50th Anniversary Cultural Icon of Angels Stadium in Anaheim
Walking down Katella Avenue in Anaheim, California on April 22nd of 2011 brings many signs of jubilation. The National Hockey League Playoffs bring the Anaheim Ducks home to a capacity crowd facing the Nashville Predators, Disneyland fireworks are being prepared down the road, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are celebrating fifty years of Major League Baseball. On occasion that falls only one matchup per year in Anaheim, the Boston Red Sox are in town and Angels Stadium is a sold out symbol of sports entertainment’s significance to Orange County of California. LA Dodger fans despise it, Lakers fans ignore it, and 40,000 plus fans enjoy it nightly. While the over saturated media reviewers are often jaded, Angel Stadium has been voted the number one value in sports two years in a row in 2008-2009 by ESPN (ESPN Magazine) and the fans show their appreciation for the commitment of management to putting a great product annually on the field including this 50th anniversary celebration representing the opportunities and fortune of the best athletes in the world.
Bernie Qilson recently published a scientific research composition of several professional sports arenas to judge amplitude of sound made by the crowd and the enrgy levels of live sports complexes. “The home stadium of the Angels is among the best supported in baseball” (12). Wilson wrote that ear piercing screams and collective applause created enough heat to cook a cup of coffee scientifically. This academic source was one of the unusually recommendations that pushed me to purchase a ticket for Angel Stadium. I chose this location for my fieldwork to figure out if the hype of major media and even the scientific academy would stack up.
The first thing I did was observe the physical landscape. According to Curt Smith’s 2001 assessment Angel Stadium was constructed in 1964 and opened in 1966 by Populous Engineering for $24 million to accommodate 43,000 fans (Smith). The field dimensions are listed in the program as 330 feet from home plate to left field, 400 feet to center, and 330 feet to right. Every ballpark has unique dimensions and Angel Stadium is known for being a neutral park to hitters and pitchers. The stadium receives less attention than Boston’s and many other cities because of the noted east coast bias of the sports media which operates on Eastern Time and often is unable to report the late game heroics of west coast baseball clubs (Bauman). I took note of this over several nights of sports reports in local Los Angeles television coverage versus national ESPN broadcasts.
Radio host and former ballplayer Rex Hudler gained publicity weeks earlier for stating that while Anaheim is a great place to play baseball it did not compare to the history and legacy of east coast baseball clubs like Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park in Boston. The attendance figures have been solid in Anaheim dropping only about 200 fans per game since the economic collapse that has witnessed cities like Cleveland with fifty percent attendance drops due to the down economy (Keating).
I watched a video montage of great Angel Stadium moments on Fox Sports West’s website. From Major League Baseball Champions in 2004, the native season in 1964 with San Mateo short stop Jim Fregosi, to many half of fame players walking out on the field there have been great sports moments in Angel History that have made Angel Stadium an historic place to take in America’s pastime. All this for only an average ticket price of $20.05 (ESPN). They also offer 75 giveaway promotions in their 81 home games and offer a glimpse into the American Dream of ultimate success in professional baseball.
The east coast bias does manage to cover the visible aspects that make Angel Stadium a national landmark. The ballpark is noted for its “Big A” in the eastern side parking lot that is visible from the nearby 57 freeway that runs north and south through Orange County and stands 230 feet tall. A rock shaped waterfall also forms the same letter in the left center outfield. To better understand the importance of the stadium and atmosphere I parked outside the ballpark and walked in to attend a ballgame on April 22nd. The visiting “Red Sox Nation” was in town, according to MLB writer Jesse Sanchez. Boston had won all three games played at Angel Stadium in 2010 (Sanchez).
As I approached the home plate will call office the sound of amplification reached my ears identifying the Angels Radio AM 830 broadcast prior to the beginning of the game. I got the unique opportunity to speak with Angel Talk post game host Jason Brennan before the game seen on the left.
Jason said he has only been with the franchise for two years but he has always been aware of the significance of the team and Angel Stadium. “Even when this stadium housed the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL between about 1980 and 1994, this place has been filled with some of the most passionate fans and greatest sporting moments of all time”. Jason said he felt proud to be part of such a tremendous tradition under owner Arte Moreno and his care for the stadium and the fans.
