Los Angeles Angels, Anaheim Angels
The California Angels manage to gear up to challenge the league's best every so often. Historically, they only get as far as the League Championship Series, then tend to spend several years at the bottom of the league retooling. They have had spectacular, deep pitching rotations, and a few mighty offenses, but the two have rarely coincided.
After Cowboy Gene Autry's film career stalled in the mid-fifties, he founded the Los Angeles Angels in December of 1960. The original Angels were a jumble of sluggers. Led by outfielders Leon Wagner (.280, 28 homers, 79 RBIs) and Ken Hunt (.255, 25, 84), catcher Earl Averill (.266, 21, 59), and first baseman Steve Bilko (.279, 20, 59) their 189 home runs ranked second only to the mighty Yankees (240) in the American League.
The Angels finished eighth in their debut season of 1961 (spent in Wrigley Field, an old Pacific Coast League stadium) but jumped to third in 1962, their first season in Chavez Ravine -- otherwise known to resentful Dodger fans as Dodger Stadium. New first baseman Lee Thomas (.290, 26, 104) added punch to a revamped lineup, while the pitching staff was led by rookie pitcher Dean Chance (14-10, 2.96), who sported a twisting wind-up, a hard fastball, and a disquieting tendency not to look at home plate once he received the catcher's sign.
But the Angels stopped hitting in 1963 and would not start again for some time. Chance won the Cy Young in 1964, (20-9, 1.65, with eleven shutouts), and rookie pitcher Bob Lee (6-5, 1.61 with 19 saves) was sensational in relief, but their best hitter was shortstop Jim Fregosi (.277, 18, 72). The Angels renamed themselves the California Angels and moved to Anaheim in 1965, where they sunk to the bottom of the league for the remainder of the decade. Chance won 15 games in 1965 and another 12 in 1966 but complained about a lack of support, and was summarily dealt to Minnesota; he was replaced by a gaggle of weary veteran pitchers who gave it whatever they had left and retired.
In 1970, pitcher Clyde Wright, who had been unsuccessfully waived after a 1-8 record the year before, developed a screwball and won twenty-two games. The rest of the pitching staff lurched into action, surly outfielder Alex Johnson led the league with a .329 batting average, original Angel and popular shortstop Fregosi (.278, 22, 82) enjoyed his best year, and the Angels won 86 games. Wright won 16 and 18 games in the next two years, but the hitting fell off again, and the Angels tumbled back into the second division where they would stay for most of the decade.
In 1972, Fregosi was traded to the New York Mets for four players. Among the four was a young, wild fireballer with a disciplined work ethic named Nolan Ryan. Ryan would become one of baseball's most remarkable pitchers, shattering all records for strikeouts and no-hit games. With the Angels, he had some of his most successful seasons, winning 138 games in his eight years with the club (1972-1979) and fanning over three hundred batters in five different seasons, including 1973 when (while going 21-16 with a 2.87 ERA) he fanned 383 batters, breaking Sandy Koufax's single season record by one.
But thanks to the Angels' now-chronic lack of run production at the plate, Ryan lost frequently, grist for his misguided but somehow numerous detractors. Frank Tanana, who threw nearly as hard and with more control than Ryan, won 102 games in his eight years with the Angels (1973-1980). He led the league in strikeouts in 1975 with 269 before an arm injury cooled off his fastballs.
In 1978, the Angels suddenly started hitting again under Fregosi, who had returned as the team's manager. Although Ryan had an off season, Tanana picked up the slack (18-13, 3.65). Designated hitter Don Baylor, acquired from Oakland the year before, belted 34 home runs, and third baseman Carney Lansford drove California's offense with a .294 batting average, keeping the Angels in contention until they fell behind Kansas City for good in September.
