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Albert the Great

By T.J. Simers

I apologize.

I wrote a nice blog yesterday on Claton Kershaw and Dylan Hernandez, and today I’m not going to take back what I wrote about Hernandez despite the clamor.

Instead, I am going to go off the deep end and write more kind things, this time about Albert Pujols.

When Albert came to the Angels, I was told to tread lightly with him, a green light for me, of course, to really go after him. Above all, I was told, don’t talk to him about his age.

So, first question to Albert: “Just how old are you?”

He didn’t pick up a bat, which I found very encouraging. I never worried about that with most Angels because they would have swung and missed, but this guy was considered a vaunted slugger.

Albert’s answer: “As old as you are.”

Next day I wrote that’s why the Angels stink; they just signed a 61-yearold first baseman.”’

As I liked to do, I said the same thing to Albert to see how it would fly, and he laughed.

The Angels’ PR guy at the time was Tim Mead, and the best PR guy in Los Angeles. Well, strike that. No one considers Anaheim a part of Los Angeles, especially the L.A. Times which tries to avoid all things Anaheim, so that would make former USC PR guy Tim Tessalone the best in L.A., and Mead the best in the greater southern California area.

Anyway, I digress, and you can do that in a blog. Mead warned Albert all about me, the wisecracks and question baiting to come, and so Albert disarmed me.

I take it the Dodgers’ PR guy never warned Kevin Brown.

Albert and I talked that day and any day I thought I could be in Anaheim without the fear of being seen. I came to learn a lot about the so-called malcontent as so many other sports writers had warned me. As usual the horde had it wrong, refusing to find out for themselves what was true and what was not.

He married a woman who already had a special needs child, and I found that interesting. They divorced after 22 years of marriage, and I found that none of my business. It garnered some negative headlines because the divorce became public shortly after she had successful surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Given that, his former wife released a statement at the beginning of this season: “He has been one of the most disciplined athletes of his sport that I have known and how God has used his life on and off the field has always blown my mind! I am really happy he gets one more year to play the game.”

So are a lot of others, the baseball fans in Dodger Stadium screaming out their appreciation Friday night after Albert hit two home runs to reach only the heights of Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron as the only baseball players to reach 700 career home runs.

Wouldn’t you like to see Angry Arte’s face right now, Arte Moreno. the Angels’ owner signing him to a 10-year deal and Albert putting on a show against the Dodgers for the St. Louis Cardinals? Just up the road from Angel Stadium.

I am so happy for Albert, finding the giant of the game to be even bigger off the field.

In 2013 I went to spring training in Arizona and began the trip with the Angels, a clear sign I wasn’t feeling well. I would be hospitalized later in the night, but that morning I was so eager to interview Albert. I had to endure two meetings with Manager Mike Scioscia before I got the chance, the first to tell me he would never tell me what to write and the second so he could tell me what to write.

Then I talked to Albert, enjoying it all before I woke up that night to collapse. It would be the start of the end for me at the L.A. Times, the Times apparently not thrilled with sickly columnists.

A Dodger trainer assistant drove me to the hospital, and while sitting on the edge of my bed in a hospital gown, I wrote a Pujols column.

That was the last time I dealt with Pujols, missing the chance to wish him well, because after all, he was working for Angry Arte.

Looks like he did just fine, having a night in Dodger Stadium and writing his name into baseball history.

I wish him well now in retirement, knowing now how old he is.


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