When Basketball and Baseball Worlds Collide

LeBron James went back to Cleveland and spurs a baseball story... Photo Courtesy: David Shankbone
LeBron James went back to Cleveland and spurs a baseball story… Photo Courtesy: David Shankbone

By Will Martin

Hard to believe that four years have passed since ‘The Decision’ for the LeBron haters of the world.

Equally hard to believe that it was also in 2010 that the Texas Rangers were gifted to have new hired gun Cliff Lee on the mound to finish out the 2010 season.

A bit of irony here as Cliff Lee had an MVP season with Cleveland before going elsewhere for the big money contract after a World Series appearance.

In LeBron’s case he had to leave Cleveland to get the titles and success that he wanted.

Thursday the hottest team in all of the American League (since June 8th) made a visit to Arlington. The first of a four game set before the All-Star break in Minnesota.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were losers of eight straight in Arlington going back to 2013.

I remember how rotten of a start Cliff Lee had in his Rangers debut against the Orioles. It was also that week it was announced that Buck Showalter would be taking over the reins of managing the birds.

Despite the four game sweep by Baltimore prior to the break in 2010, the Rangers reached their first World Series that fall on the MVP season of Josh Hamilton and the added cushion that Cliff Lee provided in the playoffs.

While watching Don Baylor observe some of his starters take batting practice there is a delicious irony to this moment. For it was on this date in 1981 the family made the move from Northern Illinois to Orange County. Just in time for senior year of high school and a third high school in four years time for this writer.

Nestled high in the hills of Tustin and Orange for the first few years in Southern California was actually quite memorable with the mountains and the beaches less than half an hour away.

Newport Beach called my name often to go suntan and boogieboard. From 1982-1993 there were so many visits to Anaheim Stadium for the Rams and Angels. Those were fun times to enjoy.

Looking back its hard to fathom how fast 33 years have elapsed. Indeed life comes at you fast-as Ferris Bueller likes to remind us-there was something else that came to mind.

The week that MASH went off the air-February 28th 1983-I was taking a PR class at a local junior college. Terry Bales was the instructor (he is now retired I would learn this night).

Southern California was 16 months away from a summer Olympiad that was spread out all over L.A. to parts south in Mission Viejo. Terry’s guest that night was a 24 year old young man who was doing special things in baseball.

Notably the California Angels as a media rep. His name was Tim Mead. Tim Mead has been a part of the Anaheim fabric since 1980 as an intern. He has seen excitement (2002) and some heartbreak (1982, 1986, 2007, 2009).

For one hour Tim talked about a multitude of items relating to baseball, the players, the coaches, the fans, and the many go-betweens involved with the day to day operations of working with a franchise. He was adept in making analogies to the needed P.R. adjustments required to handle what was to become a very hectic summer of 1984.

One of my classmates was a girl who was related to John Matuszak. Possibly a daughter or a cousin, she was a hoot.

In that hour I was able to ask a multitude of questions since baseball has always been a first love. Mr. Mead was more than happy to answer all my questions. Imagine my delight and his surprise when (after 31 years) I was able to approach him, shake his hand, and tell him ‘Thank You!’

There was even a game I was able to attend as an intern for the Orange County News channel back in 1991. It was a rookie year for Ivan Rodriguez as Texas was in town. It was a game won by the Angels 1-0. The press box was abuzz with people I knew by name who wrote for the Orange County Register. Randy Youngman, Steve Bisheff, Mark Whicker…The Angels were dead last in the A.L. West with an 81-81 record. Weird year.

Prior to the move to Texas over 13 years ago there was a 12 year stretch where this writer spent a memorable albeit crazy time in Southern California. Back then I lived at Anaheim Stadium when both the Rams and Angels played there.

Before and after games Casa Maria’s was a mandatory place to catch a libation and enjoy some grub. So many familiar faces of the sporty variety. If I had kept an autograph booklet I could have retired.

Tim Mead also told me that a place where I used to work in the summer of 1982-Felix’s Cafe-on Chapman Road in the Orange Circle was still there. Some of the finest Cuban food ever on the planet.

I expect the Angels to finish out this series in sweep mode. Every once in a while the mind takes me back to yesterday. In discussing a period of my life it floors me that MTV was just getting started the way information was getting gathered was becoming faster and faster.

Late 1982 I remember NBC went to an all night format with news. Linda Ellerbee was a familiar face for me after Tom Snyder was replaced by David Letterman.

Back to the here and now. Even Cliff Lee would not stop the onslaught that was the Angels this night. A 4-run first, 6-run second, and 3-run third (all on Colby Lewis) the hottest team in all of baseball rolled over the Rangers 15-6. Three doubles for Josh Hamilton and a combined 8 for 10 night for Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun.

This homestand is going to leave a nasty taste in the mouths of many. Now outscored 43-20 with three games to go before the welcomed break. This year for the Rangers rings ever so similar to the season the Angels in 1980 had after a playoff run in 1979. Skipper Jim Fregosi (whose son Jim Jr. was a classmate) was in a rotten scenario just like Wash now. You know what’s coming next.

Another date, another game, another remembrance, and another tale to share. That’s how I roll.