In the off-season, the Angels acquired star first baseman Rod Carew from the Minnesota Twins. One of the best hitters of his era, Carew posted a .318 batting average in his first year with the club. It was the eleventh of what would be fifteen consecutive seasons batting over .300. Baylor, in his finest season (.296, 36, 139) won the MVP. Catcher and fan-favorite Brian Downing (.326, 12, 75), Lansford (.287 19,79), and second baseman Bobby Grich (.294 30,101), rounded out the Angels' most potent offense ever. Ryan regained his form, winning sixteen, and the Angels won their division for the first time ever, finishing the season three games ahead of the Kansas City Royals.
After the Orioles dispatched the Angels in a four-game LCS, California began to slip. The hitting dropped off again for the next two years, and so Gene Autry reached deep into the pockets of his denim jeans and found enough gold nuggets to entice the heroic Reggie Jackson to join his ballclub for the 1982 season. Jackson paid immediate dividends, slugging 39 home runs and driving in 101 runs; Downing (.272, 29, 77), outfielder Fred Lynn (.299, 21, 86), infielder Doug DeCinces (.301 30,97), and Carew (.319) provided ample offensive support to win the West. The pitching was provided by slider specialist Geoff Zahn (18-8, 3.73) and another cast of fading stars; California won 93 games en route to the division title. The Angels defeated Milwaukee in the first two games of the LCS, lost the last three, and trundled back down into the division basement the following year.
There were some individual highlights during the otherwise disappointing seasons that followed the impressive 1982 campaign. Carew set an Angels' single-season mark in 1982 with a .339 batting average, and Mike Witt emerged in 1984 (15-11, 3.47) as the new staff ace, pitching a perfect game on the last day of the season. Witt won another fifteen games in 1985, stopper Donnie Moore saved 31 games, and the Angels climbed all the way to second, one game behind the Royals.
In 1986, the Angels came as close as they would ever get to the World Series. Witt won 18, Kirk McCaskill won 17, and Rookie-of-the-Year first baseman Wally Joyner (.290, 22, 100) paced a solid offense as the Angels won their third division crown. Facing the Red Sox in the LCS, California took three of the first four games, and were within one strike of the World Series in Game Six when Moore yielded a game-ending home run to Dave Henderson. Boston triumphed in the final game of the series, sending the stunned Angels home.
The Angels followed up their division championship with another plunge down into the depths of the division, coming up for air in 1989 before diving back down to hit rock bottom again. Veteran Bert Blyleven (17-5, 2.73), Chuck Finley (16-9, 2.57), and Kirk McCaskill (15-10, 2.93) comprised an excellent pitching rotation in 1989, but the Angels' 91 victories were only good for a distant third-place finish. Closer Brian Harvey (126 saves from 1989 to 1993) was one of few bright spots for the Angels in these years, saving as many as 46 games in 1991.
In 1995, the Angels were ready to make another run at the pennant. Manager Marcel Lachemann had the league's best outfield in Garret Anderson (.321, 16, 69), Tim Salmon (.330, 34, 105), and Jim Edmonds (.290, 33, 107); Finley and Mark Langston won 15 games, and stopper Troy Percival (1.95 ERA) rekindled memories of Nolan Ryan with his 100-mph fastballs. The Angels led the division for most of the year, but faded at the end and fell into a tie with the Seattle Mariners on the last day of the season. The Angels lost a one-game playoff, and not surprisingly, fell to last place the following season.
Autry sold the Angels to Disney in 1996 (their logo accordingly sprouted an adorable pair of wings) and the team finally embraced its hometown; they are now known as the Anaheim Angels. Terry Collins was hired as manager for the 1997 season and led the club to a respectable second-place finish in the AL West. Opening a remodeled Anaheim Stadium a season later, the Angels once again blew an early August lead and again finished the year in second place, three games behind the Texas Rangers.
