. In 2016 he wrote about his battle for sobriety and baseball in his book “Baseball’s Fallen Angel,” a must read for Angels fans in the UK and Ireland. Grba passed away in January 2019, at the ripe old age of 84.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Leon Wagner, the First Angels Slugger

On one occasion, whilst on the road, he was reportedly warned by a gun carrying opposition supporter not to catch the next ball hit in his direction. Out of understandable fear for his life he intentionally dropped that next catching opportunity.

Angels Over the Pond founder, Editor and features writer, Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

In honour of black history month (incidentally celebrated in February in the United States, but not until October in the United Kingdom and many parts of Europe) it is quite understandable for people to remember and celebrate the superstars of baseball, such as Jackie Robinson. But it is equally important that we look back to players less well remembered, to give a nod to their legacy and achievements too. Way back in 1961 the newly established Angels put together a roster that included few non-white faces, amongst them was a left fielder known lovingly as ‘Daddy Wags’.

Leon Wagner was born in 1934 in Chattanooga, Tennessee and served with the U.S. Army at Fort Carson, Colorado, before going on to break into the big leagues, in 1958, with the San Fransisco Giants. To say his playing style was, let’s say interesting, would be an understatement and it is from his below waist level movements and gesticulations that his nickname was derived, given by the press. But Wagner had another moniker that belies a much more important attribute, that of his family heritage. Wagner was not solely African-American, but also half Native American, and this provided him with the pronounced cheek bones that brought the affectionate ‘Cheeky’ nickname. Sadly racism was an ever present ire for Wagner, despite his talent and being well regarded by the media and most fans. On one occasion, whilst on the road, he was reportedly warned by a gun carrying opposition supporter not to catch the next ball hit in his direction. Out of understandable fear for his life he intentionally dropped that next catching opportunity.

Across the board Wagner posted career highs and appeared in both of the All Star games for the season, going on to be the voted the most valuable player in the second All Star game, the first American League player to receive the All Star Game Most Valuable Player Award.

Wagner arrived at the Angels after the start of the season, from the St. Louis Cardinals, with the Halos trading away Lou Johnson. It was a genius move that provided him with the opportunity to finally establish himself as a regular, and he certainly made the most of it, playing in 133 games and finishing the season at .280, with 28 home runs, and a .517 slugging percentage. In the 1962 season he batted .268 and amassed an amazing 37 home runs, the third highest in the American League. Across the board Wagner posted career highs and appeared in both of the All Star games for the season, going on to be the voted the most valuable player in the second All Star game, the first American League player to receive the All Star Game Most Valuable Player Award. When it came around to the most valuable player voting, that autumn, he finished behind only Mickey Mantle, Bobby Richardson and Harmon Killebrew. In truth the slugging ability masked that Wagner was also very error prone defensively, otherwise he would almost certainly have been a household name to this day.

The Angels fans had found their first slugger. Sadly for Wagner and to the bewilderment of many Halos fans, the 1963 season saw him traded to the Cleveland Indians, a move which devastated him. He loved the Angels and had found a settled way of life, living in a community he enjoyed being part of, and was notably unsettled by the move. Wagner ended his Angels career with 91 home runs, with 276 RBI in 442 games and a .490 slugging percentage, one of multiple records that are still top ten Angels records. He went on to play for the Indians until 1968, continuing to hit a good numbers of homers each season. Ending his career as a respected pinch hitter. Following his retirement from baseball he went on to enjoy a spell as an actor, including alongside Hollywood legend James Earl Jones in The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars, which portrayed life, somewhat contentiously, in the Negro Leagues. During his career he also was a somewhat successful businessman for a while, playing on his likeable persona to operate a clothing store using the angle; ‘Get your glad rags from Daddy Wags’. Wagner passed away in 2004, aged just 69, in tragic and avoidable circumstances. We remember the first Angels slugger, a man who many friends and Angels team mates believe never recovered from a broken heart.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, your view on anything Angels or would like to write for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Don Sutton Remembered

On a personal note; Sutton’s years with the Angels happen to have coincided with the period of time I fell in love with the Halos and his acquisition coincided with a successful run to the top of 1986 American League West standings.

