Fans show support on Rally Monday
Celebration kicks off Angels' appearance in playoffs
ANAHEIM -- For two hours, more than 20,000 Angels fans cheered, screamed and celebrated the Angels' third playoff berth in the last four seasons.
The seats at Angel Stadium were a sea of red-clad fans, sporting red-and-white mohawks, while waving foam fingers and rally monkeys. With Game 1 of the American League Division Series set for Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. PT at Fenway Park, Angels fans showed up ready for a championship.
The fans were treated to a 45-minute concert by The English Beat, a revivalist group from England. The performance ignited the ceremonies and put a jolt in the crowd.
The event, which was hosted by Angels broadcasters Steve Physioc and the Rex "Wonderdog" Hudler, kicked off with the Angels girls throwing baseballs and T-shirts into the crowd, sending Halos faithful into a frenzy.
"You know what's amazing is that in 2002 we had over 100,000 people outside when the Angels won the World Series, and now you go in after you win the West and you have 15,000 to 20,000 people not for a ballgame but just to show their appreciation for the team," Physioc said. "I think it's a great credit to Southern California, which I've always felt is a great baseball town."
During the concert, the U.S. Army Golden Knights, a parachute team that has been wowing audiences at air shows for more than 44 years, fell from the sky and landed on the field, quieting the crowd for a second before chants of "USA! USA! USA!" filled the stadium.
After the concert, the USC Marching Band took the field, drumming and marching their way to the mound in front of the crowd. The band played for 20 minutes before exiting the field to its signature "Fight On" song. The fans immediately jumped to their feet, waving two fingers in the air to show their support for the university.
"It was great, we got a little scared when the parachute team came flying in, but this was great," said Pico Rivera resident Frank Barrillas, who showed up with his wife wearing an authentic Angels jersey. "The marching band was great, but my wife really got excited when Tim Salmon came out."
Former Angels Salmon, Chuck Finley, Jim Abbott and Bobby Grich took center stage when they were introduced by Physioc and Hudler. Grich led the fans in an Angels spellout. The crowd erupted, "A-N-G-E-L-S" and finished it off with three chants of "Angels! Angels! Angels!"
Abbott received a warm welcome by the crowd and returned the gesture by telling the fans how much he appreciated their support when he was a member of the team. Abbott, who played with the Angels for six seasons, enjoyed his best season in 1991, when he won 18 games and finished third in the Cy Young Award balloting.
Finley, who owns the franchise record for most victories, enjoyed a standing ovation, but the biggest applause came when Salmon, who was a member of the 2002 World Series team, was introduced. The crowd, encouraged by Hudler, chanted "Kingfish! Kingfish! Kingfish!," leaving Salmon speechless, with a huge grin on his face.
Salmon, who played his entire 14-year career with the Angels and retired last year, recalled his heroic two-homer game in which he led the Angels past the Giants in the second game of the 2002 World Series.
"It doesn't surprise me at all. I think everybody appreciates these guys. The people know Bobby and a lot them saw him play, and Chuck Finley I think everybody appreciates the courage he pitched with," Physioc said of the fans' ovation for the former Angels. "You got Tim Salmon, who won in 2002, and Jim Abbott, I think everybody respects his courage and excellence as a person. He is a true Angel."
The night came to a conclusion with a highlight reel of the Angels' 2007 season and a spectacular fireworks show.
"I was here in 2005, and this was a bigger turnout," Barrillas said. "We got here early and watched as the sections just filled up. People just kept coming."
Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.