Part of the reason for the Angels' mid-season slump was a strange rash of injuries throughout the season. Among the wounded were first baseman Darin Erstad, second baseman Randy Velarde, third baseman Dave Hollins, outfielder Tim Salmon, and catcher Todd Greene, as well as starters Jack McDowell and ace Chuck Finley, who was struck in the face by a batted ball. The mysterious epidemic continued in 1999, when shortstop Gary DiSarcina and outfielder Jim Edmonds both suffered serious injuries before the All-Star break; even $80 million free-agent signing Mo Vaughn missed over two weeks after spraining his ankle in the first game of the season. (SE)
|FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY|
|» February 9, 1920:
The Cards announce the first trade of the meetings. They acquire 1B Jack Fournier from the Los Angeles Angels for four players, all acquired earlier. LA gets 1B Art Griggs, C Grover Hartley, P Claud Thomas, and INF Jim McAuley.
» January 26, 1932: William K. Wrigley, 70-years-old, majority owner of the Cubs since 1919, dies and is buried on Catalina Island. His only son, Philip K. Wrigley, inherits the Cubs and the minor league Los Angeles Angels, but will leave most of the daily operations to president William Veeck.
» February 21, 1957: In an ominous development for Brooklyn, Walter O'Malley "trades" minor league franchises with Phil Wrigley of the Cubs, giving up the Dodgers' Ft. Worth (Texas) club in return for the Cubs' Los Angeles Angels (PCL).
» May 29, 1957:
Four PCL teams may seek as much as $6.7 million in indemnities if both the Los Angeles Angels and the San Francisco Seals withdraw from the league.
» June 26, 1962: Earl Wilson pitches a no-hitter, his first ML shutout, as Boston beats the Los Angeles Angels 2–0. The righthander also hits a home run off loser Bo Belinsky, who pitched his no-hitter six weeks earlier.
» August 31, 1964: Ground is broken for Anaheim Stadium, future home of next year's California Angels.
» April 18, 1965: California Angels rookie Rudy May has a no-hitter ruined in the 8th inning of his ML debut by Jake Wood's double. The Angels lift him after nine innings of one-hit ball, and Detroit wins in 13 innings.
» September 8, 1966: The Red Sox fire manager Billy Herman (64-82) and Pete Runnels is named interim pilot. Herman will sign on as a scout for the California Angels.
» September 2, 1968:
In the last PCL game played in Seattle, Jim Bouton of the Seattle Angels (a combined PCL team of the Pilots and California Angels) tops Spokane, 4–1.
» November 25, 1969:
The Reds trade Alex Johnson and Chico Ruiz to the California Angels for pitchers Pedro Borbon, Jim McGlothlin and Vern Geishert. The talented but troubled Johnson, who hit over .300 in his two seasons with the Reds, will win the AL batting title in 1970. Borbon and McGlothlin will be valuable additions to the big Red Machine.
» July 20, 1976: Hank Aaron hits the 755th, and last, home run of his career, connecting off Dick Drago of the California Angels. Jerry Augustine wins for the Brewers, 6–2.
» January 22, 1982: Free-agent OF Reggie Jackson ends his tumultuous five seasons as a Yankee by signing a reported 4-year contract with the California Angels for nearly $1 million per year.
» November 14, 1988: Doug Rader, who piloted the Rangers from 1982-85, is named manager of the California Angels.
» June 26, 1991:
The California Angels set an American League mark by playing their 13th consecutive errorless game, a 10-5 win over Kansas City. The previous mark of 12 had been set by Detroit in 1963.
» July 13, 1991: The Orioles defeat the A's 2-0 on a combined no-hitter by pitchers Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson, and Gregg Olson. It is only the second time in history that four pitchers have combined to throw a no-hitter. On September 28, 1975, Vida Blue, Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad, and Rollie Fingers turned the trick for Oakland against the California Angels. Milacki is lifted in the 6th after Willie Wilson smashes a ball off the pitcher's index finger.
» May 21, 1992: Four members of the California Angels, including manager Buck Rodgers, are hospitalized after the bus carrying the team swerves into a row of trees off the New Jersey Turnpike. Rodgers, the most seriously injured, incurs a broke right rib, left knee and right elbow. John Wathan takes over the team as interim manager.