Angels Over the Pond founder, Editor and features writer, Matt Thomas, writes a View Over the Pond.

Last week the baseball world lost another Hall of Famer, before their time. Don Sutton was revered by the baseball world for his prowess and skill on the field, and his reputation as a broadcaster off it. On a personal note; Sutton’s years with the Angels happen to have coincided with the period of time I fell in love with the Halos and his acquisition coincided with a successful run to the top of 1986 American League West standings. That very same season Sutton reached the immense milestone of 300 career wins, joining a special group of select baseball players to do so. Today he sits notably tied with Angels legend Nolan Ryan at 14th on the all time wins list.

Having firmly established himself as a Los Angeles Dodgers living legend, with many years in the famous blue and white uniform, Sutton had found himself traded to the Oakland A’s (via brief stops with the Houston Astros then Milwaukee Brewers) but longed to return Southern California, to be closer to his family. The Halos offered him an escape and in his first full season, 1986, Sutton finished with a 3.74 ERA, playing an integral part in the Angels reaching the postseason for the first time since 1982, with the team sadly missing out on a trip to the World Series, to the Boston Red Sox.

Sutton will always be a Dodgers hero, but I for one am an Angels fan who looks back on a childhood where players like Sutton made the MLB stand out for all the right reasons.

At 41 years old in that 1986 season, to me as a child, Sutton looked really old, which makes it all the more remarkable that he posted stats that players years his junior would have been happy with, though I was too young to appreciate such things really, at the time. Passing away last week at just 75 years old, to me as an adult, seems no age. Quite frankly, I wish I had the energy to play a ball game in the local park every weekend, at a similar age to Sutton was when he was still performing at a very high level, game after game.

Sutton was the epitome of endurance; in his fifteen year initial stint with the Dodgers he averaged 249 innings per season. That staying power meant that by the time Sutton retired from his second stint with the Dodgers he had secured and amazing 3,574 strikeouts, seventh on the all-time list. If such a glittering and enduring career on the mound was not enough evidence of his staying power, Sutton went on to become an Atlanta Braves broadcasting legend, giving 26 years of service to them with the microphone. Sutton will always be a Dodgers hero, but I for one am an Angels fan who looks back on a childhood where players like Sutton made the MLB stand out for all the right reasons.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Mota’s Magical Memories – Guest’s Corner

One of the best memories for me in the playoffs was having my dad in the booth as a fan, cheering the Angels on, and to see how happy he was for Mike Scioscia.

In Guest’s Corner; Angels, Fox West and MLB Network broadcasting guru, José Mota, provides insight into his career, talks former Angels Hall of Fame hopefuls and gives tips to UK and Irish baseball players.

After starting my broadcast career for Fox Sports in 1997, I was thrilled when the Angels gave me the opportunity to become a Major League broadcaster in 2002. Regardless of my strong ties to the Dodgers, for which I am totally thankful, my ultimate goal was to become a broadcaster for a franchise, bottom line. I actually got my first ever chance to broadcast for a big league team with the Dodgers, as I sat in to replace a great mentor, Hall of Famer, Jaime Jarrin, on Dodgers Spanish radio. Jaime and his beautiful family took a long-awaited vacation one season and he and the team called me in to work with his great partner back then, Pepe Yñiguez. But the Angels truly opened a door that I feel so blessed to have walked into, considering the many platforms I’ve been exposed to, and they’ve given me the opportunity to broadcast to the Latinos and to the English-speaking fans. I absolutely love the Angels fan base, as they have welcomed me into their homes now for 19 years. You rock!

