Besides the color scoreboard in left field and Chili Davis in right, the first new thing you'll notice at Anaheim Stadium this season are three over-sized phone booths inside Gate 2 that trumpet 27 years of "Angel tradition."
The Angels call it their hall of fame.
Right now, it's not much of an exhibit. Some old jerseys in one booth, playoff programs and newspaper headlines in another. And in the middle booth sits one, lonely, solitary bronze bust. It's a rendering of Bobby Grich--the first, and thus far only inductee into the Angel hall of fame.
Grich says he'll take his dates over to check it out whenever he's in the neighborhood.
The Angels insist that there'll be more inductees, more busts and more booths. Maybe Jim Fregosi next. Or Nolan Ryan, if he ever retires.
This got us to thinking. If there is to be a shrine for old Angel heroes, which are the names that deserve to be included? Do we really need that many booths? If you put together an all-time Angel team, what would it look like?
Glad we asked.
Assembling a panel of Times baseball writers Ross Newhan, John Weyler and yours truly, along with Angel director of publicity Tim Mead, we set out this spring to answer that burning question. And with surprisingly little hagging, we were able put to select a 12-man Angel team for the ages, consisting of eight hitters, three pitchers and one manager.
The starting pitchers came in a flash, just like the fastballs of Ryan and Frank Tanana.
The infield, too, was a snap--although some might accuse us of jumping the gun by tabbing Wally Joyner over Rod Carew at first base. We disagree.
Catcher was also a no-brainer, a gimme for Bob Boone. You were expecting, maybe, Joe Azcue?
Outfield and relief pitcher provided more of a challenge. Quickly scrapping the notion that our three selections would ever be asked to convene in the same outfield, we loaded up on bats--Don Baylor, Leon Wagner and Brian Downing. Just don't ask anyone to play center field. And as for our reliever, after much discussion, we went for longevity over one phenomenal season, which meant we went for Dave LaRoche over Donnie Moore.
Our manager? Gene Mauch. He and Bill Rigney were the only candidates--they're the only ones to have managed the Angels for at least three full seasons--and for us, Mauch's two divisional championships rated him the edge.
A closer look at our findings, guaranteed to be thoroughly and assuredly unscientific:
WALLY JOYNER FIRST BASE
Yeah, yeah, we know about Rod Carew's 3,000 hits and his .328 lifetime average and his already-punched ticket to Cooperstown. We know his .339 mark in 1983 was the highest ever recorded by an Angel and we know about his six consecutive All-Star selections in a California uniform.
We know all of that.
We also know that in just two seasons. Wally Joyner has already made more of an impact on the Angel franchise than Carew did in seven.
Carew hit 18 home runs as an Angel; Joyner reached that figure before his rookie season was three months old.
Carew drove in 282 runs as an Angel; Joyner should surpass that by the 1988 All-Star break.
Carew also rarely hit in the clutch, was a run-of-the-mill fielder at first base and spent most of his final years grousing about a lack of appreciation. Contrast that to Joyner, who has a career average of .314 with runners on base, finished 1987 with 52 consecutive errorless games and is developing into the most popular Angel player since Ryan.
We have yet to hear of a place called Rodney World.
In truth, this was a tough call. Mead suggested that the nod go to Carew and an asterisk go to Joyner--foot-noting him as a "a future." But the consensus here is that the future is now. Carew belongs on an all-time Minnesota Twins team. Joyner belongs on this one.
Others considered: Jim Spencer--Won a Gold Glove, but had no stick . . . Bob Oliver--Back in the days when 19 home runs in Anaheim made you look like Babe Ruth . . . Lee Thomas--Two big years and then a fizzle.
BOBBY GRINCH SECOND BASE
He's the entire Angel hall of fame, isn't he?
Actually, the selection of Grich as the hall's charter member makes more sense the more you think about it. In many ways, Grich was the ultimate California Angel.
He was an owner's Angel--one of the few free agents who truly paid off for Gene Autry.
He was a general's manager's Angel--he never held out, he avoided controversy and he never blasted Mike Port. He was a manager's Angel--admired especially by Mauch for his gritty style and intensity.
He was an Angels' Angel--regarded as "a gamer," a leader and a regular guy by his teammates.
And, as we can attest, he was a sportswriter's Angel--often the only willing and available quote in the chilly postgame climes of the Angel clubhouse.
We won't get into his popularity among female Angel fans.