About a Duck

The wife’s weekend road trip left me in charge of Kate’s meals this weekend, resulting in me taking some short cuts (especially while fighting a head cold) with regards to how I got her fed.  Papa John’s took care of last night, but today I decided to treat her (and myself) to silver dollar pancakes at our local social club.  Walking back to the car, Katelyn wanted to stop for a minute and watch two ducks loudly fighting with each other in the pond near the front of the club, laughing as she watched the two ducks go at it.  Those two were not having much of each other.

I immediately thought that I wish these two ducks had been around school last week.

On Friday, what would eventually become this cold had me sitting at my desk, holding my head, trying to finish sub plans for the afternoon, thanks to some pressing errands I had to run with Katelyn.  Usually, about 10 minutes before school starts, I leave my classroom door open, and allow my students to come into class, and when I propped up my door, I heard footsteps a bit quicker than usual.  Certainly, my kids weren’t *this* excited for today, where they?

Excited, yes.  But for reasons I had not considered.  Two of my girls were trying to get my attention to come out.  There was a group of boys out on the field kicking a duck.


Sure enough, I walk out and see a group of upper grade boys surrounding two ducks, one sitting, and the other ostensibly trying to defend the sitting duck, which the girls had told me had been limping.  The defense wasn’t working, as one of the boys had shamelessly been kicking the limping duck.  I had to end this.  I ordered the boys from area and back on to the blacktop, reserving some impatient frustration for two of the boys who were in my class.

But the scary part was the look one of the other 6th graders from my teaching partner’s group gave to me.  He was glaring at me all the way back to the blacktop, and then continued to watch me to see if I was going to return into my classroom.

At this point, I had a decision to make.  I needed to finish my sub plans, but my concern was that at the point in which I retreated into my room, this student would head back onto the field after the ducks, which were now enjoying some peace away from the young would-be child predators who had been surrounding them only a few minutes before.  Finally, I turned to one of my boys, B., and told him to stand on the porch of my classroom and watch.  I would retreat to my desk to finish typing, and with the door open and B. watching, I could immediately find out if this boy made a move back onto the field.

While it was now only 5 minutes before the start of school, the passing of time seemed interminable, as I wanted the bell to ring so I could call my teaching partner’s classroom and make her aware of what her boys were doing.  When it finally rang, and I felt secure in knowing that her kids were now in class, I called B. and the rest of the kids (as my girls were now also “guarding” the ducks along with B.) into class so I could call T., my partner.

At this point, a phone call to her, and one to the office, caused the discipline machine to go into motion.  By recess, both of the birds were gone.

My school day started. Still, the look on that boy’s face as he glared at me because I asked him to not kick an injured duck has stayed with me all weekend.  How disturbing…

 “I’ve always felt that animals are the purest spirits in the world. They don’t fake or hide their feelings, and they are the most loyal creatures on Earth. And somehow we humans think we’re smarter—what a joke.”


Having a Me Party

“Standardized testing has become the arbiter of social mobility, yet there is more regulation of the food we feed our pets that of the tests we give our kids”

— Robert Schaeffer

It begins.

State testing will dominate the next two weeks of my classroom time.  Of concern is the fact that students are taking photos of this year’s California’s state assessments, and posting those photos on-line, thus raising the possibility of that school’s test scores being invalidated.  But buried within that story is this specific reality, not necessarily connected to the story itself but a trenchant observation at the standardized assessments themselves:

Students typically don’t have anything at stake on the annual tests: Colleges don’t look at student scores, and the scores don’t affect course grades or grade-point averages — although L.A. Unified has experimented with rewarding improvement on a standardized test with a higher course grade.

There you have it.  We ask so much of students on exams that ultimately have more effect upon the adults at the schools they attend, than upon their own academic prospects.  Nothing better exemplifies characterizing state tests as chest-pounding exercises in meaninglessness than the above comment–that is, if you’re a student.  But as one of those adults at their school, it’s everything, as the numbers they will produce on these exams will ultimately be taken as more about me than it does about them.  As much as I want to put the focus of my day upon my 32 kids, the next fortnight becomes entirely about me.

I hate this.