My dad [baseball legend Manny Mota] has always been very proud of how good the Dodgers teams were that he was an integral part of, and very thankful for the opportunities to be part of World Series winners; he knew what it took to build and to prepare a champion. As for me… Talk about timing… I was fortunate and blessed enough to join the Angels in Spanish radio to enjoy the magical ride in 2002; what a season! Along with myself, also joining were Terry Smith and Rory Markas (RIP) as the new English-radio team. It was so wonderful to join Iván Lara, my new broadcast partner, such a great organization and a wonderful team. I felt right at home immediately after being hired by the Disney group, as I had been friends with Tim Mead (then the VP Communications, current president of the Baseball HOF) one of the best ambassadors this game has ever had, and a team that was managed by another old friend in Mike Scioscia. I met Mike when I was 15, when he played Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic for Licey. Along with him, many of the team’s coaches I had also met as a youngster. My father was very influential in me understanding the ups and downs of a long, winding MLB season, as as he always says “don’t get too high or don’t get too low” as you ride the wave. He saw the talent of that team and he was very optimistic that with Scioscia, Bill Stoneman as the GM, the coaches, and the hunger, that the team was going to be capable of doing great things… and he was right. One of the best memories for me in the playoffs was having my dad in the booth as a fan, cheering the Angels on, and to see how happy he was for Mike Scioscia.

Believe in the dream and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing what you love and believe in. There is no substitute for diligent work, for applying yourself, for having a drive to succeed, and for the discipline needed to get there.

Talking of great teams and players from the Angel’s past, it would mean the world and more for a country like Venezuela to see another great player represent them in Cooperstown. For the beautiful people from that beloved Latin corner, I will hold on to the hope that Bobby Abreu will get votes to escalate in the near future. In a fair world, there’s no doubt he’d be in the Hall of Fame. Bobby was a dynamic player, with multiple tools, which he knew how to utilize to make himself a force to help his team accomplish success on the field. Plus Bobby has always been a first-class citizen and truly deserves it! Similarly, Torii Hunter, a great friend, as is Bobby, the numbers, longevity, leadership are all there to make it to Cooperstown. The question becomes which players he comes closer to in terms of comparisons. I’d love to see them both get in, as they are outstanding fellas, humble, and giving. Both have helped me become a better broadcaster.

If I could give any advice to young UK and Irish baseball players, and players across the Commonwealth who represent the Great Britain team and their nations, is to believe in the dream and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing what you love and believe in. There is no substitute for diligent work, for applying yourself, for having a drive to succeed, and for the discipline needed to get there. Practice, practice, and practice more. Use tools like social media, the internet, YouTube, and specialized platforms that can teach you the game from the basic fundamentals. Watch the great players, watch the average players and know that there’s something to be learned from those that play or have played at the highest level. Be patient as your skills develop, and know that in baseball there’s a lot of failure, which will eventually serve the young player to build perseverance and to always find ways to improve. Think LIMITLESS. 

If you would like to take over Guest’s Corner, with a contribution for our UK readers and fan club members to enjoy, please get in touch.

A Recent Convert

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no super fan, while he lives for the long nights I tend to fall asleep listening to the game for a bit, then ask him who won when I wake up, unless it is a really important game.

Angels Over the Pond features writer, Stacy Siviter, writes a View Over the Pond.

Hands up, I am a recent convert to baseball, having really fallen down the rabbit hole in the past year or so. I think it is important to clarify from the start that I love many sports, having previously been a regular on weekends at Belle Vue, the home of the Wakefield Trinity rugby league club. Over the years we’ve been really lucky to travel all over the globe, enjoying attending major sporting events such as the Olympic Games, World Cup rugby and so on. Living with a partner who loves sport and who has been immersed in it both as a fan and a participant (at international level no less) means that sooner or later I ended up supporting teams that my partner does, in this case the Angels. But with baseball it has been a slow process, with my interest gradually getting stronger over the years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no super fan, while he lives for the long nights I tend to fall asleep listening to the game for a bit, then ask who won when I wake up, unless it is a really important game, obviously. And i have found that recently I seem to be convincing myself that more and more games are important enough to miss sleep for, this is normal, right? I will admit right now I am always reluctant to head over to Anaheim whenever he brings conversation of our holidays around to attending a game, I’d much rather be laid on a beach somewhere, with a bit of peace and quiet. But slowly and surely I have learned who the players are, I even have a favourite, Albert Pujols. Whilst I am not huge on the statistics myself, I much prefer the occasion of the games rather than the statistics of the fixtures, I really can’t help but admire how baseball has so many female fans who are stats mad.

