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

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