In California's World Series, a missing rivalry

By , Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor , Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

It is, geographically, a California World Series.

But starting with the first pitch Saturday night of Game 1 between the San Francisco Giants and Anaheim Angels, the only question will be: Which California will win?

According to postal carriers and cartographers, San Francisco and Anaheim are West Coast cousins, linked by the broad stretch of a single state. Yet according to Imelda Enrique, standing outside Edison Field in Anaheim, "San Francisco is another place entirely."

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"Nothing against them," she says, "but they might as well be in a different state."

The feeling is mutual.

One is simply "The City," the fog-enshrouded enclave of California's high caste – of old gold-rush money and the Young Turks of high tech, of tapas bars and cable cars. The other is the backdrop for Disneyland, and the center of America's new suburban experiment – a conglomeration of sprawl so massive that it has become its own metroplex, even though it lacks anything that could be traditionally called a "city."

It's greenies vs. growth, strip malls vs. Swan Lake, Space Mountain vs. Russian Hill. Yet, so far completely missing from this classic rivalry of California's north and south is, well, a rivalry of north and south. The most traditional California battle line has yet to be drawn, and some say that is a reflection of a much broader change, not only in state sports, but also in the state itself.

Where northern and southern California were once largely fiefdoms of San Francisco and Los Angeles, a dozen new city-states such as Anaheim – and its surrounding Orange County – have risen, splintering the geographical hegemony.

Fans milling about in front of ballparks in Anaheim and San Francisco can feel the change. For all the differences of the two cities, neither group can cough up much animosity for the other. Anaheim is not Los Angeles, after all, and until now, not many people in either place thought of comparing Anaheim with San Francisco – on the field or as a city.

As this series suggests, though, that is changing, and as other urban centers from Fresno to Monterey develop, the notion of a north and a south California is evaporating.

"We're not used to juxtaposing these two cities to one another, because Orange County is kind of a new entity," says Kevin Starr, the state librarian. "So this is sort of a big thing. It announces that Orange County is coming of age."

Yet along San Francisco's Embarcadero, where flags snap in the cool October wind, Anaheim gets little respect. Not that fans who have gathered outside Pacific Bell Park in search of tickets are mocking. To the contrary, it seems that it's the first time any of them have seriously considered Orange County. "If people thought of Anaheim as a Los Angeles team, then maybe there would be a rivalry," says David Hafner, a Marin County novelist who's wrapped himself in a blanket and camped in front the gate.

At least Los Angeles has the legendary Dodgers and a history that dates back to before the invention of the microwave. Anaheim was a bourgeois upstart. When San Francisco was a bohemian mecca in the late 19th century, Orange County was a collection of orange growers.

In San Francisco, where a significant complaint is the Disneyfication of downtown and where only 13 percent of registered voters are Republican, Orange County largely remains that odd place down south with Disneyland and lots of Republicans. Up north, people dressed in mouse ears are a sign of absurdity – unless they've locked themselves in a cage to protest the inhumane treatment of lab rats. "I would have rather had us playing New York," Mayor Willie Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Can you imagine the embarrassment if we lose to Anaheim?"

Orange County gets that a lot. Cultural wasteland. Polluted beaches. Sports laughingstock.

Before this year, the Angels had never won a postseason series. Football's Los Angeles Rams, though they played in Anaheim for 14 seasons, won their only two championships before and after their tenure here. The Mighty Ducks hockey club has been known only as a vehicle for Disney movies.

That underachievement, some say, reflects a deeper inferiority complex here. As a humor columnist with the Orange County Register, Jeff Kramer has noted it, toyed with it, and exploited it.

"There's a jealousy [of San Francisco]," he says. It's as if "we wish we had enough confidence in our own identity to put on a dress," as some San Franciscan men are wont to do, he laughs. "That self-assurance comes from being a global city."

Even the celebrities who came to watch the Angels came because they had no other choice.

"[When I first came here], I was an unknown comic from Cleveland who couldn't get Dodger tickets," chuckles Arsenio Hall, who is holding forth on the third-base line as a pre-World Series batting practice goes on. "I had a lawyer with clients like [Billy] Crystal and [Steven] Spielberg, and he is not going to give this Arsenio Hall, the new comedian, any [good] tickets."

Now, the rich and famous are clamoring to get in.

Indeed, in Southern California, where the index of trendiness can be gleaned by the number of luminaries, Anaheim is in uncharted territory. Reese Witherspoon, Kevin Costner, and Pierce Brosnan, among others, have shown up this postseason.

All along, Orange County residents say, the community had culture outside Disneyland – its own opera, its own Shakespearean theater troupe, its own branch of the University of California. Latinos are changing the ethnic landscape. Now, less than 50 percent of voters are registered Republicans.

"It's an unbelievably diverse community," says Peter Schmuck, who grew up here and covered the Angels for 10 years as a sports writer before moving to Baltimore. "It doesn't have the same provincial attitude that you have in a St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, or Boston.... People are always from somewhere else."

Now, in its own unassuming way, Orange County is taking its first great draft of success.

"It's like, 'Look who's on top now?'" chides resident and machinist Larry Rusin, gently. "It's a humble pride, not a rub-in-your-face pride, but it's like, 'Say what you want, but look who's going to the World Series now?' "

Pride and actors are one thing. Far greater, say some, is the unifying impact of the Angels' run – long after the last pitch is thrown. This may be remembered as the first major event to create a sense of city-like cohesion amid the Orange County sprawl.

"We're not one big city that everything revolves around," says Mr. Kramer, the columnist. We're a collection of communities seeking a center, and the Angels have given us that."

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