HEAVEN ... AND HELL

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

--

THE HALO EFFECT

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

1

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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

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.

6

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."

7

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.

8

(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.

9

But not this unbelievable

In June 1974, Ryan left a home game against Boston after throwing 235 pitches and striking out 19 in 13 innings. Barry Raziano worked two innings of relief to earn the 15-inning victory over Luis Tiant, who went the whole way for the Red Sox. It was Raziano's only career win. Ryan and Tiant combined for 553.

10

Or as mind-boggling as this

David Eckstein, the 170-pound wafer claimed off waivers from Boston, and the grit-and-grimace shortstop hero of the Angels' World Series run, had 35 home runs in a 10-year career. Yet he hit grand slams in consecutive games against Toronto in April 2002. The second was a 14th-inning walk-off. The Angels, 10-14 at the time, closed 89-49 to win a wild-card berth into the playoffs.

--

MANY FROM HEAVEN

11. Thanks for sharing: First home-team pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium/Chavez Ravine: Angels pitcher Bo Belinsky, 2-0 over Baltimore in 1962. First home player to hit for the cycle: Angels shortstop Fregosi in 1964.

12. Bo knew: Five "knockouts" associated with playboy pitcher Belinsky: Ann-Margret, Connie Stevens, Tina Louise, Mamie Van Doren, Braven Dyer. Four were Hollywood starlets. Dyer was a 64-year-old Times sportswriter Belinsky punched out over a story Dyer didn't even write.

13. One and lonely: In 1970, Alex Johnson edged Boston's Carl Yastrzemski, .3289 to .3286, to win the franchise's only batting title. Yastrzemski held a .3286 to .3271 advantage entering Johnson's last game. Johnson got two hits and then was pulled from the game.

14. Hold your fire: Johnson, the Angels' moody outfielder, claimed that teammate Chico Ruiz pulled a gun on him in the clubhouse at a June 13, 1971, game in Anaheim. "If Chico did anything wrong," one Angel reportedly said, "it was not pulling the trigger."

15. Oil & vinegar: Rod Carew had 968 hits with the Angels ... 788 singles. He once passed hefty Orange County Register reporter Earl Bloom in the clubhouse and asked, "Why don't you mix in a salad?" Bloom's retort: "Why don't you mix in an RBI?"

16. Doing the math: Owner Autry finally rode another "Champion" when the Angels claimed their first divisional title in 1979. The Angels lost to Baltimore in the American League Championship Series and then did not re-sign Ryan, who finished 16-14 that year. General Manager Buzzie Bavasi mused he could replace Ryan with two 8-7 pitchers.

17. No (big) fly zone: In 1975 and '76, the Angels used 42 designated hitters, who combined for 25 home runs. Not one DH hit more than four home runs in either season.

18. Sounded good: The heart of the 1970s lineup was not hitters 3-4-5. It was the 1-2 play-by-play punch of Dick Enberg and Don Drysdale. Anyone can make a pennant contender sound interesting. For these guys, the dog days started in June.

19. Closest Angel to Babe Ruth: Longtime fixture and fungo master Jimmie Reese, a onetime roommate of the New York Yankees star, joked he actually roomed with Ruth's suitcase.

20. Angels who became famous elsewhere: Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Rod Carew, Fred Lynn, Don Sutton, Bert Blyleven, Bert Campaneris, Hoyt Wilhelm, Lew Burdette, Dave Winfield, Luis Tiant, Mike Cuellar, Vada Pinson, Dick Williams, Whitey Herzog.

21. Nicknames: "Disco" Dan Ford, Clyde "Skeeter" Wright, Tim "King Fish" Salmon, Nolan "The Express" Ryan, Octavio Victor Rivas "Cookie" Rojas, Brian "Incredible Hulk" Downing, Don "Groove" Baylor, Rick "Rooster" Burleson, Leon "Daddy Wags" Wagner.

22. Heaven could wait: The Angels' 70 victories in 1961 are the most for a first-year expansion team. The next year, the Angels were in first place on July 4 with a record of 45-34 -- and ended up third, 10 games back of the New York Yankees.

23. Go fish: Tim Salmon, arguably the most beloved of all Angels, holds the club record with 299 home runs and had more than 1,000 RBIs, yet never made an All-Star team.

24. Moose eggs: Moose Stubing went 0-5 as an Angels player with four strikeouts in 1967, and 0-8 as the team's manager in 1988.

