Chili Davis walked into the clubhouse Wednesday night after the Angels' 15-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners, and there they were, congregated around his locker.
The entire team broke into applause, and led him to a table where a bottle of champagne was awaiting with glasses for everyone, celebrating his two home runs and six runs batted in, perhaps the greatest night of his 12-year career.
Yet, typical of the way the Angels have been jinxed this season, no sooner had they set down their glasses when the horrible news spread across the clubhouse.
Right fielder Tim Salmon, considered a shoo-in to be the American League's rookie the year, was found to have a broken ring finger on his left hand, ending his season.
The injury occurred in the fifth inning when he tried to catch Larry Sheets' sinking line drive, but the ball caromed off his glove, fracturing the finger. He left the game and was taken for X-rays, which revealed the fracture and a possible bone chip.
"Oh, well, at least I had a final good at-bat," said Salmon, who hit a grand slam in the fourth inning, finishing the year with a .283 batting average, 31 homers and 95 RBIs. "It would have been nice to finish the season and do what Chili did.
"But I can't say enough what Chili has done for me. I certainly wouldn't have had the success I had without him. He made a tremendous difference, believe me."
Davis hit two three-run home runs--one from each side of the plate--in front of a season-low crowd of 15,617 at Anaheim Stadium. It not only provided him with a career-tying high six RBIs, but enabled him to surpass the 100 RBI barrier with 102 for the first time in his career. It's the most RBIs by an Angel since Wally Joyner in 1987, and the sixth highest total in Angel history.
"I can't ever remember having a better individual feeling than this night," said Davis, clutching the second home run ball. "I've always wanted to drive in 100 runs. To me, that means more than hitting .300 or hitting 30 homers."
But while Salmon will be back next season, and perhaps be a longtime fixture in the Angel organization, Davis still has no idea whether he'll be asked back. Although the Angels have a 1994 option on Davis for $2.4 million, including incentives that would pay him a total of $3.1 million, they've told him that they would rather restructure the contract.
While Davis certainly had the stage to express his bitterness, he showed no indications of resentment, or even the slightest tone of exasperation. Of course, when you're having the kind of year Davis is enjoying, there are no worries about being employed next season.
"I'd like to be back," said Davis, "I never wanted to leave the first time. But I'm going to go about it the way Puck (Kirby Puckett) did in Minnesota. Do you want to lose me, or do you keep me. I'm not a Barry Bonds or a Kirby Puckett, but I know I can help a team."
Davis also set another milestone with his performance Wednesday, becoming only the second player since 1954 to collect 100 RBIs without the aid of a sacrifice fly. Nick Esasky of Boston in 1989 set the record of 107 in 1989.
And this is a guy that the Angels are wondering if they should bring back?
"There's no way you can duck criticism," Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said, "and we're crazy if we think we can. We're supposed to be the professionals, and just because we're getting criticism, we can't deviate from our game plan.
"I think we're on the right track and know we're better than we were in '91."