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Heaven ... And Hell

Angels' five-decade run, fraught with frustration as well as fun, demands its own kind of chronicle

April 08, 2011|Chris Dufresne

History has done a number (50) on the Angels and all their incarnations: Los Angeles, California, Anaheim and LAA of A. It's been five decades since "The Cowboy," Gene Autry, saddled up to take on Indians (and others) in the American League.

Lucky are those who have been tortured from the outset. You could pay for a psychiatrist's home on Maui rehashing the trials and tribulations since that inaugural "play ball!" on April 11, 1961. Babes weaned at the bosom of the 2002 World Series banner will never understand the astronomical anomaly of that San Francisco treat.

For years, to the hardened core, the Angels played their home games in Amityville. Tykes on bikes with banana seats who wore Jim Fregosi's No. 11 jersey to Little League games periodically awake to a prehistoric, pre-steroids era when a Bonds (Bobby) led the team in home runs with 10 (in 1976).

Trying to summarize 50 years of Angels baseball with 50 vignettes is like trying to whittle a sequoia with a butter knife.

Instead of a best-worst list, we opted for revisionist hallucinations, strained statistical analysis, arbitrary rants and other stuff you won't find on the back of a Topps baseball card. George Carlin used to call these "brain droppings."

Check out the list, C7



Chris Dufresne puts names and numbers with moments that define Angels' 50 years


In the beginning

First manager: Bill Rigney. Game: April 11, 1961. Inning: Eddie Yost pops to short, Ken Aspromonte called out on strikes, Albie Pearson walks, Ted Kluszewski homers, Bob Cerv homers, Ken Hunt walks, Fritz Brickell pops to short. Win: April 11, 1961, 7-2, at Baltimore. Winning pitcher: Eli Grba. Loss: April 15, 1961, 3-0, at Boston. Losing pitcher: Jerry Casale. Home stadium: Wrigley Field (in Los Angeles); second, Chavez Ravine; third, Anaheim Stadium. Divisional crown: 1979. World Series title: 2002.


No mountain high enough

World Series Game 6, Oct. 26, 2002: The San Francisco Giants led, 5-0, in the bottom of the seventh. There was one out with two runners on when Giants Manager Dusty Baker -- seven outs away from the championship -- relieved starter Russ Ortiz. Baker handed Ortiz the game ball -- and what a fireplace-mantel keepsake it would make because the Giants, as everyone knows, won the World Series ... eight years later.


Or valley low enough

Outfielder Lyman Bostock was murdered in his hometown of Gary, Ind., on Sept. 23, 1978. Pitcher Nick Adenhart died April 9, 2009, as the result of injuries he sustained in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Adenhart was a rookie who had appeared in only four big league games. Bostock was a career .311 hitter and free-agent acquisition who felt so bad about a two-for-39 start to his first season with the Angels that he donated a month's salary to charity. His death so rocked the organization that team president Red Patterson's monsignor was called out to bless the stadium. It didn't work.


April: not the cruelest month

Official game log from hell (Oct. 12, 1986): RED SOX 9th: Buckner singled to center; STAPLETON RAN FOR BUCKNER; Rice was called out on strikes; Baylor homered [Stapleton scored]; Evans popped to third; LUCAS REPLACED WITT (PITCHING); Gedman was hit by a pitch; MOORE REPLACED LUCAS (PITCHING); Henderson homered [Gedman scored]; Romero flied out to right; 4 R, 3 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Red Sox 6, Angels 5.


Better days

Thank you, Dodgers, for selecting Mike Scioscia in the 1976 amateur draft and paying for his 13 years of prep school as a National League catcher. Thanks for nurturing his managerial urgings in your minor league system but failing to recognize him as your major league manager of the future. Thanks for sending him across town in 2000. And good luck with your new guy, the former Yankee.


Lead that faded

The Angels lost every ounce of the 11-game lead they had on Aug. 9, 1995, and ended up losing a one-game playoff to Seattle. Randy Johnson struck out 12 in the 9-1 Mariners victory, with Angels starter Mark Langston taking the loss. The newspaper picture of Langston sprawled on the ground during the defeat inspired the perfect epitaph for the Angels' season: "Here Lies Mark Langston."


Support needed

Nolan Ryan's eight-year record with the Angels was a modest 138-121, though his earned-run average was 3.06. The Angels averaged 1.95 runs in Ryan's defeats. They were shut out 29 times and 60 times scored one run or none. Ryan went 19-16 his first year, 1972, with the Angels scoring 18 runs in his losses. Ryan went 17-18 in 1976, when the Angels were shut out seven times and scored one run in four other Ryan defeats.


(Frankly) unbelievable

Frank Tanana pitched 14 complete games from April 29 through July 3, 1977 -- one more than two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana has notched in his 11-year career. Tanana's feat of 14 consecutive complete games will never be approached by a pitcher ... or allowed by his agent.


But not this unbelievable

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