Tomorrow night, the Los Angeles Angels go into this year’s first round of the American League playoffs, facing the Boston Red Sox. Mike Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe recalls the days, three decades ago, when the Angels, in their first foray into the AL postseason, had Richard Nixon in the stands to cheer them on:
The president-in-exile’s San Clemente home was only 35 miles from the venue then known as Anaheim Stadium. Nixon was a friend of Angels owner Gene Autry. He represented the conservative values of Orange County. He loved baseball. And he was an Angels season ticket-holder who went to at least 20 games during the 1979 season. He didn’t seem to be bothered that the Angels had a pitcher named Dave (don’t call me David) Frost.
There were no Frost-Nixon interviews when Nixon visited the Angels clubhouse. There was just the sight of Bobby Grich pouring champagne on the former president’s head after the Angels clinched the division in 1979. At home playoff games against the Orioles, Nixon sat behind a banner that read, “Never give up’’.
“He really knew baseball and he really knew the players,’’ said John Moynihan, stadium press box director, who has been with the Angels for 50 seasons. “He’d go into the clubhouse with Mr. Autry and he knew who the players were, even if they weren’t wearing their uniform top. I remember Donnie Moore came over and asked me, ‘How does Mr. Nixon know my name?’ ’’
There were special Nixon Rules at the Big A. Spectators were not allowed to wear Nixon masks.
“You never knew who was behind those masks, so the city passed a rule that you could not wear a Nixon mask into the stadium,’’ said Moynihan.