Whilst I am not huge on the statistics myself, I much prefer the occasion of the games rather than the statistics of the fixtures, I really can’t help but admire how baseball has so many female fans who are stats mad.

Over time I have found myself building up a wardrobe full of Angels jerseys, clothing and my beloved Angels college jacket, though i do try to get jerseys with Pujol’s name and number where I can. I know that some fans are really counting down the days until his contract ends, but I will be really quite sad to see him leave, and I am glad I have gotten to experience seeing such a brilliant talent in an Angels uniform. And talking of uniform, I do wish the Angels would revert back to blue and white, the red uniforms just don’t do it for me. I know what you’re thinking reading this, typical woman!

My other half is also a baseball card collector, this is a hobby I indulge him in and if I intercept the mail I will demand to open the packs, for me that is the best bit. Looking for Angels cards together has helped me to get to know players from the past and present and it reminds me of collecting football (soccer) stickers as a girl. I apologise to women everywhere for not offering technical information, statistics or other assorted hardcore facts as part of my ramblings on how I became a Halos fan, I know I am doing a lot of very dedicated ball fans a disservice here. With that in mind I will give a huge shout out to the girls of the ‘Birds With Balls’ podcast here, flying the flag for female baseball fanatics on our side of the pond. Give it a listen.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Perhaps It Was Fate

I was thrilled that my first game at Angel Stadium coincided with Justin Upton hitting his first homer as an Angel (and the 250th of his career).

Angels Over the Pond features writer, Tomas West, writes a View Over the Pond.

I am one of a younger generation of sports fans who benefit from 24/7 coverage of virtually any sport we choose to follow, with access via television, the internet, our phones etc at the drop of a hat. I also am lucky that (until this pandemic) travel has never been easier or cheaper, and it is through this that I became an Angels fan. In 2017 myself and my family went on holiday to California and on one of our stops we made a base for ourselves in Anaheim, about 10 minutes from the Big A. I have always been a big fan of all sports anyway, so I was looking at local sports teams to get my fix of it whilst I was over in the United States and discovered the Angels were the local Anaheim ball team, the rest is history.

I looked up the Angels game schedule and they happened to be playing at Angel Stadium whilst we were in Anaheim, my family knew that I’d always wanted to see a ball game so it was pretty easy to convince them to add a trip to the stadium to our itinerary. That first ball game I ever saw, luckily for us, was a visit by the Houston Astros, in game the Angels powered to an emphatic 9-1 win. I witnessed the best player in world baseball, Mike Trout, smash a double and Tyler Skaggs stewarding home the game with amazing efficiency. I consider myself very lucky to see Skaggs in person, at his best, before we tragically lost him in 2019. When we came back home to the United Kingdom I started watching the Angels on television whenever I could and by the time we went again to California the following year I was a committed Angels fan and had engrossed myself in nearly every game that season.

I consider myself very lucky to see Skaggs in person, at his best, before we tragically lost him in 2019.

Whilst Trout is an obvious favourite player of mine I was thrilled that my first game at Angel Stadium coincided with Justin Upton hitting his first homer as an Angel (and the 250th of his career), seizing on Tyler Clippard’s fastball over the middle of the plate. I think that, in some respects, Trout is so good that when fans get to see such a once in a generation player on their team, week in week out, they can become a bit blinded by the talent of the players around them at times and forget how lucky we are to have the likes of Shohei Ohtani, David Fletcher and Albert Pujols, even if the team has failed to live up to our very high expectations that these superstars of baseball bring to us, as fans.

By a quirk of fate, the Angel’s World Series win in 2002 happens to be the year I was born, perhaps it was fate that led me to Anaheim and that first ever game in 2017. I will never forget the buzz of that first time at Angel Stadium, seeing how proud the locals were of their team. I honestly believe that in the upcoming 2021 season we could be a competitive team, we have a good offense, but that’s never been the problem, we desperately need a quality Starting Pitcher. Whilst we have made what feel to me to be a couple of good bullpen signings we need an out and out star in that rotation. Andrew Heaney is solid, Griffin Canning has been solid, but adding a Trevor Bauer in to that rotation and hopefully getting Ohtani back to full fitness our pitching will be much improved.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Angel Stadium, No Place Like It

The first game I attended… What a feeling, it was incredible! Everyone came together… It felt like one big family in Angel Stadium. There’s no place like it.

