Friday, November 27, 2009

The Air Goes Out Of Angels' Airwaves

What’s with Los Angeles radio? It’s as if we’re masochistic.

Here we have the No. 2 market in the country, and the airwaves treat it like Static City, Iowa.

We had Larry Elder, the sharpest libertarian on radio. Fired.

We had Tammy Bruce, the coolest righty on the air. Gone.

We had Doug McIntyre, the gutsiest oral hammer at illegal immigration. Axed.

We had Dave Smith, the aptly named Sports God. Goodbye.

We had Rex Hudler and Steve Physioc, the voices who kept Angel fans awake. Tell ’em bye-bye, baby.

What? Hud and Phyz off the L.A. baseball team?

You heard that right. The Angels announced the canning this week. Evidently had to do with money. The team had too many men in the booth. So they trimmed the staff.

Erased the face of the team: Hudler.

And bounced the top talent: Physioc.

Now Angel fans are stuck with a faceless foursome: Terry Smith and Jose Mota on the radio, and Rory Markas and Mark Gubicza on the TV side.

Fans hit the spit. Or at least bloggers did at the L.A. Times:

Wally Parks: The Angels will lose more fans off losing Hudler than if you have to get rid of Vlad or Figgy . . . (They’re) getting rid of your biggest Angels supporter and fan favorite, Rex Hudler.

Jeff: What a loss. He had a passion for teaching the game and pointing out details that other announcers missed. Many people assumed that because he was so pumped that he didn't understand the game. . . . My 8-year-old son knows more about baseball than most adults, thanks to Hud!

Dean: Rex Hudler is to Angel baseball what Tommy Lasorda is to the Dodgers, an unabashed homer and cheerleader, and a whole lot of people liked that and thought it made sense. . . . The Hud man is an icon.

And my favorite, from Angel Greg: Rory and "what's his name" are two of the most boring announcers in sports. Only the two Clipper announcers are more boring, and who listens to them? Hud pumped up us fans. Mota should go, but Arte won't let go of a Latino. After all, who would be his translator with all of the Angel players who won't learn to speak English?

Indeed, Mota spends more time translating Kendry Morales’ comments than on asking questions.

Hudler did it right — conducting an English interview with Erick Aybar. What a concept: a Dominican player speaking the language of the team paying him big bucks.

Hudler was practically the Angels’ logo. He was everywhere: radio, TV, charity events and every week co-hosting an hour of Jeff Biggs’ drive-time show on KLAA, the Angel station. That's Hudler on the right in the above photo.

Rex might’ve seemed like a loopy Wonder Dog. But he barked sharp insight — with zip. My favorite was his term for taking a pitch: "Spit on it."

The man offered a drier sense when it came to the condition of his son. He has Down syndrome? No, Up syndrome.

As for Physioc, I detected during the playoffs that something was awry. Here the Angels were in the meat of their Yankee series, and there was Phyz doing a Midnight Madness shtick for ESPNU all the way up in Seattle.

OK, the networks had the Angels covered in the pennant series. But Phyz missing his team at nut-cuttin' time in favor of some meaningless hoops seemed weird.

Now Hudler and Physioc are in the ether. The way of all the other vanished talent.

L.A.'s loss.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Saturday, November 21, 2009

MLB Network: Hazel Mae I? You Bet, Even When It Comes To Reliving The Angels' Deep-Six In '86

Two reasons we're hooked on MLB Network:

1. Hazel Mae. She's more of a Filipino knockout than Manny Pacquiao.

When Hazel fills the MLB screen, she delivers color and nuts of wisdom.

Really, she's just one of the heavy-hitting anchors on MLB. And she better watch her back, with Harold Reynolds down the hall. You might recall he got canned from ESPN for playing grabass.

2. Oh, there's a second reason?

Yes, baseball in the hot stove season. We get offerings such as Saturday's, with Reynolds and Al Leiter breaking down top AL pitchers. There were Justin Verlander and King Felix fanning Angels. And Bret Saberhagen in 1985 ringing up Reggie.

Yes, falling Angels everywhere on this show.

Which reminds me of the ultimate Hal-0 this past spring on MLB.

You might've caught it: Game 5 of the 1986 pennant series, the most painful in Angel history. MLB Network replayed all 11 innings of the Angels' 7-6 loss to Boston. Simply a wild time warp.

Anaheim Stadium. Blue wall. No ads. Just an Angel logo. Natch, no rocks. Seats throughout, explaining the attendance that was 20,000 more than today's capacity. And the light grass. Ag technology had to be weaker back then.

The batters. ABC showed that the bottom third of the lineup was carrying the Angel load. The trio was Dick Schofield, Bob Boone and Gary Pettis, although Schofield hit second in Game 5. Missing was a graphic called Miss October. Reggie's DH stood for Didn't Hit. The one time he singled, he was picked off. TV's Al Michaels evidently wasn't tuned in. With Jackson leading off the bottom of the 10th, Michaels thought it was 1977. He said with excited anticipation: "Who wrote this script?" Answer: Boston.

