Goodbye Number One

I got some sad news today about a friend's passing. One thing that compounded the sadness was learning she died a year ago. We had lost touch, perhaps because the seductive nature of modern communication makes us all think that if we have to get a hold of someone it will be an easy task. Well, I waited too long with such convenience and now the opportunity to talk about the Angels with Glorya is forever gone.

We met in the 1990s, dark days to be an Angels fan. I was wearing the hat. Always the only guy to wear that hat back then, especially in the San Fernando Valley. She walked right up and said "Take that hat off!" I asked her if she was a Dodgers fan. "I step in Dog Crap and like stepping in it more than I like the Brooklyn Dog Craps." Now, that is a funny line coming from a person you just met, and if you walked into a sports bar and some dude noticed your Angels hat and called the Dodgers "The Dogshits", well you two would clink your glasses. But Glorya was not a "bro". She looked like someone's mother. A short Armenian lady with a twinkle in her eye and the same Mervyn's type of mom clothes that everyone's mom wore. So here is someone's mom in suburbia calling me on my hat and calling Team Blueballs "Dog Crap" just made me fall in love with her. I told her I wore an Angels hat because I was their number one fan. When I said this, her index finger was immediately three inches from my eyeball "You can keep the hat on, but take that back, you might be number two but I'm number one." Well, that set up the argument for us for the remainder of the relationship.

To have one person in my life who was as insane about the Angels as I was helped me through some pretty miserable losing seasons. The phone would ring after a particularly terrible loss, "They're your team tonight," she would say, and then "What the heck is wrong with your team?" she would just scream, like you know Marcel Lachemann was not doing at the actual players when he should have been.

And talk about a purist, talk about someone standing their ground, she refused to go to any Angels games. I tried over the years, but she was adamant. Two things had to happen: rename them the California Angels. Second: They have to get rid of that pile of Bear Shit in the outfield. Thunder Mountain? Try "Bear Poop Park" (Side note: I actually got her to drop her third demand - that the Angels bring back Jim Edmonds. Her "Jimmy" was her weak spot and I always brought up what a showboat he was to get a rise out of her). Funny how the debate of what makes a good fan has many people questioning the loyalty of those who are overly critical of the team. If we were all as hardcore as Glorya, boycotts of everything but the nightly game broadcasts would bring the front office to its knees. Glorya was legend in her Encino neighborhood for yelling at the television during games. It is one thing for your neighbors to hear you yelling, it is another for dogs a block away to howl when you are screaming obscenities at a Chili Davis inning-ending double play.

She was all passion no analysis for our team. A few times she would ask me, sheepishly, a question about the hows and whys and strategy, like "Why is everyone so hung up on who the leadoff hitter is, why is that so important?" And here, fifteen years later, the Testosterone-With-No-Place-Else-To-Go-Sabermetric-Set is debating the par sec measurements of whether or not her woman's intuition was right all along.

I was at a large outdoor event a few years ago and I heard "Hey Number Two" I spun around so fast - her daughter had spotted me and told me her mother had said that if she saw me at this event to shout that out and not my name "Because it IS his name." And don't think I didn't realize she was calling me shit by calling me #2 as any potty training baby can tell you. She had a wicked chuckle when she called me that for a reason.

I could write a dozen more anecdotes, and really, the regret here is for not having spent some more time with her over the years. But one to which I believe you can all relate. Glorya called me about fifteen minutes before Game Seven of the 2002 World Series. I was a wreck and immediately thought she must be wound as tight as could be, but she wasn't, her voice was as soft as I ever heard it. "We made it, we made it to heaven" I had to gently remind her about the 27 outs that stood in front of us. She would have none of that intellectualizing. "If we lose, we went just as far as them, game seven, we know what heaven looks like. The souls in hell know they will never see heaven but the souls in purgatory know one day they will. We knew we would get here and we did, we're in heaven. No matter what happens, now we know what it looks like so we'll never have to wonder." I'm pretty far from the deep religious faith that Glorya had but I could appreciate that as a metaphor that night and I hope you can too today.

Maybe the next time you are at a game and some grandma is sitting next to you, and she is wearing a vest made out of a quilt, and she is cheering loudly at all the players you wish were not on the team, and she screams for the slap-hitting infielder to hit a homerun, maybe instead of rolling your eyes in your superior superfan arrogance, maybe you should ask her to tell you about this team she loves so much. But be careful, she might make you fall in love with them all over again.

As long as I'm on earth I will cherish memories of Glorya Morales as heaven has our number one fan now.

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