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Angels Ballgame May Break Out At Theme Park

Wed., April 1, 1998

The guys from the Bronx Zoo may find themselves wondering if they’ve accidentally stumbled into Disneyland.

When the New York Yankees and Anaheim Angels play their season-opener today, it will be in an “imagineered” stadium, completing the remake of the Angels franchise in the Disney image.

After a $117-million, three-year remodeling financed jointly by The Walt Disney Co. and the city of Anaheim, the Southern California stadium features a “Pirates of the Caribbean” look beyond the fence in left-center, with fake rocks, waterfalls and fireworks for celebrating.

These certainly aren’t Gene Autry’s Angels, at least in appearance.

Since buying a 25 percent interest of the team from Autry in 1996 and taking over operating control, Disney has changed the stadium, the logo, the uniforms and even the name, replacing California with Anaheim.

The stadium also has a new mouthful of a name - Edison International Field of Anaheim - following a $50-million, 20-year agreement with the utility company.

The park looks entirely different. Seating was increased from 43,250 to 64,593 to accommodate the NFL Rams when they moved from the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1979, but has been trimmed back to a cozy 45,050, with the high outfield decks gone and a freeway and mountain view through center field again.

With the main entry an infield laid out in brick and set off by a pair of huge batting helmets, fans will get the feeling they’re entering a theme park - no surprise there. Disney has been heralding, “There’s a Brand New Theme Park in Anaheim.”

So far, so good. Tonight’s game against the Yankees is the first home sellout in Angels history.

Tobacco-related lesions common

Opening day brought sobering news for players who chew tobacco.

A check of major league players during spring training found 59 percent of those who volunteered for oral exams had tobacco-related lesions. Eleven percent were serious enough to require biopsies to detect possible cancer.

“About 35-40 percent of major league players are (chewing tobacco) users, about half of those have lesions,” said Dr. John Greene, dean emeritus of the University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry, who examined the players as part of the fledgling National Spit Tobacco Education Program. “Those are scary.”

Greene visited nine teams, discovering tissue damage in the mouths of 83 of 141 players. Fifteen required biopsies.

Greene said players who came saying, “I can quit anytime I want. I don’t need any help,” quickly changed their tune when they could see what was happening inside their own mouths.

Aaron makes his pitch

Hank Aaron made a rare on-field appearance to mark Milwaukee’s historic return to the National League in its opener at Atlanta.

“This is a happy moment, not only for the people of Milwaukee but baseball itself,” said the all-time home-run king, an executive for the Braves. “Milwaukee has always considered itself a National League city.”

Talk about going deep

Once upon a time, fans wore mitts at baseball games, but as the Arizona Diamondbacks opened their new ballpark, some planned to wear swimsuits.

But swimmers who planned to watch the game while cavorting in the pool, heated spa and swim-up bar beyond the right-center field fence were wise if they adhered to tradition by bringing along baseball gloves.

The pool is just 415 feet from home plate, making it a prime target for sluggers such as Arizona’s Matt Williams.

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