The pitcher. Mike Witt was a winner. Or should've been. No walks in 8 and two-thirds. One strike away from a pennant. Somewhere in there, ABC noted, "No pitcher has ever thrown two complete games in a championship series." In the fifth, an MLB Network historical note posted his perfect-game numbers of 1984 at Texas: 94 pitches, 10 Ks.

The broadcast. Good timing. While this 1986 gem aired, so did a look at the 1986 New York Giants on NFL Network. And MLB Network followed with Mets-Boston, exactly the World Series match-up after the Angels fell.

The hero. Dave Henderson almost wasn't. After Tony Armas hurt his leg in center, Henderson replaced him and pulled a goat of play in the sixth. Leaping for a Bobby Grich drive, the center fielder had the ball in his mitt, then ice-cream-coned it over the fence. Having given the Angels a 3-2 lead, Grich set a record for celebration. Michaels: "It may be one of the more memorable plays of the '80s." Unfortunately, not quite.

The banners. "The Sox are at Witt's end." "Yes We Can" (did Obama steal that?).

The slammer. With Boston's Mike Greenwell up in the eighth, MLB Network added an amazing note: He had two inside-the-park grand slams in his career. Against the same pitcher, Greg Cadaret. Once when Cadret was with the A's, once with the Yankees.

The seer. "Remember that man, Gedman," said Michaels in the eighth. Indeed, the Sox catcher who had homered and doubled would draw the hit by pitch in the ninth to set up Henderson's shot.

The traitor. Seven years after winning the Angels' first MVP Award, Don Baylor stuck it to his old team. Now DHing for Boston, he nailed a one-out homer in the ninth to cut the Angels' lead to 5-4. And he scored the winner on Henderson's sac fly in the 11th.

The pitches. Moore was thisclose to closing the door with two out in the ninth. He had Henderson at 1-2, 2-2, two fouls. Then goodbye, 6-5 Sox.

More timing. Just as Henderson parked Donnie Moore's forkball on MLB Network, A-Rod was hitting his dramatic homer in the ninth against the Phillies in real time.

The out. Grich was inches from winning it with two out in the ninth. With the game tied at 6 and the bases full, Bobby pushed a 2-0 count against Steve Crawford. Two balls away from triumph. The next pitch looked outside, but the ump said strike. Bobby eventually lined out to the mound. Michaels would point out that Crawford was on the roster because Tom Seaver got hurt.

The coach. Pitching coach Marcel Lachemann went to the mound for Angel pitching changes, not manager Gene Mauch.

The look. The Angels played one guy born outside the country: Jamaica's Devon White. Now Latin Americans dominate the roster.

The shots. Pettis was a foot from handing the Angels the flag in the 10th. Jim Rice said no way, leaping and hauling in his drive at the wall. The next frame, Angel left fielder Brian Downing kept the deficit at one by grabbing Ed Romero's rocket at the fence. Michaels: "Wow! Are we really seeing this game?"

The call. Michaels: "Anaheim was one strike away from turning into fantasyland."

The wrap. If I remember right, Mae put the last exclamation mark on this "All-Time Games" edition. How could I forget?

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pacquiao, And How

Heard the one about PacMan?

Ring the opening bell, and he slams the door shut.

Saturday night he swung it into Miguel Cotto's face.

Now PacMan -- the Filipino Fist whose real name is Manny Pacquiao -- stands at boxing's top step. His technical knockout 55 seconds into the 12th round gave him a seventh world title in seven weight divisions.

No wonder he's called the face of boxing. Really, who else is there? A couple of Russians at heavyweight you wouldn't know if they walked in the room?

No, you might not be able to spell Pacquiao. You couldn't care less about the alphabet boxing outfits. But you know numbers, and seven for seven? With the seventh belt coming in the World Boxing Organization's welterweight colors that Cotto had owned?

Now that's seventh heaven. For Pacquiao, one of the greatest pound-for-pound, punch-for-punch, dance-for-dance boxers you ever saw. For Vegas, his second home, where he packed 16,000 into the MGM's Grand Garden party. For the Philippines, where he's the hero for the ages. What, you heard of Flash Elrode, the super-featherweight champ of the 1960s? Didn't think so.

The island country is so wild about Manny, countrymen shelled out $50 a pop to catch him on screen at theaters around Las Vegas. The fight's promoter, Bob Arum, reported that his TV halls in Sin City drew 15,000, and you can bet most of them were Filipinos.

As for the live event, Cotto's Puerto Rican rooters raised the roof to an even higher level. Could that be because they had bet against the overdog Pacquiao? Partly.

