Even though attention often is dramatically diverted by the Bird, Mark Fidrych, and the Nerd, Billy Martin, assorted lumberjacks in Boston and pennant growls from some Cubs the long-playing attraction this baseball season has been the American League West.
That is the division with the major's best hitter, Rod Carew, and best pitcher, Frank Tanana, where managers pack an overnight bag instead of a suitcase on road trips home of Veeck, as in Wreck, and Wreck, as in Charles O. Finley, and also the sporting equivalent of the B-1 bomber, the California Angels.
Since last season Gene Autry allegedly has committed himself - now and in the future - to nearly $8 million in salaries and bonuses for performers, such as Joe Rudi, Don Baylor, Bobby Grich, Gary Nolan and Ken Brett, who will make his team less funny than its Anaheim neighbor. Disneyland.
Autry's ante would by a wing and perhaps a tail section of the B-1, of course, but no one since the Big Bucks Era in baseball began two yearsago has spent anything near that staggering amount for new talent in less than a year. Now both projects seemed doomed although the Angels may yet fly again.
In truth, the White Sox's Bill Veeck indirectly told Autry his would be a financial folly, that Reggie Jackson was the only expensive free-agent signing that made sense during the off season.
"Joe Rudi is a great player," Veek said. "but when one of our pitchers strikes out Joe Rudi, you hear only plite applause. When one of our pitchers strikes out Reggie Jackson, it brings the house down."
If midseason trends continue, the Angels will generate nearly $1.3 million more than last season. So the signings at least made cents. General manager Harry Dalton said the team needed to draw 1.5 million customers to break even. That seems likely.
Still, the Angels were in fourth place after last season; they currently are in fourth place, almost equidistant from first and last. Once again they will go as far as Tanana and Nolan Ryan take them.
So far, the major reason Charlie's Angels have been the bigger hit has been that Gene's Angels keeping getting hurt. Rudi was added to something called the supplemental disabled list the other day because the regular one, with a limit of two, was filled.
Before Rudi suffered a fractured bone in his right hand, Grich had been all but declared out for the season with a back injury that required surgery Sunday and Nolan deactivated with troubles that started with mono in the spring.
Rudi is expected to miss at least three weeks; Nolan may be available in a week or so. He is pitching batting practice now, trying to regain his strength and stamina. Apparently, he began pitching with too much zest too soon for the Reds.
Doctors are optimistic that Grich will be completely mended "next season." At times, Don Baylor and Bobby Bonds also have missed several games with injuries.
Whatever, the Angels at the moment are being embarrassed by that well-known miser, Calvin Griffith, and his Minnesota Twins and the reluctant spender in Chicago, Veeck. And Kansas City, in third place, seems ready to mount a charge toward a repeat of last season's divisional title.
Despite Carew, the Twins have defied belief, and perhaps now are about to drift downward toward their natural level of competence. By doing the exact opposite of the Angels, the Twins are winning more. If Autry did not much, Griffith did less than nothing.
In the offseason, the Twins lost two fine three agents, Bill Campbell and Eric Soderholm. They also lost five players in the expansion draft and sent four of the players they protected in the draft to the minors.
In all, 13 players who at the end of 1976 were expected to help the team rise from last season's third-place finish have not been a factor. With could wrap up the division by early September, if only Carew would break his leg.
The AL West is such that the clipped Angels may yet crawl to the top of the division about the time Finley fires another manager. Rudi had 53 runs batted in on 62 hits before his injury; Tanana and Ryan are in fine form.
At home Monday night, Ryan tied Sandy Koufax's major-league record by striking out 10 or more hitters in a game for the 97th time. Whether he cheated or not to do it remains his secret.
In his book, "The Other Game," Ryan reveals his fast ball has been delivered from as much as a foot closer to the hitter than the rules allow. For him, the "rubber" sometimes is 59 feet, 6 inches from the plate.
"You can do it on certain mounds," he wrote. "I can cheat six inches to a foot. I dig a trench in front of the mound a couple of innings in advance . . . Cheating is accepted in baseball so I participated."
Greed also is accepted in baseball. And Autry participated. He will not assume the blame if the Angels fail to produce a checkbook championship. Dalton and manager Larry Sherry will be held responsible, with the reasoning best expressed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneer director of player personnel, Ron Wolfe.
"If we have the No. 1 pick (in the NFL draff) again next year," he said, "I won't be here to announce it."