Arte Moreno realizes that Anaheim is not “in” Los Angeles County…

Youngsters on the site of Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field, the original home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 1961, prior to their move to Dodger Stadium in 1962.  The ballpark, located just east of the Harbor Freeway, was in the process of being demolished in the late 1960s, making way for the Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center.

The most intriguing wrinkle: The Angels’ attendance has crashed, even after Moreno shelled out $240 million to buy Albert Pujols.
The Angels sold 27,338 tickets to an April 16 game against Oakland. For the first time in 689 games — a streak extending to 2003 — the Angels sold fewer than 30,000 tickets.
They did it again on April 18, and a third time on April 19. The signing of Pujols triggered the sale of more than 5,000 season tickets, so the star first baseman might have been all that stood between the Angels and a crowd of 22,000.

Yup, a 7-14 start to a ballyhooed season will tend to do that to a team.  Not only has the owner of the team managed to get himself lost with respect to his inability to read a local map of Southern California, his ballclub, Dan Haren’s efforts yesterday notwithstanding, has also appeared lost over this first month of the season.  So, in what I would cynically describe as a way to get his team back on the front pages of the main local paper, Arte Moreno, the Angels’ geographically challenged owner, has finally realized that the team he owns *does not* play in the City of Los Angeles.

In this morning’s LA Times, Bill Shaikin shares how the Angels are in talks with AEG, the developers of Staples Center, LA Live, and the hoped-for Farmer’s Field for a possible NFL franchise.

The plan?  To maybe build a downtown baseball stadium for the Angels, next to AEG’s signature manufactured night life, and thus allow Arte Moreno to finally correct his geographic ignorance by dropping the “of Anaheim” from his team’s name, if it was, in fact, actually playing in the city for which it was named.

But right now, he’s currently starting to have trouble drawing fans to his park because of the team’s struggles early on.  Truthfully though, regardless of their level of success, is he honestly so full of hubris that he’d expect those same fans to follow him up the freeway to a new ballpark in downtown LA?

Is he really that clueless that he can’t understand that his fan base will not follow him north?

Attendance figures for the Angels when they actually called Los Angeles “home”:

  • 1961 – 603,510  (Wrigley Field)
  • 1962 -1,144,063 (move to Dodger Stadium, the team is in first place on the 4th of July and finishes with its only winning record in Los Angeles)
  • 1963 – 821,015
  • 1964 – 760,439
  • 1965 – 566,727
  • 1966 – 1,400,321 (move to Anaheim Stadium, where the team leads the American League in attendance, despite a 6th place finish…)

Anaheim Stadium, 1966

In the time the two teams “shared” downtown Los Angeles, the Dodgers were consistently drawing around 2.5 millions fans to Dodger Stadium each year after the team moved out of the LA Coliseum at the end of the 1961 season.

But while the 1.4 million fans that greeted the newly moved California Angels to Anaheim in 1966 seems markedly modest compared to the Dodgers’ numbers, they are on par with other American League teams for the duration of the time the Angel franchise has been in Anaheim Stadium.  For all of his faults as an owner, Gene Autry, the original owners of the Angels, had a sense to follow the path to a unique identity for his team.  As I’ve noted before, there’s a significant fan base in Orange County for baseball that doesn’t necessarily see it as necessary to follow Arte Moreno’s lead and travel to Los Angeles for baseball.

If Moreno takes his baseball team and leaves, he’ll be leaving behind his loyal fan base.   Is he that ignorant as to why the NBA’s Sacramento Kings are hoping to move to Anaheim (because the Clippers were blinded by AEG in accepting second fiddle status to the Lakers when Staples Center was built)?  Does he not see how the Ducks have gone out of their way to create hockey fans and market share in the same location he’s convinced himself–apparently–to abandon?  For all of his supposed genius at marketing, it’s a wonder that he’s convinced himself that abandoning Orange County is the right move for his team.

He needs a reality check.  It’s still early in the season, and there’s time for the Halos to rally their season and make up the ground they’ve skidded upon in the early going.  In the meantime, I think it would behoove Moreno to avoid alienating his team’s fans any more than their early season’s slump already has have.  But hey, at least he’s finally listening to his car’s GPS signal…

That is all Ye Need to Know…

Despite having more time to read, however, AR classes in the upper grades did not do better than comparisons. It is possible that the use of AR tests emphasizing low-level, literal facts, focused students on retaining small details of the books they read in order to get higher scores on tests. This means shallower involvement in reading, less of a chance of a student getting “lost in the book” (Nell, 1988), or entering the “Reading Zone” (Atwell, 2007), the state of mind that readers are in when they are absorbed in a text. This state may be optimal for language acquisition and literacy development (Krashen, 2007). A shorter time reading, but spent in the Reading Zone, may be more effective than more reading outside the Zone.

