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Column: The 10 greatest individual achievements in Angels history

Albert Pujols collected his 3,000th career hit Friday night, a significant milestone for the Angels slugger and a franchise that has won only one World Series title in 57 years but has produced plenty of memorable moments.

Here’s one man’s opinion of the top individual achievements in club history, in chronological order:

Chance encounter

Dean Chance wasn’t as notorious as pitching pal Bo Belinsky, who dated Hollywood actresses and was once suspended for slugging a sportswriter, but the right-hander put together the best-pitched season in franchise history.

Chance went 20-9 with a major league-best 1.65 ERA in 1964, throwing 15 complete games, 11 shutouts, striking out 207, walking 86 and allowing only seven homers in 178 1/3 innings to win the American League Cy Young Award.

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After going 5-5 with a 2.18 ERA in 23 first-half games, Chance went 15-4 with a 1.29 ERA in 23 second-half games. He won five 1-0 games, all after June 1.

The Express

Nolan Ryan set a major league record with 383 strikeouts in 1973, a season in which the flamethrowing right-hander pitched two of his seven no-hitters. Needing 16 strikeouts in his final start to break Sandy Koufax’s record of 382, Ryan whiffed Rich Reese to end the 11th inning against Minnesota for No. 383.

The Hall of Famer achieved the record in an era when strikeouts were frowned upon. Only 10 AL players struck out 100 times that season, with a high of 137 by Bobby Darwin. There were 73 AL hitters who struck out 100 times or more in 2017, including one — Aaron Judge — who struck out 208 times.

Ryan went 21-16 with a 2.87 ERA and 26 complete games in 1973 but finished second in Cy Young voting to Baltimore’s Jim Palmer (22-9, 2.40 ERA).

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Witt’s end

A seemingly meaningless game between out-of-contention teams on the final day of the 1984 season produced one of baseball’s rarest of feats: a perfect game by Mike Witt against the Rangers in Texas on Sept. 30.

A crowd of 8,375 saw the 6-foot-7 right-hander with the wispy mustache out-duel Charlie Hough in a 1-0 win that took 1 hour, 49 minutes. Witt needed 94 pitches to complete baseball’s 11th perfect game. Reggie Jackson drove in the only run with a seventh-inning fielder’s choice.

“It probably won’t be until tomorrow and the next day and every day this winter that I’ll be saying to myself, ‘Hey, I did that,’ ” Witt said. “I mean, to get 27 straight batters out is unbelievable.”

Act of inspiration

When Jim Abbott made his Angels debut on April 8, 1989, the left-hander from Michigan, then 21, was the 15th player to make the jump from high school or college to the major leagues since the inception of baseball’s amateur draft in 1965. He was the first to do so with one hand.

The Angels were second-guessed for rushing Abbott to the major leagues, with some charging the team of publicity-mongering, of using Abbott to sell tickets in the short-term at the long-term expense of his development.

Though Abbott had a rocky debut, yielding six runs in a 7-0 loss to Seattle, he went on to go 12-12 with a 3.92 ERA in 1989 and 18-11 with a 2.89 ERA in 1991. Abbott threw a no-hitter for the Yankees in 1993.

Spectacular catch

Jim Edmonds was playing a shallow center field in Kauffman Stadium when light-hitting Royals infielder David Howard drove a ball over his head on June 10, 1997.

Edmonds sprinted straight back about 60 feet and made a full-extension, over-the-shoulder diving catch with two on, two out and the score tied 1-1. The ball nestled in the tip of Edmonds’ glove as he slid face-first onto the warning track.

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“That’s the best catch I’ve ever seen,” Angels infielder Tony Phillips, then 38 and a 16-year veteran, said. “Willie Mays doesn’t do stuff like that, I’m sorry.”

Among the fans who gave Edmonds a standing ovation was a 16-year-old who had just moved to Kansas City and was attending his first big-league game: Albert Pujols.

Clutch delivery

It was the biggest home run in franchise history. San Francisco was eight outs away from the World Series title in 2002 when first baseman Scott Spiezio came up with two on in the seventh inning of Game 6 and the Angels trailing 5-0.

Spiezio hit a three-run homer off reliever Felix Rodriguez that barely cleared the wall in right field. Darin Erstad’s solo homer and Troy Glaus’ two-run double in the eighth gave the Angels a 6-5 victory, and Garret Anderson’s three-run double in a 4-1 Game 7 victory the next night led the Angels to their only title.

Vlad the Impaler

Of the greatest offensive seasons in franchise history — Don Baylor in 1979, Erstad in 2000, Vladimir Guerrero in 2004 and Mike Trout in 2016 — Guerrero’s MVP season in 2004 may stand one pine-tar slathered helmet above the rest.

In his first year with the Angels, Guerrero hit .337 with a .989 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 39 homers, 39 doubles, 126 RBIs, 124 runs, 15 stolen bases, 52 walks and 74 strikeouts to lead the Angels to the AL West title.

The right fielder carried the Angels in the final month, hitting .363 with a 1.150 OPS, 11 homers, 25 RBIs and 25 runs in 30 games in September and early October to help the Angels hold off Oakland.

One-man wrecking crew

Garret Anderson knocked in a franchise-record 10 runs to lead the Angels to an 18-9 thumping of the New York Yankees in Anaheim on Aug. 21, 2007.

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Anderson hit a two-run double in the first inning, an RBI double in the second, a three-run homer in the third and a grand slam to cap a five-run sixth.

With runners on first and third and two out in the eighth, Anderson had a chance to break the major league record of 12 RBIs in a game, held by a pair of Cardinals players — Jim Bottomley in 1924 and Mark Whiten in 1993 — and the AL record of 11 RBIs, set by former Yankees great Tony Lazzeri in 1936. He grounded out.

No fish tale

Seven years into his big-league career, Trout, 26, already has established himself as one of the best players in baseball history. He won AL MVP awards in 2014 and 2016, finished second in MVP voting three times and is a six-time All-Star.

He hits for average (.306 career mark entering Saturday), for power (212 homers, 590 RBIs in 6 1/2 seasons) and in the clutch (.320 average with runners in scoring position). He’s stolen 30 or more bases in three seasons.

He’s made several spectacular defensive plays, most notably his four-foot leap above the Camden Yards wall to rob J.J. Hardy of a homer in 2012 and his scaling of the Angel Stadium wall to rob Seattle’s Jesus Montero of a homer in 2015.

And Trout has barely hit his prime.

The Machine

Reggie Jackson hit his 500th career homer, Rod Carew notched his 3,000th hit and Don Sutton earned his 300th career win in Angels uniforms.

But none ascended to the heights of Pujols, who hit his 500th and 600th homers and collected his 3,000th hit as an Angel, the latter accomplishment earning him membership in baseball’s exclusive 600-homer, 3,000-hit club, which includes only three other players, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez.

“I hope people grasp how incredible this is,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “This is the fourth time in, what, 100 years? That speaks volumes.”

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

@MikeDiGiovanna


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