One of the media presentations was broadcast on My13 television which is run by Fox 11. Fox airs occasional games on local broadcast television. The pre-game event announced that the day’s game against Boston would be the biggest test the Angels had faced so far in 2011. This additional hype and media attention made the atmosphere even more electric for the finite moment of baseball lasting through Friday evening. I was growing more excited as I picked up my tickets and walked around the stadium before entering and noticed some remaining fanfare from the 2010 All-Star game hosted in Anaheim.
On the North side of Angel Stadium there is a Metrolink station serving Orange County which links San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, and San Diego (Metrolink). There is also a concert center known as The Grove which was not talked about in any of the media I viewed about the stadium which seemed to further enrich the entertainment attractions around the stadium. The stadium has been reinvented several times through ownership changes and upgrades to keep the fourth oldest active stadium among the best looking in baseball (Keaton). The grounds felt historic.
Finally I entered the turn styles and was greeted by the ushers near my seats. I was not surprised to pass expensive concessions stands along the way and suddenly realized none of the media mentioned how expensive the food would be once you saved on your tickets through value promotions. Still I was enthralled by the sights and sounds of churros and hot dogs as a sea of red colored fans of both teams took their seats and prepared for the national Anthem. When I read about down attendance I did not expect the game to be a sellout and found every seat full. I was explained to by fans sitting around me that the rarity of the game and the attraction of the Red Sox as the opponent which was disliked by the home crowd made this game one of the hottest tickets of the year in Anaheim. Understanding the meaning of the matchup has much to do with the energy and attendance at the games.
During the game I heard many people around me discussing the fortunes and opportunities of young players Hank Conger and Peter Bourjos who had worked their way up from the minor leagues and earned their spot on the Angel roster. It was interesting to hear how even professional players must challenge themselves to rise above tests and observation to maintain their role with the clubs on their jerseys. I found myself relating the justice of hard work being rewarded in such a way that makes athletes’ salaries dwarf the average college graduate working forty hours per week lifting boxes or answering phones. The concepts of valuation of career seemed both ironic and ideal at the same time. One of the best representations of the media I viewed was the grandness of the game of baseball.
The fanfare of bright lights, music, and group applause and chanting created a unique place and time that changed from moment to moment based on the actions on the field. When the Red Sox scored first in the top of the fourth inning the “boos” of the crowd were audible for minutes afterward. I found one major weakness of the media was the inability to capture the scope and magnitude of being in the crowd for the entire game. The numbers of Curt Smith for example did nothing to capture the energy and collective spirit of Angel fans out at the ballpark taking on the rival Red Sox who took a 4 to 2 lead into the final inning as I exited.
After the game I tuned into the program “Angel Talk” on previously mentioned flagship radio station AM 830 KLAA and again heard the justice of society ringing in on their phones to discuss who earned their keep and who should have been removed from the game. Much like the hindsight geared discourse of society I found the American Dream once again to have its pitfalls through its own nightly glory. The Angel Stadium experience celebrating 50 years proved to be worthy of so much media attention and surpassing the excitement capable of being relayed through print and highlight packages.
“Angels Baseball vs. Texas Rangers”. My 13 Television. Fox Broadcasting Los Angeles.
Bauman, Mike. “Electrifying, Exhilarating Angels Taking Wing”. MLB.Com. April 21, 2011.
Brennan, Jason. “Angel Talk”. Angels Radio AM 830 KLAA.
Keating, Peter. “Ultimate Standings”. ESPN The Magazine. July 2, 2009.
Sanchez, Jesse. “Boston, Lester Stand in Way of 5-0 Mark for Haren.” Angels Baseball Online. http://losangeles.angels.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_04_22_bosmlb_anamlb_1&mode=preview&vkey=preview_web_home&c_id=ana
Smith, Curt (2001). “Storied Stadiums”. New York City: Carroll & Graf.
Wilson, Bernie. “Los Angeles Angels” ABDO Science and Research Quarterly. March 2011.