» June 1, 1995:
The California Angels select Nebraska OF Darin Erstad with the 1st pick in the amateur draft. He'll sign for a $1.6 bonus, the highest signing bonus to date. Picking next, the Padres take high school C Ben Davis, and the Mariners pick Jose Cruz, Jr. The Cubs follow with Texas high schooler Kerry Wood. The 5th pick, P Ariel Prieto, will debut with the A's on July 5. Picking 7th, the Rangers pass over Todd Helton to take P Jonathan Johnson. Picking next, Colorado takes Helton. The Brewers take future starting OF Geoff Jenkins in the first round, but the rest of their picks will be busts. Sean Casey goes to the Indians on round 2, and the Royals take Carlos Beltran on the same round. Gabe Kapler goes to the Tigers on the 57th round. The Mets strike out in the first round (18th) with SS Ryan Jaroncyk; picking in the same spot four years ago they took OF Al Shirley.
» June 12, 1996: The California Angels defeat the KC Royals, 4-3, in 10 innings to sweep the 3-game series between the two clubs. Chuck McElroy gets credit for all three wins in relief. He thus becomes the 1st pitcher to accomplish the feat since Mike Marshall of the Dodgers did it against the Giants in 1974. McElroy throws a total of 61 pitches in four 1/3 innings to run his record to 5-0.
» July 5, 1996: After the California Angels score three runs in the top of the 1st inning, the Oakland Athletics respond with 13 of their own in the bottom half to mark the highest scoring 1st inning by two teams in major league history. The 13 runs is one short of the record. DH Matt Stairs ties a major league mark with six RBIs in the frame. The Athletics go on to post a 16-8 victory.
» December 18, 1996:
Eddie Murray takes his Hall of Fame bat to the Anaheim Angels, agreeing to a one-year contract.
» March 21, 1997: The pitching-poor Detroit Tigers release pitcher Jason Grimsley. Grimsley posted a 5-7 record with a 6.84 ERA with the California Angels last season, but was 0–3 this spring.
» June 3, 1997:
The Anaheim Angels take Troy Glaus, UCLA 3B with the 3rd pick. The Giants, use 4th to take Seton Hall pitcher Jason Grilli, son of former ML pitcher Steve Grilli. Toronto uses #5 on Texas high schooler Vernon Wells. The Mets have the 6th pick and pick Tampa high schooler Geoff Goetz, nixing another Florida pitcher Rick Ankiel because he is being advised by agent Scott Boras: Ankiel goes to the Cards at #72 (2nd round). Number seven is the Royals and they take U of the Pacific fireballer Dan Reichert. Number 10 Jon Garland, considered possibly the best high school pitching prospect in the draft, goes to the Cubs, who will swap him to the White Sox next July. The Reds take Scott Williamson on the 9th round.
» June 18, 1997:
Billy Ashley, Raul Mondesi and Todd Zeile each hit two-run homers to lead the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7–5, over the Anaheim Angels. When Shigetoshi Hasegawa relieves in the sixth inning, Dodger starter Hideo Nomo is still in the game, the first major league matchup of pitchers from Japan.
» February 25, 1998: Free agent P Jack McDowell signs a 1-year contract with the Anaheim Angels.
» June 2, 1998: The KC Royals and Anaheim Angels play a brawl–filled game which results in managers Tony Muser and Terry Collins receiving 8–game suspensions. A total of 12 players are ejected in the Angels 7–5 victory.
» August 15, 1998:
Toronto's Roger Clemens strikes out 15 but gets no decision, as the Anaheim Angels win, 6–3.
» October 2, 1998:
Gene Autry, former owner of the California Angels, dies at age 91.
» January 4, 2002:
Tony Tavares resigns as president of Anaheim Sports Inc. He had been president of the Anaheim Angels since May 1996.
» October 6, 2002: The Twins defeat the A's, 5–4, to take their division series and move on to the ALCS against the Anaheim Angels. Brad Radke wins his second game of the series for Minnesota while being backed by AJ Pierzynski's home run. Ray Durham and Mark Ellis homer for Oakland in a losing cause. The Twins win comes one month to the day after they ended Oakland's 20–game winning streak.