Tuesday, December 3, 2019

First in Their Hearts, 6th in the American League

TRIVIA QUESTION: Who led the 1966 Angels in Saves as a relief pitcher?
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN:  While most people got the names of two of the three remaining MLB players who also played in the NBA in the 1960's, many forgot just one. The three were Ron Reed (NBA 65-66), Gene Conley (1964) and Steve Hamilton (1958-1960). All of the others either played before 1960 or after. They included Howie Schultz, Dave Ricketts, Mark Hendrickson, Dick Groat, Chuck Connors, Frank Baumholtz and Danny Ainge.

What made the 1966 Los Angeles/California Angels so interesting they would finish in sixth place in the American League but still finish first in attendance? While the team closed out the 1966 season 80-82, 1,400,321 fans went through the turnstiles of Anaheim Stadium. Bill Rigney's team did not have a .300 hitter or a batter with at least 20 homers. Aging Joe Adcock led the club with 18 in only 83 games. The club's leading hurlers each won 13 games (George Brunet and Jack Sanford) and ace Dean Chance was 12-17. So why did the fans turn out?

The team was never in danger of winning the pennant. They rarely won or lost more than five in a row. Their highlight was in mid-June when they won 11 of 13 and were seven games over .500. They were still eight games back of the Orioles but they were in fourth place. Then they dropped three in a row to Baltimore, another to Detroit and despite a four game winning streak which followed shortly thereafter, the season was essentially lost. 

They still played good baseball overall, and by the end of July they were still over .500. However they were 14.5 games back of first place Baltimore. Perhaps it was the fact the Angels, despite looking up to see down trying to overcome the Frank Robinson led Birds, never gave up. On July 30th Chance pitched the Angels to a 2-1 win over Cleveland to put the west coast team into its only day in second place. They were 13.5 back. It lasted 24 hours.
Brunet, always the hard luck pitcher would face even more hard luck in 1967 when the Angels competed for the pennant, Fregosi continued to play well and alongside Bobby Knoop they were among the best double play duos of the era. Chance would become an outstanding pitcher, especially after being traded to Minnesota. The Norm Siebern/Joe Adcock platoon was replaced by Don Mincher the following season. 

It was the slugging Adcock's final season and leading the team in homers at age 38 was pretty indicative of the 1966 Angels. Let's face it, this was a team of lovable players who were at a crossroads in a region hungry for a winner not named the Dodgers. They Angels were no match for the pennant winning team led by Sandy Koufax in his final season, Don Drysdale and fav's such as Wes Parker and Lou Johnson.

They really were every bit as talented as the Dodgers but were just not ready to eclipse the upper tier of the American League. The Orioles, the Red Sox and the Tigers were way too difficult for the team from Anaheim. They were never more than 3 games under .500, and as the 80-82 record indicated they played pretty evenly through the year. They had 9 walk off wins and 9 walk off losses which is pretty darn even. 

This was a club of lovable characters. There were new kids on the block like Rick Reichardt, Paul Schall, Jim McGlothlin, Jackie Hernandez, Clyde Wright and Minnie Rojas. There was a mix of real fan favorites such as Adcock, Bubba Morton, Lew Burdette, Jimmy Piersall, Jack Sanford and Ramon Lopez. 
Perhaps a real indication where this team of aging vets and young stars trying to shine is how they finished. One of the clubs best games was on Sunday October 2, facing Luis Tiant and the Indians. Knoop's 2-run triple in the bottom of the eighth plated the only runs of the game to back the 5-hit pitching of Jorge Rubio (WHO?). In the ninth, facing four batters, Rubio did not allow a fair hit ball. He walked Rocky Colavito and struck out Leon Wagner, Bill Davis and Fred Whitfield.
Rubio finished his career the following season with a 2-3 lifetime record in ten total career games. The Angels were a team waiting to happen with a fan base eager to see it happen. Or so one would think. The following season they were in the race for much of the year and finished 84-77 in 5th place. Attendance: Dropped off to fourth in the American League, down to
1,317,713. Some people just can't stand a winner.

Need to get out of a baseball hitting slump, or a golf swing slump? Order my new book "Beating the Slump; An athlete's guide to a better career." See it on Amazon for only $5.99. That is for the Paperback, you can also order Kindle on that link. You can also order paperback copies directly from me via the email below for my other books.

You can get a signed paper back copy of the above book
"Tales of My Baseball Youth - a child of the sixties"
for $15 Shipping Included 
Use PayPal to or contact us at the same email for other payment. 

Thank you to those of you who purchased my book after reading this column. 

No comments:

Post a Comment