O.C. Angels fans hope sale will give team a chance to win

Like many die-hard Los Angeles Angels fans, Robert Torres has mixed feelings about the news that owner Arte Moreno is considering selling the team.

A new owner could help the Angels, who have gone two decades without a World Series title, by investing money in a deep bank instead of big-name players who are past their prime.

But a new owner could also change the stadium’s kid-friendly vibe or move the team from Orange County, which would devastate fans.

Torres has weighed the pros and cons and settled on cautious optimism.

“From 2003 to 2014 we always had this hope that this is the year where we’re going to win another series and sometimes we’d get to the playoffs and just bomb,” said Torres, 53, of Orange. “I miss that, and when a new owner comes along and brings that element back, it makes for more exciting seasons and makes the game fun.”

For Angels loyalists, the team is a source of Orange County pride, even when they lose. The family-friendly stadium, Rally Monkey mascot and mostly well-mannered fans are a stark contrast to the rival Dodgers, fans say – and they like it.

Angels fan Edgar Rodriguez watches a game at Lopez & Lefty's in Anaheim.

Angels fan Edgar Rodriguez watches as the team plays the Tampa Bay Rays at the Lopez & Lefty sports bar in Anaheim. “Fans have stayed with the Angels through thick and thin, and mostly thin,” said a USC professor of sports communications.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

The only thing they aren’t worried about is Moreno’s departure. Aside from a few popular moves early in his tenure — like lowering beer prices at the stadium — most fans have no allegiance to Moreno, said Daniel Durbin, the director of the USC Annenberg Institute of Sports, Media and Society.

But they’re notoriously loyal to the franchise itself. The fan base was built over a 60-year period, and the truly die-hard fans still consider the team to some extent the “Cowboy Team,” led by Gene Autry. Being overshadowed by the Dodgers only adds to their strong sense of identity, as do marquee stars like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani who shine in lost seasons.

“They only had one championship,” Durbin said. “So the fans have stuck with the Angels through thick and thin and mostly thin. The truly loyal Angels fans have stayed loyal through a lot.”

Torres has been one of those fans since his family moved to Orange County from Norwalk in 1979. He spent his childhood watching games and riding his bikes with his brothers and parents from their home in Garden Grove to the stadium. He still goes to about 27 games a year, and when he’s not there in person he’s watching them on TV.

When Torres’ late father retired as an offshore oil inspector, he took a job as a stadium usher, helping fans find their seats and making sure everyone in his department felt comfortable and safe.

“We fell in love with the Angels because it’s our local team. Over the years, going to games has been fun and something we can all talk about without killing each other,” Torres said, laughing. “It was a big part of our family and our upbringing.”

Bartenders and waitresses pose next to an Angels mural outside Lopez & Lefty's sports bar.

Vera Ledesma, from left, Alex Prado and Teresa Quach are bartenders and waitresses at Lopez & Lefty’s. Angels employees often meet up and grab food at the Anaheim sports bar during home stands, the owner says.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

Some fans are hoping that a change in ownership could mean a return to the Anaheim Angels name. Moreno’s move to the Los Angeles Angels after purchasing the team in 2003 angered many OC fans.

“We’re not LA,” said Beth Mackenzie, 61, of Costa Mesa. “We are behind the orange curtain. We’re separated, and now people think if they go to Disneyland, they’re going to LA.”

On Tuesday, Angels fans settled into the bar at Lopez & Lefty’s, less than two miles from Anaheim Stadium, to watch the Halos battle the Tampa Bay Rays.

Guests entering the bar passed two white feathered grand pianos with the phrase “Where Angels Play” painted on the wall next to the terrace.

Angel’s pride was evident throughout the room, from the beer mirrors on the wall to the black plastic coaster adorned with a large red “A”.

Lopez & Lefty owner AJ Parmar said a potential sale raises many questions and uncertainties for fans. Most worrying, he said, is whether a new owner would uproot the Orange County team. Parmar, like many others, does not hope.

Angels staff often meet up and grab food from the bar during home stands. It would be difficult to lose that business, he said, and it would also be devastating to the locals who work at the stadium for a living.

“If they move, it would burn out a lot of people. The Angels have been here a long time and the team is very proud here,” said Parmar, 30, who lives in Anaheim. “It’s part of the identity here.”

A baseball statue with the Angels logo in front of Angel Stadium.

For Angels loyalists, the team is a source of Orange County pride, even when they lose.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

At the bar, David Solomon, 34, sipped a beer while keeping his eyes on the big-screen TV behind the bar. He groaned as the Rays hit one run, bringing their total closer to double digits, while the Angels had just one run from a homer by Trout.

After a promising start to the season, the Angels (52-71) suffered a 14-game losing streak in June. They have gone from 11 games over .500 in mid-May to 19 games under .500 after Tuesday’s loss.

It’s been two decades since Solomon watched the stadium erupt in cheers as outfielder Darin Erstad caught a fly ball hit by the San Francisco Giants to give the Angels their first – and only – World Series title. Solomon, who was in high school at the time, was so excited he skipped class with his siblings to attend the Victory Day Parade.

“It was a great moment for Angels fans,” Solomon said. “We will return there. It’s frustrating to lose, but eventually it will turn around. I’m not going to say we’re at the bottom, but when you get pretty deep sometimes it just goes up.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-25/oc-angels-fans-sale-reaction O.C. Angels fans hope sale will give team a chance to win

Alley Einstein

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