Stephen Krashen

Preparing for a UCI Writing Project presentation over the past week and half, my life was taken over while I tried to finish it.  Buried with projects at home as well, I had to squeeze in time at recess, after school, and at Kate’s gym class in order to finish something that I could present.My weekly prep time therefore found me in my school’s computer lab while my kids were on-line, several of whom were actively engaged in taking Accelerated Reader quizzes.

The idea behind Accelerated Reader is that you read a book and then take the computerized quiz about the book.  The company behind Accelerated Reader, Renaissance Learning describes AR as:

…a computer program that helps teachers manage and monitor children’s independent reading practice. Your child picks a book at his own level and reads it at his own pace. When finished, your child takes a short quiz on the computer. (Passing the quiz is an indication that your child understood what was read.) AR gives both children and teachers feedback based on the quiz results, which the teacher then uses to help your child set goals and direct ongoing reading practice.

J. was one of the kids working on Accelerated Reader.  She was busily answering her quiz questions as the period ended, prompting her classmate, K. to ask her, “I didn’t know you were reading The Hunger Games also!”

J:  “I didn’t.  I just saw the movie.”

J. passed her quiz.

*This* explains a great deal about Accelerated Reader.

Running of the Mouths

Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen, shown here with the White Sox, was suspended for 5 games for comments about Fidel Castro...

One part of the new Oriole season that has cheered me has been the fact that Luke Scott is no longer an Oriole.  Before last season, he gained attention for parroting the Birther beliefs about President Obama’s birth certificate:

He was not born here. … That’s my belief. I was born here. If someone accuses me of not being born here, I can go — within 10 minutes — to my filing cabinet and I can pick up my real birth certificate and I can go, “See? Look! Here it is. Here it is.” The man has dodged everything. He dodges questions, he doesn’t answer anything. And why? Because he’s hiding something.

While Oriole owner Peter Angelos is a longtime Democratic powerbroker who donated to President Obama’s campaign in 2008, he had the team walk the controversy back from the edge, by distancing the team from Scott’s comments.  

Former Oriole Luke Scott, known for being out of left field with his opinions...

Scott, aside from having the Orioles acknowledge that the comments were entirely his own, had nothing happen to him in terms of losing playing time for running off at the mouth.  But limited to only 64 games last year because of a shoulder injury, his declining production and physical limitations made it easy for the struggling franchise to cut him loose after the season.  But it’s important to note that he was not punished for his opinions about President Obama.

Ozzie Guillen, Miami Marlins manager, was, on the other hand, today suspended for five games today for making comments that ostensibly praised Cuban leader Fidel Castro.  

Why must it be that, in matters of opinion in Major League Baseball, that Fidel Castro somehow outranks President Obama?  I am within my right to ignore both men’s comments, even if I disagree with both of them.  I don’t feel that either should be punished.  But as I noted above, the fact that Luke Scott is no longer an Oriole is not something I’m disappointed with.

Despite his obvious flaws as a baseball owner, I suppose I ought to give Oriole owner Peter Angelos credit for understanding the Constitutional allowances that enable all of us in America the opportunity to make asses out of ourselves.

The Cartoon Version

2012 has seen a return to the Orioles' iconic cartoon logo as the team's main icon for the first time since 1988...

It’s Baltimore gentlemen, the Gods will not save you. — The Wire

As a result, my wife is quite concerned that Kate is running around talking about the Orioles as her new favorite team.  The wife, who is an Angel fan, remains concerned. She is comfortable allowing me to fill Katelyn’s head with dreams of Cal’s Memorial Stadium or Haas Pavilion, but not of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  On the way home from an Easter Egg hunt on Saturday, Amber confronts Katelyn:

Me:  “Who is your favorite team?”

Kate:  “The Orioles…”

Mommy: “The Orioles?”

