The author: Joe Haakenson (forward by Tim Salmon)
The vital stats: Triumph books, 252 pages, $14.95
The pitch: On this day, as the Angels play their first home game for the 2013 season, it’s also a respectful anniversary. On this date in Angels’ history four years ago, 22-year-old pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in a car accident after pitching the best game of his young career.
For those who know Angels’ history, death is a recurring storyline. In this latest attempt to repackage the events of the last 50-plus years, there’s a whole gray box of “Angels tragedies” on page 88, which includes to the deaths of players like Dick Wantz (1965), Chico Ruiz (1972), Mike Miley (1977), Lyman Bostock (1978) and Donnie Moore (1989).
To say this is something Angels fans “should know” before “they die” … sure, it’s just a couple of chapters in a book of the franchise otherwise interesting progression, one topped by a 2002 World Series, and including the vision of Gene Autry, the exploits of Reggie Jackson, Nolan Ryan, Jim Fregosi, Rod Carew, Bo Belinski, Dean Chance, Wally Joyner and up to and including Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
But it wouldn’t be a true history book without still more chapters on a team bus crash in 1992 and nearly took out manager Buck Rodgers, Bobby Valentine’s collision with the chain linked fence in 1973, Mo Vaughn slipping down the steps of the first-base dugout or Kendry Morales snapping his ankle after hitting a grand slam.
Haakenson, the Angels’ beat writer for 15 seasons for several Southern California newspapers, including the L.A. Daily News, admits he couldn’t have gotten through this exercise without leaning on the Ross Newhan’s book, “The Anaheim Angels: A Complete History.” The team also published an outstanding coffee-table sized publication last year, “Under the Halo,” by Pete Donovan, in what was among our favorites on last year’s list, complete with reproductions of paraphernalia that make history come alive again.
We’re not going to be too critical of how Haakenson has done what the publishers have asked in recreating the latest in a series where every team’s history is boiled down into a 100-chapter template, no matter how much information is there to cram in or stretch some truths. It’s much of the same kind of format that Steve Bisheff did in his “Tales from the Angels Dugout,” recently republished with an updated opening chapter. The format, for all its plusses to populist reading, just seems to be too simplistic and bring order to something that doesn’t necessarily need order — unless you are ranking, perhaps, the 100 greatest moments in Angels history.
In this case, of course, you’re not. Death will never rank very well on “greateness” meters.
(Haakenson, by the way, writes that he even once borrowed a pair of black shoes from former Angels coach Joe Madden so he could go into a San Francisco nightclub. As Madden has shown since leaving Mike Scioscia’s staff to manage the Tampa Bay Rays to several playoff appearance, he’s left some big shoes to be filled.)
Some of the stories here are ones that may have been glossed over in other books, such as the aborted trade in 1997 when Angels’ president (and Disney caretaker) Tony Taveras wouldn’t allow GM Bill Bavasi to send Jim Edmonds, Dave Hollins and either Jarrod Washburn or Jason Dickson to the Oakland A’s for Mark McGwire (pre-Maris-breaking home run season) and Scott Brosius.
But then, Haakenson does the unthinkable. He reminds us that Dick Enberg was the voice of the Angels for 11 seasons. Longer than anyone. Until Terry Smith reached his 11th season in 2012, which means this year, it’ll be a record-setting 12th season.
That’s a fact we could have gone without knowing until after we were long gone from the planet.
More to know:
== In 2009, Jon Weisman, another former L.A. Daily News writer, did “100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.” There is a revised edition out this month.