A Family Tradition – Guest’s Corner

The big tradition for Seniors was to go to Myrtle Beach with your friends, after graduating, for a week. My Dad came home one night and asked if I would be willing to forgo that trip with my friends, if he could take me to Anaheim to watch an Angels game instead.

In Guest’s Corner; long time Angels fan Steve Crute gives an American perspective on being a Halos addict and his efforts to continue a special family tradition.

I grew up in a small town on the Virginia-North Carolina border, so it seemed a little strange that my favourite baseball team was the California Angels instead of the usual Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, or even the dreaded New York Yankees, that everyone else in town supported. How did I get to be an Angels fan? Well, game six of the 1977 World Series is the first game that I remember watching and Reggie Jackson hit those 3 mammoth home runs for those Yankees to beat the evil Los Angeles Dodgers. I became hooked on the sport that night and Reggie became my favourite player. When he signed with the Halos, I became an Angels fan. This meant looking at box scores that were two days old quite often just to see how they did. We didn’t have cable so unless they played on the game of the week or Monday Night Baseball, I was out of luck. I will never forget being in the mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania and my Mom spotted a glorious Angels satin jacket and immediately bought it. I wore it and later a newer one all through High School. I still have both jackets and no, they don’t fit anymore. In the spring of 1988, I was finishing up my Senior Year in High School and looking forward to going off to college in the fall. The Angels had broken my heart in 1982, came up short in 1985, and then crushed my spirit again in 1986, but now they had Wally Joyner so my sports fanhood was going to be okay. The big tradition for Seniors was to go to Myrtle Beach with your friends, after graduating, for a week. My Dad came home one night and asked if I would be willing to forgo that trip with my friends, if he could take me to Anaheim to watch an Angels game instead. I loved my friends (and I still do), but there was never a doubt that I would pass up the beach with them to go see my Angels play. It was rare to see them play on TV so a chance to see them play in Anaheim was just too good to pass up. It also meant flying on an airplane for the first time which would become a “rule” for me when I children of my own. It was just a matter of picking the dates of the trip.

We settled for a week in mid-July around the All Star break. My Dad knew we were going to fly into LAX so he figured we would rent a car there and drive down to Anaheim. As luck would have it, the Los Angeles Dodgers had a home game on that Sunday, before the All Star break. My Dad got two tickets to watch Orel Hershiser facing the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was picture day, so we got to walk on the field at Dodger Stadium and being a good sport, I even wore a Dodgers hat. This was the summer when Hershiser would set the scoreless innings streak, but on that day, the Pirates pummelled the Dodgers by a score of 7 to 2 as Bob Walk outduelled Orel Hershiser. We stayed in Los Angeles overnight and my Dad got his first big surprise of the trip the next morning. He couldn’t rent a car because he didn’t have a credit card. That’s right, he paid cash for the trip. This also explained why it was only the two of us on the trip. It amazed me then as an 18 year old and amazes me more even today. It turned out to be a blessing as we rode in a van or something that shuttled between Los Angeles and Anaheim, and the traffic was awful! While in the area we made sure to take in the sites. We went on a tour of Universal Studios and ventured to Disneyland, but the lines were too long so we ended up leaving after a couple of hours. My Dad took a trip to Tijuana the next day and I walked to the Big A to take a tour. I ended up being the only one, so the tour was probably a lot more detailed and took longer than with a group. I remember getting to see the Los Angeles Rams locker-room (the NFL team that played their games at the stadium still at the time), seeing the doors of the Angels locker-room (not open during homestands), and getting to walk on the dirt areas of the field. The guide let me know that only players were allowed on the grass and I respectfully stayed a few feet away. The highlight was getting to see the heavy punching bag that was hanging in the hallway from the dugout, that the manager had put up. He got tired of the guys beating the walls with their bats. To be fair, their best hits that year were probably on those walls.

The highlight was getting to see the heavy punching bag that was hanging in the hallway from the dugout, that the manager had put up. He got tired of the guys beating the walls with their bats. To be fair, their best hits that year were probably on those walls.

The night of the game came (July 14, 1988) and the Detroit Tigers were in town. They had future Hall of Famer Jack Morris pitching while our Halos sent out Kirk McCaskill to the bump. Our line-up featured greats such as Devon White, Johnny Ray, Wally Joyner, Chili Davis, Brian Downing, Bob Boone, and Dick Schofield. It also featured Jack Howell and Thad Bosley (yeah, not sure who he is either). We took our seats in Row T between home plate and the Angels dugout. I wanted to get a picture of Wally but was too cool to even think about moving closer to get a better picture. Dad informed me that he hadn’t brought me 2000 miles to get a blurry photo from 200 feet away, so I walked to the front row when Wally was on deck and got a good picture. It was an outstanding game that saw Devon White drive in both runs of the game for our Halos as they won 2-0, and both pitchers went the full distance. It only took two hours, but it felt like twenty minutes. Wally Joyner got two hits, so I was thrilled with the experience. The next day we flew out of Orange County and headed home to our little town in Virginia. I was as thrilled with the experience but had zero idea that it was just the start of a family tradition. I’ve often thought of that trip and how much my Dad had to do to plan it, pay for it, and then getting to spend time with him for those few days. He knew it meant a lot to me and still does, and the day when my oldest son, Jacob, was born I mentioned to Pop that I would have to keep that tradition going in a few years. My Mom later told me that hearing that from me meant the world to him. Remember how a random game brought Reggie Jackson to be my favourite player?