Kate:  “I like the Orioles, like they are Daddy’s favorite team…”

Mommy (to me):  “You did that!”

Me:  “I did not…this occurred all by itself.”

Of course, none of Katelyn’s sudden weekend interest translated into any desire by her later on that evening to allow me to watch the MLB.com game telecast on my iPad for the Birds’ win against the Twins on Saturday night.  I finally managed to escape to the bathroom to watch both Nick Markakis’ and Matt Wieters’ homeruns in the 7th inning of what became an 8-2 win.  While the game was on, a longtime friend, whom I originally met during the team’s success in the mid-1990s, upon discovering I hadn’t been able to watch the game, began to chide me on Facebook about the fact that Kate had apparently forgotten who her favorite team was.

Truth be told though, between Disney Junior, Disney Princesses, and her other enjoyments of the moment, the Orioles are in competition for her attention.  In addition, in all honesty, while I’ve unabashedly foisted the Cal Bears upon my daughter (it is a public school, after all…), I wanted her choice of professional teams to be more organically chosen.  My father was a Los Angeles Rams fan, and took me to my first Angel game (back when Anaheim was still in Anaheim…), but otherwise never suggested to me what my favorites should be.  I want that particular choice to be the same for Katelyn.  On the other hand, I am not beyond helping the process.  

Perhaps though, this ought to be the process.  Emilie Miller is the daughter of Jon Miller, former broadcaster for the Orioles, formerly of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, and now currently the voice of the San Francisco Giants:

My father, Jon Miller, broadcasts baseball. I do not remember my first game, but I cannot separate my childhood or memories from baseball. For the first six years of my life, my father juggled his duties as a broadcaster and as a single father of two young girls. These duties often overlapped.

In a photograph from the 1980s, my sister Holly and I are sitting in the broadcast booth before an Orioles game at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Cheeks flushed and a bit sweaty on a sticky summer day, we are drawing on the backs of stat sheets. Holly leans languidly on the table in front of the microphone, glaring into the camera and looking bored. I look as if I am still in diapers.

My father raised us while going to games, but he never insisted on our sharing his passion. It could have been easy to raise us as precocious fans with encyclopedic baseball knowledge; we were entrenched.

I was 5 when a foul ball shot into the broadcast booth. My father ducked instinctively as it flew over his head and smashed a window behind him. I happened to be sitting under that window, engrossed in a coloring book.

Before I realized what had happened, I was dripping in shattered glass, which covered my hair and gathered in the folds of my dress. Suddenly, several towering adults surrounded me, their voices full of concern. My father was in the middle of broadcasting the inning. On the car ride home, I learned a lesson from my father: “Em, in baseball, it may seem like nothing is happening, but you must always pay attention.”…[t]o spend so much time in a space that fills night after night with tens of thousands of fans who love a team deeply, and to grow up surrounded by people who, at every pay level, love where they work, was beautiful. I still love sitting in the stands before the stadium opens; it feels like a cathedral, filled only with potential and the sound of flags whipping in the wind. Yet baseball is also the reason I will be forever fond of obnoxiously loud pop music and hot dogs.

As Miller continues, she notes:

But it isn’t just a game. I was born in Texas because my father was a Rangers broadcaster. I grew up in Baltimore because of the Orioles. We were American League, we were Cal Ripken, we were hot summer nights at the yard. As an adult, I visit my family in Northern California and shiver watching Giants games in the whipping wind as the sun set over San Francisco Bay.

She was raised to be a baseball fan first, and a devotee to that passion before she came under the sway of a favorite team.  What the Arte Morenos of the world don’t quite get, in particular given how baseball is not the popular sport it once was, is that baseball fans have to be cultivated, not converted.  Signing an Albert Pujols means very little if the passion for baseball that enables a fan to understand the signing of such a player does not exist first.  Over a 162-game season, the months go by far too slowly to get an immediate rush that other sports can provide a casual fan with only a passing interest.  In fact, I had to chuckle when I heard a panicked fan already complaining to Angel Talk on Saturday when the Halos dropped their game to the Royals; in the caller’s opinion, manager Mike Scioscia’s decision to sit his starting catcher, Chris Ianetta, in favor of backup Bobby Wilson, was one of the factors as to why the Angels had lost.  Given that the Angels were going through a stretch of 3-straight day games, with travel to Minnesota (for the Twins’ home opener yesterday) in between, he couldn’t “get” why it might be important to get a catcher, one of the more demanding positions on a baseball field, some rest.  Already, you could see how this different idea of a 162-game schedule can wear on a fan who is used to snippets of action on Sportscenter.

