The big "A" on the California Angels' hats ought to stand for alumni.
This is a team of players most all of whom became famous somewhere else and are now spending the present trying to live up to their past.
The most conspicuous example of the phenomenon is the Boston Red Sox contingent of Fred Lynn, Rick Burleson and Butch Hobson, plus other less renowned Red Sox as Don Aase and Steve Renko.
However, the whole Angel club, an aggregation that perennially seems more like a collection of all-star bubble gum cards than a true team, has the disconcerting quality that the faces look right but the uniform is all wrong.
Rod Carew never will be an Angel; he won seven batting titles in Minnesota.
Don Baylor and Bobby Grich may have played on the only Angel playoff club in history (1979), but they spent nine and 10 years, respectively, in the Baltimore organization and went to two playoffs each as Birds.
Ed Ott was the catcher for world champion Pittsburgh in '79. And Bruce Kison was the opening-game Buc pitcher in that Series.
On the current makeshift pitching staff, Ken Forsch made his name in Houston, Wayne Zahn in Minnesota, Doug Rau in Los Angeles and Billy Travers in Milwaukee.
Even Danny Ford was a regular outfielder for four Minnesota seasons.
And who are those guys sitting at the end of the bench? Why it's Campy Campaneris, famous long ago in Oakland, and Fred Patek, the tiny Kansas City shortstop.
To say that the Angels have no team identity would be gross understatement.
They have an anti-identity from an earlier time that always haunts them. Nothing that they will ever do as Angels is likely to match the thrills they had someplace else, or leave the mark for which they will be remembered when they are old men.
Lynn always will be the rookie MVP of the '75 Sox as Rooster and Butch (Burleson and Hobson) always will be the hard-nosed left side of the infield for that Over the Wall Gang. Carew always will be the .388-hitting Twin. And so forth, to the distress of the current Angels.
"Nobody ever seems to have a good first year when they get out here," said Lynn last night, just three days back in the lineup after missing a week with a knee injury. "I don't know why it is, but I can already guess. You feel like it's your rookie year all over again, the same tingle, the same desire to prove yourself.
"It's always easier to make it the first time when you're an unknown quantity and there are no specific expectations. You'd think it would be easier for a proven player to come to a new town than for a rookie coming up, but it's probably harder for the veteran," add Lynn, whose production as an Angel fits the general pattern of disappointment. At this pace, Lynn would have only 20 homers, 80 RBI and a .278 average for his $1.3-million annual salary.
"Once you've proven what you can do," said Lynn, "that's exactly what people expect of you.They say, "That's his average production,' but they forget that to have that 'normal' season you had to give 100 percent. So, all of a sudden, what used to be 100 percent of what you could do is now the minimum that's expected.
"That even happens in your original city. I hit .298 in Boston one year, everybody said I had a terrible season."
It goes without saying that in a new city the demands are even tougher.
"Our fans have been a little rough on us at home," said Manager Jim Fregosi, thinking of last year as well as this. "We've played much better on the road than at home (12-7 on the road, 8-12 at home.)
If players as good as Carew and Grich can suffer from the first year in wonderland that afflicts the team that plays in the shadow of Disneyland, then it can certainly work on the newest alumni, from Boston.
So far, Lynn has struggled with his minimal stats and is temporarily wearing a knee brace that makes him a fraction of his normally splendid self in center. Hobson, now away from the friendly Fenway wall, may be on the way to a truly dismal year. After a full fourth of the season, Hobson, playing every day, has only two homers, and has more errors than RBI (nine to eight), the hallmark of only the very worst seasons.
As might be guessed from his personality throughout seven years of Boston tragicomedy, Burleson has responded to adversity by spitting in its eye. With the Red Sox, he was always the player who faced up to failures and rallied what spirit existed on the Carmine Hose. As an Angel, he said, "I feel absolutely great." The California native is hitting .325 leading the league in hits (53) and has teamed spectacularly with Grich around second for a league-leading 49 double plays.
Perhaps the final irony on this squad is that Fregosi, almost the only person on the team whose primary baseball identity has been achieved both as an Angel player and manager, still is very much in danger of losing his job to Gene (Little Colonel) Mauch, alumnus manager from Philadelphia, Montreal and Minnesota.
Until the Angels won seven of 10 games to climb above .500 to 20-19, Fregosi was on tenterhooks daily. This evening, Fregosi's old friend, Oriole Coach Elrod Hendricks, wandered over to the Angel bench and pretended to be shocked to see Fregosi, jumping back as though he had seen a ghost.
"Yeah, I'm still here," quipped Fregosi.
"I thought you were dead," said Hendricks.
"And buried," agreed Fregosi.
Hendricks stomped his foot as though tapping dirt on top of a grave. "I thought the Little Colonel had your job for sure," said Hendricks.
Perhaps that is the final warped touch the expatriate Angels deserve: an alumni manager