Well, it happened to Jacob in a similar manner. By the time he got into baseball, I had the MLB package to watch the Halos play. We were flipping through the options and came across a Arizona Diamondbacks game. The first thing he saw was the swimming pool behind the fence, then the cool logo, and then this crazy haired blonde that played with a reckless abandon became his favourite player. That player is Eric Byrnes, and he was fun to watch, and they do have cool logos so it was easy to root for them. This was a few years after they had won the World Series, so he didn’t even jump on the bandwagon. Little did I know that his choice would lead to such a treasured memory for this old man. I started talking to Jacob about his trip when he was in High School. He seemed way less interested in it than I was, but that was fine. Our tradition was going to happen. He graduated in early summer 2018 and we had set up a plan to go out which would allow us to take in two Diamondbacks games. It would be Jacob’s first time on an airplane. Told you it became a rule! The first game was against the Pittsburgh Pirates (we had watched this match up in PNC Park, a must visit for anyone interested) a few years earlier and then the New York Mets the night before we flew home. We were hoping to watch Zack Greinke pitch, but he was on the Wednesday start and we had already planned to go tour the Phoenix area. This was the only hiccup on the trip for us. We flew into Phoenix, rented a car (yes, I have a credit card), and then headed to the hotel. Immediate reaction was “It is SOOOO HOT here”. We later drove to the game, enjoyed a nice pregame dinner at a sports bar nearby, and headed over to Chase Field. It is a fantastic stadium. We did our usual sightseeing around the park, took a picture above the pool, and found our seats way up high. It wasn’t much of a game as Diamondbacks won 13-8 and to be honest we were tired from flying out earlier that morning. The highlight was seeing Jacob’s picture on the digital board the first time when I tweeted him standing next to their famous red seat. By the 6th inning, we joked that no one else had sent in pictures as he was displayed each inning.

I’ve often thought of that trip and how much my Dad had to do to plan it, pay for it, and then getting to spend time with him for those few days. He knew it meant a lot to me and still does, and the day when my oldest son, Jacob, was born I mentioned to Pop that I would have to keep that tradition going in a few years.

The next day we went sightseeing which included touring the stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play American football. Jacob was particularly excited when the guide at the Cardinals Stadium informed us, we were in the same locker-room as the New York Giants (Jacob’s favourite team) when they defeated the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. We enjoyed lunch at Whataburger and then drove to Tempe Diablo Stadium (Angels spring training site) to look inside. A nice worker saw us and opened the gate so we could walk around the park. I joked that if we had balls and a bat, we could probably have taken BP. We took a day trip to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on Thursday. Pictures do not do this place justice. It is amazing and our guide, Smokey, was nice enough to take a picture of us looking out towards the Canyon. This is a favourite of mine. Jacob’s favourite is the one where he pretended to be hanging on the side of the edge and sending that picture to his Mom back home. She didn’t like it as much as he did though. The drive back to Phoenix was peaceful as we were the only ones on the bus and the driver was nice enough to stop at an In-n-Out burger place after we mentioned we had never eaten at one. It was everything we had heard it would be and made a great day even better.

We spent most of our last day resting as we were exhausted. That night we went to the game versus the Mets. When we walked up to the ticket booth I asked where he wanted to sit, he threw out the normal “cheap seats”, but he got a big grin when I asked if it would be better to sit closer to the field. We sat down field level along the leftfield side and enjoyed a good game as his Diamondbacks would win 7- 3. His new favourite on the team, Goldschmidt, blasted a long home run in the first inning. We spent the part of the game walking around the concourse taking pictures with the oversized Diamondbacks legends as well as visiting all the areas we missed the first game. My favourite part of the game was visiting their Hall of Fame or display room and getting Jacob’s picture while he mimicked the look on Byrnes’ face in the picture beside him. There was nothing about either trip that I would change, the trip to Anaheim as a wide eyed 18 year old that grew to appreciate it more as the years went by, or as the much older Dad that had to make his son walk near the field to get a better picture before the game. I will admit that the most fun I had was when Jacob and I got to tell Dad all about our trip. They started talking the two different trips and laughing about dumb things I did on each. We lost Dad a few months later but I got to talk with him several times in his last days and I made sure to thank him again for starting our tradition. He wanted to know where my youngest son would want to go as they shared a love of the Atlanta Braves. Dad agreed it should be somewhere out west, but that it would be okay if the Braves were the opponent. I am looking forward to continuing the tradition in 2023 when Jackson chooses his stadium to visit. It doesn’t matter where just as long as I’m along for the trip.

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.

Published by Steve Crute

Angels fan, VA native, Reggie Jackson fan.

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