It’s why when the Orioles lost to the Yank-mes last night, to drop to a 3-1 record after an Opening Series sweep of the Twins, the long season had to be taken into account.  While the Orioles have reverted back to the team’s iconic Cartoon bird head, no baseball season is a cartoon short.  So when it comes to developing my own little girl’s longterm fandom, it is not something I can hope to force upon Katelyn;  this little girl, by her nature, wouldn’t allow us to force anything upon her as it is, anyway.  I will take her to games, teach her what I know, and hope it comes along.  How it develops from there, should be up to her.

Nevertheless, she might like this cap (pictured below).  It goes with a number of her outfits already…



Traveling by Map

We should travel by map! — Kermit the Frog

hyperbole |hīˈpərbəlē| noun: exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.  Example:  “Everywhere in Los Angeles, you can feel a buzz, everybody talking about Albert and this team,” said [Angel owner Arte] Moreno.

While today’s LA Times‘ sports page features the Angels 5-0 win over the Royals prominently on their front page, naturally, yesterday’s LA Times was far more buzzed about the LA Kings making the playoffs, the Clippers’ win in Sacramento, Masters Golf coverage, and finally, of course, the Dodgers’ 5-3 win in San Diego–along with more buzz about new Dodger co-owner Magic Johnson.

The push about the Angels’ home opener, later that night, was pushed to page 7.

No, Arte, not everyone in Los Angeles is talking about Albert Pujols.  Orange County?  Yes. And it’s why both KLAC 570 AM Fox Sports Radio (the Dodgers’ flagship affiliate) and Colin Cowherd on KSPN 710 AM joined the Angels’ AM830 in broadcasting several of their sports talk shows from ANAHEIM yesterday.  To follow Moreno’s tortured logic, these radio broadcasts should have been set up outside of LA Live near Staples Center downtown.

Yes, apparently the local radio guys can all can read a map.  Unlike Moreno, they know that the Angels play somewhat south of LA City Hall.  And unlike Moreno, the palpable excitement for his team is being generated east and southeast of the 605 Freeway.  Nothing much has changed in my 2 generations as an OC native:  these kids are growing up Angel fans–if they follow baseball.  I can recall, in fact, stories that my wife, when she taught in Yorba Linda, telling me of how many of the Angel players living in the neighborhood around her school.   Additionally, one of her 1st graders would love to brag of how he could see into the bathroom of then-Angel centerfielder Jim Edmonds’ bathroom from his own house!  But I digress…

As much as I am a baseball fan though, sadly, when the topic of conversation in my classroom swings occasionally to pro sports talk, I can no longer assume that my kids will automatically know   who might be playing in either the Big A or Dodger Stadium.  I can, however, say “Kobe” and everyone will know what I mean.

Albert Pujols?  Sorry Arte, not so much–if at all!

In light of the Angels’ owner geographic illiteracy, from this morning’s LA Times, we have the most recent development in the State of California’s dream of building a bullet train system:

In a blow to Orange County’s hopes for a boost to business and tourism, the California bullet train project has dropped a link to Anaheim from its current, $68-billion plan.
The rail agency confirmed the shift Friday, marking a significant departure for the Bay Area-to-Southern California high-speed rail system that state voters approved in 2008.
Under newly revised plans, the first phase of the line would have its southern terminus near downtown Los Angeles rather than in Orange County.

While some Anaheim city council people are decrying this decision to delay any extension in Orange County for now, they need not worry should they choose to use the elegant tortured logic of Moreno Mapspeak:  since Anaheim IS Los Angeles, the train is already going to be where it needs to be!

The Secret World of Arrieta

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 06: Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta #34 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers the first pitch of opening day to batter Denard Span #2 of the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 6, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Who knows why she suddenly got interested, but instead of bugging me to watch the trailer (yet again) for Pixar’s Brave, Kate instead wanted to know what I was looking at.  So I pulled it up off of my Facebook feed.  She watched, with rapt attention, all of it

A Q&A ensued:

“Who’s that?”

