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City Lights: When Angels were a family affair

April 18, 2012|By Michael Miller

As the Angels embark on a new season, I have a signed baseball in my collection at home that probably isn't worth much money.

But I don't care.

Suffice to say that it's probably the only baseball in existence signed by Chad Curtis, the Angels' left and center fielder from 1992 to 1994, and his wife.

Yes, his wife.

And anyone can see that, because, unlike the average ballplayer's, her handwriting is quite legible.

Right now, of course, it's hip to love the Angels. Just last weekend, former pitcher Jim Abbott, who famously overcame a disability to achieve major league stardom, visited Barnes & Noble in Huntington Beach for a book signing. When the Angels make the playoffs, the local sports bars turn into seas of red. That's what a world championship and a decade of contention will do for a team.

But that Chad-and-Candace Curtis ball, snug in its tight plastic box, evokes a time when following the Halos was a decidedly minor-league affair. Back then, the Angels and their fans felt more like a family, just because, frankly, there were so few of us at the ballpark.

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When a new Angel season approaches now, pundits speculate on how far into the postseason they'll go. Two decades ago, the routine was much different — a smattering of interest for the first few weeks, then increasing apathy as the Angels sank below .500. By the All-Star break, many of the fans who bothered to attend took to cheering the visiting team.

It was in that environment that, one day in 1994, I learned that the Angels' wives were hosting a canned food drive outside of Anaheim Stadium. A few weeks back, I had scored Curtis' autograph on my ball, and I figured it was worth a shot to besiege his family members as well.

A note about Curtis: He was my favorite player then because, in the first game I ever saw, he was the only Angel to hit a home run. I thus reasoned that he was the best player on the team. A 12-year-old mind makes those kinds of leaps, although, in fairness, Curtis did lead the league in a few defensive categories and later hit a game-winning homer for the Yankees in the 1999 World Series.

In 1994, though, he was the struggling leadoff hitter for a struggling last-place team, playing to a meager crowd that struggled to stay optimistic. It didn't matter. I had his signature right below the red seam, and there was a space under it perfect for the Mrs.

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