Ugh, it’s the Royals.
No team was more disliked by Angels fans during my salad days than the Kansas City Royals. They had the audacity to be the first expansion team to win an American League division title. It should have been the Halos.
Who could stand the Royals?
They had those wedding white uniforms. They had reliever Dan Quisenberry, who threw like some beer league fast-pitch softball lug. Their stadium had a fountain beyond the fence. Who would put a fountain in their stadium? Oh, wait, scratch that one.
They had George Brett. We got Ken Brett.
From 1978 through 1985, the Angels and Royals were often scuffling for the West Division title. It was a rivalry, with plenty of September moments.
The Angels take three of four in a late September series, with Don Baylor hitting a first-inning grand slam in the Sunday afternoon finale, cutting the Royals’ lead to one game. The team’s first division title was a real possibility … expect the Angels imploded in Texas and the Royals won eight of 10. By the time the Halos staggered into Kansas City, they were done.
A time when “Yes We Can” was something other than a political slogan.
The Angels’ magic number was two with Those People coming to town. Nolan Ryan picked off a runner at second base in the ninth inning to end the first game. Frank Tanana found enough of his pre-elbow-surgery self to go the distance the next night in a 4-1 victory. A ground ball to Rod Carew, who bobbled it then threw to Tanana, clinched the division. The view was good from the upper deck.
The Angels and Royals met in Anaheim in September tied for the division lead. It was pretty much over in a three-game Angels sweep.
Geoff Zahn was a better soft-throwing left-hander than Larry Gura in the opener. Daryl Sconiers’ ninth-inning single off Quisenberry won it the next night. Doug DeCinces hit two home runs to win the third game. The Royals circled the drain. To go to the World Series, all the Angels needed to do was win Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Milwaukee Brewers … or Game 4 … or Game 5.
The teams met in September, with the Royals up half a game, to hash things out in Anaheim. Kansas City won the opener, 10-1. The Angels’ only run was Reggie Jackson’s 500th home run. They handed him a microphone and he screamed, “Let’s win this thing.” The Royals won the next night, 10-0. The Angels lost three of four in Kansas City the following week, saving them the embarrassment of being mauled by the Detroit Tigers.
The Angels lose two out three in Kansas City and can’t overtake the Royals the last week of the season, finishing one game out. Ah, but this one was blown in Cleveland, to the 60-102 Indians. On the way into Kansas City, the Angels dropped by Lake Erie. In one game, they had a 5-0 lead in the eighth and Manager Gene Mauch brought in Donnie Moore to close things out. He gave up two homers and five runs. The Angels lost in the ninth. It turned out to be a game they needed.
Fortunately for Angels fans, Moore would never do anything like that again.
Wait, scratch that.