I go to the umpires' room at the Big A before today's game between the Angels and Twins, but the crew tells me I'd have to talk to their colleagues Ken Kaiser, Durwood Merrill or Rocky Roe for the best Belisle's stories. I'm serious. I swing by the Angel clubhouse, where several players are having their hair cut by two barbers who deliver. The entire bullpen had its hair done in the trainers' room yesterday. I know I said up above that the stylist was Bruce of Laguna, but I had been misinformed. They're actually Jamie and Rick of Anaheim Hills.
What really sets Anaheim apart is sushi. Oakland has vegetarian burgers with blue cheese dressing. San Francisco slipped something called the Rib-B-Que past the FDA. But sushi? "We always sell a lot of it, yes," one of the smiling sushi saleswomen tells me. "We sell more when Boston and New York are in town." The yakisoba doesn't sell so well when, say, Milwaukee plays here.
Given the proximity of Disneyland, it's no surprise that fans of the visiting team tend to people Anaheim Stadium, as evidenced by the cheers that go up every time the Twins score in their 2-1 win. Is there such a thing as an Angel fan? I wore an Angel cap to each ballpark I visited and was showered with indifference at every turn. The cap elicited only one comment, from a drunken fan in San Diego who asked mc why I was wearing it. If I wore a Red Sox cap in Yankee Stadium, on the other hand, it would likely be thrown from the second deck, with my head in it. You know, I think I like Anaheim better.
Thursday, July 2, San Diego
To get to San Diego from Anaheim, you simply merge onto the San Diego Freeway, pass Nixon's old digs at San Clemente, pass Camp Pendleton, the Marine base, and pass the nearby immigration checkpoint. In between, we pull off at San Onofre State Beach—"Old Man's," as we surfers call it. We gape for a moment at the beauty of it all, then pile back in the car and tune to Lee (Hacksaw) Hamilton on all-sports radio station XTRA, transmitting out of Tijuana. Hacksaw is asking California manager Buck Rodgers about his thoughts during the Angels' bus crash in New Jersey six weeks ago.
"To be honest," says Rodgers, "I thought we were going to eat the salad right there." Eat the salad? What a health-conscious, California-vegetarian, life-affirming euphemism for death. Or so I am thinking as I disembark at the antihistoric green cathedral on Friars Road—the unstoried Jack Murphy Stadium. How un-storied? I forthwith reproduce the entire contents of the notebook that I carried with me this evening:
Jack Murphy Stadium is named for Jack Murphy. Jack Murphy was a beloved San Diego SPTWRTR. There is a bronze bust of Murphy outside the stadium, next to a bronze bust of former Padres owner and McDonald's founder Ray Kroc. This is not exactly Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. Especially when you consider the half dollar-sized dollop of pigeon pudding on Kroc's forehead. More than one fan notes that Kroc looks alarmingly like Mikhail Gorbachev. Memo to the stadium cleanup crew: Buff (he man's noggin before the All-Star Game, for God's sake.
Sure, an eclair-fueled Roseanne once sang the national anthem quite badly here. And yes, former Padres leftfielder Jerry Turner once threw the ball backward here, to the outfield wall, while trying to throw a runner out at the plate. And no doubt if the Padres' "Mr. Indispensable," Whitey Wietelmann, 73, weren't off tonight, he could tell some stories, especially about the time he was batboy for a team Jim Thorpe played on. But Whitey isn't here. So all we have to show for San Diego is another home team loss, 3-2 to the Expos, running the California teams' record to 0-4 on this trip. We leave with only that. That, and a gutful of fish tacos. Mmmmmmmmmmm. All is not lost.
Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4, Los Angeles
Dodger Stadium is California in a nutshell, so to speak. Where else could you find The Peanut Man, who has been throwing his wares to customers for as long as the Dodgers have played here? The Peanut Man did The Tonight Show twice. "But only once with Johnny," he notes. "The second time, George Carlin was guest-hosting."