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At 15, Angels 1995 Collapse a Wistful "What If"

Fifteen years ago today (October 2, 1995) the California Angels lost a one-game playoff to the Seattle Mariners to determine the winner of the American League West. The game was nerve-wrackingly neck and neck for about the first two hours, but a Mariners blowout ensued and the Angels had accomplished the biggest standings collapse in baseball history.

Fifteen years ago today, the California Angels played their final game. It was the last gasp of Gene Autry's team. The Disney corporation would take over, they would remake the stadium, dump "California" for "Anaheim" and introduce a new uniform and set of team logos. History (aka "TrAdition") was wiped clean, erased. The baseball organization would be gutted even more severely than the stadium four seasons later, after a disastrous 1999 campaign that would serve as 95's bookend to a mediocre transitional phase... the darkest hours before the team's brightest dawn.

Fifteen years ago today, the Angels could have won. Seattle would have no Safeco field and the Mariners might have had to relocate. The Angels would have faced the Yankees in the ALDS and perhaps the Indians in the ALCS. Had the backward-glancing dominoes cracked the crystalline impossibility of history, the Angels may have faced the Braves in the 1995 World Series. Perhaps Disney would have been outbid for ownership of the team. Maybe a new Stadium would have been built by this fog of a billionaire instead of Disney's going All-In on Terra Firma Anaheim. Who knows? It might have been great, but it would be hard to imagine anything much brighter than the recent two-thirds of the past fifteen seasons. So was it all for the better for us - to extend our suffering for another seven years? Not to any Angels fan who passed away in the interim. The Braves won 14 straight divisions and 1995 was their only ring. Chipper Jones and his manager Bobby Cox are the last Braves from that season who have a shot at a second one.

Fifteen years ago today, Rex Hudler got into a scrap with Mark Langston in the dugout at the Kingdome. Today he is the most loved Angel of the 1995 team and as of Saturday afternoon has been brought back by popular demand. Who on that afternoon would have thought that the Angels would win a Series before those talent-laden M's (Griffey, Big Unit, A-Rod) ever even got there?

Fifteen years ago today, OJ Simpson's jury reached its verdict. During the game the text scrolled along the bottom that the announcement would come tomorrow. The next day many said "Oh, he'll get his..." but nobody believed it... but hey, lookie there, he did! So the headlines ensured that the California Angels disappeared into the mist and were forgotten. For over half a decade the sole highlight of the Anaheim Angels was being the only team with a winning season record against the 125-win World Champion 1998 Yankees. Nice trivia, but no cigar.

Fifteen years ago this March, New York Circuit judge Sonia Sotomayor ruled that baseball was mandated to keep work rules in place from the expired player's agreement, forcing MLB to return to the bargaining table and ending the worst labor stoppage in the sport's history. She sits on the Supreme Court now.

Fifteen years ago today, the Angels turned out the light; they would not click it back on for four years and 29 days. That would be when they hired Bill Stoneman, who designed history's dominoes to fall toward our team's promised land. And so as we suffer now from a lousy year of dashed hopes, understand that every future glory you and your children will feel because of this team will have some seeds that were planted in the misery of 2010. Here's looking at the sweet fruit that will one day fall into our lap, necessitated by this year's futile harvest.

So where were you fifteen years ago today and how did the Kingdome Kollapse affect you?