Visitors feeling more at home in Anaheim


It wasn't too long ago that the California Angels enjoyed a distinct home-field advantage. That is not presently the case, as apathy is no longer reserved for the Rams.

The Angels also are suffering from the disease so common to losers. And while everyone (especially in Baltimore) speculates about the future of the football team, few have noticed that the baseball team is likewise caught in the mudslide of indifference.

With so many major-league players having ties in southern California, particularly Orange County, a trip to the "Big A" often took on the appearance of a huge family reunion. A trip to the West Coast could be turned into a working vacation. The guest list always exceeded its limit, and the inherent distractions presented a decided advantage for the home team.

Those conditions still exist -- with one noticeable difference. The natives playing on the visiting teams seem to be attracting more spectators than the ones playing for the Angels. If you've paid any attention to crowd reactions this weekend, you've undoubtedly noticed.

It is not unusual for teams representing New York to attract a significant percentage of the audience, as evidenced by the reaction in Baltimore whenever the Yankees are in town. But in California it has become common for the visitors to attract as much attention as the home team, if not more.

That, of course, also is a reflection of the Angels' position in the standings. But the situation, as evidenced by the current series with the Orioles, is rapidly becoming a source of concern for the American League.

The root of the problem can be traced to the enlargement of Anaheim Stadium to accommodate the Rams. It turned a cozy, picturesque stadium that seated under 50,000 into a cavernous maze of brightly colored and mostly empty seats.

The addition, which increased capacity to 64,593, forced the Angels into the awkward position of marketing the idea that 30,000 of those seats don't exist. Advance sales have dwindled to the point where there is now virtually no demand.

Fan support, or lack thereof, is not the primary reason the Angels have the worst home record in the American League (16-27 going into last night's game). The talent on the field, or lack thereof, has more than a little to do with it.

But there are some people who are wondering if the Angels can survive under the present setup. If the Rams leave, there is talk of ripping out the additional seats that were installed for football and returning to the original configuration.

In the meantime, the Angels are trying to survive at a disadvantage. They play in an area that has spawned a high percentage of major-league players, almost equally distributed among 28 teams.

It is a volatile atmosphere that, if not addressed quickly, could result in the area losing both a football and a baseball franchise. And that's not just an off-the-wall notion.

Maybe Peter Angelos could work out a package deal with the people in Tampa-St. Petersburg.

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