by Robert Goldman
A Complete History of the Angels,
told through memories of the players who lived it
The town car glistened as it coasted down from the Sunset Boulevard entrance and made the sweeping turn into the Dodger Stadium parking lot. To Dean Chance, riding inside, the scene was eerily familiar. The gentle rolling hills and palm trees, the massive decks and duo scoreboards, the 76 gas station in the parking lot near the 110-freeway exit-everything was pretty much as he remembered in 1962. As the car came off the hill and the full expanse of the ballpark emerged, Chance became reflective. It was here that he had captivated thousands of fans with his blazing fastball and wicked slider. It was here that he first felt the thrill of success. Now older and wiser, he couldn't believe how the years had flown by.
Not that his time since then had been wasted. Quite the contrary, Chance had done quite well for himself since he left baseball. Over the years he had been a carnival operator, a poster salesman and a commissioner for the International Boxing Association. He had fooled a lot of people with that slow midwestern drawl, but Dean was anything but slow, and he sure as hell was no yokel. He possessed a deadly combination of natural intelligence and street smarts; he was a wicked poker player who could charm women like a Frenchman. As a boxing promoter, he had sparred with the best. Bob Arum and Don King knew and respected Chance's promoting abilities. He'd lived a big life and experienced a lot, but he knew without thinking twice he'd trade it all just to stand on that mound again and face down Mickey Mantle one more time.
"Boys, we park out in left field like we always did," Chance said. "We'll go in through the old players' entrance."
As the car pulled up behind the bleachers, former Angel clubhouse assistant Bob Case appeared outside the stadium to greet Chance. Dean befriended Bob in 1962, and the two have remained close ever since. But today isn't a joyful reunion. They're here to honor an old friend who had recently passed away: Chance's former teammate, Bo Belinsky.
Chance led the men through the players' entrance alongside the left field bullpen. As he made his way down the concrete runway the musty smell of the cold gray corridors was somehow reassuring, and the sensation of entering a big league ballpark excited him again. Heading towards the elevator to the Stadium Club, they passed a door that seemed vaguely familiar. Curious, Chance peered in and what he saw hit him like a line drive up the middle. It was the old Angels locker room. Chance gasped in amazement. Nothing had changed. Freddie Fredrico's training room, Bill Rigney's office, the showers and sinks, everything was still in place. Chance made his way over to his old locker and touched the ancient wood sidings and metal hooks. Unbelievable, he thought to himself. They're exactly the same.
When he walked over to Bo's stall, Chance imagined his flamboyant teammate standing there, his long, lean frame wrapped in a towel, sarcastically giving the business to a beat reporter across the room. Then Chance's thoughts went to the night of Belinksy's legendary no-hitter, and how that one game had changed so many lives, his included.
Chance continued down the rows of lockers naming each player as if they were still there. Bilko, Pearson, Koppe, Rodgers, Fregosi…Finally Case reminded his friend that the service was to begin shortly, and if they didn't want to be late they better get going. As the party made its way to the elevator, Chance thought again about his old friend. God, Bo! If only you were still here to see this."