John Holway / History
THE ANGELS' WITCH
By John B Holway
Will "the Angels' Curse?" strike again? Is there really a curse? The following is a true story for Halloween. Read and decide for youself.
The uncanny tragedies that have dogged the Anaheim Angels goes back almost to the birth of the franchise -- fatal accidents to Angels stars, dashed post-season hopes etc.
Just 25 years ago, August 1977, the team was in a bad slump, 14 games behind, and had lost five of six games. "We'll try anything," muttered general manager Harry Dalton.
"Anything?" wondered Dick Miller of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. He called Louise Heubner, head of the Magic Circle of 4,000 witches nationwide, the largest coven in America.
Huebner was not an evil old hag. She was actually a beautiful brunette, featured in Life Magazine, which called her "the good witch of the West." She didn't believe in Satan or cast evil spells, though she could whomp up some pretty potent love potions for those who asked. She followed the old pre-Christian religion of Europe, which gave us today's Christmas tree, Yule log, mistletoe, and colored eggs.
She told Miller she would help the Angels.
They faced a tough schedule, with games against the Yankees, Orioles, Royals, and Red Sox, all battling for division titles.
First, Huebner gave Magic Circle medals to Dalton and owner Gene Autrey with instructions to rub them at nine p.m. under a full moon. It would not only help the team but would improve their own sexual activity.
"Do I have to wait until nine o'clock?" Dalton asked.
The players also got medals just before the Yankee game August 3.
"Don't touch them!" Bobby Bonds (Barry's father) snapped. "It's voodoo."
The Herald ran a ran a large picture of Louise gazingly beautifully over a row of candles. "The Angeles will be automatically connected into psychic energy of 4,000 members," she said. At nine o'clock, I will enter a quiet room and light a candle. I will sprinkle a heavy circle of salt around myself. I will write out this message: 'I will use the Magic Circle energy for good. I will contribute my share as demanded. I am an important creation within the universe.'"
That night Nolan Ryan faced New York's Ron Guidry.
In the second inning, Don Baylor's double touched off a three-run inning. Ryan, pitching without his fabled fastball, struck out only three and gave nine hits. The Yanks tied the game, but in the eighth Bonds smacked a homer to win.
Two nights later sore-armed Frank Tanana faced Baltimore, trying to win his 13th game."The signs are favorable for Frank," Huebner announced, consulting her zodiac tables. "And he will be able to tap into the psychic energy of 4,000 Magic Circle members."
"The wicked, wicked withcraft worked," Miller wrote next morning.
Tanana was mystified. He hadn't had a good breaking ball all year, "but they kept swinging at it, and it wasn't even in the strike zone." He pitched a three-hitter, Bonds hit another homer, and the team trotted off the field as the organist broke into "That old black magic has me in its spell."
Whatever Huebner did, Tanana said, "I hope she does it every night."
On August 6 Bonds slugged another homer in a 9-5 victory.
CURSES! ANGELS WIN ANOTHER FOR THE WITCH
the Herald-Examiner headlined.
The next night they faced Jim Palmer, the league's biggest winner. California countered with Dave LaRoche, winner of seven games. Losing 3-0 in the sixth, California rallied for five runs, and Bonds added another home run for their fourth straight victory. They were now only eight games behind.
"I can't explain it," Bonds shrugged. "We still have a shot at the pennant."
Next were two games in Kansas City, where the Royals had won 13 straight. Ryan was due to pitch. "But there's really no life in my arm," he admitted.
"Mr Ryan will have the strength of 4,000 men," Louis assured readers.
"I really didn't have anything on the ball from the first inning on," Nolan said. But he gave up only two hits and walked off with a 4-0 victory.
Who would pitch game two? There was only one starter left on the overworked bench -- journeyman Wayne Simpson, who was 5-8 that year and had pitched his last shutout seven years before.
He pitched his best game in eight years, more than seven innings of shutout ball. Bonds hit another of his now daily home runs, and the winning streak had reached six, the team's longest since 1974.
Cracked Louise: "I haven't been this tired since I flew to Transylvania on an economy broom."
However, Bonds was still calling Huebner a Satanist.
She had tried to help, she said, but "some of the players were very insulting. I wasn't too thrilled being involved with them. I felt I shouldn't have used the energy of the Magic Circle, because the Angels were not sincere and honest. They didn't participate or give anything back.
"I'm not Mary Poppins. I don't have to help anybody. So I just pulled out. I put the Curse back on."
In their next game the Red Sox knocked Tanana out of the box.
California won the next day, but then lost three out of four to New York by scores of 10-1, 9-3, and 15-3.
We now had some comparative data on the Angels' performance.
|W||L||Runs For||Runs Against|
Ryan won only three more games all season and lost six. Tanana was 2-2. Simpson never won another game in the major leagues.
The Angels finished the year 28 games behind.
The next season Autrey lured batting star Lyman Bostock for $2.2 million. Bostock had a disastrous start. In September he was sitting in a car at a stop light when a man poked his pistol inside and fired at another passenger. He hit Bostock, killing him instantly.
In '86 the Angels were one strike away from the pennant, with all their players poised on the dugout steps ready to celebrate, when ace reliever Donnie Moore gave up a home run to Dave Henderson, a .234 hitter. The Angels lost the pennant.
Moore committed suicide.
(Adapted from Baseball Astrologer and Other Weird Tales," by John B Holway, 2000, Total Sports Illutrated. For an autographed copy, send $24 to the author at 5511 Callander Dr, Springfield VA 22151.)