The book: “Under the Halo: The Offiical History of Angels Baseball”
The author: Pete Donovan
The vital stats: Insight Editions, 264 pages, $50
The pitch: Officially, the Angels have never done something of this magnitude — a huge (12 3/4 x 9 1/4 inches, and about a inch thick), high-gloss photo book with selected text that any fan would most likely see at the team store, but only buy as he’s exiting the stadium (rather than entering, so it wouldn’t have to be carried around and fear getting mustard stains on any part of it).
Would it have been better timed a year ago, while the franchise celebrated its 50th season? Of course. But then, maybe there’d not have been an update to include the last four pages called “The Next Fifty Years,” with a variety of photos from the Albert Pujols’ “surreal” (as it is described in the text) press conference outside of Angel Stadium on Dec. 10, 2011.
Thirty-two Q-and-As are included with former Angels players, current manager Mike Scioscia, the wife of former owner Gene Autry (Jackie) and former broadcaster Dick Enberg — quick and easy reads to break up the photos. Tim Salmon is recruited to write the forward, Arte Moreno the preface and Scioscia for the introduction. Donovan, who covered the Angels for years with the Los Angeles Times and now as a columnist in Palm Springs, has a depth of resources to give it credibility.
An excerpt: From Albie Pearson’s Q-and-A on page 41, on who the early Angels fans were when he was part of the first Angels team in 1961, as their leadoff man, taken 28th in the expansion draft off the Washington Senators’ roster:
“One of my first memories from our first team, to go back to ’61, was President Eisenhower watching us play in Palm Springs. The president and Uncle Gene — I always (Autry) that — were quite close friends and the president was an Angels fan from the beginning. Uncle Gene asked us all to sign a bat to give to President Eisenhower as a gift, a gift for our first number one fan. I got to take it over to the country club where he lived, and I gave it to him on the putting green. He absolutely looked at it like it was the greatest thing that he had ever been placed in his hands. And it was just a bat signed by a bunch of young kids, but it was still special to him. I had a chance to play a little golf with him that day, and I will never forget it.”
From Enberg’s Q-and-A on page 105, on hearing the news of the Angels’ 2002 World Series victory:
“I was flying home during the seventh game of the World Series and I asked the flight attendant if the pilot could find out the score, and if he did would he please announce it. A few minutes later the pilot came on the PA and said, ‘The Angels have won the World Series,’ and I started to cry tears of joy. It was the culmination of all those years and i was so happy for all the people who had lived through the growth and birth of this team, and now we had finally won.”
How it goes down in the scorebook: A capital A-plus.
The bigger, the better. And better late than never.
There are some other surprises worth noting that only add value to the whole collection (so a brief spoiler alert):
== A sleeve attached to page 45 has four game-ticket reproductions, including one from the 1967 All Star Game, an Angels game on May 18, 1961 from Wrigley Field, a 1966 ticket from an Angels-San Francisco Giants game (an April exhibition) at Anaheim Stadium and a yellow field box ticket for an Angels’ game on Aug. 6, 1963 from Chavez Ravine (they went for $3.50).
== Attached to page 52 is a reproduction of Braven Dyer’s hand-written scorecard from Bo Belinsky’s no-hitter against Baltimore on May 5, 1962 (note a comment at the bottom of the card: Wow!). Didn’t Bo and Braven come to blows years later?
== Heavy-card inserts are between pages 72-73 and 156-157 with reproductions of annual yearbooks and game programs that can be taken apart and used as postcards (please, don’t even think of it).
== Pages 234-235, an overhead shot of Angel Stadium, pulls out to a breathtaking four-page photographic time line, starting with Dec. 6, 1960 and ending with July 27, 2011 (Ervin Santana’s no-hitter in Cleveland). Although there are points on the line to mark the team’s change in names from the Los Angeles Angels to the California Angels (Sept., 1965), and the California Angels to the Anaheim Angels (Nov. 19, 1996), there’s no demarcation of when it went from the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
One small critical point: So many photos here are some we’ve never seen before, but there’s a lack of consistent identification, both for content, and for a photo credit.
Many double-page spreads are left just to look at and admire, without information on either page before or after. We see a beautiful color spread on pages 18-19 of the Angels working out at the old Wrigley Field near downtown L.A. before a game against the Yankees. By our simple research, that’s got to be pitcher Jerry Casale (40) warming up bottom left, with the gigantic Steve Bilko (20) and Ron Moeller (39) talking to a Yankee player near home plate. Why not have that captioned somewhere?
Pages 27-28 has to be the scene from the Game 7 2002 World Series celebration showing Angels reliever Troy Percival in the middle of the mound with his teammates throwing their arms in the air with the Giants’ Kenny Lofton circling back to the dugout after his game-ending flyout. Why make people guess?
The only credit comes on the backpage loosly thank people who shared their photo collection to make the book possible.
A small touch: Page 252 includes a shot of Fernando Valenzuela in a red Angels’ jacket to commemorate his first-ball ceremony appearance during the team’s 50th year celebration in 2011. He’s flanked by Alfredo Griffin, Mickey Hatcher and Scioscia — teammates for the 1988 World Series champion Dodgers. Now, all in Angel red.
For the record: The photo in the top left corner of this cover shot — former relief pitcher Frankie Rodriguez pointing to the sky to celebrate — didn’t make the final production. It’s been replaced by a shot of Albert Pujols from his introductory press conference. That’s forward thinking.