Angels Over the Pond features writer, John Hawkins, writes a View Over the Pond.

I grew up in a sport oriented family. My grandfather was a footballer (soccer for our American friends) and my father is an all round sportsman who happens to be a massive New York Yankees fan. Growing up in a sports mad house was always bound to affect me in some way, I was either going to grow up loving or hating sport and it occupied most of our television viewing time. Luckily for me I grew up loving sports. Funnily enough most people would think I would support the Boston Red Sox, just to have some friendly inter-house rivalry with my dad. But no, not me, I chose the Angels!

For British and Irish readers who are relatively new to baseball; the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry is one of the oldest and fiercest in all of American sports, dating back to a first encounter 1901. It became a National sensation, in 1919, when Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold the contract of pitcher Carl Mays to the Yankees, to much surprise. What really made matters the talk of newspapers around the world though, and a genuine worldwide story, was that Frazee then followed up by selling the contract of Babe Ruth to the Yankees, also in 1919. The exact details of why Frazee sold arguably the greatest asset in baseball to the Yankees is still a mystery, though speculation has always existed that he did so to fund his stage productions.

Anyway, our little detour into that famous rivalry aside, we travel to the United States of America every other year or so, mostly to the west coast, meaning we can take in Angels games quite regularly (for UK based fans we don’t do bad anyway). The very first baseball game I attended, in person, was the Red Sox at the Angels and what an evening that was! Yes, we lost, but I did witness Torii Hunter hit a dime up centre field and over for a home run. Again, for the benefit of our newer fans, Torii Hunter was on the Angels roster from 2008 to 2012, the 2009 season we witnessed him for the first time he finished up batting .299 with 22 homers and 90 RBIs, winning a Gold Glove award and a Silver Slugger Award. That first game, wow. What a feeling, it was incredible! Everyone came together, cheering, laughing, it felt like one big family in Angel Stadium. There’s no place like it.

My father happens to be a massive New York Yankees fan… Most people would think I would support the Boston Red Sox, just to have some friendly inter-house rivalry with my dad. But no, not me, I chose the Angels!

For the upcoming 2021 season I believe the only thing the Angels are missing is that starting pitcher, but not any old SP, we need Trevor Bauer. He’s motivational, which in my opinion is what the likes of Dylan Bundy and Co. need. Bundy is solid, but I think having Bauer on the team will push the players around him towards the play offs and perhaps even the World Series. We have the talent, though the roster is clearly littered with gaps currently, we have the capability of being incredible with the right additions. I genuinely believe we have a World Series winning team if we add Bauer and build around him, finances permitting. Recent converts to baseball reading this who are more aquatinted with Bauer’s baggage, may think “motivational” is the wrong word, and they can be forgiven for questioning my logic, but undoubtedly Bauer is a free agent who brings quality production, regardless who how many times his rivals call his Cy Young Award a Mickey Mouse Award, he puts up numbers the Angels need.

On a personal note; I hope everyone has a better year than 2020, and more fellow baseball fans from the UK and Ireland are allowed to make trips over to watch games live, there really is nothing better. But please allow me to be a little bit selfish here and say that I hope my fellow Angels fans have the best 2021. Let’s keep pushing our love of our Angels over our side of the pond, keep spreading the word and growing our identity over here. I may be being optimistic that we can make the World Series this year and you will think I am just dreaming now but I think the Angels will bring home the World Series this year. Ok, that last bit may be a bit too optimistic…

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

How I Became A Halos Addict

My dad took us to hire a film… I don’t recall who picked The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! But there’s Reggie Jackson, in Angels uniform; “I must kill the Queen!”

Angels Over the Pond founder, Editor and features writer, Matt Thomas, writes a View Over the Pond.

