The Los Angeles Angels are bad--so bad that they haven't won a playoff game since 2009 and have posted seven straight losing seasons despite touting the league's MVP or Rookie of the Year in four of those. Teams with two generational talents like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani should not be as bad as this one is.
What if I told you there is a way to explain the unfortunateness that is the Angels? That there's a spooky phenomenon gripping Angel Stadium that extends beyond just mediocre play? Because dating back to the mid-1960s, there's been something strange going on with this franchise--a long list of death and tragedy--almost as if an expert voodooist pierced a dummy rally monkey with pins and needles.
Curses are a part of baseball history as much as cracker jacks, sunflower seeds and seventh inning stretches. If you're a believer in the Curse of the Billy Goat or the Curse of the Bambino, let me present to you the Curse of the Halos.
When the Angels' Curse May Have Began
Some think this curse traces back to the mid-1960s. Back in 1964, the original Anaheim Stadium broke ground in August 1964. According to the Orange County Register, the land the stadium sat atop was "140 acres of farmland and what the Acjachemen Nation, the juaneno band of Mission Indians, believe was their ancient burial ground."
Building stadiums on top of ancient burial grounds sounds like the perfect way for a team to be cursed. Even the team's general manager at one point in the 1970s acknowledged there could be a curse. The team has tried everything from calling in experts to phoning in local tribes to help rid it of a supposed curse.
Sure, the team won the World Series in 2002 and has made plenty of trips to the playoffs throughout the decades. But even into the 21st century there's plenty of occurrences that could be attributed to a curse.
A Timeline of the Halo Curse
- 1965: Rookie reliever Dick Wantz died after surgery for a brain tumor. He made his debut one month prior.
- 1968: Outfielder Minnie Rojas was paralyzed in a car accident in the Florida Keys. His two daughters died in the accident.
- 1972: Utility infielder Chico Ruiz died in a car accident in San Diego. He's famous for his own curse, "The Curse of Chico Ruiz," which is allegedly the reason for the Phillies' 1964 collapse in which they blew a 6.5-game lead with 12 games left.
- 1974: Bruce Heinbechner also died in a car crash during Spring Training. He was 23.
- 1977: Mike Miley, the team's No. 1 draft pick in 1974, died in a single-car crash in Baton Rouge. Angels GM Harry Dalton says the curse is "the first thing I thought of," marking an official mention of the curse.
- 1978: Outfielder Lyman Bostock died. He was coming off an All-Star season. He was shot and killed in Gary, Indiana, before a game against the Chicago White Sox.
- 1989: Former Angels reliever Donnie Moore, who gave up a game-winning home run that cost the team a shot at the World Series in 1986, shot his estranged wife and then killed himself. Many think he took his life and hers because of that home run.
- 1992: A team bus was traveling from New York to Baltimore in May when the driver fell asleep at the wheel. It crashed, and 12 people in the Angels organization were injured. Manager Buck Rodgers spent three months in a hospital. Hitting coach Rod Carew was among the injured.
- 2009: Nick Adenhart tossed six shutout innings against the Oakland A's. Hours later, he and two friends are killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. Adenhart was 22.
- 2018: Infielder Luis Valbuena, who spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons with the Angels, was with Venezuelan winter league teammates when they were ambushed by highway robbers. Valbuena's car's driver crashed, killing Valbuena and one of his teammates.
- 2019: Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in Texas. He overdosed on a mix of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone. Eric Kay, the Angels employee who was providing him with the drugs, was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
The Angels Tried Dispelling the Curse
Throughout the years, the Angels have turned to experts to get rid of the curse.
In August 1977, the team was slumping so bad they decided to call Louise Huebner. She was the head of a nationwide coven consisting of 4,000 witches. She gave players magic circles and told them to rub them at 9 p.m. under a full moon. It worked. The team went 6-0 with her. "CURSES! ANGELS WIN ANOTHER FOR THE WITCH," read one headline in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, according to Baseball Guru. However, some players -- like Bobby Bonds -- insulted her during her time, and she pulled out.
"I wasn't too thrilled being involved with them. I felt I shouldn't have used the energy of the Magic Circle, because the Angels were not sincere and honest. They didn't participate or give anything back," she said.
"I'm not Mary Poppins. I don't have to help anybody. So I just pulled out. I put the Curse back on."
Some 30 years later, players were given figurines to "protect them." In 2002, the ballpark was blessed by a local tribe before the season began. The Angels won the World Series that season. Coincidence? I think not.
Much like the one with the billy goat and the one with Babe Ruth, curses usually end with a World Series. But the Adenhart, Valbuena, and Skaggs incidents say otherwise.
So, Are the Angels Really Cursed?
That depends on whether you believe in curses. After digging into all of this (and I know it's a lot to take in), I certainly do. But for a curse to be real we have to prove that can't all just be coincidence. The sheer number of unfortunate events alone will show that.
Exactly 52 players have died while on an active MLB roster since the original Angel Stadium broke ground in August 1964. Eight of them were either on the Angels at the time, recently played for the Angels or were known for their time in Anaheim.
And according to a piece over at SABR.org, 32 MLB players died while on a roster or within a year of their last game from 1960-2011. The Angels were linked to seven of those. The next closest by team? The Cleveland Indians, who lost three players--two of which died in the same 1993 boating accident.
If curses and hexes and spells are real, then the Angels are most certainly cursed. There's no other way to explain this. Some advice for Trout and Ohtani: don't step on any cracks, and for the love of God stay away from black cats.
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