“Jake Arrieta”

“It’s like the Arriety the movie!” 

“Yeah, it kind of is…”

“Why are you watching that baseball game?”

“It’s the Orioles.”

“Who are the Olioles?”

“They are my favorite team.”

“The Olioles are my favorite team too!”

Lest you wonder, that was unsolicited on my part.  Given that she’s only seen the Padres, Dodgers, and Angels play, for her to, literally, come out of left field with that last comment made Opening Day a perfect one.

And it goes to reinforce an implied point about Arte Moreno.  You gotta grow your fanbase.  Starting them young, rather than stealing them old, is the way to start.  I know Katelyn isn’t that set yet (she likes the Padres, too, depending upon the day…) but I’ll make sure that I’ll have a hand in it.

Catching and Dying from Oriole Fever

Where the Orioles Roost: Camden Yards, 20 years old today...the template for the Retro design movement for many of the newer ballparks.

First day of Spring Break, Baseball’s Opening Day for my Orioles, and given that both the wife and child are at their respective schools and I am off, I can enjoy the free preview of MLB’s Extra Innings with which to stoke my ancient loyalty for the Birds.

Last week on a rare night out with Amber, the spouse of our dinner guest asked an inevitable question that I often get:  “The Orioles?

Naturally, I wind up with the sarcasm back, along with Amber’s spousal rebuke;  they don’t quite understand the promise I made to myself way back in 1969 that in choosing the Birds as my favorite team, this was a “forever” move.  And so it’s gone.  Early on, the choice was easily defensible:  World Series appearances in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1979, and 1983; 2 World Series titles in 1970 and 1983 to go with the earlier win in 1966; 7 AL East titles during that same time.  Then there were the players:  Brooks and Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer and Dave McNally, Eddie Murray, Mike Flanagan, Scott McGregor, and, finally, Cal Ripken, Jr.  And there was the manager, Earl Weaver.

It’s not for nothing that I own autographed baseballs from many of the Oriole Hall-of-Famers:  Ripken, Brooks, Murray, Weaver, Palmer.  (I also have one from Mike Mussina, but given his late-career decision to sign with the Yank-mes, I’m still trying to reconcile that, especially given Moose’s recent induction into the team’s Hall-of-Fame.)

And for my non-existent mancave, I own substantial Oriole knick-knacks to fill its shelves:  bobbleheads, Matchbox cars, caps (including the f-ugly grey crown from 1995), and pennants.  (I once had the temerity to walk up to a souvenir vendor in Fenway Park back in the late 1970s and bought an Oriole pennant.)

Oriole HOFer Cal Ripken, Jr. The face of the franchise for nearly 2 decades, his retirement virtually erased any specific significance that the franchise once held in baseball.

But with that 1983 championship, the bottom gradually fell out, then cratering after a 0-21 start to the 1988 season.  The team’s sustained excellence in its division was but a memory.  The Orioles became a perpetual underdog in the AL East, as first the Blue Jays, and then the Red Sox, Yank-mes, and, finally, the Rays, all moved past the Orioles in terms of their importance, the false spring years of 1996 and 1997 notwithstanding.  Still, claiming Oriole fandom didn’t seem as peculiar, especially when your team’s star was Cal Ripken Jr.  But upon his retirement, the team was left grasping.  Albert Belle was signed for a time, but had to retire with degenerative injuries.  Then both Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro became implicated in the steroids scandal while at the same time, the quality of play on the field became worse and worse.  For instance:

I feel sorry for the fans. You pay that much money to see a game, you expect to see professionals play… We walked 14 people today. We pitched like a bunch of 12-year-olds. We had a guy get picked off when we’re six runs down….If you want any more stories, go out in the clubhouse. They’re the ones making all the money. Have them explain how they did and how they performed in front of 47,000 people. That’s all I have to say.

Ray Miller, Oriole manager, after an Orioles 11-10 loss to the Oakland Athletics. The Orioles started the 1999 season with the third highest payroll, and the worst record 4-14.

