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.

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