25. Anaheim Stadium firsts in 1966: Winning pitcher, Tommy John, who gave up one run in a 3-1 Chicago White Sox victory. Home run, Rick Reichardt. Losing pitcher, Marcelino Lopez.

26. Lows and highs: Jim McGlothlin pitched a franchise-record 362/3 scoreless innings in 1967. Scott Kazmir gave up a franchise-record 13 earned runs in five innings against Oakland on July 10, 2010.

27. Amusement park: In 1986, Wally Joyner replaced Rod Carew at first base and became an instant fan favorite, prompting "Wally World" references.

28. Angels' devils: A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Palmer, Dave Henderson, Billy Martin, Cecil Cooper, Randy Johnson.

29. Wild thing: Ryan does not hold the team record for walks in a game. On Sept. 17, 1973, Rudy May walked 11 Oakland batters, including leadoff man Bill North five times.

30. Taking the Express: Ryan does hold franchise records with 156 complete games, 40 shutouts, 2,416 strikeouts and four no-hitters. His 383 Ks in 1973 broke Sandy Koufax's major league record for a season.

31. Mound marvel: Dean Chance won the 1964 Cy Young Award when only one award was given for both leagues. He finished 20-9 with a 1.65 ERA and 11 shutouts. Koufax was 19-5 with 1.74 ERA.

32. Green but good: John Lackey in 2002 became the first rookie pitcher since 1909 to start Game 7 of a World Series. The Angels defeated the Giants, 4-1.

33. Local hero: Anaheim Servite High's Mike Witt, on the last day of the 1984 season, tossed the franchise's only perfect game -- a 1-0 victory at Texas. Witt struck out 10 and required only 94 pitches.

34. Comeback capper: The Angels scored eight runs in the ninth inning of an Aug. 29, 1986, game against Detroit, winning, 13-12, on Dick Schofield's walk-off grand slam.

35. Definition of a slugger: Troy Glaus in 2000 set a franchise record with a .604 slugging percentage.

36. What a kick: Darin Erstad, a former Nebraska punter, set franchise records in 2000 with a .355 average and 240 hits. He also hit 25 home runs, had 100 RBIs and scored 121 runs.

37. Unlikeliest heroes: Larry Harlow in 1979 had the game-winning hit in the Angels' first playoff win; Scott Spiezio had 19 RBIs and 18 hits in the 2002 postseason; Adam Kennedy had three home runs in the 2002 American League pennant-clincher over Minnesota.

38. Most inspirational: Jim Abbott, who was born without a right hand, pitched six seasons in two stints with the Angels and had a record of 54-74.

39. Closing time: Bryan Harvey, an Angel from 1987-92, had the career save record with 126 until it was blown up by Troy Percival (316) and Francisco Rodriguez (208, including a record 62 in 2008).

40. Power outage: The Angels hit 55 home runs in 1975. Leroy Stanton had 14. No one else had more than six.

41. Coughed it up: In 1982, the Angels won the AL West, took a 2-0 ALCS series lead against Milwaukee, then lost three straight.

42. Chart topper: Garret Anderson holds franchise records for games, plate appearances, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, sacrifice flies and double plays.

43. Mad hacker: Vlad Guerrero, an Angel only six seasons, holds the club record for career batting average (.319), intentional walks (112) and divots taken in front of the plate.

44. Grand theft: In 1980, Boston stole Carney Lansford from the Angels for Rick Burleson and Butch Hobson.

45. Longevity: Tenants the Angels have outlasted in their stadium: Freedom Bowl, California Sun, California Surf, Los Angeles Rams.

46. Adventureland: Disney assumed control of the Angels in 1996 and wouldn't let go until a group headed by Arte Moreno executed a daring rescue off Space Mountain in 2003.

47. Died too young: Dick Wantz, Chico Ruiz, Bruce Heinbechner, Mike Miley, Bostock, Moore, Adenhart, Rory Markas.

48. Curse Chronicles: A bus carrying the Angels crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1992.

49. Curse Chronicles (recent addendum): Slugger Kendrys Morales shattered his ankle in May of last year jumping on the plate after hitting a walk-off grand slam.

50. And we quote: Chuck Finley, the franchise leader with 165 pitching victories, on the subject of curses and the Rams leaving Anaheim in 1994 for St. Louis: "Maybe they were the smart ones by leaving."

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
67°