In all honesty I don’t really recall my first Angels memory, but I feel it is important to set the scene for the time and happenstance of how they came into my life. My family is a forces family, an uncle of mine had been on a destroyer in the Falklands a few years prior and that was difficult for the family, but we were also a coal mining family. My dad was one of many miners who had gone over a year out on strike, only to suffer the closure of the colliery and the loss of industry small villages like my own relied on to survive. My childhood is full of happy memories, punctuated with a level of hopelessness I cannot begin to describe. My village was home to two particularly militant collieries (mines) and the sight of police on horseback charging through gardens is a particularly vivid image, as is the witnessing of thousands of men, women and children marching solemnly to our local church to bury a coal miner from our colliery who had tragically lost his life on the picket.

This era also coincided with a particularly strong push to bring American sports into our homes, with Channel 4 (we only had four terrestrial channels) filling our living rooms with the exotic world of the MLB, NFL, etc. Now, I’m not sure quite how this happened, but I have a theory that the US based manufacturers of cards realised they had warehouses full of old stock that they couldn’t shift, and a captive audience of millions of Brits who were tuning in to American sports, free of charge, weekly. I could be wrong but, regardless, our local shops suddenly had boxes and boxes of sports cards, cheap! Not only that but Leaf, for example, brought us mini helmets and jerseys to collect, Kellogg’s gave us free cards in our cereal boxes and I, for one, was hooked. After all, I was an easy convert, being a serious addict to the football (soccer) sticker album craze and having a rather impressive collection of Top Trumps cards, it was natural progression.

But then Topps went that extra step and brought us our very own baseball set to collect, the 1988 Topps American Baseball set (via Topps Ireland, manufactured in West Germany). Wow! And for just 12p per pack! The skeptic in me as an adult makes me think the decision to make them the same size as our native football cards and stickers was a deliberate ploy by Topps to hook us, and it worked. Now, I had no real idea how good Bob Boone, Wally Joyner or Mike Witt really were, how could I have chosen the Angels based on the players in the set? But the name California Angels struck a chord, through the North American arm of my family I had a love of Westerns from an early age, so I was familiar with Gene Autry. And I adored bands like the Eagles, Poco and the like too, it was escapism for me I guess. As I got to know more of the players from the television coverage, and picking up the unwanted Junk Wax era stock (I firmly believe) was being dumped in bulk in the UK I gradually grew in my appreciation for the players of the decade and found myself quite secretly building up a healthy collection of cards produced from the 1980 season and onwards.

I maintain to this day that I never chose to be an Angels fan, the Angels somehow chose me.

At school we played softball I often pretended to myself to be Reggie Jackson, George Brett or Rickey Henderson as I blasted the ball across the school field, and this brings back an amusing memory… One fateful day a ball was thrown home from the outfield at a height that must not have been far from reaching orbit. Being an unusually sunny British day I lost the ball in the glare, it had picked up such a ferocious velocity that it crashed down into my eye socket, smashing the bone and giving me a huge black eye. Anyway, I digress… By the time Topps released the 1988 American Baseball set onto the UK market, baseball had a pretty strong following in the UK and I had built up enough local friends that we could play ball fairly regularly on a little compound (empty lot) behind my family home, so I asked my parents for a baseball bat, a red Louisville Slugger, with an Angels logo on it and a natural wood grip. One of my biggest regrets was losing that bat, I have never seen another like it again.

Then one evening my dad took us to Blockbuster (or was it still Ritz?) to hire a film on VHS, I don’t recall who picked The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! but one of myself or my brothers did… and I guess you know where this is going? But there’s Reggie Jackson, in Angels uniform; “I must kill the Queen!” Haha! It is fair to say by this point I was a Halos Addict, though I maintain to this day that I never chose to be an Angels fan, the Angels somehow chose me. Through the 1990’s the UK’s fascination with American sports continued, coverage of MLB passed to the much better product presented by Channel 5 (a new terrestrial channel) and kids went wild for collecting the tokens on Pop Tart boxes to send off for a real MLB baseball cap, I naturally wanted the Angels cap. As I went to college, started work and celebrated a World Series win, my card collection grew and grew and suddenly these days I find myself as a bit of an old hand, amongst these thousands of MLB fans in the UK. I hope that they appreciate how much easier it is for them to engross themselves in their love of the sport than it was for my generation, with the UK having excellent access to all live games via BT Sport (ESPN) and MLB TV.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.