In the end, the PacMan masses drowned them out. The Filipino Five in front of me in the nosebleed section locked arms the whole bout and in the end were bellowing "We want Floyd!"

That would be Floyd Mayweather Jr., the 40-0 former Ring magazine Fighter of the Year. Pacquiao will take his 50-3-2 record to him next year. The stack of cash awaiting that clash is exactly the right bribe.

Arum: "If Mayweather wants to fight Manny Pacquiao, have him call me."

What to call Pacquiao-Mayweather? Stormy Weather?

Pacquiao-Cotto was billed as Firepower. That worked, especially when the thousands squeezing out of the arena into the MGM casino saw what a fire trap they were in.

On the canvas, the only firepower came from Pacquiao, who weighed 144 pounds. His uppercut in the fourth round decked the 145-pound Cotto. The rest of the fight had this choreography: PacMan charging, Cotto reversing.

Cotto tried to jab his way to safety. PacMan timed it and cleaned his clock.

No wonder the Filipino was smiling on the way to his stool after the sixth round.

"Cotto couldn't win this with a gun," said Anthony Pepe, a radio guy from Boston who stood with me the whole fight.

Pepe was on target, especially since he bet Pacquiao by knockout. I made the same prediction, although didn't bet the fight. I was too satisfied with my $20 winner on Mizzou over Kansas State earlier in the day.

Anyway, we called this one right, which was more than what plenty of other media dudes can claim. Take Tim Smith. He's a biggie with New York's Daily News. And a fine fellow. But he told me Saturday morning Cotto would win.

What? As Pepe and I said as we met in the stands, we're not picking against PacMan's speed.

And did I mention nosebleed? No matter how far up we were, Cotto wasn't a pretty sight.

I'll tell you what was. The round girls. The blonde and brunette who traipsed around the ring holding the round number high were in better shape than the boxers. And wore outfits just as scanty.

So yes, Firepower was worth it. PacMan collected over $13 million, Cotto $7 million.

Vegas drew thousands of gamblers.

Nevada vacuumed millions in taxes. Arum told us press folk that Pacquiao pays 30% of his winnings to the state. If he fought in that old boxing mecca, New York City, he would have to shell out an additional 15%.

"That means," the old promoter said, "Manny Pacquiao will never fight in New York."

And it was worth it to fight fans. Nothing in sports matches a title fight. The atmosphere for Firepower was smokin'.

That's because Manny Pacquiao was packin' heat. Now he can cool off in his hometown, General Santos City, and see about renaming it as he ponders Mayweather.

President Santos City, anyone?

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Yank Ease

Damn Yankees?

Yes, and this: Damn good Yankees.

Loathe ’em or hate ’em, New York’s American League club is a fine nine.

Pinstripes at home. NY on caps. Facade at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees look good, no question.

Now they have the title to go with the image: world champions.

They have a player with the coolest nickname in sports: Saiko (pronounced Psycho). That’s Japanese for the best — a perfect fit for the tag’s owner, Hideki Matsui.

After his monstrous World Series, he deserves his other nickname, Godzilla. Not to mention his trophy for World Series MVP.

Psycho. A Rod. Tex. The Captain. These Yankees are a bunch of Mo-names.

And they pounded out one Mo world title, making the Yankee haul 27.

Just think; their victims last week — the Phillies — have a lousy two. They won it all in 1980 and last year.

I really thought Philly would make it three by sticking it to the Yanks. Only Ryan Howard forgot his stick. And the rest of the Phillies — except Chase Utley and Cliff Lee — paled vs. the hale New Yorkers.

Twenty-seven world titles.

The L.A. Angels are happy to own one at this point. Especially after their murderers’ low in the pennant series against the Yankees.

The Bombers simply exposed the Halos as hollow.

So much for my prediction: Angels over Philly in six.

What happened to Disneyland’s team?

How could the Halos look like such zeros?

The short answers:

Yankee pitchers fired strikes. Halo hurlers lobbed balls.

New York’s batters hit the blessed ball. L.A.’s lineup imitated the MLB logo — all stance, no swing.

So what do Anaheim’s homeboys do now? Suit up new guys.

Say bye to this costly trio: Vlad, Figgy, Lackey.

Say hi to these thirsty three: Wood, Evans, Bell.

You’ll need an iPhone to ID next season’s Angels. And time to brood if you’re a Halo fan. The 2010 bunch will hardly win the American League West by 10 games, as this year’s version did.

Which sets up the Halos nicely for contention in 2011.

Here’s saying they’ll have to rise that year on the wings of another manager. Mike Scioscia has to wear his Dodger blue one day, so he might as well get that move over with.

By then, Joe Torre will have returned to New York. Maybe to manage the Mets. Perhaps to give the Yankees advice.

As if they need it.

Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs