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Angel Jinx Continues : Candelaria Is Latest to Fall Victim to String of Bad Luck That Plagues Team

Times Staff Writer

Does it ever end?

Will the Angels ever have a season when that halo doesn’t turn into a shroud?

The loss of left-hander John Candelaria for two months following elbow surgery is the latest entry in the parade of agony.

It began in 1961 and rolls on, a bewildering litany of injuries, illnesses and even deaths.

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Candelaria is the 62nd Angel to go on the disabled list since 1980. He will be back, and the Angels may weather his loss, but the spell remains. There is seemingly a hex marking the spot so definitively that one former general manager, still too embarrassed to talk about it, asked his priest to perform an exorcism at Anaheim Stadium, forgetting that the team’s roots stretch beyond Anaheim.

What has brought this on? Did Gene Autry ever beat Champion? Are the Angels paying penance for the sins of Dean Chance and Bo Belinsky?

It all started when the Angels did, back when they played in Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium. There is no way to explain it, nor is what follows meant to be a complete list of every injury and setback, only the most bizarre, the most devastating.

Here’s the clip-and-save parade in review:

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--Johnny James, a promising pitcher acquired from the New York Yankees early in the 1961 season, was in his 37th game with the Angels when he broke off a curve and broke a bone in his arm. He never pitched again.

--Outfielder Ken Hunt, who hit 25 homers in 1961, was waiting in the on-deck circle during an April game in 1962 when he, too, heard something snap as he flexed his back by arching a bat behind his shoulders. Hunt had broken a collarbone. He never played a full season again.

--Relief pitcher Art Fowler, known as King Arthur during the Angels’ improbable run at the 1962 pennant, was lost for the final six weeks when hit by a line drive while shagging in the outfield during batting practice in Boston. Fowler lost the vision in his left eye and was never the same pitcher.

--Ken McBride, the ace of the early pitching staffs and winner of a club-record 10 straight games at one point, suffered neck and back injuries in a car accident during the spring of 1964. He won only four more games.

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--Outfielder Rick Reichardt and catcher Tom Egan, two of the nation’s most coveted amateurs, signed with the Angels in the summer of 1964 for bonuses totaling $300,000.

Reichardt soon fell victim to severe headaches. Tests disclosed a blood disorder, forcing removal of a kidney. The once bright potential was never fulfilled. Reichardt spent several season in the majors, but strictly as a journeyman. Egan slowly developed into the Angels’ No. 1 catcher, then was beaned by Detroit’s Earl Wilson in 1969, suffered a broken jaw and never regained complete sight in his left eye.

--Rookie Dick Wantz, who pitched impressively in spring training to become a surprise addition to the 1965 staff, seemed headed for instant stardom only to die four months later, the victim of a brain tumor at 25.

--First baseman Don Mincher, who hit 25 home runs and drove in 78 runs during the 1967 season, was beaned by Cleveland’s Sam McDowell in April 1968. Mincher attempted to play again but never regained his previous form.

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--Third baseman Paul Schaal, in June of ’68, was hit by Boston’s Jose Santiago and suffered a broken jaw. Schaal experienced a partial loss of hearing, was soon traded and never recaptured his previous skills.

--Relief pitcher Minnie Rojas, who won 23 games and saved 33 in the previous three seasons, was involved in a winter car accident near his Miami home in 1968. Rojas’ wife and two of their three children were killed. Rojas remains paralyzed.

--Chico Ruiz, a utility infielder gifted with spirit and humor, was killed in a car accident near his San Diego home in the winter of 1972. He was 33.

--Bobby Valentine, the charismatic infielder/outfielder who had been acquired from the Dodgers in a winter trade, broke his leg so severely when he crashed into the center-field fence while chasing a fly ball at Anaheim Stadium in May 1973, that he never again played on a regular basis.

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--Rookie Bruce Heinbechner, expected to become the club’s left-handed relief specialist, was killed in a 1974 spring car accident only a half-mile from the team’s Palm Springs hotel. He was 23.

--Rookie Mike Miley, a former football star at Louisiana State and expected to become the Angel shortstop in 1977, was killed in a winter car accident near his Louisiana home. He was 23.

--Outfielder Joe Rudi and second baseman Bobby Grich, signed by the Angels out of baseball’s initial free-agent re-entry draft for $2.1 million and $1.5 million, respectively, both missed half of the 1977 season, their first with the Angels.

Grich suffered a herniated disc while lifting an air-conditioner. Rudi broke a wrist when hit by a pitch. The former Oakland star was assigned to the disabled list four times while with the Angels.

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--Outfielder Lyman Bostock, signed to a $2.2-million free-agent contract before the 1978 season, was shot and killed in September. Bostock, 27, was riding in a car with family and friends at the time of the shooting in Gary, Ind.

--Pitcher Jim Barr, a $1-million free agent, broke his right hand during a party that followed the Angels’ clinching of the American League West in 1979 and was unavailable for the champioship series against Baltimore. The Angels had to overcome 47 injuries in winning the division.

--Pitcher Bruce Kison, signed to a 5-year, $2.4-million free-agent contract before the 1980 season, had wrist and elbow surgery in June and was lost for the remainder of the season, the first of a series of injuries that restricted Kison’s availability during those five years with the Angels.

--Then catcher Brian Downing broke an ankle leaping for a throw at the plate, and designated hitter Don Baylor broke a hand when hit by a pitch in April of ’80, disabling the Angels’ attempt to repeat as division champions.

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--Outfielder Fred Lynn, signed to a 4-year, $5.3-million contract after being acquired in a January 1981 trade with Boston, injured his knee in May and batted .219. It was the first of a series of injuries that prevented Lynn from playing more than 142 games in any of his four seasons with the Angels.

--Pitcher Bill Travers, signed to a 5-year, $1.5-million contract as a free agent before the 1981 season, developed shoulder problems in spring training, pitched only 9 innings that year and was released following an unsuccessful comeback in 1983, the Angels swallowing the final two years of his contract.

--Shortstop Rick Burleson, who had been signed to a six-year contract after his acquisition from Boston and who hit .291 in 1981, his first season with the Angels, tore a rotator cuff in April 1982 and appeared in only 40 games during the next three seasons. Now in the last year of the contract, Burleson seems to have successfully negotiated a remarkable comeback.

--Relief pitcher Don Aase, developing into one of the American League’s best, blew out his elbow in midseason of 1982, had surgery in which a tendon in his left wrist was used to replace the torn ligament in his right elbow, and did not rejoin the Angels until late in the 1984 season.

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--Second baseman Grich spent a month on the disabled list with a broken hand in 1983, outfielder Downing missed almost two months with a broken wrist, third baseman Doug DeCinces missed a month because of back spasms and first baseman Rod Carew appeared in only 129 games because of a variety of injuries. The Angels, who had won a division title in 1982, finished fifth in 1983, 29 games out.

--Pitcher Frank LaCorte, signed to a 3-year, $1.1-million contract as a free agent before the 1984 season, immediately developed arm problems, pitched in only 13 games, did not pitch at all in 1985 and was released before the 1986 season, the Angels swallowing the final year of his contract.

--Pitcher Ken Forsch, diving to make a tag play at first base in his second start of 1984, broke his right collarbone, missed the remainder of the season, sat out all of 1985, when he also underwent elbow surgery, and finally returned last week, a comeback rivaling Burleson’s for determination and courage.

--Pitcher Geoff Zahn, who was on the disabled list three times in 1984, developed shoulder problems late in the spring of 1985, pitched in just seven games, then retired in January.

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--Relief pitcher Gary Lucas, acquired in a winter trade with Montreal, developed back spasms in spring training and has opened the 1986 season on the disabled list.

--Pitcher John Candelaria, acquired from Pittsburgh last August in a trade that cost the Angels three of their top young players . . .


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