All this time, additionally, the team has had to deal with Peter Angelos as its owner.  The team’s fanbase has grown fed up with him.  Also, with the recent sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers, thus ending Frank McCourt’s temporary tenure as baseball’s worst owner, talk has re-emerged that “The Peter” should sell the team.  Facebook pages have emerged along that theme, and it’s even got The Baltimore Sun engaged in the conversation:

But what is undeniable is that for too many Orioles fans, the feeling they want to get from following their favorite team now eludes them. Fans want to believe that this year, there’s a chance. And that the people in power — the people lucky enough to own a baseball team, or assemble one, or manage one, or play for one — are doing everything possible to make winning happen.  [Local anti-Angelos fan leaders] were all very, very adamant about how much they still admired and rooted for the players. To varying degrees, they believe Buck Showalter is a strong manager, and are willing to give Dan Duquette a chance.

But they’ve lost faith in Angelos.

Oriole Friday Night Alternate Cap

As I noted at the end of the 2011 season, the Orioles haven’t seriously mattered to baseball at-large since the 1997 season.  Subsequently, even the team’s adoption of an alternate cap with the team’s initial “O” was questionable, given their struggles.  So my own team loyalty has been trying, to be honest, and mostly goes into hibernation for huge chunks of the season.  I knowingly joked to my teaching colleague last week that the Orioles’ typical exits from playoff contention each season usually means I can focus upon Cal football that much faster.

I remain an Oriole fan however.  Bent, yes, but not yet broken.

I muse over this because of the machinations of Arte Moreno as the Angel owner trying to cut into the Dodgers’ fanbase.  I began to consider that he honestly believes that he can make loyal Dodger fans become loyal Angel fans by “winning”.  (Grow the fanbase, yes.  I don’t question that. Yet that growth would come from those who are casual fans looking for the entertainment vibe, no?) The flipside of that strategy is, of course, about what happens to those fans if Angels struggle or start to lose, especially if their recent free agent player signings don’t pan out over the long term, as I suspect they might not.

Moreno is predicating a fanbase growth strategy by appealing to the fickle nature rather than the loyal.  By claiming that Orange County IS Los Angeles, he wants fans to betray deeply held fan devotion, but without thinking that once switched, it can switch elsewhere just as easily.  Consider, for instance, how Los Angeles hasn’t really missed out on an NFL franchise.  People have just gone elsewhere, or found other ways to get their football fix.  He might grab Angel fans by raiding Dodger fans, but now that Frank McCourt is gone, many Dodger fans are coming right back to the team, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson notwithstanding.

It has never crossed my mind over the past 15 years to consider changing my team loyalty.  Knowing a few loyal Dodger fans as I do, they’re not likely to consider switching either.  The point of being a loyal fan is to enjoy those moments of success when it happens, as it did for the Angels back in 2002, when long-suffering fans of that franchise could truly appreciate the end of a legacy of frustration.  It reminds me of a sign I saw while watching hockey’s New York Rangers celebrate their Stanley Cup win in 1994, after 54 years of failure. The image has stayed with me, even though I’m not a hockey fan.  Simply put, the sign, held by a fan, said “I can die now.”

With elegant simplicity, those four words sum up what it truly means to be a devoted fan.

Arte Moreno wouldn’t get that sentiment.  He might even had tried to make that fan an Islander fan the following season…

Meanwhile, back in the now, on the TV, I watch my Orioles win their Opening Day game against the Twins in Baltimore this afternoon.  Starting Pitcher Jake Arrieta and Rightfielder Nick Markakis help stake the team to a 4-0 lead, and even though Troy Patton and Jim Johnson give some of that lead back in the top of the 9th, JJ finally nails the win down.  The Orioles are now 1-0 on the season.  Hope springs eternal.

They’ll, at least, finish the season 1-161.

Without Bitterness, There’s Something Missing

View from Chavez Ravine, looking towards downtown L.A. with City Hall in the distance...

As the story is told, in the later part of the 1940’s, as the Federal Government made funding available for public housing sites were targeted for removal and redevelopment. Portentously, The Los Angeles City Council put Chavez Ravine at the top of their list of blighted neighborhoods and planned to build just such type public housing in its place- Los Angeles got $110 million dollars on its behalf!…[w]hat follows; eminent domain gives the government the power to purchase private property for the good of the public. Most of the property owners received insubstantial or no compensation for their homes.  People were directed to move, and prominent architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander were hired to design “Elysian Park Heights” housing project.  Chavez Ravine residents were promised, by the city, that they would have first pick of the new and modern housing units.

