This is my tree top decoration.
It's pretty typical. No Letterman meatball at the top of our tree. I've been part of a "star" family since I was a little kid.
Here is a picture of a tree from that time.
You can tell that's from the '70s, right? Those drapes are wonderful. This is a photo from 1976 and note that tinsel was still all the rage. But check out the star on top. That's all I knew for Christmas tree-toppers for all of my youth.
Then I met who would become my wife. And I remember that first Christmas when I came over to her house in 1987. The tree stood in her living room, right near the door and, as I looked up, the top didn't have a star. It looked so weird. As if the top of the tree wasn't complete. As if it wasn't even a Christmas tree.
Instead, the top of the tree was graced with an angel. It's a perfectly logical tree-topper, of course. We're still looking up in the sky for it. But it seemed so different.
But, then, for awhile there, I became part of the "angel" family.
This is a picture of our very first Christmas tree as a couple back in our strange-and-wonderful apartment, circa 1990. So many windows in the background. It was like living in an auto dealer showroom.
But you can see the angel on top. And in a way, that angel on top will always remind me of those first Christmases with my new wife, starting a life.
A few years ago, to recognize Christmas, I put together my all "Bell" team and I had an idea for an all "Angel" team in the future. I stalled on that for awhile -- it's not exactly easy to do. But I'm ready now, and with a few adjustments, I've figured out a way to create a full team.
So, filled with the Christmas spirit (and already too many Christmas cookies) here is the All-Angel team:
First base: Angel Echevarria
Echevarria mostly played the outfield, but he appeared at first base a few times and it's the most difficult position to find an Angel. (What's that say about first basemen?). I remember Echevarria pretty well but he doesn't have a lot of cards. In fact, the one year that he played the most, in 1999, I couldn't find any cards for him. Man, the late '90s were weird.
Most of Salazar's cards say he plays shortstop, so I went with the generic 1989 Score card that claims he covered the whole infield. Salazar actually was a great fielder, known for his arm. His hitting was abysmal, but in the '80s you could still survive for a while on just fielding and Salazar has cards consistently through the '80s.
Weirdly, though, Topps insisted in calling Salazar by his full first name (was Topps his mom??) throughout his career while every other card company called him "Angel."
The competition for the shortstop position was fierce. It seems like every Angel wants to play at short. I placed Berroa here because he arrived with such promise and also because I like this card.
Also, he was a Dodger for a brief time and I wanted to show this card because looking back 11 years now, these Walmart blacks were pretty damn cool.
Have you figured out yet that this will be an all-Latin team as well? "Angel" isn't so common in English-speaking countries. It's super common in Spanish-speaking countries.
Sanchez is another transplanted shortstop on this team. But late in his career with the Astros, he played some third base.
Left field: Angel Pagan
The most recent "Angel" on the team. I chose an earlier Mets card for Pagan because all those sour-faced Giants cards of his turn me off. I've never seen anyone looking so grim on the field. Was playing baseball that miserable?
Center field: Angel Bravo
Bravo doesn't appear to be too happy about being listed as a Red but wearing a White Sox uniform. Talk about looking grim. Bravo got just two Topps cards and he seems mad on both.
Bravo is part of another "all" team and for that, and other great stories about Bravo, you'll have to go to my 1971 Topps blog.
Right field: Angel Mangual
The first "Angel" player that I ever knew. I wanted to use Mangual's 1975 Topps mini card as it's the first Mangual card I ever pulled. But that '75 card also lists him as a DH and we are shunning the DH once again on this team.
For whatever reason, Mangual appears tall on his cards but I just looked up his playing height and it was 5-10.
Catcher: Angel Pena
I have more cards of Pena than any other Angel in my collection. Yup, that's a product of playing in the late 1990s. But also the product of me hoarding Dodgers cards.
Pena played in a grand total of 71 major league games.
Pitcher: Angel Guzman
There aren't very many "Angel" pitchers, although Angel Perdomo made his major league debut for the Brewers this past year.
Guzman, however, pitched long enough for the Cubs to have a decent number of cards between 2005-08. Somehow I don't have a single one. He was actually signed by the Dodgers late in his career in 2011 ... and promptly suspended for using PEDs.
So there's the All-Angel team. I probably could've just found nine Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels and been done with it.
My family went back to placing a star on the top of our tree quite awhile ago. I miss those angel days a little bit, probably because it makes me recall a time, and people, who are no longer around.
The word "angel" is a Hebrew translation of the word "messenger," and this is my message to you: I hope you truly enjoy your Christmas this year whether your tree top contains a star, angel, bow, Star Wars figure or meatball. Yeah, there are all kinds of rules about who you can see this Christmas, but there's nothing saying you can't have a good time.
So please do. Merry Christmas.