The residents relocated and the architectural plans were finished, but something transpired. The mood of the country swung from left to right.  The L.A. Times vociferously attacked subsidized housing as a communist action. A Committee against Socialist Housing was formed. In 1951 elected officials, led by the new Mayor Norris Poulson, bluntly canceled the project.  Subsequently, the City was taken to court in 1952 and the court decided: given that money was accepted from the federal government- the housing project must be built .  Instead of complying, the city held a special election and voters decided: they didn’t want a housing project.  Thus, the city bought the vacant properties in Chavez Ravine from the federal government–for about $1.3 million.  As a compromise, the city promised that the land would be used for “public projects” only.

From the Solano Canyon Community Organization 

Well then, since it was the Los Angeles Times who brought it up, it’s interesting how blame got deflected in the above-the-fold article which ran on the front page today:

 The housing plan was eventually abandoned, but by then most of the neighborhood was cleared. By 1957, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley was already thinking of moving the team west. Flying over L.A. one day, O’Malley asked about the site. The next year, the city agreed to a deal for the land with O’Malley. A year later, only a few holdouts remained in the neighborhood.

On May 9, 1959, the city moved to evict the group. TV cameras captured one particularly ugly confrontation in which sheriff’s deputies dragged the Arechiga family from the property.

 Among the local TV cameras were those from KTTV, Channel 11–the Times-owned television affiliate, which would later benefit from the broadcast of Dodger games on television.  Prior to that, it was the LA Times who helped to fan the anti-Communist hysteria which led to the sinking of the public housing project originally designed to be built upon the land where Dodger Stadium now sits.  But when you read the article, Times writer Hector Becerra artfully chooses to avoid any mention of how his newspaper was probably more responsible for the construction of Dodger Stadium than even Walter O’Malley.  When the public housing project was killed, the land lay unused.  Even Walt Disney rejected the land in favor of an Anaheim orange grove for what would become Disneyland.

Dodger owner Walter O'Malley overlooking the construction of Dodger Stadium.

Just imagine the antipathy towards the Mouse House had that deal went down instead!  While the Dodgers are often forced to take the fall in the blame game in popular history, they were actually quite late to the party and I’ve always personally felt that the team takes a bit more of the blame, Walter O’Malley in particular, than it actually deserves:

 When the Dodgers arrived in LA, there was no new ballpark to play in. The Los Angeles Coliseum was used while a stadium location was searched for.

At one point, O’Malley took a helicopter ride to survey the city in the hopes of finding a suitable new home. When he landed, O’Malley said, “Can I have that?” to Ken Hahn, an LA country supervisor along on the site expedition. Hahn answered, “Sure.” He even said they’d throw in the infrastructure to get access to the location. The surprise “that” was a 300-acre site in Chavez Ravine, and it was far from urban. It was several miles from downtown Los Angeles, but O’Malley envisioned an expansive stadium that would eventually seat 56,000 and have parking for a staggering 16,000 cars. (By comparison, Ebbets Field seated 32,000 and had parking for 500 cars.)

The City of Los Angeles, the McCarthy-era politics of the time, and the Los Angeles Times are ultimately as culpable for how poorly the stadium deal went down as the Los Angeles Dodgers themselves.  You rarely see mention of the stadium’s construction history in the team’s recounting of its own legacy, but as the LA Times’ article points out today, the legacy remains.  It is a bitter recounting of corruptible absolute power.

So if and when you read the LA Times’ article from its front page this morning, remember how those same front pages nearly 60 years ago, made today’s main article entirely possible.  I shouldn’t be too surprised though, that Becerra chose to avoid the obvious.  Of course, when you read about the Dodger’s move west from the Brooklyn side, on that end, blaming the Dodgers for heading to L.A. is just as easy as blaming them for Dodger Stadium.

We are often told that history is written by the victors.  It’s therefore not shocking that however you view a particular version of the Chavez Ravine story, the 1% trounces the 99%.  And so it goes when the LA Times gets to write about how they take pity on the victims of its own legacy–and forgets how they got that bitterness.